View of downtown Montreal, with the city's tallest building 1000 de la Gauchetière; Marie-Reine-du-Monde Cathedral; and 1250 René-Lévesque

Montreal (French, Montréal) is the largest city in the province of Quebec, Canada.

It is situated in the southwest of the province, approximately 200 km southwest of the provincial capital Quebec City and 150 km east of the national capital Ottawa, at 45°30N, 73°30W, in the Eastern Time Zone (UTC-5).

Montreal sits on the Island of Montreal at the confluence of the Saint Lawrence River and Ottawa River; the island divides the Saint Lawrence between the main channel and Rivière des Prairies. The city also includes a total of 74 nearby islands such as Île des Soeurs, Île-Bizard, Île Sainte-Hélène and Île Notre-Dame. The city occupies an area of 482.84 km2.

3,511,800 people (Montrealers; French, Montréalais) live in the greater Montreal area (Statistics Canada 2001), which includes the cities of Laval and Longueuil among others. The current mayor of Montreal is Gérald Tremblay.

Formerly the largest city in Canada, Montreal is now the second largest after Toronto, and a major centre of commerce, industry, culture, finance, and world affairs. It is the second largest francophone city in the world after Paris; many people in Montreal speak both French and English. The official language of Montreal is French. Services are offered in English in the boroughs designated as bilingual.

Table of contents
1 Economy and Transportation
2 Layout
3 Education
4 Origin of the name
5 History
6 Sports
7 See also

Economy and Transportation

Montreal is a major port city, being at the mouth of the Saint Lawrence Seaway which links it to the industrial centres of the Great Lakes. As one of the most important ports in Canada, it is a transshipment point for grain, sugar, petroleum products, machinery, and consumer goods. For this reason, it is part of the railway backbone of Canada and has always been an extremely important rail city.

The city has two international airports. The primary airport is Montreal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (formerly Montreal-Dorval) in the Dorval-L'Île-Dorval borough, which serves all commercial passenger traffic. Further from the city is Mirabel International Airport in Mirabel, which was envisioned as Montreal's primary airport but which now serves only cargo and charter flights.

The Montreal Metro is a metro system, inaugurated in 1966 in time for the Expo 67 World's Fair held in the city the following year. Montreal is also served by a commuter rail system, which is managed and operated by the Agence métropolitaine de transport.

Montreal industries include pharmaceuticals, high technology, textile and clothing manufacturing, electronic goods, transportation devices, printed goods, fabric, and tobacco.


The city's downtown area sits at the foot of Mount Royal, the origin of its name, whose forested top is a major urban greenspace. Southeast of downtown is Old Montreal, a historic centre with such attractions as the Old Port, Place Jacques-Cartier, City Hall, Place d'Armes, and Notre Dame Basilica.

Skyline of downtown Montreal, seen across the Saint Lawrence from Île Sainte-Hélène

Downtown contains several skyscrapers including 1000 de La Gauchetière, 1250 René-Lévesque, and Ioeh Ming Pei's Place Ville-Marie. This cruciform office tower (1962) sits atop an underground shopping mall which forms the nexus of the Underground City (Ville souterraine), one of the world's largest, with indoor access to hundreds of shops, restaurants, offices, and businesses, as well as Metro stations, transportation terminuses, and tunnels extending all over downtown.

McGill College Ave. in downtown Montreal

Montreal was host of the most successful World's Fair in history, (Expo '67) in 1967, and of the 1976 Summer Olympics. The Olympic Stadium has the world's tallest inclined tower, and is the home of the Montreal Expos baseball team. Montreal is also home to the Montreal Canadiens, the locally revered hockey team which is among the most celebrated teams in North American sports.

Montreal is a major centre of Quebecois and Canadian culture. It boasts a Museum of Fine Arts, a Museum of Contemporary Art, and a variety of historical, crafts, and specialized museums. The Place des Arts cultural complex houses the Museum of Contemporary Art and several theatres, and is the seat of the Montreal Opera and usual residence of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra (which is scheduled to receive a new concert hall adjacent to Place des Arts). The east-end Olympic complex includes a modern ecology museum, an insectarium, and one of the largest botanical gardens in the world (second only to Kew Gardens in England).

The city is renowned for its wealth of beautiful churches. Mark Twain once remarked, "This is the first time I was ever in a city where you couldn't throw a brick without breaking a church window." Some of the best known are the Marie-Reine-du-Monde Cathedral, Notre-Dame Basilica, and the pilgrimage churches of Notre-Dame-du-Bon-Secours (called the Sailors' Church) and St. Joseph's Oratory. This last is the largest church in Canada, with the largest dome of its kind in the world after that of Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome. Other well-known churches include Saint Patrick's Basilica, and the Anglican Christ Church Cathedral, which was completely excavated and "suspended" in mid-air during the construction of part of the Underground City.

Other notable buildings include the Biosphere (a geodesic dome) and Habitat '67, both legacies of Expo.

The city, with its huge Village, the largest gay village in North America, hosts several major circuit parties and is an epicentre of gay life in Canada. It was slated to hold the Gay Games in 2006, but the FGG and Montréal 2006 were unable to agree on the size of the event. Montréal 2006 plans to hold the Games anyway under a different name.

Montreal is the headquarters of the International Civil Aviation Organization, a United Nations body.

