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Montreal is the second city of Canada and the largest city in Francophone Québec. Its many skyscrapers are reminiscent of New York, but Montreal is far less hectic than that American city. The old city and the hold harbour area (Vieux-Montréal and Vieux-Port) consist of picturesque streets and houses. What is special about Montréal is the underground city: an enormous subterranean complex with shops, offices, cafes, restaurants, cinemas, metro stations and also a conference centre (Palais des Congrès). Many of the people of Montréal come there to escape the traffic and the rough weather conditions in the winter or the hot summer.
The city itself has over a million and a half inhabitants, but the urban area has a population of over 3.5 million. About two-thirds of the people speak French, about 20% speak English. In addition, there is a fairly large immigrant community which has neither French nor English as its mother tongue.
Montréal is located in the south-west of the province of Québec, about 720 kilometres to the south-west of Québec City and 190 kilometres to the east of the Canadian capital Ottawa. New York lies over 600 kilometres to the south. The city is built on an island (Île de Montréal) where the Saint Lawrence and Ottawa rivers meet. The Saint Lawrence connects the Great Lakes in the west to the Atlantic Ocean in the east. In the north, Montréal borders on the Rivière des Prairies.
The economic crises of the 1970's and 1980's hit the city hard. It was not until the mid-1990's that the city managed to get back on its feet, thanks to the arrival of new industries in the form of telecommunication, software development, aviation and the development and production of medicines. The port has become less important, although it still plays a role in the transport of bulk good between North-America and Europe.
Also, the head offices of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) are located there. The movie industry also offers an important economic contribution. Many movies are produced in Montréal and the city organizes important film festivals.
There are two international airports near Montréal, one for passenger flights and one for freight. Airport Mirabel - to the north-west of the city - was built to become the most important airport of Montréal. Now, only it is only used to haul freight.
Passenger flights depart from Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport. The people of Montréal still call it Dorval Airport, which is its old name. The airport is located to the west of Montréal, and it can be reached in half an hour via Highway 20. There are many direct international connections, to places like Amsterdam, London, Paris and Frankfurt.
There is a shuttle bus (Aérobus) to the centre of the city and a city bus to the Gare Dorval train station.
Société de Transport de Montréal (STM) operates the metro and buses in the city. There are special tourist tickers that are valid for one or three days, and that can be used on all public transport. In the summer, these tickets can be bought at all metro stations, in the winter only at the larger stations Berri-UQAM, Peel and Bonaventure.
The latter of these stations is situated near the central train station (Gare Central) of Montréal. There are regular train connections to Ottawa (2 hours) Toronto (4.5 hours) and Québec City. Once a day there is an Amtrak bound for New York (10 hours).
Like many other major cities, Montréal has a traffic problem. Part of it is due to its being built on an island: building bridges and tunnels to the other side of the wide Saint Lawrence river is expensive. For cars there are only four bridges and one tunnel. The more northerly Rivière des Prairies is much smaller, and it has eight bridges.
The indications 'north, south, east and west' on traffic signs do not correspond exactly with their points on the compass. Streets from the Rivière des Prairies to the Saint Lawrence river are indicated as running from north to south, while in fact they run from north-west to south-east.
Saint Laurent Boulevard is the main street, also indicated as 'The Main'. The traverses have the added 'east' (Est) or 'west' (Ouest). In the suburbs of Montréal you are allowed to turn right at a red traffic light, but not in the centre of the city. The penalty for violating this rule of high.
Finding a place to park your car in the street in the city centre is not easy. It is better to use the public transport there. Do not ever park near a parking space with a red label. Those are reserved exclusively for residents with a parking permit. In the winter you need to watch out for snow cleaners. When they sweep a streets, all cars must be removed.
The cosiest hotels and bed & breakfast accommodations are located In old Montréal (Vieux-Montréal) and near the old port (Vieux-Port). Although, of course, prices vary, they are usually not very high by international standards, All international hotel chains are represented downtown. We do recommend booking your hotel room in advance.
For more information about Montréal, we recommend Google, and the following sources: