Founded in 1642, Montreal is the largest city in the Canadian province of Quebec and is its cultural and business centre. Situated on the island of Montreal, in the Hochelaga Archipelago, it lies on the banks of the St. Lawrence River, not far from Ontario and the border with the USA.
The city has hosted a number of international events, among them the 1967 Universal Exposition and the 1976 Summer Olympics. A venue at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Canada 2007, Montreal is also home to a world film festival, an international jazz festival, the Just For Laughs Festival, the High Lights Festival and the Canadian Grand Prix. The Montreal Canadiens ice hockey team have also been based in the city since their foundation in 1909.
Montreal is the second-largest French-speaking city in the world after Paris, and is the only city in North America where French is the majority language. Old Montreal, the oldest part of town, was declared a historic district in 1964.
As of 2011, the city’s population was 1,886,481, with nearly four million people living in its metropolitan area. As of 2006, approximately 52.4 per cent of the population are French Canadian, 12.5 per cent English Canadian and the remaining 32.4 from a variety of ethnic and linguistic groups, making Montreal a genuinely multi-cultural city.
Its coat of arms features a red cross on a white background, with four emblems respectively representing Montreal’s original English, Irish, French and Scottish influences: a rose, shamrock, fleur de lys and shamrock. Its motto, Concordia Salus, means “well-being through harmony”.
Deeply rooted in American soil and proud of its French heritage, Montreal is the fruit of a happy marriage between the Old World and the New. Welcoming and bubbling with life, it pursues with a passion a lifestyle and a joie de vivre that are unrivalled on the continent.
As Quebec’s largest city, Montreal has everything that one of the world’s great cities should have to offer. This predominantly French yet multi-cultural metropolis is home to more than 120 linguistic and cultural communities, and has a charming ambiance that is part American, part European in flavour.
Blessed with an inventive spirit, it is a whirlwind of cultural creativity, both classical and ultra-modern in nature. Overlooked by Mount Royal, Montreal’s lively city centre is teeming with activity, while Old Montreal, which flanks the rivers, is steeped in history.
Take a carriage trip along Old Montreal’s 18th- and 19th-century streets and you will come across the imposing neo-gothic Notre-Dame Basilica and a host of museums transporting visitors back to the past, such as the Pointe-à-Callière (the Montreal Museum of Archaeology and History) and the Centre d’histoire de Montreal. Meanwhile, the Old Port is a place for relaxing and unwinding at any time of year.
Situated in the heart of the city, the Quartier des spectacles is the focal point of Montreal’s thriving arts scene, which is served by La Vitrine, the city’s efficient central ticketing system.
Montreal’s major museums can also be found in the district, among them the Museum of Fine Arts, the Musée d’art contemporain, the McCord Museum of Canadian History and the Canadian Center for Architecture.
Lively all year round, from summer through to winter, Montreal hosts a number of festivals celebrating jazz, comedy, the circus and much more. A dedicated venue for cultural happenings, the Place des Festivals provides the hub for these major international events.
At the Parc Jean-Drapeau you will find a beach and La Ronde, Quebec’s largest amusement park. The Biosphere, which housed the US Pavilion at Expo 67, provides a fascinating insight into environmental issues, while the Stewart Museum, housed in an old military fort, sheds light on the history of the New World. And the main attraction at the Olympic Park is the Montreal Tower, the highest leaning tower in the world.
Montreal has more than 20,000 hotel rooms, which makes it the 13th-ranked North American city in terms of hotel capacity.
It also boasts the Underground City, a network of pedestrianised subterranean complexes stretching for over 30 kilometres.
There are more than 300 soccer pitches within the confines of Montreal, around 30 of them artificial. A new indoor soccer complex will open in the city in 2014.
More than 200,000 players are registered with the Federation de Soccer du Quebec, four times as many as 20 years ago. Some 40 per cent of these players are women.
The city’s professional soccer team, Montreal Impact, came into existence in 1993 and made their entry into Major League Soccer in 2012. A crowd of 58,962 attended for their opening MLS game at the Olympic Stadium, a record for the league.