Street system

Montreal being on an island, the directions Montrealers use in navigating the city do not precisely correspond with compass directions, but are oriented to the geography of the island. The convention for the use of compass directions is that the St. Lawrence River flows west to east; in reality, it flows from the southwest toward the northeast.

North and south directions are defined as roughly perpendicular to the St. Lawrence River and the Rivière des Prairies. North is toward the Rivière des Prairies; south is toward the St. Lawrence River. On north–south streets, house numbers begin at one at the St. Lawrence River and increase to the north.

East and west directions are defined as roughly parallel to the St. Lawrence River and the Rivière des Prairies. East is downstream; west is upstream. Saint-Laurent Boulevard divides Montreal into east and west sectors. Streets that lie on both sides of Saint-Laurent Boulevard are divided into two parts, which have "East" or "West" appended to their names. Streets that lie on only one side of Saint-Laurent Boulevard do not generally contain a direction in their names. House numbers begin at one at Saint-Laurent Boulevard. East of it, numbers increase to the east; west of it, numbers increase to the west.

Odd numbers are on the east or north sides of the street; even, west or south. Numbered streets run north and south, and the street numbers increase to the east.


Montreal has one of the highest per-capita populations of post-secondary students of any large city in North America, due to its five urban universities:

Origin of the name

Montreal was named for the island of Montreal, which in turn was named for Mount Royal.

It is not certain how the name changed from Mount Royal to Mont Réal. In 1556, Italian geographer G.B. Ramusio translated Mont Royal to Monte Reale in a map. In 1575, François de Belleforest became the first to write Montreal, writing:

... au milieu de la compaigne est le village, ou Cité royale iointe à vne montagien cultivée, laquelle ville les Chrestiens appellerent Montreal..
"In the middle of the field is the village or royal colony near a cultivated mountain. Christians call this town Montreal."

Jacques Cartier referred to the colony as "Ville Marie en l'isle de Montréal" in 1642, the year of its founding.

During the early 18th century, the name of the island came to be used as the name of the town. Two 1744 maps by Nicolas Bellin name the island Isle de Montréal and the town, Ville-Marie; but a 1726 map refers to the town as "la ville de Montréal." The name Ville-Marie soon fell into disuse.

In the modern Iroquois language, Montreal is called Tiohtià:ke. Other native languages, such as Algonquin, refer to it as Moniang.



A First Nations fort, Hochelaga, was found on the island when Jacques Cartier arrived on October 2, 1535. Samuel de Champlain visited again in 1603, but the French did not settle until 1642, when a group of priests, nuns, and colonists under Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve founded the village of Ville-Marie on May 17 of that year. One of the members of this group of settlers was Jeanne Mance, who, in 1644, founded the Hôtel-Dieu, the first hospital in North America.

The village grew and became an important centre of the fur trade. It was the jumping-off point for the French exploration of the interior by such explorers as Jolliet, La Salle, La Vérendrye, and Duluth.

The city was fortified in 1725 and remained French until 1760, when Vaudreuil de Cavagnal surrendered it to the British army under Lord Geoffrey Amherst.

The city's growth was spurred by the opening of the Lachine Canal, which permitted ships to pass by the unnavigable Lachine Rapids south of the island. Montreal was the capital of the Province of Canada from 1844 to 1849. A fire destroyed one quarter of town on May 18, 1765. The Canadian Pacific Railway made its headquarters here in 1880. Its international status was cemented by the World's Fair in 1967 and the Olympics in 1976.

On July 13, 1982, Montreal hosted the first baseball All-Star Game outside the United States.

Montreal constitutes one of the regions of Quebec.

Notable personalities in Montreal's history:

As of January 1, 2002, the entire island of Montreal, home to 1.8 million people, as well as the several outlying islands that were also part of the Montreal Urban Community, were merged into a new "megacity". Some 27 suburbs as well as the former city were folded into several boroughs, named after their former cities or (in the case of parts of the former Montreal) districts.


Ahuntsic/Cartierville LaSalle Rivière-des-Prairies/Pointe-aux-Trembles/Montréal-Est

Anjou L'Île-Bizard/Sainte-Geneviève/Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue Rosemont/Petite-Patrie

Beaconsfield/Baie-d'Urfé Mercier/Hochelaga-Maisonneuve Saint-Laurent

Côte-des-Neiges/Notre-Dame-de-Grâce Montréal-Nord Saint-Léonard

Côte-Saint-Luc/Hampstead/Montréal-Ouest Mont-Royal Sud-Ouest (consisting of Point-Saint-Charles, Saint-Henri, Ville-Émard, Côte-Saint-Paul & Petite-Bourgogne)

Dollard-des-Ormeaux/Roxboro Outremont Verdun

Dorval/L'Île-Dorval Pierrefonds/Senneville Ville-Marie (consisting of Downtown, Old Montreal, & the Gay Village)

Kirkland Plateau Mont-Royal Villeray/Saint-Michel/Parc-Extension

Lachine Pointe-Claire Westmount

Italics: part of former city of Montreal


Olympic Stadium

Montreal is the site of the Canadian Grand Prix, a Formula 1 auto race held annually at the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve on Île Notre-Dame.

North: Laval, Lachenaie, Repentigny
West: Vaudreuil, Ile-Perrot Montreal East: Longueuil
South: Kahnawake

See also

List of cities in Canada, List of communities in Quebec

Montréal is also the name of several places in France: