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Moving to Montreal

The island city of Montreal lies at the confluence of the St Lawrence and Ottawa Rivers in the southwest of Quebec province. It is the province's largest metropolis and the second-most populated city in the country. Expats moving to Montreal often find it to be a microcosm of Canada while encapsulating a charming French atmosphere.

Montreal marries a unique cultural spirit with the mainstays of Canada’s social development programmes such as universal health insurance and free education. These are major draw factors for international assignees, students and families relocating to Montreal.

However, the language barrier shouldn’t be ignored when considering Montreal as an expat destination. The official language of Quebec is French. Most residents speak French as their first or second language, and many immigrants have relocated permanently from France. Expats with no knowledge of the language could certainly live well in Montreal. But the activities they participate in, the extent of the job market, and even the people they can interact with may be greatly limited. In fact, to immigrate to Montreal and work legally, expats must pass provincial requirements. French-language proficiency is one such consideration of the work and residence permit application for Quebec.

Meanwhile, foreigners who speak French will find themselves in an economically stable, manageable city that has been credited as the ‘cultural capital of Canada’. Age-old architecture and narrow cobblestone streets in Old Montreal, a long-standing tradition of jazz and rock music, as well as countless distinguished theatre, music and art-performance centres, are all part of Montreal’s powerful allure. 

Accommodation in the metropolis is generally more affordable and easier to find than in other major Canadian cities, such as Toronto and Vancouver.

One downside: expats moving to Montreal often find that one of the most difficult elements to adapt to is its frigid winters. Summer can be hot, humid and generally pleasant, but from December to March temperatures can duck well below freezing. Snow, sleet, rain and ice are regular occurrences.

The good news is that the city’s underground metro, which has been cited as an attraction in itself, is warm as well as efficient and extensive. It links up even some of Montreal’s far-flung suburbs with its central backbone. Thanks to Montreal’s comprehensive public transport system, driving a car isn’t essential.

Overall, expats moving to Montreal may find that the distinctly Quebecois brand takes time to get used to. Once they do though, newcomers can look forward to a rewarding life in one of Canada’s most culturally-rich regions.

Weather in Montreal

Montreal has a semi-continental climate with warm, humid summers and blistering cold winters. The harsh Canadian winters will be the biggest adjustment for expats moving to Montreal. Temperatures can drop to -4°F (-20°C)  and can feel even colder with the wind chill. The coldest month is January when the temperature averages at 14°F (-10°C). Expats will see a lot of snow in winter with some rain and sleet at times. 

The suburbs tend to be a few degrees colder than the city centre in winter, and expats should be aware of ice on the roads and sidewalks. 

Summers in Montreal are warm and rainy, and can be very humid. The temperature in July averages around 77°F (25°C) and expats can expect lots of sunny weather.

 

Working in Montreal

The most important thing that expats planning on working in Montreal should know is that the official language of business and daily life is Quebec French. While the city does have a significant number of anglophone residents, they only account for a small portion of its population.

The unique culture and politics of the wider Quebec province impact workers in the city in other ways, aside from language. While city residents generally have access to more state benefits than elsewhere in Canada, the average salary in Montreal is lower than that of other major cities. Taxes also tend to be higher. Expats interested in starting a business in Montreal will also face more government intervention and bureaucracy to contend with than elsewhere.


Job market in Montreal

Montreal’s economy remains one of the largest among Canadian cities. Some of its main industries include electronics, aerospace, civil and mechanical engineering, information and communications technology (ICT), and textile manufacturing. The city also has a strong service industry. 

Montreal strives for innovation and creativity. Higher education is another key sector, with multiple universities serving the city, as well as research and development of artificial intelligence. The city is a cultural hub and is well known as a centre for film and video-game production.


Finding a job in Montreal

Most expats who relocate to Montreal do so having already secured a position. In many cases, they are transferred by the company to an office in Quebec. For those who haven't secured a job, the best place to start the search would be online. Company websites and job portals are a useful source of information. The classified sections of online newspapers also have listings of job opportunities. 

City residents have a legal right to be served in French, making it far more difficult for an expat who does not speak French to find a job in Montreal. There are part-time opportunities for foreign students studying at one of the city’s universities, such as McGill University, but it would still be easier to find employment if they speak the language.

English-speaking expats who don’t have any networks in the city are advised to start French lessons as soon as possible and to secure a job before they arrive. Many of the positions available in Montreal require their candidates to be able to speak, read and write in French.

