Welcome to Montreal
Montreal is the second-largest city in Canada and the largest city in the province of Quebec. Originally called Ville-Marie ('City of Mary'), some historians think the city takes its present name from the Mont Réal (as it was pronounced in Middle French, or Mont Royal / Mount Royal in present French), the three-head hill at the heart of the city, whose name was also initially given to the island on which the city is located.
Formerly the largest city in Canada, it is now known as the second largest French-speaking city in the world. As of the 2006 Canadian Census, 1,620,693 people resided in the city of Montreal proper. The population of the Montreal Census Metropolitan Area (also known as Greater Montreal Area) was 3,635,571 at the same 2006 census. In the census metropolitan area, French is the language most spoken at home by 70.5% of the population (as of 2006 census). In 2007, Montreal was ranked as the 10th cleanest city in the world.
Archeological evidence suggests that various nomadic native peoples had occupied the island of Montreal for at least 2,000 years before the arrival of Europeans. With the development of the maize horticulture, the St. Lawrence Iroquoians established the village of Hochelaga at the foot of the Mount Royal. The French explorer Jacques Cartier visited Hochelaga on October 2, 1535, claiming the St. Lawrence Valley for France. He estimated the population to be "over a thousand".
Seventy years later, French explorer Samuel de Champlain reported that the St. Lawrence Iroquoians and their settlements had disappeared altogether from the St. Lawrence valley, likely due to inter-tribe wars, European diseases, and out-migration. Champlain established in 1611 a fur trading post on the Island of Montreal, on a site initially named La Place Royale, at the confluence of Saint-Pierre river and St-Lawrence river, where present-day Pointe-à-Callière stands.
In 1639, Jérôme Le Royer de La Dauversière obtained the Seigneurial title to the Island of Montreal in the name of the Société de Notre-Dame de Montréal to establish a Roman Catholic mission for evangelizing natives. Ville-Marie, the first permanent French settlement on the Island, was founded in 1642 at Pointe-à-Callière. Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve would act as governor of the colony, and Jeanne Mance built the Hôtel-Dieu, Montreal's first hospital.
By 1651, Ville-Marie had been reduced to less than 50 inhabitants by relentless attacks by Iroquois. Maisonneuve returned to France that year with the intention of recruiting 100 men to bolster the failing colony. He had already decided that should he fail to recruit these settlers, he would abandon Ville-Marie and move everyone back downriver to Quebec City. (Even 10 years after its founding, the people of Quebec City still thought of Montréal as "une folle entreprise" - a crazy undertaking.) These recruits arrived on 16th November 1653 and essentially guaranteed the evolution of Ville Marie and of all New France. Marguerite Bourgeoys would found the Congrégation de Notre-Dame, Montreal's first school, in 1653. In 1663, the Sulpician seminary became the new Seigneur of the island.
Complementing its missionary origins, Ville-Marie became a centre for the fur trade and a base for further French exploration in North America. The bloody French and Iroquois Wars would threaten the survival of Ville-Marie until a peace treaty (see the Great Peace of Montreal) was signed at Montreal in 1701. With the Great Peace, Montreal and the surrounding seigneuries nearby (Terrebonne, Lachenaie, Boucherville, Lachine, Longueuil, ...) could develop without the fear of Iroquois raids. Ville-Marie remained a French colony until 1760, when Pierre François de Rigaud, Marquis de Vaudreuil-Cavagnal surrendered it to the British army under Jeffrey Amherst during the French and Indian War.
The Treaty of Paris in 1763 ended the Seven Years' War and ceded eastern New France to the Kingdom of Great Britain. American Revolutionists under General Richard Montgomery briefly captured the city during the 1775 invasion of Canada.
