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What is Montreal, QC Known For and Famous For

Montreal is one of Canada’s oldest cities with its first European settlement by French explorers in 1642. However, the island and surrounding areas of the city had been settled by humans for thousands of years before European explorers found the new world. Being one of Canada’s oldest cities and Canadas second-largest city makes Montreal full of things that it has become known for throughout Canada and the world.

Montreal is known for being Canada’s second-largest city and one of the largest cultural hubs. The city is known for its universities, festivals, art and culture, history, and food. It is also known as the capital of French Canada.

Read on to dig deeper into what Montreal, Canada is known for.

FRENCH CANADA

Montreal is best known for being French (duh!) And it is the largest French-speaking city in Canada and North America. Montreal is also the 4th largest French speaking city in the world.

Check out this list of the largest French-speaking cities in the world.

The city maintains a very strong French influence, with the majority of people speaking French at home.

Montreal is one of Canadas most bilingual cities with most people being able to speak both English and French.

The city is a great place to learn French as it has many great schools and a large population of people whose first language is French.

The Province of Quebec is the leading factor as to why French Canada still thrives in Canada today. Montreal is the major city that still keeps up the tradition of keeping the French alive.

It was the French that first settled in Canada. The Francophones that made their way to Canada have helped shape the country into the multicultural hub that it is today. Montreal has been at the heart of French Canada and the cultural capital of Canada since its founding in 1642.

Montreal is an Island

Though not the first thing you think of when the city of Montreal comes to mind, the city is an island just off the Saint Laurent River, which leads into the Atlantic Ocean. Something that makes this island unique is the way the people of Montreal look at it. As if it has been turned 90 degrees and put on its side. In Montreal, South is East, facing Old Port, which sits on the Saint Laurent. Its confusing at first, but you get used to it.

Food Montreal is Known For

MONTREAL SMOKED MEAT

Montreal Smoked Meat is a must-try for any meat lover out there. Served as a sandwich on rye bread with mustard, on top of poutine, on a bagel, or pretty much anything else you could think of to put it on.

Montreal smoked meat has made a name for itself. It can be found throughout the city and country’s many delis, restaurants, and grocery stores.

Montreal Smoked Meat is a beef brisket, which has been salted, spiced, cured, smoked, and steamed. All of which is a very lengthy process. All that hard work for 2 minutes of pure food gluttony. Mmmm.

Thank you, Montreal!

Some of the best spots to get Montreal Smoked Meat:

  • Schwartz’s Deli
  • Mains Deli
  • Snowdon Deli
  • Dunn’s Famous
  • Reuben’s Deli and Steakhouse

Click here for the full list of where to get the best smoked meat in Montreal. 

BAGELS

Montreal is considered to have some of the best bagels in North America. Depending on who you ask, some may even say the best in the world. Montreal’s multiculturalism has brought cultural food influences from around the world. From the Caribbean to Africa and Asia.

The Bagel is one of the city’s biggest success stories. From modest beginnings, the bagel has become as popular as smoked meat, maple syrup, and poutine.

Some of the bagel shops are even open 24 hours a day and are a favorite stopping spot after a fun night out at the bar.

Every Montrealer has their own favorite bagel place. The two most well known and popular would have to be:

St. Viateur Bagels

St Viateur bagels is located on the edge of Mile End, just off Park Ave. The small bagel shop is a staple in the Montreal community and culture. The shop is open 24 hours a day and many students will enjoy a bagel on the way home from a big night out rather than the typical fast food.

Fairmount BAgels

Located in the Plateau Mont-Royal area on Fairmount Street, this bagel shop is often lined up out the building to get their bagels.

There is a healthy rivalry between the two most well known bagel shops, Fairmount and St Viateur for who makes the best bagels. Some Montrealers swear by Fairmount while others say St Viateur has the best bagels. You’ll have to try for yourself to decide which is the best!

However, the city is full of other amazing bagel shops if you don’t want to play into the “Coke vs. Pepsi” style battle. Check out some other great places to grab a Montreal style bagel.

  • MTL Bagel Shop
  • Bagel St-Lo
  • Bagel Saint-Henri
  • Dizz’s Bagel & Deli
  • Beaubien Bagel

MAPLE SYRUP

Pure maple syrup is healthier than other table syrups which are mainly made of corn syrup and loaded with artificial flavors.

Maple syrup is the sweet sap that is tapped from maple trees. The sap is then boiled down to a contracted level. 40 liters or 10.5 gallons of sap are needed to produce just 1 liter or a quarter gallon of pure maple syrup.  Leaving a sweet maple caramel flavor that is definitely Canadian and Quebecois.

Quebec produces over 70% of the world’s maple syrup. Maple syrup has been apart of Canadian culture since settlers first arrived. And it has been apart of aboriginal culture for even longer.

Sugar Shacks

When winter is almost over and spring is around the corner make sure that you stop by one of the sugar shacks to enjoy a maple syrup treat. The sugar shacks, or cabane a sucre, usually open up in March of each year. The sugar shack restaurants serve maple syrups themed meals that are mouth wateringly delicious!