There are, however, programmes aimed at migrants who are unable to speak French. Several non-profit organisations, such as YES Employment + Entrepreneurship, assist with finding employment and starting businesses.

Expats wanting to work in Montreal must have permanent residence or a work permit for Canada, as well as meet the selection requirements of the Government of Quebec. The Quebec Government is able to select which applicants can apply to the Canadian government for permanent residence in the province. Successful applicants will receive the Certificat de sélection du Québec (CSQ), an official document for immigration.


Work culture in Montreal

Broadly speaking, Montreal has an interesting mixture of Canadian working culture and European influences. People in the city tend to be fairly fashion conscious both in work and in public life. More vibrant offices have casual dress codes but, even then, collared shirts are common. In more formal business environments people opt for a conservative yet stylish dress code.

There is a widespread emphasis on individualism and equality, but some firms more closely resemble the elaborate hierarchies found in larger, more traditional European corporations.

Typical business hours in the city are from 9am to 5pm and sometimes 7pm, from Monday to Friday. By law, local stores are allowed to be open from 9am to 9pm during the week, and 9am to 5pm on weekends. Getting to one's office should not be a problem as the public transport system is excellent in Montreal.

Cost of Living in Montreal

The cost of living in Montreal is lower than in the Canadian cities of Vancouver and Toronto, but higher than in Calgary and Ottawa. Montreal came 137th out of 209 cities in Mercer's 2020 Cost of Living Survey, making it the third most expensive Canadian city.

Montreal has the second largest economy in Canada and the primary industries include commerce, finance, technology and culture. Although Montreal is fairly inexpensive in a Canadian context, the cost of living is still quite high compared to certain cities in the US and Asia. 

A downside to the low cost of living in Montreal is that salaries are slightly lower than in the rest of Canada, but this often depends on the industry in which one works. Successful industries include gaming, aerospace and film.


Cost of accommodation in Montreal 

Many expats who move to Montreal find that accommodation is affordable and readily available. Montreal does not suffer from the affordable housing shortage that other Canadian cities such as Calgary and Vancouver do. 


Cost of food in Montreal

Both groceries and eating out are relatively affordable in Montreal. Expats should be able to find a variety of restaurants serving food from every country, and there is something to suit any budget. However, expats will find that alcohol and tobacco are expensive. 


Cost of transport in Montreal

Montreal has an effective and inexpensive public transport system. For all major public transport in and around Greater Montreal and Quebec City, expats can purchase an OPUS smart card and top it up with credit.


Cost of schooling in Montreal

Public education in Montreal is free for residents, but unless expats’ children are fluent in French, public school isn't really an option. English public schools are available but children must meet various requirements to be admitted.

As such, many expats opt to send their children to private schools or to an international school that corresponds with their home country’s curriculum. Both of these options, however, are hugely expensive. 


Cost of living in Montreal chart

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for January 2021.
 

Accommodation (monthly)

 

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

CAD 1,000 - 1,400

One-bedroom apartment outside of centre

CAD 700 - 900

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

CAD 2,000 - 2,400

Three-bedroom apartment outside of centre

CAD 1,200 - 1,500

Shopping

 

Dozen eggs

CAD 3.35

Milk (1 litre) 

CAD 2.50

Rice (1kg) 

CAD 3

Loaf of white bread 

CAD 3.50

Chicken breasts (1kg) 

CAD 14.40 

Pack of cigarettes 

CAD 12.75

Eating out

 

Big Mac meal 

CAD 12

Coca Cola (330ml)

CAD 2

Cappuccino 

CAD 3.85

Bottle of local beer

CAD 6.75

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant 

CAD 70

Utilities

 

Mobile-to-mobile call rate (per minute) 

CAD 0.35

Internet (Uncapped ADSL or Cable – average per month) 

CAD 65

Basic utilities (per month for a small apartment) 

CAD 100

Transportation

 

Taxi rate/km 

1.75 CAD

City centre bus fare/train fare 

3.50 CAD

Petrol/gasoline (per litre) 

1.20 CAD

Accommodation in Montreal

Montreal is a great place for expats to rent or buy accommodation, offering a wide range of options and price points. Property in Montreal tends to be less expensive and easier to find than in other major cities in Canada.

When investigating areas and suburbs in Montreal, expats should consider factors such as location, proximity to schools and places of work, and how safe the area is. Fortunately, the public transport system is extensive and efficient, and expats should be able to commute easily.