Montreal was incorporated as a city in 1832. The opening of the Lachine Canal permitted ships to bypass the unnavigable Lachine Rapids, while the construction of the Victoria Bridge established Montreal as a major railway hub. These linked the established Port of Montréal with continental markets and spawned rapid industrialization during the mid 1800s. The economic boom attracted French Canadian labourers from the surrounding countryside to factories in satellite cities such as Saint-Henri and Maisonneuve. Irish immigrants settled in tough working class neighbourhoods such as Point Saint Charles and Griffintown, making English and French linguistic groups roughly equal in size. By 1852, Montreal had 60,000 inhabitants; by 1860, it was the largest city in British North America and the undisputed economic and cultural centre of Canada.
Montreal was the capital of the Province of Canada from 1844 to 1849, but lost its status when a Tory mob burnt down the Parliament building to protest passage of the Rebellion Losses Bill.
Montreal 1959 as viewed from the mountain.
After World War I, the Prohibition movement in the United States turned Montreal into a haven for Americans looking for alcohol. Montreal became known as Sin City, due to the abundance of alcohol and burlesque shows, unrivaled in North America at this time. Unemployment remained high in the city, and was exacerbated by the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression. Canada began to recover from the Great Depression in the mid-1930s, when skyscrapers such as the Sun Life Building began to appear.
During World War II, Mayor Camillien Houde protested against conscription and urged Montrealers to disobey the federal government's registry of all men and women. Ottawa was furious over Houde's insubordination and held him in a prison camp until 1944, when the government was forced to institute conscription.
After Montreal's population surpassed one million in the early 1950s, Mayor Jean Drapeau laid down plans for the future development of the city. These plans included a new public-transit system and an underground city, the expansion of Montreal's harbour, and the opening of the Saint Lawrence Seaway. Tall, new buildings replaced old ones in this time period, including Montreal's two tallest skyscrapers up to then: the 43-storey Place Ville-Marie and the 47-story Tour de la Bourse. Two new museums were also built, and in 1966, the Montreal Metro system opened, along with several new expressways.
April 1967 aerial view of Île Sainte-Hélène on the left and Île Notre-Dame on the right, with most of the Expo 67 site in view, except Habitat 67 and the rest of the pavilions on la Cité du Havre. Source: the National Archives of Canada.
The city's international status was cemented by Expo 67 and the 1976 Summer Olympics.
The mid-1970s ushered in a period of wide-ranging social and political changes, stemming in large part from the concerns of the French-Canadian majority about the conservation of their culture and language, given the traditional predominance of the English-Canadian minority in the business arena. The October Crisis and the election of the separatist political party, the Parti Québécois, resulted in major political, ethnic and linguistic shifts. The extent of the transition was greater than the norm for major urban centres, with social and economic impacts, as a significant number of (mostly Anglophone) Montrealers, as well as businesses, migrated to other provinces, away from an uncertain political climate. Bill 101 was passed in 1977 and gave primacy to French as Quebec's (and Montreal's) only official language for government, the main language of business and culture, and enforced the exclusive use of French for public signage and business communication.
During the 1980s and early 1990s, Montreal experienced a slower rate of economic growth than many other major Canadian cities. By the late 1990s, however, Montreal's economic climate had improved, as new firms and institutions began to fill the traditional business and financial niches. As the city celebrated its 350th anniversary in 1992, construction began on two new skyscrapers : 1000 de La Gauchetière and 1250 René-Lévesque. Montreal's improving economic conditions allowed further enhancements of the city infrastructure, with the expansion of the metro system, construction of new skyscrapers and the development of new highways including the start of a ring road around the island. The city also attracted several international organisations to move their secretariats into Montreal's Quartier International: International Air Transport Association (IATA), International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (Icsid), International Council of Graphic Design Associations (Icograda), International Bureau for Children's Rights (IBCR), International Centre for the Prevention of Crime (ICPC) and the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS). With developments such as Centre de Commerce Mondial (World Trade Centre), Quartier International, Square Cartier, and proposed revitalization of the harborfront, the city is regaining its international position as a world class city.
Montreal was merged with the 27 surrounding municipalities on the Island of Montreal on 1 January 2002. The merger created a unified city of Montreal which covered the entire island of Montreal. This move proved unpopular, and several former municipalities, totalling 13% of the population of the island, voted to leave the newly unified city in separate referendums in June 2004. The demerger took place on 1 January 2006, leaving 15 municipalities on the island, including Montreal.
