Visit Montreal | Tourist Attractions

Montreal, a primarily French-speaking city of 1.7 million (approximately 4 million in the metropolitan area), offers tourists a unique francophone experience in North America. Often viewed as safe, friendly, lively, and a great place to live, Montreal is also certainly a great place to visit as it offers a wide variety of activities. For a guide to the top attractions in Montreal, visit our "Things to Do in Montreal" section.

Getting Around Montreal

Montreal has an easy to use subway system that covers the more densely-populated parts of the city. It is entirely possible to visit all of the main tourist attractions through a combination of the subway and walking. Below is the current map of the system:

Each station is accessible from an above-ground kiosk. Upon walking in the kiosk, you will see a machine to buy tickets. Tickets will either be in the form of a non-reusable plain ticket, a non-rechargable smart card, or an OPUS card (a rechargeable smart card). If you will be visiting several different areas of the city, it is most cost effective to get either the 3 day pass, or the weekly pass. Remember that if you only need a few trips, you save money by buying the 2-trip or 10-trip option, instead of buying a 1-trip each time you need one. To see current prices, visit STM's official website: Montreal Transit Fares

Each station has turnstyles where you will be able to insert your ticket or if you have one of the smart cards, just place the card on top of the designated area, and a green light will blink. The direction you need to travel is indicated by the name of the terminus station on whichever line you are traveling on. Note that all of the audio announcements are completely in French.

In Montreal, East Is Actually... South?

One important directional note you should know before arriving: The Montreal street grid's directions are determined relative to the St Lawrence river, which means that when people refer to the "west island", it is actually the southwestern part of the island. An easy way to remember this is that downtown and Old Montreal are in the "south", which makes the other side of the island "north", and then St Laurent Blvd cuts through the middle and separates "east" from "west". As a general rule, the anglophone parts of Montreal are in the west and the francophone neighbourhoods are in the east.

The Main Districts of Montreal

Downtown: Montreal's downtown is dense and vibrant, filled with skyscrapers, hotels, stores, restaurants, and people as far as the eye can see. St Catherine street is the main pedestrian street in downtown. You will find all of the main clothing stores, boutiques, and other retail establishments along St Catherine.
Old Montreal: This is the oldest section of the city, with some buildings dating back to the New France era. As one of the oldest urban neighborhoods in the Americas, visitors will be transformed in time as they walk the cobblestone streets and avenues.
The Old Port: A part of Old Montreal, this is Montreal's historic port, dating back to the 17th-century. It has recently been developed into a recreational area, including an urban beach.
The Plateau: Considered to be the current trendy neighborhood, filled with cafés, boutiques, bars, and nightlife. The residential parts of the neighbourhood have houses typical of Montreal with the front winding staircases.

Underground City

Montreal has one of the largest underground cities in the world. Their underground city, officially called the RÉSO, connects shopping malls, hotels, office buildings, metro stations, UQAM, the Bell Centre, and more. The RÉSO is open year round but gets more usage during the colder months. Trust me, when it's really cold outside, it's nice to be able to go across downtown through the underground tunnels.

Do I Need to Know French to Get Around?

While Montreal is a primarily French speaking city, it is true that a large amount of its residents can speak English at a very high level. Therefore, you can certainly get around fairly easily with a minimal amount of French. If you are wanting to practice your French, you will notice that once in a while, people will switch to English if they detect that you are not a francophone. Do not be offended by this as they are just trying to be helpful.

In my opinion, it is most polite to always address people first in French before speaking English. In and around downtown, you will notice that salespeople and clerks may greet you with a "Bonjour, hi!" but for the most part you will simply hear "bonjour".

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