As one of Canada’s largest and most famous cities, there’s no shortage of fun and interesting Montreal facts.
Located in the province of Quebec, Montreal is the cultural capital of French Canada and has been one of Canada’s largest cities for most of its history. It’s quite close to Ottawa and is known as being very “European”, with lots of cafes, restaurants, festivals, and events.
So whether you’re looking to learn more about the city before you visit or just love learning interesting facts about Canada, you’ll love the 119 interesting facts about Montreal that we feature below.
Note: We do our best to research both the internet and books to find these Montreal facts. However, there are times we may have made a mistake or perhaps our source has made a mistake. If you catch anything, please let us know. Plus, if you know of other cool Montreal facts, let us know in the comments!
32 General Montreal Facts
To kickstart our article about Montreal facts, we’re going to start with what we call “general facts”, representing basic things about the city.
- Montreal is the second-largest city in Canada and the largest city in the primarily French-speaking province of Quebec. With approximately 1.7 million residents, Montreal is surpassed only by Toronto (approx 2.8 million residents).
- In addition, the Greater Montreal Area, which includes several “off-island” cities and suburbs, has a population of 4.3 million residents, making it the 2nd largest metropolitan area in Canada after Toronto as well.
- It is the 4th largest French-speaking city in the world, after Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of Congo), Paris (France), and Abidjan (Ivory Coast). However, most Montrealers are bilingual. Many more speak a third language.
- There are 150 foreign consulates in Montreal, the 2nd most of any city in North America, after Washington DC.
- Greater Montreal has the 2nd largest economy in Canada, but it’s still only half the size of Toronto’s.
- Montreal is home to two Fortune 500 companies: Power Corporation of Canada and Bank of Montreal.
- Other famous companies that started or are currently headquartered in Montreal include Air Canada, Via Rail, Le Château, Bell Canada, National Bank of Canada, Dollarama, Rona, and Cora, just to name a few.
- Montreal’s crime rate is about half that of Winnipeg but slightly more than that of Toronto.
- The Port of Montreal is the largest inland port in the world. It replaces the historic Old Port of Montreal.
- The Canadian National Railway and Canadian Space Agency are headquartered in Montreal.
- Other major organizations based in Montreal include the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization, the World Anti-Doping Agency for the Olympics, the Airports Council International, and the International Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.
- Montreal is the 2nd largest media centre in Canada and the most important centre of French language media.
- People from Montreal are called Montrealers.
- Roughly 67% of Montrealers speak French as their mother tongue, whereas 92% of them have a working knowledge of French. Over half of the residents are also fluent in both English and French, making Montreal the most bilingual city in Canada.
- Almost 20% of Montrealers speak neither English nor French at home.
- Roughly 10% of Montrealers are Black Canadians, the largest visible minority in the city. Montreal also has the largest Haitian community in Canada.
- Montreal is home to 21 major parks, with Mount Royal Park being the largest. Montreal is built around Mont Royal, from where the city received its name. Mont-Royal Park, located on the mountain, was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the same person who designed Central Park in New York City. There used to be a funicular (1885 to 1920) and streetcar (1920 to 1959) to the Mount Royal peak. No building in Montreal can be taller than the famous Cross found on Mont-Royal, which is probably why Montreal lacks the “skyscraper-landscape” found in other cities like Calgary, Toronto, and Vancouver.
- In French, Montréal is pronounced with a silent t, so it sounds like “Mon-ray-al”. Say it like this and they might be surprised!
- Montreal is only 45 km (28 mi) from the US border. In fact, you can take a train from Montreal to New York City.
- The official abbreviation for Montreal is MON, while Montreal’s airport code is YUL. Other abbreviations include MTL and VDM (Ville de Montréal).
- Some common nicknames for Montreal are “The 514” (after the telephone code), “The City of Saints”, “Paris of North America”, “The City of a Hundred Steeples”, “The City of Festivals”, “La Metropole”, and “Sin City” (for its nightlife during prohibition).
- The official motto of Montreal is Concordia Salus, which is Latin for “well-being through harmony”.
- Slogans for Montreal have included “Cosmopolitan Montreal”, “Abroad Without Crossing the Sea”, “The Gateway to Historic Quebec”, and “Room to Make It Real”.
- The Montreal flag shows a red heraldic cross, representing Christianity, with a white pine at its centre representing First Nations. In the corners are a Fleur-de-lys (representing the French), rose (English), shamrock (Irish), and thistle (Scottish).