In 2006, the city was recognized by the international design community as a UNESCO City of Design, one of the three world design capitals.
Skyline of Montreal seen from Mont Royal park.
Montreal is located in the southwest of the province of Quebec, approximately 275 kilometres (168 miles) southwest of Quebec City, the provincial capital, and 190 kilometres (118 mi) east of Ottawa, the federal capital. It also lies 550 kilometres (335 mi) northeast of Toronto, and 625 kilometres (380 mi) directly north of New York City.
The city rests on the Island of Montreal at the confluence of the Saint Lawrence and Ottawa Rivers. The port of Montreal lies at one end of the Saint Lawrence Seaway, which is the river gateway that stretches from the Great Lakes into the Atlantic Ocean. Montreal is bordered by the St. Lawrence river on its south side, and by the Rivière des Prairies on the north. The city is named after the most prominent geographical feature on the island, a three-head hill called Mount Royal.
Montreal lies at the confluence of several climatic regions. Usually, the climate is classified as humid continental or hemiboreal.
Precipitation is abundant with an average snowfall of 2.25 metres (84 in) per year in the winter. Regular rainfall throughout the year averages 900 mm (35.3 in). Summer is the wettest season statistically, but it is also the sunniest.
The coldest month of the year is January which has a daily average temperature of −10.4 °C (13 °F) — averaging a daily low of −14.9 °C (5.2 °F), colder than either Moscow (-10 °C) or Saint Petersburg (-6 °C). Due to wind chill, the perceived temperature can be much lower than the actual temperature and wind chill factor is often included in Montreal weather forecasts. The warmest month is July which has an average daily high of 26.3 °C (79.3 °F); lower nighttime temperatures make an average of 20.9 °C (69.6 °F) thus air exchangers often achieve the same result as air conditioners. The lowest temperature ever recorded was −37.8 °C (−36.0 °F) on 15 January 1957 and the highest temperature ever was 37.6 °C (99.7 °F) on 1 August 1975. High humidity is common in the summer which makes the perceived temperature higher than the actual temperature. In spring and autumn, rainfall averages between 55 and 94 millimetres (2.2 and 3.7 in) a month. Some snow in spring and autumn is normal. Similarly, late heat waves as well as "Indian summers" are a regular feature of the climate.
2006 was noted as the only year in the history of Montreal when there was more rain than there was snow. There were 122.3 cm (48.1 in) of snow, and there were 1,225.0 mm (48.2 in) of rain. That year, Montreal received more rain than Vancouver, British Columbia.
|Weather averages for Montreal, Quebec
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|Source: Environment Canada 18 Dec 2006
Culture of Montreal
As a North American city, Montreal shares many of the cultural features characteristic of the other metropolis on the continent, including representations in all traditional manifestation of high culture, a long-lasting tradition of jazz and rock music, and tentative experimentation in visual arts, theater, music, and dance. Yet, being at the confluence of the French and the English traditions, Montreal has developed a unique and distinguished cultural face in the world. Another distinctive characteristic of Montreal culture life is to be found in the animation of its downtown, particularly during summer, prompted by cultural and social events, or festivals.
The plaza on Place des Arts is the home of the most important events during several musical festivals, including the Montreal International Jazz Festival and Montreal Francofolies, a festival of French-speaking song artists. During the seven to ten days that last each of the two festivals, shows are held in a wide variety of venues, from relatively small clubs to the large halls of Place des Arts. Some of the outdoor shows are held on cordoned-off streets while others are on terraced parks99redbaloons.
The most popular festival, in terms of attendance, is the Just for Laughs festival. A comedy festival held in both languages, it features comedians, humorists, and stand-ups from all over the world. The Montreal Fireworks Festival also attracts a lot of attention. On the evenings of competition, tens of thousands of people watch the fireworks for free on their roofs or from locations nearby the competition. Annual family-oriented events promoting health and cycling are also organized in the streets of Montreal. Parades are also popular in Montreal downtown.
