Author Anne Plau

Montreal is the second largest city in Canada. More than 1.790.000 residents live in the urban area and 4,37 million in the metropolitan region (2022 estimate). Most of the urban area lies on the Île de Montréal, between the Saint Lawrence River and some estuaries of the Ottawa River. The island is almost 500 square kilometers in size. It is dominated by the three hills of Mont Royal, from which the name of the city of Montreal was derived.

Montreal skyline

Montreal skyline

History in a nutshell

The first traces of people in the Montreal region date back to around 2000 BC. There is evidence of settlements from the 6th century onwards, particularly by Iroquois and Hurons.

In 1535, the Frenchman Jacques Cartier reached the region. At the beginning of the 17th century, the French founded a fur trading post and a short time later a Catholic mission station, from which Montreal developed.

Montreal - Place Jacques Cartier

Montreal - Place Jacques Cartier 

The French's supremacy only lasted a short time. After three wars against the British, Montreal finally came under British rule in 1770. In 1832, Montreal received city rights.

Population, education and culture 

The proportion of the French-speaking population is over 50 percent, followed by native English speakers at a good 12 percent. French is the official language. Well over half of the residents can communicate in both languages, French and English.

The education system is also characterized by the English and French languages. There are schools and colleges that serve one or both languages. The same applies to the more than 40 public libraries.

Montreal - Place des Arts

Montreal is considered the “Cultural Capital of Canada”. This is attributed to the different cultural backgrounds of the residents. In addition to the Francophone and Anglophone influences, the cultural scene is enlivened by other immigrant groups.

Economy and Transport 

From 1850 onwards, Montreal experienced rapid industrial development. The city was, among other things, a location for metal processing, mechanical engineering, shoe and textile industries. The port on the St. Lawrence River and railway lines in the direction of Toronto and Portland/Maine offered good transport options. When the federal state of Canada was founded in 1867, Montreal was the center of business and culture. By 1930, Montréal's population grew to over 800.000 due to influx from rural areas and global immigration.

Montreal - Saint Lawrence River with the Pont Jacques Cartier

Old warehouse in the Vieux-Port de Montréal

Due to the global economic crisis, Montreal lost its industrial preeminence based on exports. Ultimately, however, domestic political struggles between Anglophone and Francophone society led to Toronto becoming Canada's new economic center.

Today Montréal is important for services in the financial and media sectors as well as in trade. The industry includes important aviation, pharmaceutical and technology companies.

Montréal has two international airports and is a hub for rail and road transport. The local public transport with metro and bus lines is exemplary. A well-developed cycle path network is 780 kilometers long (as of 2023) and is constantly being expanded. Montreal has the largest inland port in the Americas and is connected to the Atlantic year-round via the St. Lawrence River.

Montreal is a green city

With Mont Royal, the banks of the St. Lawrence River and several nature reserves, Montréal has exceptional inner-city recreational areas. There are also large and small parks throughout the city.

Montreal - Square Saint-Louis

Dense deciduous forests characterize the greater Montréal area. To ensure that planting runs smoothly, the city has been running its own tree nursery for growing young trees for decades.


Montreal is surrounded by beautiful scenery. Many rivers, lakes and vast hilly land attract water sports enthusiasts, hikers and cyclists. The sights in the city are diverse. Representative historical and modern buildings characterize the cityscape, and more than 600 sacred buildings represent an important religious heritage. Around 50 museums present art, history, research and technology.

Montreal - Notre-Dame Basilica

Montréal - Chapelle de Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours

Vieux Montréal, the old town of Montreal, was largely scheduled to be demolished in the 1960s because of the construction of the city highway. A Dutch city planner ensured that the road was moved underground. The old town has been extensively restored and is now a magnet for visitors.

Two important events that took place in Montréal in the 20th century also attracted worldwide attention: the EXPO in 1967 and the Summer Olympics in 1976. Montréal is visited by around 11 million guests annually (2023).

We report on the attractions in our article Montreal attractions. 

Montreal - Biosphere

Montreal for cruise passengers 

Cruise ships dock at the Grand Quai du Port de Montréal, the Quai King Edward is the marina, and the Vieux Port is the dock for excursion boats and ferries across the St. Lawrence River.

Montreal is the departure and destination port for small cruise ships to the Great Lakes in North America. There are also good connections for large cruise ships to the Atlantic via the St. Lawrence River. Montréal is visited on routes to the New England states, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, among others.

Montreal - Vieux-Port Cruise Terminal

Montreal seen from the Saint Lawrence River

The Grand Quai is located on the well-developed waterfront promenade, which runs about two kilometers along the Old Harbor and ends at the clock tower. The Notre Dame Basilica, the old town and the nightlife area around Rue Saint Paul can be reached within 10 minutes on foot.

October 2023

My shore excursions Montreal