INFO on Canada
The city of Montreal is one of Canada's most unique and lively cities, offering a perfect blend of the old and new. With over 53 per cent of the population being bilingual French and English, it is also the second largest French speaking city in the world, behind Paris. Culturally, there are few cities that beat it. Among its internationally renowned festivals are the Montreal Just for Laughs Festival and the Montreal Jazz Festival, while the museums located in and around the city number in the high 20s. Shoppers will swoon at the sight of its downtown core, with over 3,000 commercial businesses.
Montreal is a cosmopolitan city. Quebec's language laws make it all but impossible to post outdoor signs in languages other than French so you will see few signs in English, but in the parts of Montreal where most travellers go, services are available in English.
Most goods and services in Quebec are subject to two taxes, a federal Goods and Services Tax of 7% (GST, usually listed as TPS on receipts) and a provincial sales tax of 7.5% (TVQ on receipts). Books are not provincially taxed, and most groceries are not taxed at all unless something counts as ready-to-eat. Almost everything else is taxable.
Non-residents may reclaim the sales taxes they have paid on some goods and services, so you're advised to keep your bills and receipts. You can get copies of the necessary forms at customs, tourist information centres, hotels and some department stores.
A tip of 15% is customarily left for waiters and waitresses at the table, calculated on the pre-tax total of your bill. It will not be calculated for you - the additional charges on a restaurant bill are taxes, not service charges, and are not voluntary. You are free to leave more than a 15% tip if circumstances warrant. In bars, the tip is handed over immediately as you pay for each drink or round. Taxi drivers also normally get a tip of 10 to 15%.
January 1: New Year's Day
April 9: Good Friday
May 24: Victoria Day/Journée nationale des Patriotes
June 24: St-Jean-Baptiste/Fête Nationale (Quebec national day)
July 1: Canada Day (also, widely, moving day)
September 6: Labour Day
October 11: Thanksgiving
December 25: Christmas
Some stores open on holidays, although Christmas is all but universally a closing day. Boxing Day, Dec. 26, is commonly given as a holiday, as is January 2. Easter Monday seems to be declining in importance and is mostly observed now only by government offices, which also close on Remembrance Day, November 11. Most businesses stay open on November 11, but ceremonies are held to honour war veterans and a minute of silence is traditionally observed at 11 a.m.
Montrealers often also observe Valentine's Day (February 14), Mother's Day (second Sunday in May), Father's Day (third Sunday in June) and Halloween (October 31), although these are not legal holidays. Depending on their origins, Montrealers might also celebrate Muslim or Jewish holidays, the Asian lunar new year, or other saints' days or national holidays. A major parade is held on the Sunday closest to St. Patrick's Day (March 17).
Montreal has a long-standing tradition of ending residential leases on June 30. As a result, July 1 is moving day for a significant percentage of tenants in the city. The last two weeks of July are the construction holiday, and many other unionized workers take these two weeks off as well.
Montréal is an international city, accessible from just about anywhere in the world!
Connected via major airlines across the globe, Montréal is only an hour and a half from New York City, two hours from Chicago, and six hours from London. Montréal-Trudeau International Airport has recently undergone major renovations in order to improve services for travellers and to modernize the infrastructure. A new transborder jetty was opened in 2003 and an international jetty will be ready in 2005. Taxis and limousines ensure quick service to and from Montréal's downtown core. There is also shuttle bus service, l'Aérobus, which links the airports to convenient connecting points in Montréal.
Montréal is a major transportation centre. Highways and railways converge here, so there are connections by bus and rail to all over Canada and the U.S.A. Montréal is a relatively short drive from many of the major population centres of the Eastern Seaboard, and Ontario. Montréal has one international airport with direct flights to all major Canadian and most U.S. cities. There are also flights to many cities in Europe, the Caribbean and Mexico. The primary airport, Trudeau International (YUL), serves all scheduled and charter flights, while a second airport, Mirabel (YMX), is used for cargo flights.
Pierre Elliott Trudeau International, 22 km west of downtown, now serves all domestic, U.S. and international passenger flights.
Mirabel International, 55 km northwest of downtown, serves only cargo flights now.
It is also possible to get to Trudeau Airport by taking regular city buses: the 211 and the 204 will get you there from downtown, but the 211 could be tricky with a lot of baggage at busy times of day.
Montreal has bus connections to other cities within Quebec, in the rest of Canada and in the United States. Intercity bus travel does not carry the same stigma as in the U.S. and the buses to Quebec City and Toronto, for example, are quite clean and pleasant. The main bus terminus is the Station Centrale at the corner of Berri and de Maisonneuve, tel. 514-842-2281.
Montreal is on Via Rail's Windsor-Quebec corridor. You can reserve tickets on their website or get them from your travel agent.
Amtrak runs the Adirondack from New York to Montreal daily. Their website also offers reservations.
There are two major downtown train stations, Central Station (Gare Centrale) and Windsor Station (recently renamed L'Allier Station). Both are connected to the Bonaventure Metro station and are thus connected to the underground city. Windsor/L'Allier is only used for commuter trains now.
Montreal has an excellent public transit system, the STM (Société des transports de Montréal) consisting of a subway system 155 bus routes (20 all-night routes), and five commuter train lines. Dial A-U-T-O-B-U-S for information about getting around on the system or check the STM website, which has excellent tools for working out how to get around. Maps and information about the system are also available in every Metro station and at tourist information points.
When to Go
High season is late May through early September, when hotels are most likely to be full and charge their highest rates. Even then, though, weekends are cheaper and package plans reduce the bite, so advance planning has its rewards. The period from Christmas to New Year's is also busy (and more expensive), as are the days given to winter festivals in both Montréal and Québec City. Least appealing months are March and April, when few events are scheduled and winter sports start to be iffy, and the increasingly colder months of October and November have all but empty calendars.
The seasons in Montréal are distinct: Spring, short but sweet, arrives around the middle of May. Summer is usually quite hot
and sunny; it can sometimes be unbearably humid. Autumn (Sept-Oct) is as short and changeable as spring, with warm days and cool or chilly nights. Canadian maples blaze with color for weeks. Winters are cold and snowy, but Montréal is well prepared for this, there is a vast underground city of shopping malls linked to hotels, office buildings and metro (Montréal's subway) stations. If you wanted to, you need never go outdoors. Spring revitalizes the city, the days are long and fairly warm so this is an ideal time to visit. Winter brings dependable snows for skiing in the Laurentides, the Cantons-de-l'Est, and Charlevoix. After a sleigh ride or a ski run in Parc Mont-Royal, Montréal's underground city is a climate-controlled blessing. Mid-February is the time for Québec City's robust Carnaval d'Hiver (Winter Carnival). Snow and slush are more or less constantly present from November to March.
What to see in Montreal
Montreal is one of the world's most unique and fascinating cities, where rivers and cultures come together. An island along the mightly St.Lawrence River, built around a mountain and vast stretches of green space. Host of the 1967 World's Fair and the 1976 Olympics. Monteal is a modern, cosmopolitan and cultural city with a rich architectural heritage. Old Montreal provides an opportunity to relive great moments in this city's history, while Montreal's Olympic installations, Monteal Casino, Montreal downtown nightlife, Montreal fabulous restaurants, Montreal hotels and of course an array of fun things to do, all reflect Montreal's vitality.
- Delco Aviation
- Environment Canada's Biosphère
- Montréal Insectarium
- Montréal Planétarium
- Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Museum of Archaeology and History
- Bateau-Mouche (cruises) at the Old Port of Montréal
- Mount Royal Park
- Casino de Montréal
- Montréal Science Centre
- Old Port of Montréal
- Montréal Botanical Garden
- Montréal Tower / Olympic Park
- Marché Bonsecours
- Jet Boating and Rafting the Lachine Rapids--Old Montréal and Old Port
- Basilique Notre-Dame
- Biodôme de Montréal
- Musée des Beaux-Arts
- Pointe-à-Callière (Montréal Museum of Archaeology and History)
- Jardin Botanique
- At the end of January is the Fête de Neiges (Festival of Snow) with skating, ice carving and tube slides.
- There is a major St Patrick's Day Parade, which is a tribute to the large part of the city's population celebrating their Irish origins.
- In the early summer there is the International Fireworks Festival one of the best in the world. This is held at La Ronde, located on the Parc des Îles a series of islands in the St. Lawrence which were originally developed for Expo '67 (the World's Fair of 1967.) In early June there is the Canadian Grand Prix, one of only two Formula 1 races in North America.
- On June 24th is Fête Nationale, formerly known as St Jean Baptiste Day, this is Québec's national holiday and includes a big parade.
- At the end of June and the beginning of July is the world renowned Montréal Jazz Festival. Many of the concerts are free and are held at various venues throughout the city. This is a big attraction so it is advisable to book accommodations early. This is a bilingual event with over 200 performers and over half a million attendees. Some acts are free and for others an admission is charged.
- Equally famous is the Just-for-Laughs Comedy Festival.
- In early fall there is the Montreal World Film Festival, held at several theatres around town. An interesting sub-event is the Fant-Asia Film Festival, which features some of the top Asian films you won't find in your typical local cinema.
- Montreal is the only city on the planet can boast an action packed wet and wild boat ride through one of the largest rapids in North America, only 15 minutes away from a mid town dock.
Jet Boating on the historic Lachine Rapids of the St. Laurence River can easily claim the title of " the world's most exciting city boat tour.
You cannot possibly leave Montréal without sampling the local specialty - the Montréal Smoked Meat Sandwich. Montréal's smoked meat is world famous, it is usually aged naturally without chemicals and additives. Thick slices of this meat between fresh rye bread with a generous dab of mustard and a pickle on the side and you have the perfect sandwich. There are numerous delis serving this splendid delicacy throughout Montreal, but among the more popular are Ben's, Schwartz's and Dunn's. It is a matter of local debate as to which of these serves the best sandwich, but make sure to try them all and decide for yourself!
Another local food item that is known all over Québec is poutine. For junk food connoisseurs only! A bed of homemade French fries is covered in cheese curds (fresh cheese) and smothered in gravy (sauce brune or sauce barbeque as it is called in québécois). Two places for poutine in Montréal are Chez Claudette, at the corner of Laurier near St. Denis, and the Montréal Pool Room, an authentic grungy fast food place on St. Laurent Blvd. south of Ste. Catherine Street (that used to have pool tables but dosen't anymore). Chez Claudette is known for its creative interpretations in the poutine genre. They have classics like poutine italien (with spagetti sauce), and more.
Top 10 Montreal Hotels
Loews Hotel Vogue
Hotel Omni Mont Royal
Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth
Hyatt Regency Montreal
Le Centre Sheraton Montreal Hotel
Marriott Chateau Champlain
Holiday Inn Express Hotel and Suites Montreal Centre-Ville
Hilton Montreal Bonaventure
INFO on Canada