- Download our Moving to Montreal Guide (PDF)
Montreal is a Canadian city heavily influenced by French culture. That said, the city is still something of a melting pot of cultures and there is certainly something for everyone to enjoy, no matter their nationality or native tongue.
Hundreds of cafes and restaurants offer cuisine from all over the world. Asian supermarkets, Parisian boutiques and European nightclubs characterise Montreal’s roadsides. Expats moving to Montreal will find there's never a dull moment in this bustling city.
Shopping in Montreal
Shopaholics will feel right at home in Montreal. The city offers a range of options, from big department stores to eccentric antique shops.
Those looking for a more traditional shopping experience should head to the department stores on Rue St Catherine, with underground stores allowing shoppers to escape Montreal’s freezing winter temperatures.
For quirky antique and indie outlets, expats should visit Rue Notre-dame, Avenue Mont-Royal, Rue Amherst and Rue St Viateur. Those with trendier tastes will find high-end stores on Rue St-Denis and Rue Sherbrooke. Expats looking for a touch of luxury can visit the affluent suburb of Westmount, which is home to many premium boutiques.
Eating out in Montreal
The French influence in Montreal is apparent in its many restaurants and bakeries, but there are plenty of foreign cuisines to enjoy as well.
Old Montreal is the best place to find classic French cuisine. Plateau Mont-Royal is popular with students and young professionals, and expats will find restaurants ranging from quaint sandwich shops to cheerful Italian eateries and upscale bistros. Saint Laurent Boulevard is where food lovers will probably have the most luck finding traditional favourites.
Rue Crescent and Rue Bishop in central Montreal, otherwise known as Downtown, has many great bars and restaurants to explore.
Nightlife and entertainment in Montreal
Partygoers will be delighted to know that Montreal is the mecca of nightlife in Canada. The bars and clubs in Montreal stay open much later than anywhere else in the country. The variety of establishments is equally impressive, with an assortment of student watering holes, jazz haunts and all-out nightclubs lining Montreal’s streets.
Arts and culture lovers will be spoilt for choice in Montreal. The city has a brilliant symphony, numerous theatre companies and, of course, Cirque du Soleil. International bands and musicians also often include Montreal in their North American tours. City residents are also passionate about international and French cinema, which has led to the growth of Montreal's film industry.
Expats will find some linguistic divisions entrenched in Montreal's nightlife. English speakers usually frequent bars on Rue Crescent, Rue Bishop and Rue de la Montagne, while French speakers gather in the Quartier Latin. Expats seeking diverse experiences should visit Rue St Paul in Old Montreal, where they can listen to live music.
Sports and outdoor activities in Montreal
When it comes to sports, ice hockey is a favourite in Montreal as the city hosts the National Hockey League.
Expats will find numerous outdoor activities on offer in Montreal regardless of the weather. With diverse plant life, Montreal Botanical Gardens are a paradise for nature lovers. Expats looking to explore the great outdoors can enjoy one of the city’s numerous parks, such as the famous La Fontaine Park. The green space has ponds, water features, and an outdoor ice-skating rink that opens during the winter.
Fitness enthusiasts can find great jogging routes, such as Lachine Canal, around every area and suburb in Montreal.
See and do in Montreal
An island city with French charm, Montreal offers plenty to see and do, with a lively arts-and-culture scene and a plethora of outdoor spaces to explore. Below are some must-see sights in Montreal.
The world-famous La Ronde amusement park is open daily between June and August and on weekends in May, September and October. Thrill seekers will love the Ferris wheel, rollercoasters and daring rides at the park.
Montreal Biosphere is an environmental and educational museum built in 1967 for the World Fair. Children can learn about the world's different climates and sustainability in the interactive exhibitions and the underwater observatory.
Notre-Dame Basilica is a breathtaking Gothic church dating back to the 1820s. History and architecture buffs will appreciate the building’s beautiful carvings, stained-glass windows and vaulted ceilings.
With structures dating back to the 17th century, Old Montreal is a unique tourist attraction. The area is home to the Montreal City Hall, Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel and Château Ramezay. Expats can also visit the nearby Vieux Port de Montreal for a fun-filled family afternoon.
Locally known as, ‘Parc Olympique’, Olympic Park was built for the 1976 Olympic Games. Expats can visit the park to see the various exhibitions, concerts and sporting events.
What's on in Montreal
No matter the time of year, Montreal is always buzzing with activity. These are some annual events expats can look forward to in the city.
Montreal International Auto Show (January)
Petrol heads will be in their element at the Montreal International Auto Show. The show generally takes place over 10 days in mid-January at the Palais des Congres de Montreal convention centre.
Montreal International Children’s Film Festival (February/March)
Perfect for expat families, the Montreal International Children's Film festival showcases international and local films featuring children. Kids also have an opportunity to meet the child actors appearing in the movies and attend various workshops.
Blue Metropolis (April)
Also known as The Blue Met, Blue Metropolis is Montreal’s international literary festival celebrating English, French and Spanish literature. The festival takes place over five days and attracts writers, actors, journalists and musicians from all over the world.
Montreal International Jazz Festival (June to July)
The Montreal International Jazz Festival is one of the biggest jazz festivals in the world. With around 3,000 jazz musicians and hundreds of shows, jazz lovers will be spoilt for choice. The best part? Many of these concerts are free and live-streamed performances.
Montreal Festival of Nouveau Cinema (October)
The Montreal Festival of Nouveau Cinema showcases the work of relatively unknown independent filmmakers and is a great way for new arrivals to discover the city's underground film industry.
►For information about public transport in the city, see Getting Around in Montreal
►Keep up to date with the latest cost of living statistics to make sure you don't come up short when out on the town
"The positive sides of Canada will depend on your expectations. Overall, I find Canada is an easy country to live in. People are nice, it’s a very steady place, pretty safe by world standards, and we are a good mix of American and European cultures."
Learn more about the lifestyle in Canada in our interview with French expat Juliette.
Are you an expat living in Montreal?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Montreal. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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