POUTINE

Poutine has become one of Canada’s few true national dishes. Thank you, Quebec!

This truly French Canadian gift to the world is French fries, brown gravy, and fresh cheese curds. Mmmm.

There is a long history of poutine throughout French-speaking Canada.

Try poutine at home with Montreal’s St Hubert’s gravy mix!

Almost all restaurants offer poutine on the menu, but check out these spots for the best poutine dishes in Montreal:

  • La Banquise
  • Green Spot
  • Ma Poule Mouillée
  • Smoked Meat Pete
  • AA Restaurant

If you’re looking for vegetarian poutine in Montreal we’ve got you covered! Click here for a list of 11 restaurants in Montreal that offer vegetarian (and some vegan) poutine.

Sunday Tam Tams

Every Sunday in the summer months people gather at the base of the Mont Royal park and take part in a huge drum circle. Sometimes it gets so big that multiple drum circles start to break out. The Sunday Tam Tams is a great way to get outside and enjoy the park with tons of other people around. Its the perfect spot for a picnic with a good group of friends or to just hang out and people watch, there’s tons to see!

Picnic Culture

The winters in Montreal are so harsh that Montrealers know that as soon as the weather warms up enough they need to get outside and enjoy the beautiful weather while its here. Picnics are a popular pass time in Montreal and you will often (always) see groups of friends gathering with food and drinks at any park on any given day in the summer time in Montreal. The bigger parks are often packed with picnickers on the weekends.

FESTIVALS

Montreal is a city built around having a great time. The city is famous for all of the festivals that are held here each year.

The city hosts many well-known festivals such as the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival, Montreal international jazz festival, and Mural fest are just a few of the 100 different festivals that are held all over the city every year.

Formula 1 Grand Prix

The Formula 1 race takes place every year in June and is a huge event in the city. The race takes place on a small island just off the island of Montreal, called Isle de Notre Dame, and the sounds of the cars ripping around can be heard throughout the city of Montreal during the competition.

Montreal International Jazz Festival

The International Jazz Festival takes place in July of every year for two weeks. In 2004, Montreal took the Guiness World Record for the largest jazz festival worldwide. During the festival there are live acts to catch every night at various venues throughout the city as well as a huge venue that takes place on the street in the Place des Arts.

Just For Laughs Comedy Festival

Montreal hosts the Just for Laughs Comedy Festival every year in July and it is the largest annual comedy fest in the world. There are different comedic acts up every night in different venues as well as open air shows held in the Place des Arts.

Osheaga

Osheaga is an open air music festival held in July/August of every year, hosting huge names in the music industry like Dua Lipa, Glass Animals, Kygo, the Foo Fighters, and so many more. The event takes place over three days at Parc Jean-Drapeau, a small island off the island of Montreal.

Mural Fest

Mural Fest is located in the Plateau/Mont-Royal neighborhood of Montreal and takes place over a two week period in August each year. The festival sees streets like Mont-Royal and St Laurent shut down to cars and open up to pedestrians and shops to bring their stuff outside. The city commissions artists to paint murals on buildings in the area to liven up the vibe and there are many concerts that take place as well. Mural Fest is a great time all the time!

Igloofest

Igloofest is held in February/March of every year towards the end of the winter season. Its still absolutely freezing out, but the many bodies of the festival keeps the streets warm. Montreal hosts many great music acts to play outside in the Place des Arts and everyone bundles up and dances the cold away welcoming in the spring!

Gay Pride

Montreal has an awesome Pride Festival each summer in August. A parade marches from Mont Royal park down Park Ave and over to the Gay Village where people then gather on the streets and in the local bars to continue the celebration.

There are many different festivals throughout the year. Sun or snow there is something going on. The city is alive with people excited to be apart of their vibrant city.

If you can’t find a Montrealer celebrating then you must be in Toronto.

NIGHTLIFE

Montreal is Canada’s party city.

Montreal is known for its amazing nightlife. The city is full of bars, nightclubs, strip clubs, late-night dining, casinos, and all of the festivals that make partying in the city the best in the country.

With so many different options, it’s easy to find one that suits all your needs. All types of music, singles bars, dance clubs, strip clubs, and burlesque shows.

Montrealers know how to have a great time!

The city is full of different areas all of which offer a great taste of Montreal nightlife.

Some to check out:

  • Mile End
  • The Plateau
  • Notre Dame de Grace
  • The Gay Village
  • Downtown
  • Old Montreal

The whole city is a great place to visit for the weekend or longer. You could stay for the whole year and party the entire time. There is always something going on in Montreal.

CONSTRUCTION

Montrealers love the city so much they are able to put up with the endless years of construction. It’s a running joke in Montreal that the roads are in terrible shape, potholes and lack of lines are common on most roads throughout the city.

Road closure and detour signs seem to appear out of nowhere and stay for days, weeks, months, or even years in some cases.

The cold winter slows construction as well as corruption, Montreal is home to the only Mafia family in Canada. Quebec has even had many politicians end up in jail for misusing public funds.

HOCKEY

Hockey is Canada’s favorite past time. When people think of hockey, Canada is not a far-away thought.