Montreal is also famous as the birthplace of the Infringement Festival, a reaction to the perceived corporatization of the Montreal Fringe Festival. The Infringement has since spread to many other cities in North America and Europe.
Theatre in Montreal is dominated by French-language productions, in part because Montreal has traditionally been a center for most successful Quebec plays. As a result, the most celebrated and internationally recognized Quebec playwrights have all worked in Montreal at some point, including Montreal's son Michel Tremblay (The Guid-Sisters, Forever Yours, Marilou), Montreal's adoptee Wajdi Mouawad (Wedding Day at the Cromagnons, Littoral). Most established French-language theatres are found in the Quartier Latin (eg. Théâtre du Rideau Vert) or near Place des Arts (Théâtre du Nouveau Monde, Théâtre Jean-Duceppe). In contrast, English theatre struggled but survived with the Centaur Theatre. Ethnic theatre, by the 70s, began to be a force, notably with the Black Theatre Workshop under the leadership of artistic director Tyrone Benskin, the Yiddish Theatre established at the Saidye Bronfman Centre and later with the Teesri Duniya Theatre. More recently theatre has been taking a more activist turn with emerging organizations such as ATSA and the Optative Theatrical Laboratories, and festivals such as the Anarchist Theatre Festival, MAYWORKS, and the Infringement Festival.
Montreal has a vast network of museums, art galleries and exhibition centers. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts possess a various collection of European, Amerindian, Inuit, and Canadian arts, including important paintings from Montreal's own Betty Goodwin, James Wilson Morrice and Paul-Emile Borduas. The Musée d'art contemporain has concentrated its collection mainly to the emerging Quebec artists after 1945, with arguably some of best Quebec artistic works from Alfred Pellan and Jean-Paul Riopelle. Other praised museums are the Canadian Center for Architecture (CCA), the McCord Museum, The Montreal Museum of Archeology and History and the Saidye Bronfman Center.
The region is also home to a number of science museums. Many of them are located in the Olympic Park complex, including the Montreal Biodome (which reproduced four American ecosystems), the Insectarium, the Botanical Garden and the Planetarium. The Laval Cosmodome houses both Space Camp Canada and the Space Science Center.
During the period of Prohibition in the United States, Montreal became well known as one of North America's "sin cities" with unparalleled nightlife, a reputation it still holds today. In part, its bustling nightlife is attributed to its relatively late "last call" (3 a.m.), a large university population, the drinking age of 18, and the excellent public transportation system combines with other aspects of the Montreal culture to make the city's night life unique. The diversity of the clubs in Montreal attests to the popularity of its night life, with night clubs, pubs, bars and singing bars ("boîte à chanson"), latin clubs, african clubs, jazz clubs, lounges, after-hours houses, and strip clubs all attracting different types of customers.
The most active parts during Montreal night life are the Downtown and the Quartier Latin. Saint-Denis street, which goes across the Quartier Latin, attracts a majority of the French-speaking population. Saint-Laurent Street (known locally as "the Main") is also one of the most popular streets. A majority of English-speaking Montrealers frequent the western part of the Downtown, with Crescent Street being one of the most popular streets in this sector. These three streets are all crossed by Downtown's most commercial street, Sainte-Catherine Street, which extends to its East in the heart of Montreal gay night life.
Montreal is an important centre of commerce, industry, culture, finance, and world affairs.
Tour de la Bourse (Stock Exchange Tower)
Looking up University Street
Montreal industries include aerospace, electronic goods, pharmaceuticals, printed goods, software engineering, telecommunications, textile and apparel manufacturing, tobacco and transportation. The service sector is also strong and includes civil, mechanical and process engineering, finance, higher education, and research and development. In 2002, Montreal ranked as 4th largest centre in North America in terms of aerospace jobs.