Most expats choose to rent property in Canada rather than purchase it, but those planning on staying in Montreal for an extended period of time might opt to buy property instead.


Types of accommodation in Montreal

There is a range of accommodation options available in Montreal. In the city centre, expats will find apartments and condos in modern complexes. As is the case in most metropolitan cities, the cost of housing in central areas comes at a premium and space tends to be limited. For this reason, many Montrealers live outside of the city centre where they have access to larger properties. Most rented houses are partially furnished and will have air conditioning and central heating installed.

Expats in Montreal will find that accommodation outside of the city centre is relatively affordable. It should be noted, though, that utilities aren't usually included in the monthly rent and heating and air-conditioning costs can add up. 


Finding accommodation in Montreal

Expats should not have a problem finding housing in Montreal. The only overwhelming aspect of finding accommodation is deciding on one of the many neighbourhoods. Expats can enlist a real-estate agent to help them with this. Online property listings are also a great way to kickstart the accommodation search.

An interesting quirk of renting property in Montreal is that moving day is traditionally the first of July. It's not unusual to see hundreds of moving trucks around the city on this day of the year, with people moving their furniture out onto the street.

While most people stick to this tradition as it fits in with the end of the school year, smaller apartments are usually available to rent all year round. Expats should keep in mind that the best time to look for a place to live in Montreal is in March, when many people start advertising.


Renting accommodation in Montreal

When deciding on a house to rent in Montreal there are a number of factors to consider. Expats should compare the cost of the house or apartment with its size and location. The condition of the building should be inspected both on the inside and outside, and the landlord should also be asked when the building was last renovated, as well as how much heating would cost during the winter months.

Leases

Most leases in Montreal are valid for one year. Expats who sign a lease must provide their banking information and undergo a credit check.

Expats living in the city centre should try and negotiate for a parking space, as parking can be a problem in the city. 

Deposits

Tenants will be expected to pay their first month’s rent in advance as a deposit. If the property is left in an acceptable condition at the termination of the lease, the deposit is returned to the tenant.

Utilities

Utilities are not usually included in the rental price of a house in Montreal, but when renting an apartment, it is more likely that some utilities will be included in the monthly rent. Heating costs are something to consider when moving to Montreal. If possible, expats should try and arrange for their heating costs to be included in their rent.

Home security

In terms of home security, most houses have secure door locks and burglar alarms. Many areas in Montreal also have neighbourhood-watch programmes that keep an eye on the area and report any unusual activity.

Areas and suburbs in Montreal

The best places to live in Montreal

There are many different areas and suburbs in Montreal, each with their own unique culture. Some have a large English-speaking population while others are almost entirely French.

There are more multicultural and vibrant areas such as Mile End, the Plateau or the Latin Quarter, and then there are more family-friendly, suburban areas like Westmount. Each area has its own charm, with attractions in Montreal spread across the city.

Expats can choose to live on or off the Island of Montreal, depending on their needs, where they work and how far and for how long they are willing to use public transport. Below is a breakdown of some of the more popular areas and suburbs in and around the city of Montreal.


Island of Montreal

Parc de la Cité-du-Havre, Montreal

City centre

Expats looking to live in the city centre will find a wide range of accommodation available. Most housing in the city centre is in the form of apartments and lofts, and the standard ranges from basic to luxurious. The prices are equally varied, from some relatively affordable places to deluxe apartments with exorbitantly high prices.

Plateau Mont-Royal

This is a predominantly French-speaking neighbourhood and expats who want to learn the language quickly would do well to find an apartment here. Plateau Mont-Royal is within walking distance of some of Montreal’s best restaurants and cafes and is popular among students and young working professionals.

Old Montreal

This area of Montreal is interesting and cultural. Most of the buildings are old and expats can find beautiful upmarket lofts in this area of the city. Some structures date back to the early colony days of New France, while Notre-Dame Basilica and the Montreal City Hall really add a sense of grandeur.

Île Notre-Dame, Montreal

Westmount

Westmount is an upmarket area of Montreal where homes are large and can be very expensive. Many wealthy businessmen and politicians live in this area. Westmount is like its own little world within the city of Montreal, an enclave home to the rich and the famous. 

Ahuntsic

Ahuntsic is a family-friendly neighbourhood where the houses range in size, allowing expats to find something to suit their family perfectly. This area has beautiful parks, good schools and is not far from the city centre. 