- Montreal has 18 sister and friendship cities, including Paris (France), Boston (USA), Guadalajara (Mexico), Hiroshima (Japan), and Shanghai, (China).
- Montreal City proper is located almost entirely on the Island of Montreal, a larger island located at the confluence of the St. Lawrence River, which drains the Great Lakes and the Ottawa River.
- Greater Montreal is similar in size to Rome, Italy.
- Around 50% of all Quebecois live in Greater Montreal.
- The city sits at the same latitude as Venice, Italy.
- The highest temperature ever recorded in Montreal was 37.6°C (99.7°F) in 1975, while the lowest was −37.8°C (−36°F) in 1957. The winter in Canada can be very cold.
- Montreal hosts more than 18,000 foreign students each year from more than 150 countries and in 2013 it was been ranked the number 1 destination for tertiary studies. There are 11 university-level institutions in Montreal, including 4 world-class universities: McGill University, Concordia University, University of Montreal and UQAM. Montreal has the cheapest Tuition in Canada.
- John Lennon’s song Give Peace a Chance was written in Montreal during his ‘bed-in’ at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel on June 1st, 1969. This hotel has welcomed many famous guests including Queen Elisabeth II, Fidel Castro, Charles de Gaulle, Princess Grace of Monaco, Indira Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Dalai Lama and John Travolta. However, the hotel gained its international recognition when John Lennon, who had been refused entry into the USA, conducted his bed-in in Room 1742 and wrote Give Peace a Chance there. This song would later become an anthem of the American anti-war movement.
26 Fun Tourism-related Montreal Facts
While all of these Montreal facts can aid with your next visit to the city, these facts below are especially related to travel and tourism.
- Montreal has some of the most restaurants per capita. Some say they are #1 but according to our research, that title belongs to Victoria, BC. Either way, Montreal is known for its food, so if you’re visiting, make sure you enjoy its vibrant restaurant scene. Another city that is known for its restaurants in Saskatoon. Learn more in our guide to the best restaurants in Saskatoon.
- One of the top foods that Montreal is famous for is Montreal-style smoked meat. Without a doubt, Schwartz’s Deli is the most famous shop to have it, but in all honesty, it’s hard for us to recommend it anymore. Service is not good, the place is small and drab, and the prices are high. Another place to try it is Dunn’s, or perhaps ask a local for the new place in town.
- Montreal also has its own type of bagel, which is smaller, thinner, denser, and sweeter than New York-style bagels.
- Montreal is the first North American city to have been designated a UNESCO City of Design by the Global Alliance for Cultural Diversity in 2006, along with the likes of Mexico City, Seoul (South Korea), Buenos Aires (Argentina), Budapest (Hungary), and Istanbul (Turkey).
- The Montréal–Trudeau International Airport is the 4th busiest airport in Canada, after Toronto, Vancouver, and Calgary.
- Montreal has an Underground City, which is a series of interconnected tunnels beneath the city that run for over 32km. The tunnels connect shopping malls, more than 2000 stores, 7 metro stations, universities, banks, offices, museums, restaurants and so on. Unlike what is commonly believed, Montrealers use the underground tunnels mostly in the heat of the Summer rather than to escape the cold in winter.
- 1250 René-Lévesque is the tallest building in Montreal, with 47 floors and standing 226.5 m (743 ft). It is the tallest in the province but only the 21st tallest in Canada.
- The Montreal Tower (formerly Olympic Tower) is the world’s tallest inclined structure at 175 m (574 ft). It leans at an angle of 45°. For comparison, the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa only leans at 4° and is one-third the height.
- The Montreal Tower stands next to the Olympic Stadium (nicknamed The Big O), which was built to host the 1976 Olympics. It is the largest stadium in Canada by seating capacity.
- Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal, or Oratoire Saint-Joseph du Mont-Royal in French, is Canada’s largest church. Built back in 1904 and now a National Historic Site, this beautiful building is full of history.
- There are 61 National Historic Sites in Montreal, with some of the most significant and well-known including Montreal City Hall, Montreal Botanical Garden, Windsor Station, Hochelaga, Lachine Canal, Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral (modelled on St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome), and the Notre-Dame Basilica.
- Many historic sites are concentrated in Old Montreal, which is why it’s an absolute must-visit for anyone exploring the city. Other cool neighbourhoods include artsy Le Plateau Moint-Royal, LGBTQ+ friendly Ville-Marie, nightlife-focused Quartier Latin, and festival-oriented Quartier des Spectacles.
