Interesting Montreal facts

115 Interesting Facts About Montreal

Montreal, Canada’s largest city for most of its history, is the cultural capital of French Canada and the birthplace of hockey.

Prepare to learn much more about La Metropole with these fascinating facts about Montreal! For even more, see these fun facts about Quebec, the province where Montreal is found.

General Montreal Facts

  • Montreal is the second largest city in in Canada, and the largest city in the primarily French-speaking province Quebec. It is not the provincial capital, though (that would be Quebec City).
  • It is the 4th largest French speaking city in the world, after Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of Congo), Paris (France), and Abidjan (Ivory Coast).
  • In French, Montréal is pronounced with a silent t, so it sounds like “Mon-ray-al.”
  • Montreal city proper is located almost entirely on the Island of Montreal, a larger island located at the confluence of the St. Lawrence River (which drains the Great Lakes) and the Ottawa River.
  • Montreal is only 45 km (28 mi) from the US border.
  • With 1.7 million residents, Montreal is surpassed only by Toronto (2.8 million), but larger than Calgary (1.3 million).
  • The Greater Montreal Area, which includes several “off-island” cities and suburbs, has a population of 4.3 million, making it the 2nd largest metropolitan area in Canada after Toronto (but before Vancouver).
Buildings of downtown Montreal
Downtown Montreal
  • Greater Montreal is similar in size to Rome, Italy.
  • Around 50% of all Quebecois live in Greater Montreal.
  • The city sits at the same latitude as Venice, Italy.
  • The highest temperature ever recorded in Montreal was 37.6°C (99.7°F) in 1975, while the lowest was −37.8°C (−36°F) in 1957.  
  • Montreal was named after Mount Royal, a triple-peaked hill around the city. Mount Royal was named by Jacques Cartier, the first European to arrive there. The name referred to his patron, Francis I of France.
A cross above the trees on Mount Royal in Montreal
Cross atop Mount Royal
  • The city was originally called Ville-Marie when it was first founded in 1642. Today, Ville-Marie is the name of one of Montreals 19 boroughs.
  • Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the Iroquois village on the Island of Montreal was called Hochelaga. It was near modern-day McGill University. In modern Iroquois, it is called Tiohtià:ke.
  • The official abbreviation for Montreal is MON, while Montreal’s airport code is YUL. Other abbreviations include MTL and VDM (Ville de Montréal).
  • Some common nicknames for Montreal are “The 514” (after the telephone code), “The City of Saints”, “Paris of North America”, “The City of a Hundred Steeples”, “The City of Festivals”, “La Metropole”, and “Sin City” (for its nightlife during prohibition).
  • The official motto of Montreal is Concordia Salus, which is Latin for “well-being through harmony”.
Many people ice skating on a large rink in front of a domed building in Montreal
Ice Skating in Montreal
  • Slogans for Montreal have included “Cosmopolitan Montreal”, “Abroad Without Crossing the Sea”, and “The Gateway to Historic Quebec” and “Room to Make It Real”.
  • People from Montreal are called Montrealers.
  • 66.5% of Montreals speak French as their mother tongue, and 92% of them have a working knowledge of French. Over half of residents are fluent in both English and French, making Montreal the most bilingual city in Canada.
  • Just under 20% of Montrealers speak neither English nor French at home.
  • 10% of Montrealers are Black Canadians, the largest visible minority there. The city also has the largest Haitian community in Canada.
The flag of Montreal
The Montreal City flag
  • The Montreal flag shows a red heraldic cross, representing Christianity, with a white pine at its centre representing First Nations. In the corners are a Fleur-de-lys (representing the French), rose (English), shamrock (Irish), and thistle (Scottish).
  • Montreal has 18 sister and friendship cities, including Paris (France), Boston (Massachusetts), Guadalajara (Mexico), Hiroshima (Japan), and Shanghai, (China).