The Port of Montreal is the largest inland port in the world. As one of the most important ports in Canada, it remains a trans-shipment point for grain, sugar, petroleum products, machinery, and consumer goods. For this reason, Montreal is the railway hub of Canada and has always been an extremely important rail city; it is the eastern terminus of the Canadian Pacific Railway and home to the headquarters of the Canadian National Railway.
The headquarters of the Canadian Space Agency are located in Longueuil, southeast of Montreal. Montreal also hosts the headquarters of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO, a United Nations body); the World Anti-Doping Agency (an Olympic body); the International Air Transport Association (IATA); the International Council of Graphic Design Associations (Icograda); the International Design Alliance (IDA); Gay and Lesbian International Chamber of Commerce, as well as some 60 other international organizations in various fields. It is also the leading Canadian city for its research output, fuelled in part by Montreal's four universities and numerous scientific research centres.
Montreal is also a centre of film and television production. The headquarters of Alliance Atlantis and five studios of the Academy Award-winning documentary producer National Film Board of Canada can be found here, as well as the head offices of Telefilm Canada, the national feature-length film and television funding agency. Given its eclectic architecture and broad availability of film services and crew members, Montreal is a popular filming location for feature-length films, and sometimes stands in for European locations. The city is also home to many recognized cultural, film and music festivals (Just For Laughs, Montreal Jazz Festival, e.g), which contribute significantly to its economy. It is also home to one of the world's largest cultural enterprises, the Cirque du Soleil.
The video game industry is also booming in Montreal since 1997, coinciding with the opening of Ubisoft's studio in the area. As of today (2007), the city has attracted world leading game developers and publishers studios such as Ubisoft, EA, Eidos Interactive, Artificial Mind and Movement, Strategy First and many more, mainly because video games jobs have been heavily subsidized by the provincial government. Every year, this industry is generating billions of dollars and thousands of jobs in the Montreal area.
Rio Tinto Alcan, Bombardier, CN, CGI Group, Air Canada, CAE, Saputo, Cirque du Soleil, Quebecor, Power Corporation, Bell Canada, SNC-Lavalin, Hydro-Quebec, Abitibi-Consolidated, National Bank of Canada and many other corporations are headquartered in the Greater Montreal Area.
In 2006 Montreal was named a UNESCO City of Design, only one of three design capitals of the world (with the others being Berlin and Buenos Aires). This distinguished title recognizes Montreal's design community. Since 2005 the city is also a home for the International Design Alliance and the International Council of Graphic Design Associations (Icograda).
Montreal Olympic Games
Olympic Stadium, in the city's eastern section.
Montreal was the host of the 1976 Summer Olympics. The Montreal Games were the most expensive in Olympic history, costing over $5 billion (equivalent to $20 billion in 2006); bad planning led to the Games' cost far exceeding the budget, and the city just finished paying the debt off in December 2006. However, the games were still considered an immense success in the eyes of the IOC, and it furthered Montreal's reputation on the world stage. For a time, it seemed that the Olympic Games might no longer be a viable financial proposition. There was also a boycott by African nations to protest against a recent tour of apartheid-run South Africa by a New Zealand rugby side. The Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci won the women's individual all around gold medal with two of four possible perfect scores, thus giving birth to a gymnastics dynasty in Romania. Another female gymnast to earn the perfect score and three gold medals there was Nellie Kim of the USSR.
Montreal hosted the first ever World Outgames in the summer of 2006, attracting over 16,000 participants engaged in 35 sporting activities. They were the biggest sporting event in the city since the Summer Olympics of 1976.
The Montreal games of the FIFA 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup were held at Olympic Stadium.
Five beaches around the island, in addition to a network of parks that include one on the Mont Royal, offer a set of recreational activities enjoyed by the local population.