- Montreal is North America’s number-one host city for international events. We’ll go into many of these below, but they include the world-famous Cirque de Soleil, the Montreal Beer Festival, the Montreal Reggae Festival, the International Film Festival on Art, the International Festival of Circus Arts, Divers/Cité Gay and Lesbian Pride, Blue Metropolis International Literary Festival, the Montreal Grand Prix and many, many more.
- Montreal also played host to Expo 67, considered to be the most successful world fair in the 20th Century.
- The Montreal International Jazz Festival was founded in 1980 and is the largest international jazz festival in the world.
- The Just For Laughs Festival was also founded in Montreal and is the largest comedy festival in the world.
- Les Franco Folies de Montréal is the largest French music festival in the world.
- Montreal has the second-largest Amusement Park in Canada. It is the largest in the province of Quebec with 146 acres and is located on the eastern tip of St. Helen’s Island. It offers 10 rollercoasters, one of which is called The Monster, measuring 40 metres in height. It is the world record holder for the highest double-tracked rollercoaster in the world. Every year, the park welcomes over 3 million visitors.
- More than 85% of the world’s maple syrup comes from Quebec and items such as maple cookies, maple butter, maple candy, and maple marinades among others are Montreal’s specialties. In the Spring, during what is called Temps des Sucres (sugaring-off time), people flock to traditional sugar shacks around Montreal to enjoy these treats.
- Jean Talon Market in Montreal’s Little Italy is the largest open-air market in North America.
- Le Cheval Blanc was Montreal’s first craft brewery, which opened in 1986.
- The Montreal Symphony Orchestra, considered one of the best, is the only symphony in the world to have an octobass. It is 3.6 m (11.8 ft) tall.
- Barbie Expo Montreal is the world’s largest permanent exposition of Barbie dolls, with over 1000 unique Barbies on display.
- Eastern Canada’s best-known ski resort, Mont Tremblant, is two hours northwest of Montreal.
- Montreal’s Igloofest is nicknamed the “coldest music festival in the world.”
- Cirque du Soleil, the world’s largest modern circus, was formed in Montreal in 1984.
36 History-related Montreal Facts
These facts about Montreal are related to the history of the city.
- The Montreal area was originally inhabited by the Algonquin, Huron, and Iroquois peoples. You can visit the Pointe-à-Callière, a national archaeological and historic site, to discover more local history.
- The oldest artifact in the area dates to 2000 years ago.
- Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the Iroquois village on the Island of Montreal was called Hochelaga. It was near modern-day McGill University. In modern Iroquois, it is called Tiohtià:ke.
- When Jacques Cartier of France arrived in 1535, he visited the Iroquoian village of Hochelaga, with more than 1000 people.
- When Samuel de Champlain arrived in 1603, he found the village was no longer there. He established a fur trading post there.
- The French established the first permanent settlement on the Island of Montreal in 1639.
- Ville-Marie, the original name of Montreal, was founded in 1642. Today, Ville-Marie is the name of one of Montreal’s 19 boroughs.
- The city was regularly attacked by the Iroquois, with the French going to war against them several times.
- Montreal’s oldest church, Notre Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel, was established in 1655.
- In 1690, the Citadel Fortress was built.
- In 1705, the city was renamed Montreal.
- In 1760, Montreal surrendered to the British army. The British formally took over Canada in 1763.
- Montreal’s first newspaper was first published in 1778.
- North West Company, the main competitor to Hudson’s Bay Company, started in Montreal in 1779. Montreal was the centre of the North American fur trade.
- Molson, the oldest brewery in North America and maker of Canada’s top-selling beer, Molson Canadian, was started in Montreal in 1786 and remains headquartered there.
- McGill University was established in 1821.
- Notre Dame Basilica was completed in 1829.
- Montreal was incorporated as a city in 1832.
- In 1852, a fire destroyed half of all houses in Montreal.
- In 1856, the railway line from Montreal to Toronto first opened.
- In the 1860s, Montreal’s population surpassed 100,000.
- At the time of the Confederation in 1867, Montreal was Canada’s largest city.
- The Bank of Montreal opened in 1871.
- The world’s first modern ice hockey game was played at Victoria Skating Rink in Montreal on March 3, 1875.
- Over 3000 Montrealers died in the smallpox epidemic of 1885.
- Electric streetcars appeared in Montreal in 1890.
- In 1920, Prohibition in the US turned Montreal into a nightlife hotspot. Americans hopped over the border to track down booze and places to gamble.
- The Montréal–Trudeau International Airport opened in 1941.