Interesting Facts about Montreal Places

  • Montreal’s McGill University is ranked second best in Canada after the University of Toronto. Montreal is considered one of the top 10 cities in the world to be a university student.
  • 14 graduates or professors from McGill have received Nobel Prizes.
Some old buildings of McGill University set on a hill with trees around them
Royal Victoria Hospital at McGill University
  • Prime Ministers Sir John Abbott, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, and Justin Trudeau graduated from McGill.
  • 1250 René-Lévesque is the tallest building in Montreal, with 47 floors and standing 226.5 m (743 ft). It is the tallest in the province and 21st tallest in Canada.
  • The Montreal Tower (formerly Olympic Tower) is the world’s tallest inclined structure, at 175 m (574 ft). It leans at an angle of 45° (compare that to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, which leans at 4°, and is one-third the height).
  • The Tower stands beside Olympic Stadium (nicknamed The Big O), built to host the 1976 Olympics. It is the largest stadium in Canada by seating capacity.
A tall, inclined tower called Montreal Tower leaning over the Olympic Stadium
The Olympic Stadium and Montreal Tower
  • Other iconic buildings in Montreal include the Neo-classical Sun Life Building, Montreal World Trade Centre (a “horizontal skyscraper”), and Saint Joseph’s Oratory, the largest church in Canada.
  • Many historic sites are concentrated in Old Montreal. Other cool neighbourhoods include artsy Le Plateau Moint-Royal, LGBTQ+ friendly Ville-Marie, nightlife-focused Quartier Latin, and festival-oriented Quartier des Spectacles.
  • Jean Talon Market in Montreal’s Little Italy is the largest open-air market in North America.
A covered section of Jean-Talon Market in Montreal with lots of colorful flowers for sale
Flowers for sale at Jean-Talon Market
  • Around half a million people use Montreal’s Underground City, a collection of towers, buildings, shopping centres, universities and more that are connected underground.
  • The city is home to 21 major parks, with Mount Royal Park being the largest. The park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed Central Park in New York City. There used to be a funicular (1885 to 1920) and streetcar (1920 to 1959) to the Mount Royal peak.
  • The Montreal Symphony Orchestra, considered one of the best, is the only symphonies in the world to have an octobass. It is 3.6 m (11.8 ft) tall.
  • Barbie Expo Montreal is the world’s largest permanent exposition of Barbie dolls, with over 1000 unique Barbies on display.
Ski hills on a mountain at Mt. Tremblant and the ski resort village at its base
Ski hills at Mont Tremblant
  • Eastern Canada’s best-known ski resort, Mont Tremblant, is 2 hours northwest of Montreal.
  • Montreal’s Igloofest is nicknamed the “coldest music festival in the world.”

Montreal Economy and Society Facts

  • There are 150 foreign consulates in Montreal, the 2nd most of any city in North America, after Washington DC.
  • Greater Montreal has the 2nd largest economy in Canada, but it is only half the size of Toronto’s.
A mosaic of the logos of famous companies from Montreal
Famous companies from Montreal
  • Montreal is home to 2 Fortune 500 countries: Power Corporation of Canada and Bank of Montreal.
  • Other famous companies that started or are currently headquartered in Montreal include Air Canada, Via Rail, Le Château, Bell Canada, National Bank of Canada, Dollarama, Rona, Cora, and Eggspectation.
  • Molson, the oldest brewery in North America and maker of Canada’s top selling beer (Molson Canadian) was started in Montreal in 1786 and remains headquartered there.
  • Montreal’s crime rate is about half that of Winnipeg, Manitoba, but slightly more that of Toronto.
  • The Port of Montreal is the largest inland port in the world. It replaces the historic Old Port of Montreal.
Aerial view of the Old Port of Montreal filled with boats, with downtown Montreal visible in the background
The Old Port of Montreal
  • Other major organizations based on Montreal include the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization, the World Anti-Doping Agency for the Olympics, the Airports Council International, and the International Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.
  • Cheesemaker Lino Saputo is the richest person in Montreal and 8th richest in Canada, with a net worth of USD 4.7 billion.
  • Montreal is the 2nd largest media centre in Canada, and the most important centre of French language media.
A close up of a sandwich filled with slices of smoked meat
Montreal smoked meat sandwich
  • Movie major movies have been set and/or filmed in Montreal, like Life of Pi, The Whole Nine Yards, Blades of Glory, 12 Monkeys, Batman & Robin, Catch Me If You Can, The Notebook, and many others.
  • Things invented in Montreal include peanut butter, the Wonderbra, the board game Trivial Pursuit, snowblower, IMAX theatres, 3D puzzles, and hockey (see sports section below).
  • Montreal is famous for Montreal-style smoked meat, with Schwartz’s Deli being the most famous smoked meat sandwich shop.
  • Montreal also has its own type of bagel, which is smaller, thinner, denser, and sweeter than New York-style bagels.

Montreal Sports Facts

  • Now defunct major teams have included Montreal Jazz (NBL), Montreal Expos (MLB), Montreal Maroons (NHL), and Montreal Wanderers (NHL).
  • The Montreal Canadiens (nicknamed “The Habs”) are widely considered the best hockey team in Canada and have more Stanley Cup wins (24) than any team in the NHL.
The team logo on the Montreal Canadiens hockey team showing a blue H inside a red C
Montreal Canadiens logo
  • The Canadiens are the longest running hockey team in the world and the only one started before the NHL began.
  • In fact, the modern spot of ice hockey was invented in Montreal, when two teams of mostly McGill students played against each other in 1875.
  • The first two NHL games ever played, in 1917, were won by Montreal teams. The Montreal Canadiens beat the Ottawa Senators and the Montreal Wanderers beat the Toronto Arenas.
  • Some of the Canadiens’ most famous players have included Guy Lafleur, Maurice Richard, Jean Beliveau, and Patrick Roy.
  • Mario Lemieux, widely considered the 2nd best hockey player in NHL history after Wayne Gretzky, was born in Montreal but played for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
An orange furry mascot called Youppi riding on the ice and wearing a Canadiens hockey jersey
Youppi was the first mascot to be thrown out of a major league game.
  • Youppi, the mascot of the Montreal Canadiens and former mascot of the Montreal Expos, was the first mascot ever to be thrown out of an MLB game. 
  • The Canadiens play out of Bell Centre, which is the 4th largest sporting venue in the city, after Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Olympic Stadium, and Molson Stadium.
  • Two-time world champion WWF wrestler Chris Benoit is a Montreal native. In 2007, he was accused of murdered his wife and later that year committed suicide.
  • When Montreal hosted the 1976 Summer Olympics, it was the first and only time Canada has ever hosted the summer version of the event.  