The sport is so Canadian. Just as Americans have football and the rest of the world has soccer (football) Canadians have hockey.

Montreal has had a long love affair with hockey. The city has the oldest team in the NHL as well as the most Stanley Cup championships titles.

The city is full of people who play the game or just simply love the game as a spectator. The Montreal Canadiens are extremely loved across Canada and not just Quebec. One of the oldest rivalries in hockey history is the Toronto Maple Leafs vs the Montreal Canadiens.

Hockey is not just a sport in Montreal it’s a religion.

EUROPEAN FEEL

Montreal is well known for its old town and the old port. Old town Montreal is full of narrow cobblestone streets and architecture. Montreal’s old town feels more reminiscent of a city you would find in France.

The city’s French influence is clear when walking through the old town and old port as well as the whole city. Montreal doesn’t feel like you are in a city in North America, it feels like something straight out of Europe.

Montreal was founded by the French who brought their culture and customs with them, creating a little slice of Europe in North America that still remains today.

Montreal’s French influence has given the city a totally different feel than any other city in Canada and even North America.

STREET ART

Montreal is a living city full of color and beautiful murals. The graffiti gives the city a more lived-in feel. Urban art has taken off in this city.

The city plays host to lots of different art exhibits throughout the year. The exhibits showcase many local and international artists.

Art is all around the city with lots of homegrown talent. Not just petty vandalism, but commissioned art murals.

Here are two of the festivals that celebrate the city’s art:

  • Mural Festival
  • Under Pressure

MONT-ROYAL

Mont-Royal is thought to be the inspiration for the name of the city of Montreal. Mont-Royal is a large hill, not quite a mountain, at 233 meters high (764 feet.)

Mont-Royal is a symbol of the city of Montreal and the whole city was built around this park. No building can be taller than the cross at the top of the hill.

Fun Fact: The park was originally designed man who designed New York’s Central Park.

UNIVERSITY CITY

McGill University, located in Montreal, is one of the top Universities in Canada and even ranks in the top 100 schools in the world for higher learning.

The city is also full of many other top universities:

  • McGill University
  • University of Montreal
  • Concordia University
  • Université du Québec

Montreal is a student town with one of the largest student populations in Canada and the United States.

Montreal is one of the best student cities in the world. There are tons of fun things to do in the city throughout the year. And students can learn in two different languages.

Montreal is one of the most livable cities in Canada, making the city even more desirable for students to come study.

COLD WINTERS AND BEAUTIFUL SEASONS

Canada and Montreal are known to be bitterly cold in the winter with temperatures dipping well below freezing.

While this is true, the winters are very cold, they are also very beautiful. The fresh snowfall in the park makes for beautiful walks and that beautiful sought after white Christmas often becomes a reality in this city.

One of the ways Montreal has learned to deal with the cold is by creating the underground city. A network of tunnels that cover over 32 km or (20 mi) and allows an escape in the cold days of winter or hot days of the summer.

Montreal is also a city where you get to see all four seasons. Winter is cold but has an icy beauty, in Spring life starts to blossom, Summers are hot, humid, and full of festivals, and in Fall the leaves turn beautiful colors and the days start to cool off.

Every season offers something different and great to do in the city.

Winter may not be everyone’s favorite time of year. But for many Canadians, it means the start of the hockey season. So winter is okay here.

The Underground City

Because the winters are so harsh in Montreal, the city built the underground city, which span for 32 kilometers and covers 4 millions square meters. The Montreal Underground City connect metro stations, malls, hotels, and restaurants. Its a saving grace in the freezing winter months. But be warned, its easy to get lost!

Hot Summers

Though the winter months see extreme cold temperatures, the summer is beautiful and hot and amazing. As mentioned above, the summer welcomes many festivals and the people of the city love to spend their time outdoors picnicking with friends and family. People truly appreciate the summer weather in Montreal, as they always know the winter is looming, not far away.

Cirque du Soleil

In 1984, Cirque du Soleil was founded in Baie-Saint-Paul, a small town a few hours drive northeast of Montreal, just passed Quebec City. Though Montreal is recognized worldwide as the founding place of Cirque du Soleil. The act has became a global sensation and even has multiple permanent shows in Las Vegas.

INTERNATIONAL EVENTS

Montreal holds a lot of international events every year. Two of the biggest events in the history of Montreal are the 1976 Olympics and Expo 67. These two events put Montreal on the world map.

The 1976 Olympics in the city was the first time that the Olympics was held in Canada.

Expo 67 saw the world gather in Montreal. This Expo has been praised as one of the best world fairs of the 20th century. Montreal had huge growth during this time. The city’s first metro was finished just the year before.

Final Thoughts

Montreal is a city full of interesting things around every corner. This is one of Canadas best cities to live and visit.

Check out some more Montreal based articles.

If you are planning a trip to Montreal be sure to check out Hostel World here for the best rates on accommodation.

Want to know more about the city of Montreal? Check out these two books for different perspectives on this amazing Canadian city!

Montreal for 91 Days

– Michael Powel & Jurgen Horn –

Montreal Then and Now

– Alan Hustak –