West Island

The West Island is the unofficial name for the area that includes the suburbs of St-Anne-de-Bellevue, Beaconsfield, Lakeshore, Pointe-Claire, Dorval, Kirkland and Dollard-Des-Ormeaux. These are all family-friendly neighbourhoods and accommodation is usually in the form of houses and townhouses.

Most houses in this area have gardens and there are also plenty of parks and playgrounds for kids to enjoy, making it a great place for expats with children. Expat families can enjoy a range of activities, with the Ecomuseum Zoo and Bois-de-la-Roche Agricultural Park around the corner.

The West Island has a large English-speaking population and is one of the most anglophone areas in the province of Quebec. The commute to the city centre is about 40 minutes by train, but the trip is well worth it for a tranquil, suburban lifestyle.

Notre-Dame-de-Grace

This suburb of Montreal is about 15 minutes from the city centre and has a large English-speaking population. Notre-Dame-de-Grace is a good option for families, but housing can be expensive.


Off the Island of Montreal

Longueuil, Canada

There are two main cities off the Island of Montreal: Laval sits to the west and Longueuil to the east. These areas are perfect for expats who want to live in a cosmopolitan area but not be so close to the hustle and bustle of Montreal itself. The only downside to living off the Island of Montreal is the inevitable daily commute across the bridge and into the city, as most expats will work in Montreal itself. This commute can be a long and stressful experience.

North Shore

The North Shore is in the Laval area and offers a large variety of accommodation for expats. Laval also has good schools and green parks for children. 

South Shore

The South Shore is made up of Longueil, St Hubert and Brossard, and is a popular area for families. The South Shore also offers good schools and other amenities. 

The only issue with the South Shore area is the lengthy and busy commute across the bridge into the city. On a bad day it can take over two hours, so expats should carefully consider the proximity of their suburb to their place of work.

Healthcare in Montreal

Healthcare in Montreal is of an excellent standard. Expats shouldn't struggle at all to find a good doctor or hospital during their stay in the city.

The language barrier won't be much of a concern either, as most doctors in Montreal speak English and some speak other languages as well.


Health insurance in Montreal

Universal healthcare in Canada means that all residents receive free or low-cost medical care. The Canadian healthcare system is administered differently in each province though.

In Quebec, it is run by the Régie de l'assurance maladie du Québec (RAMQ). Under the RAMQ, most expats who live in the region can qualify for subsidised healthcare. However, expats who hold employer-specific work permits that are valid for less than six months will likely be ineligible. To determine an expat's eligibility, we recommend visiting the official RAMQ website.

In order to receive subsidised healthcare in Montreal, expats must register with RAMQ and receive a medical insurance card. There is then a three-month waiting period, during which expats will need to pay for private health insurance. The exceptions to this are in cases of pregnancy, childbirth, victims of violence and patients with infectious diseases that are a danger to public health. Anyone who falls into these categories will receive subsidised healthcare during the waiting period.

Expats from countries with a healthcare agreement with Quebec will also be exempt from the waiting period. These countries include Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal, Romania and Sweden.

In addition to regular health insurance, every resident of Quebec is required to have prescription drug insurance as prescription drugs are not covered by Quebec’s universal healthcare system. Expats can choose between taking out private prescription drug insurance, which is usually arranged by their employer, or public prescription drug insurance through RAMQ.


Hospitals in Montreal

Below are some of the most prominent hospitals in Montreal.

Centre Hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal

Website: www.chumontreal.qc.ca
Address: 1058 Rue Saint-Denis

Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Sainte-Justine

Website: www.chusj.org
Address: 3175 Chemin de la Côte-Sainte-Catherine

Hôpital de Réadaptation Villa Medica

Website: www.villamedica.ca
Address: 225 Rue Sherbrooke Est

Hôpital Marie-Clarac

Website: www.hopitalmarie-clarac.qc.ca
Address: 3530 Boulevard Gouin E

Institut Universitaire en Santé Mentale de Montréal

Website: ciusss-estmtl.gouv.qc.ca
Address: 7401 Rue Hochelaga

Education and Schools in Montreal

Expat parents should note that the language of instruction at most Montreal schools is French. The majority of the population in Montreal speaks French as a first language, and it is the official language of business. While a language barrier can be difficult for new arrivals, support is provided to children whose first language is not French.

Children start school at the age of five and finish when they are 17. High school in Montreal only goes up to grade 11, instead of up to grade 12 as is the case in the general education system of Canada. For this reason, students who wish to continue to university must first complete another two years at a post-secondary college.


