One of over 320 islands in the Hochelaga Archipelago, the island of Montréal is located at the confluence of the St. Lawrence and Ottawa rivers. Much of the 68-square-mile city is planned in a grid. At its center, St. Laurent Boulevard (known colloquially as "The Main"), marks a boundary between the more Francophone eastern neighborhoods and the English-speaking west side. Mont Royal—the mountain from which the city got its name—overlooks the Plateau, the city's residential heart. On the Plateau's northern edge you'll find hipster hood Mile End, and just west of that lays chic Outremont. On the Plateau's southern edge is Downtown. Beneath it lies the Underground City, Montréal's vast network of shopping centers, métro stations, and other attractions—it's a good way to get around when temperatures drop. Old Montréal, the city's oldest, most European-looking district, is on the southernmost edge of the city, and borders the St. Lawrence River.
WHEN TO GO
Montréal's climate varies a great deal over the year, from a snowy 10 to 25° Fahrenheit in January to a pleasant 65 to 80° Fahrenheit in July. Unless you love Siberian climes, avoid January through March, when temperatures can drop to 20 below. December is the best bet for those who enjoy skiing and other snow sports—it's usually the mildest winter month. Late summer tends to be humid, but spring is lovely, especially for those who have survived the dreary cold. Go in June for the Formula One Grand Prix and the Jazz Fest (which runs into July), but be aware that hotels book up, so reservations can be hard to come by. Otherwise, visit during the crisp, sunny autumn to take in the golden yellow and crimson foliage.
HOW TO GET THERE
Most domestic and international flights on all the major airlines come through Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (www.admtl.com). A taxi into town will take 20 minutes and cost about $35. The Aerobus Shuttle costs $14 (www.autobus.qc.ca/anglais/aeroportuaire_an.html). Amtrak is a cheap alternative for those arriving from the northeastern United States, but the travel time can be excruciatingly long (10 hours from Manhattan, versus a six-hour drive). There used to be a secondary airport, Mirabel, but it hasn't been used for commercial flights since 2004.
Cabs are plentiful; you can hail them right off any street corner (fares start at $3.15, plus $1.45 per kilometer), although most major attractions are also accessible by public transit. The Park Avenue 80 bus will take you right to the base of Mount Royal and is a good way to travel between downtown and neighborhoods like Outremont, Mile End, and the Plateau. The subway (called le Métro) is extensive, and many stations have beautiful op-art mosaics: $9 for a day pass, $19 for a week (www.stm.info). If the season is in your favor, walking is a good option if you plan your stops on a smaller radius. It's an easy city to drive in, though Montrealers are known to be rather reckless on the road. It can be difficult to find a parking spot in Old Montréal or along St. Catherine Street, but parking lots abound. The rate of meter parking was recently raised to three dollars an hour, so if you'll be more than two hours, you may as well drop the car in a flat-rate lot rather than circling for a spot. For travel to historic Québec City or the Eastern Townships, try Via Rail (www.viarail.ca).
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Open 9 a.m.–7 p.m. early June–Labor Day; 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Labor Day–early June; closed Mon. and Tues. Labor Day–mid-April
Canada used to be a bargain thanks to an exchange rate that favored the U.S. dollar, but at the time of publication the currencies were nearly equivalent in value. Prices in this guide are quoted in Canadian dollars.View Canada Factsheet