Other Famous Montreal People

  • Pierre Trudeau, the 15th Prime Minister of Canada and father of current PM Justin Trudeau, was born in Montreal.
  • Actors William Shatner and Antoni Porowski (Queer Eye) were born in Montreal.
  • Political activist and author Naomi Klein is another well-known Montrealer.
A mosaic of famous people from Montreal
Famous Montrealers Pierre Trudeau, Celine Dion, William Shatner, Antoni Porowski, Naomi Klein, and Leonard Cohen (clockwise from top-left)
  • Singers Celine Dion, Corey Hart, and Leonard Cohen were born in Montreal.
  • Bands from Montreal include Arcade Fire, Simple Plan, The Planet Smashers, Stars, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Bran Van 3000, Chromeo, The Dears, Ripcordz, Wolf Parade, and the Doughboys.
  • John Lennon and Yoko Ono wrote and recorded “Give Peace a Chance” in Montreal.

Montreal History Facts

  • The Montreal area was originally inhabited by the Algonquin, Huron, and Iroquois peoples.
  • The oldest artifact in the area dates to 2000 years ago.
  • When Jacques Cartier of France arrived in 1535, he visited the Iroquoian village of Hochelaga, with more than 1000 people.
Ruins of a stone wall and arch surrounded by trees
Ruins of an early French fort around Montreal
  • When Samuel de Champlain arrived in 1603, he found the village was no longer there. He established a fur trading post there.
  • The French established the first permanent settlement on the Island of Montreal in 1639.
  • Ville-Marie, the original name of Montreal, was founded in 1642.
  • The city was regularly attacked by the Iroquois, with the French going to war against them several times.
  • Montreal’s oldest church, Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel, was established in 1655.
  • In 1690, the Citadel Fortress was built.
Exterior of Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel on a cloudy day
Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel, the oldest in Montreal
  • In 1705, the city was renamed Montreal.
  • In 1760, Montreal was surrendered to the British army. The British formally took over Canada in 1763.
  • Montreal’s first newspaper was first published from 1778.
  • North West Company, the main competitor to Hudson’s Bay Company, started in Montreal in 1779. Montreal was the centre of the North American fur trade.
  • Molson Brewery was established in Montreal in 1786.
  • McGill University was established in 1821.
  • Notre Dame Basilica was completed in 1829.
Exterior of Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal with a statue in front it it, both lit up at night
Notrea Dame Basilica
  • Montreal was incorporated as a city in 1832.
  • In 1852, a fire destroyed half of all houses in Montreal.
  • In 1856, the railway line from Montreal to Toronto first opened.
  • In the 1860s, Montreal’s population surpassed 100,000.
  • At the time of Confederation in 1867, Montreal was Canada’s largest city.
  • The Bank of Montreal opened in 1871.
  • The world’s first modern ice hockey game was played at Victoria Skating Rink in Montreal on March 3, 1875.
Black and white photograph of a historical hockey game in Montreal
An 1884 hockey game in Montreal
  • Over 3000 Montrealers died in the smallpox epidemic of 1885.
  • Electric streetcars appeared in Montreal in 1890.
  • The NHL (National Hockey League) started in Montreal in 1917.
  • In 1920, Prohibition in the US turned Montreal into a nightlife hotspot.
  • The Montréal–Trudeau International Airport opened in 1941.
  • The population of Montreal reached 1 million around 1950.
Biosphere pavilion dome from Expo 67 in Montreal
The US pavilion from Expo 67 now houses the Biosphere Museum.
  • In 1967, Montreal hosted Expo 67, or the 1967 International and Universal Exposition, aka World’s Fair. It has the single largest attendance on a single day for the fair ever, at 569,500. Besides the Biosphere Museum (pictured above), the event’s velodrome now houses the Montreal Biodome.
  • In 1976, Montreal hosted the Summer Olympics.
  • Toronto surpassed Montreal as Canada’s largest city in 1971.
  • The Montreal International Jazz Festival was founded in 1980, followed by Cirque du Soleil in 1984.
  • At the 1995 Unity Rally in Montreal, 100,000 gathered in favour of voting for Quebec not to separate from Canada.
A pride flag with a heart on it with people in the background at a pride parade in Montreal
Pride parade in Montreal
  • Montreal’s first female mayor, Valérie Plante, was elected in 2017.

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