Public schools in Montreal

Children in Montreal start going to school at five years old in a maternelle. Grade 1 to 6 is école primaire and école secondaire is from grade 7 to 11. Students then move on to post-secondary college for grades 12 and 13 if they want to continue to university.

Unless expat children are very young or have a good grasp of the French language, public school is not the best option for them.

Language in schools in Montreal

All children in Quebec are encouraged to attend French-language public schools. However, there are also English-language public schools for children who have already received some of their education in English.

Families must apply for a child to receive instruction in English. Successful applicants will receive a Déclaration d’admissibilité à l’enseignement en Anglais (declaration of eligibility for instruction in English).

Eligible families can apply through the school board or the private schools where they plan on enrolling. Applications are normally processed within 10 working days. We advise parents and guardians to check their eligibility and read up on the application procedure on the official Quebec Ministère de l'Éducation website.

In French-language schools, English is taught as a second language and English-immersion programmes are also available. There are also fully bilingual schools in Quebec, where both English and French are taught as a first language. Many of the private schools in Montreal are also bilingual.


Private schools in Montreal

A large proportion of children in Montreal attend private schools. This is because the government subsidises certain private schools that meet its requirements. Most private schools are high schools, and many are affiliated with a certain religion.

Children who want to attend a private high school must pass an entrance exam and prove they have performed well throughout primary school. 

Note that non-subsidised private schools in Montreal are expensive.


International schools in Montreal 

International schools in Montreal are the most popular choice for non-Francophone expats. There are numerous international schools in the city, and different languages and curricula are catered for.

Tuition at international schools is notoriously expensive, and parents will need to budget for the fees.

Application requirements vary from one international school to the next, but are usually fairly extensive. Along with an application form, previous school records are generally required. Parents must also submit a copy of the applicant’s Déclaration d’admissibilité à l’enseignement en Anglais.


Special-needs education in Montreal

Inclusive education has increasingly been promoted over the years. Thanks to this, children with physical and learning disabilities, as well as social and behavioural maladjustments can enter mainstream schools, while receiving additional necessary support.

The English Montreal School Board (EMSB), one of five public school boards in the city, offers comprehensive services to support students with special education needs. Services include specialised classes, adjusted curricula and access to learning resources. EMSB also gives families access to professional evaluation to determine the needs of the child.

Expats can also find specialised schools and programmes for youth and adults with disabilities to gain an education.


Homeschooling in Montreal

Parents and guardians have the legal right to educate their children at home rather than attend a school. However, the law emphasises that the homeschooling must be appropriate, and there are several conditions that families looking to homeschool must meet. 

Families must notify the Ministère de l'Éducation and the school board of their plans for homeschooling on or before the first of July each year. There will be meetings and evaluations to track the student’s progress. Additionally, the content of the learning project must meet specified standards. 

As such, we strongly recommend that expat families who wish to homeschool their children do their research to follow the necessary procedures and figure out if this learning route suits them.


Tutors in Montreal

Finding a tutor in Montreal shouldn’t be a challenge for expats. Whether an expat’s child needs extra help in school or expats want to start learning and practising French, a tutor can be a great help.

Several companies and websites can help expats connect with certified tutors. These include companies such as Skooli, Superprof and FirstTutors: Canada.

International Schools in Montreal

Given that education in Quebec is primarily in French, many expats choose to send their child to an English-medium private school or international school in Montreal.

While a significant number of the public schools in the city offer bilingual education, French is usually taught at the first-language level, which can be challenging for older children who don't speak the language.

There is, however, a high level of competition for places at Montreal's international schools, especially in the lower grades. Expat kids may find themselves on a waiting list before they can enrol.


Private and international schools in Montreal

Beurling Academy

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Canadian (Quebec) and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 12 to 17
Website: beurling.lbpsb.qc.ca

Centennial Academy

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Canadian (Quebec)
Ages: 12 to 17
Website: www.centennial.qc.ca

Kells Academy

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Canadian (Quebec)
Ages: 5 to 17
Website: www.kells.ca

Kuper Academy

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Canadian (Quebec)
Ages: 5 to 17
Website: www.kuperacademy.ca

Lower Canada College

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Canadian (Quebec) and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 5 to 18
Website: www.lcc.ca

St George's School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Canadian (Quebec)
Ages: 5 to 17
Website: www.stgeorges.qc.ca

Lifestyle in Montreal

Montreal is a Canadian city that is heavily influenced by French culture. Everything from the language to entertainment and shopping in the city is decidedly French.

