Montreal Street Scene
Montreal Street Scene (Photo: Scott Webb)

Montreal Solo Travel Guide

Traveling to Montreal ūüá®ūüá¶? Here’s everything you need to know for your trip:

QUICK FACTS

  • Second largest city in Canada (after Toronto), with a population of 1.6 million.
  • Originally named Ville-Marie (City of Mary), it was named after Mount Royal ‚Äď the triple peaked mountain in the heart of the city.
  • Once the industrial and financial capital of Canada, Montr√©al¬†eventually lost the edge to Toronto in the late 20th century. Regardless, the city remains a cultural, technological, media and financial powerhouse (second largest economy in Canada by GDP).
  • Located on the Island of Montreal, as well as on smaller islands (including Ile Bizard).
  • Nicknames:¬†The City of Saints, The 514, Real City, La M√©tropole, Sin City, MTL, Mount Real, La belle ville.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

  • Currency:¬†Canadian Dollar¬†(CAD).
  • Spoken languages: predominantly¬†French¬†(with a sizable English-speaking population).
  • Best time to visit: from¬†May¬†to¬†October.¬†Summers are humid, while winters can get very cold (with frequent blizzards).
  • Arriving via airport: the airport shuttle costs $9.00, while regular public transport can get you to the city for just $3.00. A taxi from the airport will cost approximately $45.
Close up of a Maple Leaf in a park
Mount Royal Park makes for an enjoyable hike no matter the time of year

WHERE TO STAY

Rue Sainte-Catherine (St. Catherine Street) is great for shopping and is close to Old Montr√©al. You can’t go wrong with¬†accommodations near or within¬†Chinatown, St. Denis, Sherbrooke and St. Laurent, walking distance to the city’s top tourist destinations. For more upscale and trendy hotels, try the city’s Old Port area.

GETTING AROUND

  • STM is Montr√©al’s¬†public transit system. The STM includes buses, subway (M√©tro), Paratransit, senior shuttle bus and a taxi bus. A single ride is $3.00, which includes subway and bus (with transfers). Daily, weekly, and monthly passes are also available – a pass offers unlimited rides on subway and buses (including the airport bus).
  • Taxi companies servicing Montr√©al¬†include: Atlas¬†(514 485-4888), Taxi Rosemont¬†(514 255-1313) and Diamond¬†(514 273-6331). Taxi fares start at $3.30 and increase $1.60 per kilometre; or $0.60 per minute.
  • BIXI Montreal is the city’s popular bike rental service, available from April to November . Rent a public bike from one of the many automated BIXI stations around the city.

MONTREAL NIGHTLIFE

  • Drinking age is¬†18, last call is officially 3¬†AM (many clubs and bars stay open all night).
  • Note: with over 300 bars and 50 strip clubs, Montr√©al is one of the world’s top nightlife destinations.
  • Main nightlife: Francophone scene on¬†Saint-Laurent (between Sherbrooke and Pine), Anglo scene on¬†Crescent Street (between Sherbrooke and Maisonneuve).
  • Hip/local scene: Mt. Royal (Le Plateau Mont-Royal), Old Port.
  • Other nightlife areas: St. Catherine St. West, The Latin Quarter, and the Gay Village.

UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT

  • Roam around through the Underground City, a giant complex filled with restaurants and shopping. With over 20 miles of tunnels, the also includes residential and office space. If you are visiting during the winter, this is a great place to take a break and warm up.
  • Check out the Olympic Park. Located in the heart of Montr√©al, this dome once held the 1976 Olympic Summer Games and now includes the Montr√©al¬†Biodome, Insectarium, a municipal golf course and the Montr√©al¬†Botanical Gardens.
  • The¬†Montr√©al¬†Botanical Gardens contain over 20,000 plant species in over 30 different (specialized) gardens. Two of the gardens include a full Japanese Garden and the largest Chinese Garden outside of Asia.
  • The Notre-Dame Basilica is the city’s oldest church. Finished in 1656, it features an amazing interior of stained glass windows depicting scenes of the city over time.
  • The Canadian Railway Museum is a treat for any railroad enthusiast, featuring over 150 locomotives and railway cars/vehicles.

INTERESTING WALKS

  • The Old Port always makes for a great walk. Start at St. Paul, and continue to the old port along any of the streets.
  • Hike up¬†Mont¬†(Mount) Royal. This 200 hectare park sits on the mountain on Montreal Island, and boasts the highest spot in the city (234 meter elevation).

LOCAL WISDOM

  • Don’t forget that you’re in Quebec, and French is the official language. Even if you don’t know the language, try to learn a few key phrases. Locals will appreciate your effort. You will find that many residents actually speak English, and will switch over once they realize you’re not a local.
  • Where to find¬†good cheap eats: just about anywhere! While in town, make sure to try the famous Montreal smoked ham, as well as some authentic poutine.
  • Dangerous areas:¬†while the city is generally safe, it is best to avoid the following areas (especially at night):¬†Ontario Street East, St. Catherine East (except the Village), and the far east end of Montreal (past Papeneau).

The Best Montreal Guide Books:

Recommended trip duration: 3-4 days


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