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Montreal is the second largest city in Canada and the cultural hub of Quebec - although not the political capital, which is Quebec City. It's a bilingual city with plenty of lingering French influence, although after a flight to Montreal you will certainly know you're in Canada and not a far-flung outpost of France!
Montreal is a large and sprawling city offering everything from a beautiful Old Town to a huge underground shopping network, plenty of diversity in districts including a large Chinatown, and some beautiful green spaces too. Downtown is packed with skyscrapers, whilst elsewhere you will find an arty, almost bohemian vibe. You experience of Montreal after your flight arrives will depend a lot on where your hotel is, so do some research beforehand!
Flights to Montreal are still something of a hidden gem in the tourist world, with most people only booking a Montreal flight from the UK for business purposes, or to see the annual Grand Prix. It's time to branch out and give this fantastic city a whirl in 2014 or 2015 before more tourists have cottoned on to its charms!
There is plenty to do and see in Montreal and plenty of day trips to make as well, especially in winter when you can ski nearby! Old Montreal is certainly worth exploring, with the dome of the Marche de Bonsecours a highlight. The Montreal Casino is where you will find a great atmosphere every day of the week, and for chic shopping and dining head to the Le Plateau district.
If you've got your walking boots with you then a hike to the top of Mont Real is a must, you get great views for free! Alternatively, treat yourself to a lavish night of food and drink with a view at Altitude 737 atop Place Ville Marie. Come down to earth and head out to Hochelaga-Maisonneuve where you will find the Botanical Garden, the Biodome and the Olympic Stadium. Parc Jean Drapeau is also well worth visiting, home to the Gilles Villeneuve Formula 1 circuit, it's in the middle of the river and has an artificial beach!
Want more ideas? Try our Montreal guide.
When you depart from the UK on a flight to Montreal, you can expect to spend around seven and a half hours in the air on a direct flight. Indirect flights to Montreal are also available and can be a great way to get a cheaper price, but check your itinerary and the savings you make versus direct flights to Montreal. In many cases the savings will be small but the journey time could be increased to close to 10 hours!
Montreal has two airports, but pretty much all cheap flights to Montreal from the UK, especially the direct services, will arrive at Montreal Pierre Elliot Trudeau International Airport which lies about 12 miles from the city.
There are flights to Montreal with most of the major airlines and t get the best deal on flights be flexible on your departure point, and travel dates. Direct flights only depart from London but all flights arrive into Aéroport International Pierre-Elliot-Trudeau de Montréal (known more commonly as Montréal-Trudeau Airport). The flight time from the UK is approximately eight hours direct, or longer if you're on an indirect route.
Airport shuttle runs a regular service to downtown stopping at the main hotels, the Lionel-Groulx metro station and terminating at the Gare Autocars. Included in the ticket price is unlimited use of the buses and metro for 24 hours too, making it that bit easier to get to your accommodation on the cheap!
Local Bus get the eastbound buses (est) to Gare Dorval, from where you can hop on any number of buses to the Lionel-Groulx metro station. Once you're there, the city is your oyster as you can hop on the metro and head off!
Taxis are readily available at the airport and charge a fixed rate fee as displayed on the taxi window. There is a premium for heading to the downtown region, while elsewhere can come in at a more reasonable rate, especially if you've found people to share with during your flight to Montreal.
Car hire is available from Montreal Airport too, with plenty of chiuce when it comes to finding a cheap hire deal. Traffic can get pretty busy during rush hour and parking can be tricky, so check whether your hotel has a car park!
When the weather is fine, the best way to get around Montreal, particularly downtown, is on foot. However in the winter months, the pavements can be icy and hazardous. The Metro (public transit) system is safe, efficient and a pleasant way to get around the city. Tourist passes offer unlimited travel on the bus and metro and are an economical choice if you are planning multiple journeys. Montreal has extensive cycle pathways and a cycle hire scheme. If you are comfortable on a bicycle it is a fun and enjoyable way to explore the city.
Montreal has bus connections with other cities within Quebec, the rest of Canada and the USA. Buses to Quebec or Toronto are clean and comfortable and an economical way to travel. Hiring a car is a popular choice as it will give you the freedom to decide your own schedule. Connections between the US and Montreal are all expressways and so are easy to navigate. Montreal is also a major terminus on Canada's VIA Rail Network with connections to New York on the Adirondack, which takes around 11 hours to wind a scenic route to New York if all goes well, but delays are common.
Summer in Montreal lasts from June to mid September and tends to be quite humid. There are occasional intense but short heatwaves in July and early August. Temperatures usually cool towards the evening and are not oppressive during the night. September to October is characterised by warm days and cool evenings and this is when you'll get to see the classic Canadian maples rich in colour.
Late May through to September is regarded as the peak season for holidays in Montreal. Christmas and New Year is also busy and you can expect the highest rates in hotels during these times. March to April and October to November are regarded as low season. Many people travel to Canada for the winter snow and outdoor sports such as skiing and snowboarding. Snow remains part of the landscape in Montreal between November and mid-March.
There are events happening all year round in Montreal. In January there is La Fete des Neiges (the Snow Festival) which is a winter carnival. This is soon followed by Festival Montreal en Lumiere (Montreal High Lights Festival) which is another winter show celebrating culinary competitions and wine tastings. Through May and June there are endless celebrations including a Bike Fest, Beer Festival, the Grand Prix and Saint Ambrose Montreal Fringe Festival. The Grand Prix is undoubtedly Montréal's biggest tourism event of the year. Other highlights include is the Jazz Festival in June, Film Festival in August and Black and Blue Festival in October.
Currency in Montreal is Canadian Dollars. There are plenty of places downtown where you can either exchange foreign currency or withdraw money from an ATM. Most goods and services in Quebec are subject to taxes: a federal Goods and Services Tax of 5% and a provincial sales tax of 8.5%, added at the till so beware of price rises!
The first language spoken in Montreal is French, however Montreal is considered a bilingual city with many residents also speaking English.
The issue of sovereignty within Montreal and wider Quebec is complicated and a contentious issue that requires sensitivity. Don't make the assumption that all French Canadians are in favour of Quebec's separation of Canada as many are against it. If you want to discuss these topics, make sure you are well-informed and act respectfully.
For Canada you dial +1 followed by either 514, the newer 438 or 579 for surrounding, off-island areas.
Montreal has low crime rates considering its size, making it relatively safe. Like in any big city, be vigilant about your possessions. The main risk is the motorists who have little respect for pedestrians!
British citizens do not need a visa to enter Canada. Citizens of other countries may require visas - make sure you apply well in advance.