Downtown Montreal lies at the foot of Mount Royal, much of which is a major urban park, and extends toward the St Lawrence River. The Downtown area contains dozens of notable skyscrapers — which, bylaws restrict to the height of Mount Royal — including the aforementioned 1000 de La Gauchetière and 1250 René-Lévesque. The Tour de la Bourse (Stock Exchange Tower) is also another significant building in Montreal, and is home to the Montreal Exchange, which trades in derivatives such as futures contracts and options. The Montreal Exchange was the first stock exchange in Canada. In 1999 all stock trades were transferred to Toronto in exchange for exclusivity in derivatives trading.
Place Ville-Marie, an I. M. Pei-designed cruciform office tower built in 1962, sits atop an underground shopping mall that forms the nexus of Montreal's underground city, the world's largest, with indoor access to over 1,600 shops, restaurants, offices, businesses, museums and universities, as well as metro stations, train stations, bus terminals, and tunnels extending all over downtown. The central axis for downtown is Saint Catherine Street, Canada's busiest commercial artery. Other major streets include Sherbrooke, René-Lévesque, Peel, de la Montagne, de Maisonneuve and Crescent. The Montreal Skyline panorama includes two islands, Île Ste. Hélène and Ile Notre-Dame. The Notre Dame island hosts the Canadian Grand Prix and Formula One car races, as well as the Champ Car tournament. La Ronde, the sole amusement park in the Montreal area, is located on Île Ste. Hélène and is home to the Montreal Fireworks Festival in the summer.
The Ville-Marie borough is arguably the heart and soul of the city. Its vitality is extraordinary and it is constantly bubbling over with arts, culture, recreational and business activities. Ville Marie sector is composed of downtown financial hub, Vieux-Port, Square Cartier residential district, Quartier International, Le Village and Quartier Latin.
The basic Skyline view may be seen from one of two lookouts on Mount Royal. The lookout at the Belevedere takes in downtown, the river, and the Montérégien Hills, and on clear days the Adirondack Mountains of Upstate New York or the Green Mountains of Vermont are visible. The view of eastern lookout on Remembrance Rd. sweeps out toward the Olympic Stadium, and beyond. Many tourists visit these lookouts.
Halles de la gare, going from Gare centrale to Place Ville-Marie
Extending all over downtown is Montreal's Underground City (French: La ville souterraine), a set of pedestrian levels built to cross under streets, thereby connecting buildings to each other. It is also known as the indoor city (ville intérieure), as not all of it is underground. The connections are considered tunnels architecturally and technically, but have conditioned air and good lighting as any building's liveable space does. Many tunnels are large enough to have shops on both sides of the passage. With over 32 kilometres (20 mi) of tunnels spread over more than twelve square kilometres (5 sq mi), connected areas include shopping malls, hotels, banks, offices, museums, universities, seven metro stations, two commuter train stations, a regional bus terminal and the Bell Centre amphitheatre and arena. There are more than 120 exterior access points to the underground city. Each access point is an entry point to one of 60 residential or commercial complexes comprising 3.6 square kilometres (1.4 sq mi) of floor space, including 80% of all office space and 35% of all commercial space in downtown Montreal. In winter, some 500,000 people use the underground city every day. Because of its Underground City, Montreal is often referred to as "Two Cities in One."
A street in Old Montreal.
Just southeast of downtown is Old Montreal (French: Vieux-Montréal), a historic area with such attractions as the Old Port, Place Jacques-Cartier, City Hall, the Marché Bonsecours, Place d'Armes, Pointe-à-Callière Museum, the Notre-Dame de Montréal Basilica, and the Montreal Science Centre.
Montreal is known for contrast between old and new architecture. Architecture and cobbled streets in Old Montreal have been maintained or restored to keep the look of the city in its earliest days as a settlement, and horse-drawn calèches help maintain that image. Old Montreal is accessible from the downtown core via the underground city and is served by several STM bus routes and metro stations, ferries to the South Shore and a network of bicycle paths.
Old Montreal was once a worldwide port, but shipping has been moved further east to a new larger site, leaving the Old Port as a historical area. The newer port is now the biggest container port in North America. The riverside area of Old Port (French: Vieux-Port), adjacent to Old Montreal, is now a recreational and historical area maintained by Parks Canada.
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