City residents feel this all around them and as English-speaking expats explore the city they would do well to venture away from the more anglophone areas and experience what French Montreal has to offer.

That said, there is definitely something for everyone, and those who prefer to stick to what they know will find plenty to do in Montreal. Hundreds of cafes and restaurants offer food from all over the world. Parisian boutiques and Asian supermarkets, as well as Irish pubs and European nightclubs, can be found along the road. There is never a dull moment in this bustling city. 


Shopping in Montreal

Shopaholics will feel right at home in Montreal. The city offers a wide range of shopping options from big department stores to quirky antique shops.  

Those looking for a more traditional shopping experience should head straight to the department stores on Rue St Catherine. This is one of Montreal's most famous shopping streets and it even has underground stores that allow shoppers to escape the freezing winter temperatures

For quirky outlets in some of the city's more interesting areas, expats should visit Avenue Mont-Royal and Rue St Viateur. Those with trendier tastes will find high-end stores on Rue St-Denis and Rue Sherbrooke. The suburb of Westmount is where expats will get their luxury fix, while antique buffs should head to Rue Notre-Dame and Rue Amherst. 


Eating out in Montreal

The French influence in Montreal is apparent in its many restaurants and bakeries. However, expats will also find that there is such a large variety of cuisines on offer that almost every ethnicity in the city is represented.

Old Montreal is the best place to find classic French cuisine. Plateau Mont-Royal is an area popular with students and young professionals, and expats will find restaurants in this area ranging from quaint sandwich shops to cheerful Italian restaurants and upscale bistros. Saint Laurent Boulevard is the street where expats will probably have the most luck finding something they like. As with Old Montreal, Plateau Mont-Royal also has its share of French influence and Rue St-Denis is the place to find it.

In central Montreal, otherwise known as Downtown, there are many great bars and restaurants to explore. The streets with the highest concentration of eateries are Rue Crescent and Rue Bishop. 


Nightlife and entertainment in Montreal

Expats who enjoy a night on the town will be happy to know that Montreal has great nightlife. The bars and clubs stay open later than anywhere else in Canada and range from student watering holes and jazz haunts to all-out nightclubs. 

For the more cultured expat, there is also plenty to see and do in the evenings. Montreal has a brilliant symphony, numerous theatre companies and, of course, Cirque du Soleil. International bands and musicians often stop off in the city during their North American tours, so the chances of seeing one's favourite band play live in Montreal are fairly good. The film industry in Montreal is growing rapidly and city residents are passionate about French and other foreign films. 

Expats will find that the nightlife in Montreal is often divided depending on which language people speak. English speakers tend to frequent bars on Rue Crescent, Rue Bishop and Rue de la Montagne. French speakers, on the other hand, tend to gather in the Quartier Latin. For a more diverse experience, expats should go to 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. The city hosts the National Hockey League, and expats can get into the local sports culture by watching a game.

Whatever the weather, expats will find numerous outdoor activities on offer in Montreal. Montreal Botanical Garden with its diverse collections of plants is recommended for all nature lovers. The city's numerous parks can also be enjoyed by expats of all ages. La Fontaine Park is a popular green space with its ponds and water features, and an outdoor ice-skating rink opens during winter.

Sporty expats can find great jogging routes around every area and suburb in Montreal. The Lachine Canal is one such example, perfect for jogs, walks and bike rides.

See and Do in Montreal

An island city with French charm, there is plenty to see and do in Montreal, especially for arts and culture lovers. Expats in Quebec's largest city will not be short of sights to see, museums to explore and music to appreciate. 

Montreal is multi-cultural and its people and cultural scene reflect the city's diversity. There is something on offer for everyone, including expats with children thanks to its many beautiful parks and activities for kids. The city also hosts numerous annual events.

From museums and cathedrals to farmer’s markets and parks, the city has it all. Below are some of the must-see sights in Montreal.


Recommended attractions in Montreal

Atwater Market

This farmer’s market offers the very best in local produce. Expats can sample and buy local vegetables, dairy products, baked goods, olive oil and seafood at a market that has been operating since 1933. The market is located in the Saint-Henri area of Montreal.

La Ronde

This amusement park in Montreal is world famous. It offers a Ferris wheel, numerous rollercoasters and rides, as well as performances of every variety. Even the biggest thrill seekers won’t be disappointed with the rides and attractions available at La Ronde. The park is open daily between June and August, and on weekends in May, September and October.

Montreal Biosphere

This environmental museum was built for the 1967 World Fair. This is a great outing for children as it teaches them about sustainability and different habitats such as rainforests, the Arctic Circle, woodlands and coastlines. Different parts of the museum recreate these different environments, transforming a museum visit into an exciting hands-on experience. There are various plants and animals on display as well as an underwater observatory. 

Notre-Dame Basilica

This famous Old Montreal landmark is a beautiful Gothic church dating back to the 1820s. Any history or architecture enthusiast will appreciate the building’s beautiful carvings, stained-glass windows and vaulted ceiling.

Old Montreal 

This area of Montreal is on the banks of the Saint Lawrence River and is a major tourist attraction. Buildings in this part of the city date back to the 17th century and include Montreal City Hall, Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel and Château Ramezay. Expats should also visit the nearby Vieux Port de Montreal where they will find an ice-skating rink, an IMAX cinema and the Montreal Science Centre, which is a great place for children to visit.

Olympic Park

Parc Olympique, as it is known locally, was built for the 1976 Olympic Games. Expats can visit the park to see the various exhibitions, concerts and sporting events that are held there. 

Parc du Mont-Royal

Parc du Mont-Royal is a protected area that covers the forests on the slopes of Mount Royal. Expats and their families visiting this beautiful area of Montreal can cycle and paddle boat in the summer, and enjoy the snow in winter.

Pointe-à-Callière Museum

This archaeological museum is a National Historic Site and it honours the founding of Montreal. Expats can embark on a self-guided tour of the museum and explore the history behind the French Canadian city. The museum is built around an archaeological dig site and visitors can view artefacts dating back hundreds of years. 

St Joseph's Oratory

St Joseph’s Oratory’s famous dome can be seen from miles away. This is a pilgrimage site that attracts over two million visitors every year and is something expats in Montreal should not miss. 

Village du Père Noël

Village du Père Noël, or Santa’s Village, is an hour's away from Montreal but is certainly worth the trip for expats with young children. The little ones can meet Santa Claus, see magic shows and interact with reindeers. 

What's On in Montreal

No matter the time of year, there is always something going on in Montreal. While the majority of the city’s events take place in the temperate summer months, residents also warm themselves up at winter festivals that celebrate art, music and fine dining in the City of Saints.  

Festivals in Montreal are usually well attended and reflect the influence of French culture, as well as its position as a global city that hosts a cosmopolitan blend of people from all over the world. These are just a few of the annual events in Montreal that expats can look forward to.


Annual events in Montreal

Montreal International Auto Show (January)

Expats with a passion for cars will be in their element at the Montreal International Auto Show. The show generally lasts for 10 days in mid-January and is held at the Palais des Congres de Montreal convention centre.

Fête des Neiges (January to February)

This outdoor winter festival is held from late January to early February at Montreal’s Parc Jean-Drapeau. The event is great for children as there are dog-sledge rides, snow sculptures and people dressed up as polar bears. This festival is like a winter wonderland and includes a hockey tournament and live shows. It is something not to be missed. 

Montréal en Lumière (February/March)

Montreal lights up for 10 full days during this magical festival. Expats can watch light shows, taste fine food and wine, and see concerts and exhibitions in downtown Montreal. 

Montreal International Children’s Film Festival (February/March)

Perfect for expat families, the entire festival is dedicated to children and features films from all over the world. Kids also have an opportunity to meet many of the actors that appear in the films and will also be able to attend various workshops.

Blue Metropolis (April)

Also known as The Blue Met, this is Montreal’s international literary festival. It lasts for five days and attracts writers, actors, journalists and musicians. Literature in English, French, Spanish and many other languages can be found, so it is an event not to be missed for expats who miss speaking and reading in their mother tongue.  

Festival Accès Asie (May)

This festival takes place during Asian Heritage Month and celebrates Asian culture in Canada. Expats can experience Asian dance, art, music and literature from dozens of Asian countries. This is a great way for Western expats to experience something new and for Asian expats to get a taste of home. 

Montreal International Jazz Festival (June to July)

The Montreal International Jazz Festival is one of the world’s largest jazz festivals. Music lovers are spoilt for choice, with around 3,000 jazz artists and hundreds of concerts. Many of these concerts are free outdoor performances, making the beautiful music accessible to everyone. Fans can also view these concerts online.