- The population of Montreal reached 1 million around 1950.
- The Montreal Metro began running in 1966.
- In 1967, Montreal hosted Expo 67, or the 1967 International and Universal Exposition, aka World’s Fair. It has the single largest attendance on a single day for the fair ever, at 569,500. The event’s velodrome now houses the Montreal Biodome.
- In 1976, Montreal hosted the first-ever Summer Olympics in Canada. Today, you can visit the Olympic Park.
- Toronto surpassed Montreal as Canada’s largest city in 1971.
- At the 1995 Unity Rally in Montreal, 100,000 gathered in favour of voting for Quebec not to separate from Canada.
- In 2006, Montreal adopted the Declaration of Montreal, which outlines the freedoms and rights of LGBTQ+. Other cities that have since adopted it are Barcelona, San Francisco, Denver, and Sydney, Australia.
- Montreal’s first female mayor, Valérie Plante, was elected in 2017.
25 Interesting Facts about Sports, People, and Culture
Now that you’ve learned quite a bit about Montreal as a whole, let’s dig deeper into some facts about Montreal’s sports, people, and culture.
- Montreal’s McGill University is ranked second best in Canada after the University of Toronto. Montreal is considered one of the top 10 cities in the world to be a university student.
- 14 graduates or professors from McGill have received Nobel Prizes.
- Prime Ministers Sir John Abbott, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, and Justin Trudeau graduated from McGill.
- Pierre Trudeau, the 15th Prime Minister of Canada and father of current PM Justin Trudeau, was born in Montreal.
- The NHL (National Hockey League) started in Montreal in 1917.
- Montreal has three major professional sports teams: Montreal Canadiens (NHL), Montreal Alouettes (CFL), and CF Montreal (MLS).
- Montreal also has some defunct major teams, such as Montreal Jazz (NBL), Montreal Expos (MLB), Montreal Maroons (NHL), and Montreal Wanderers (NHL).
- The Montreal Canadiens (nicknamed “The Habs”) are one of the most historic teams in the entire National Hockey League. Although they haven’t won a Stanley Cup since 1993, they do hold the record for the most Stanley Cup wins (24) in the league.
- The Canadiens are the longest-running hockey team in the world and the only one that started before the NHL began.
- Some even say that the modern sport of ice hockey was invented in Montreal when two teams of mostly McGill students played against each other in 1875. However, there’s also evidence that it was created in Nova Scotia.
- The first two NHL games ever played, in 1917, were won by Montreal teams. The Montreal Canadiens beat the Ottawa Senators and the Montreal Wanderers beat the Toronto Arenas.
- Some of the Canadiens’ most famous players have included Guy Lafleur, Maurice Richard, Jean Beliveau, and Patrick Roy.
- Mario Lemieux, widely considered the 2nd best hockey player in NHL history after Wayne Gretzky, was born in Montreal but played for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
- Youppi, the mascot of the Montreal Canadiens and former mascot of the Montreal Expos, was the first mascot ever to be thrown out of an MLB game.
- The Canadiens play out of Bell Centre, which is the 4th largest sporting venue in the city, after Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Olympic Stadium, and Molson Stadium.
- Two-time world champion WWF wrestler Chris Benoit is a Montreal native. In 2007, he was accused of murdering his wife and later that year committed suicide.
- When Montreal hosted the 1976 Summer Olympics, it was the first and only time Canada has ever hosted the summer version of the event.
- Montreal hosts the annual Canadian Grand Prix of Formula One at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
- Actors William Shatner and Antoni Porowski (Queer Eye) were born in Montreal.
- Political activist and author Naomi Klein are another well-known Montrealer.
- Singers Celine Dion, Corey Hart, and Leonard Cohen were born in Montreal.
- Bands from Montreal include Arcade Fire, Simple Plan, The Planet Smashers, Stars, Godspeed You!, Black Emperor, Bran Van 3000, Chromeo, The Dears, Ripcordz, Wolf Parade, and the Doughboys.
- Some major movies have been set and/or filmed in Montreal, like Life of Pi, The Whole Nine Yards, Blades of Glory, 12 Monkeys, Batman & Robin, The Score, Catch Me If You Can, The Notebook, and many others.
- Things invented in Montreal include peanut butter, the Wonderbra, the board game Trivial Pursuit, the snowblower, and IMAX theatres, just to name a few.
- Cheesemaker Lino Saputo is the richest person in Montreal and the 8th richest in Canada, with a net worth of USD 4.7 billion.
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