National Hockey League (September)

Ice hockey is a huge part of Canadian culture and Montreal is no exception. The National Hockey League is a big event in the Quebec sporting world and millions of people tune in to the games on television or go watch them live at the various arenas around the province. To really experience Canada’s favourite sport, expats are encouraged to get involved as much as they can and perhaps go watch a game or two.

Montreal Festival of Nouveau Cinema (October)

Promoting alternative approaches to film, the festival showcases the work of new and unknown filmmakers. This festival embodies Montreal’s passion for film and is a great way for expats to discover the city’s growing film industry. 

Getting Around in Montreal

Getting around in Montreal is easy thanks to the city’s excellent public transport system. Expats who live in the city or the surrounding areas and suburbs with access to the public transit network will not need a car to get around and see the sights.

There are plenty of buses and an extensive metro system, as well as taxis and bicycles to help expats navigate Quebec’s most populous city. Those who do choose to drive will find good roads, although heavy traffic and snowy conditions in winter can be a problem.


Public transport in Montreal

Public transit in Montreal is clean, efficient and safe to use, and is the best way of getting around the city. Montreal has extensive bus and metro networks, and there are regional trains available for those wanting to do some intercity travelling. Public transport in Montreal is run by the Société de transport de Montréal (STM). 

Frequent commuters can purchase an OPUS card from station ticket booths and approved retailers throughout the city. These smart cards can be recharged at station vending machines, recharge terminals and ticket booths, and can be used across the Greater Montreal region. There are other card options for pre-determined destinations which cannot be topped up.

Buses

Montreal has an efficient bus system that is easy to use. There are plenty of routes throughout the city and expats can identify bus stops by their numbers. Most stops also have maps and bus schedules available, but if passengers are unsure of anything they can call the STM info line, type in the bus stop number, and the operator will give them the information for the next few buses arriving at that stop.

Passengers can use their OPUS card on the bus, or they can pay for their journey in exact change to the ticket booth attendant.

Metro

The metro in Montreal is the most popular way of getting around the city. The metro has an extensive reach and its four metro lines can be identified by their colour. Maps are available at all metro stations. 

The metro can conveniently be accessed via Montreal’s Underground Pedestrian Network, consisting of a large collection of underground walkways. The trains are clean and quiet as they run on rubber tyres. 

Tickets can be bought at any of Montreal’s metro stations, which are particularly beautiful because each one has been designed by a different architect. An OPUS card can also be used to pay for subway journeys at station turnstiles. 


Taxis in Montreal 

Taxis are readily available in Montreal, and can be called in advance, hailed off the street or found at taxi stands across the city. Cabs in Montreal differ in appearance depending on the company they represent but should be clearly marked. Some companies only operate in central Montreal, so expats should ask their local friends or colleagues about which company is the best to use in their area.

Ride-hailing applications are also available in Montreal.


Driving in Montreal

Expats who choose to drive in Montreal will have to deal with the traffic congestion that is present in most large cities. Those commuting from suburbs off the main island will bear the brunt of the bad traffic. A car trip from the western part of the island to downtown takes about 45 minutes with minimal traffic, and as long as 90 minutes in rush hour. 

Non-residents can use their existing driving licences to drive in Quebec for six consecutive months. During this period, they must exchange their foreign licence with a Quebec licence. Processes vary depending on where the expat's present licence was obtained. Most licences obtained in Western Europe, elsewhere in Canada and America can simply be exchanged.

Expats with driving licences from other countries, however, will need to take a driving test and apply for a Quebec driving licence.

Roads in Montreal are relatively good although drivers should look out for potholes, especially in spring when melting and thawing ice can cause holes and cracks in the road. The city does, however, attend to these issues fairly quickly.


Cycling in Montreal

An extensive network of bike paths run throughout the city, making cycling in Montreal an easy and pleasurable way to get around.

The city also has an effective bicycle rental programme called BIXI Montréal. Expats can rent a bike at automated pay stations or an app, and use the bike to get around the city. Credit cards or OPUS cards can be used to pay for rental charges at BIXI Montréal automated pay stations. Expats who intend to use this service frequently should consider buying a weekly, monthly or annual pass.


Walking in Montreal

Walking is another eco-friendly and healthy way to get around in Montreal. The Montreal Underground Pedestrian Network is a great way to explore the city, especially during the bitter winters. This network, commonly known as Underground City, spans 20 miles (32km) and is lined with shops and restaurants. During the more temperate months, residents get to enjoy the sights that tourists pay to see on urban walking tours.