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11 Things That Montreal are Known For

11 Things That Montreal are Known For

With its quieter, more subtle vibe, Montreal usually sits behind Toronto and Vancouver as the most popular option for tourists. But don’t pass on Canada’s Cultural Capital, as it offers incredible and exciting things!

Montreal is known for being one of the most beautiful cities in Canada and for its French-Canadian culture. It perfectly combines old-world European charm with the friendly attitude of a North American city.

As one of the best cities in the world and the second oldest Canadian city, Montreal blends culture, history, and modernity. It is also the birthplace of some of Canada’s most famous foods—bagels and poutine.

Aside from those, Montreal has so many other aspects that make it a city worth visiting! To help you learn more about Montreal and its beautiful offerings, I’ll take you on a little tour to showcase everything that makes it unique. 

Hopefully, my favourite things about this beautiful city can explain why it stands out. So read on to know the best things Montreal is known for from a local’s perspective!

1. Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts' Homepage

If you’re looking to get a glimpse of Montreal culture, start by checking out the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. This museum is one of the largest in Canada, with over 41,000 works of art from all over the world. 

Here you can find everything from classic European paintings to modern Canadian sculptures and photographs. The museum also hosts a number of special exhibits throughout the year, so there’s always something new to explore. 

In addition to artworks, the museum also houses an impressive collection of ethnological artifacts and textiles, as well as an extensive library and extensive archives. 

The museum has several exhibits going on at any given time; each one is curated by experts in their respective fields so you know they’ll be worth your while. 

One thing I’d recommend checking out if you’re interested in seeing some art is an exhibit called “From Monet To Matisse: Masterpieces From The Musee d’Orsay”. You can also see other famous artists such as Picasso during this period too!

Address1380 Sherbrooke St W, Montreal, Quebec H3G 1J5, Canada
WebsiteThe Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
Operating Hours10 AM – 5 PM

2. Old Montreal

Old Montreal's Homepage

When you think of old towns, cities with a history, Old Montreal is one of the prime examples. It’s been around for centuries and is full of historical architecture, cobblestone streets, incredible restaurants and bars, and so much more.

So what makes this part of the city stand out? Old Montreal is home to some incredible architectural gems that date back to the 1600s! 

From the Basilica Notre-Dame de Montréal built in 1672 to the Château de Ramezay dating back to 1705, it’s a walk through centuries of history. There are also plenty of converted warehouses as reminders of when warehouses dominated the waterfront. 

The fantastic feature that Old Montreal has in my opinion is the old buildings. There are some of the oldest buildings in Montreal, making it a great place especially if you are history buff like me or just love old architecture.

Though if you’re looking for something more modern, there are still plenty of shops and restaurants on offer as well!

3. The Vibrant Gay Village, or Le Village

The Vibrant Gay Village, or Le Village's Homepage

You might not have known that Montreal is home to one of the world’s largest gay villages. The Gay Village, or simply “Le Village” as it’s called locally, is a vibrant and lively area in the heart of Montreal. 

It’s bustling with restaurants, cafes, bars, theaters and clubs – giving visitors plenty of ways to explore and enjoy the neighborhood. In fact, The Gay Village has come to be seen as a symbol of inclusivity and acceptance not just in Quebec but around the world.   

Going here, I can say that this Village is truly the heart of the LGBT community, because by looking everywhere, you’ll find rainbow flags hanging from storefronts. 

The Church of Notre Dame du Bon Secours was even painted with rainbow banners inside to celebrate Pride Month every year!

Events Hosted by Gay Village

There are many events hosted by The Gay Village each year, including some of Montreal’s biggest celebrations like:
La Fête des Fiertés (Pride Fest)

Le Bal Érotique (Erotic Ballet)

Le Marché des Fiertés (Pride Market)

These events draw thousands upon thousands of people from all walks of life – making it a truly special place for anyone who visits.

4. Notre-Dame Basilica

Notre-Dame Basilica's Homepage

Montreal is also known for its iconic Notre-Dame Basilica. This stunning church was built in the Gothic Revival style and has been deemed a historic monument of Canada. 

It serves as both a monument of faith and a place of art, with its stunning blue ceilings, intricate stained glass windows, and fine sculptures inside and out.

Visiting the Notre-Dame Basilica is truly a spiritual experience. You can take in its religious art, marveling at the intricate details that have been hand-crafted over hundreds of years to create this beautiful space. 

Seeing the stunning interior of Notre Dame makes me speechless. There are 10 altars and 8 chapels within its walls; it also boasts three organs; the Great Organ, Choir Organ, and Positif Organ. 

You can also spend time in silent reflection or partake in some of the solemn services held within this sacred space. Regardless of why you choose to visit the basilica, it’s impossible not to be moved by this grand building and its history.

Address110 Notre-Dame St W, Montreal, Quebec H2Y 1T1, Canada
WebsiteNotre-Dame Basilica
Operating Hours10 AM – 4:30 PM

5. The Underground City

The Underground City's Homepage

When most people think of Montreal, they usually don’t think of its underground city. But it’s one of the city’s standout features, so let’s discuss some things you should know about it.

Montreal’s underground city is actually an extensive network of tunnels that connect shopping centers, universities, office towers, museums, pharmacies and more. It’s even complete with its own street names!

The innovative design of the city ensures that a pedestrian can access almost all parts of downtown Montreal, even in the midst of the region’s chilly winter weather and hot summer months.

There’s even a movie theater located inside! With so many options available in RÉSO , it’s no surprise that this area has become one of the most popular attractions in Montreal.

Quick Fact: The underground city contains over 1200 stores with everything from grocery stores to restaurants to retail outlets. 

With over 20 miles (32 km) in length and four million square feet (400 000 m²)of floor space, you can easily find yourself lost in this subterranean wonderland.

6. Unique and Cultural Dishes

Unique and Cultural Dishes' Homepage

One of the things that Montreal is most known for is its unique cuisine. Montreal’s food culture has been influenced by its diverse population, with a strong French influence and other immigrant-based cuisines such as Italian and Chinese. 

Montreal is also home to many restaurants offering traditional Quebecois dishes such as sugar pie, tourtière (meat pie), poutine and pea soup. But it’s not just traditional dishes that you’ll find in Montreal.

The city has an incredibly vibrant food scene, full of innovative chefs and unique restaurants. Here are just a few of the unique dishes that you may want to sample in Montreal:

Unique Dishes in Montreal

Pâté Chinois: a layered meat, potato and corn dish that is popular all over Quebec

Smoked meat sandwiches: a staple of any trip to Montreal

Bagels: made with honey or malt syrup inside, these bagels are denser than others found around the world

Beavertails: fried dough topped with sweet toppings like chocolate, caramel or cinnamon-sugar. Delicious!

Muffuletta: This huge sandwich originated in New Orleans but has become one of Montreal’s signature dishes. It consists of salami, cheese, olives, tomatoes and other ingredients piled onto a round roll. 

No matter what type of cuisine you’re looking for, you can find it in Montreal. Whether it’s traditional Quebecois dishes or new and exciting flavors from around the world, you won’t be disappointed with the selection available here!

7. Jean-Talon Market

Jean-Talon Market's Homepage

You may not have heard of Jean-Talon Market, but it’s something that Montreal is definitely known for! After all, this huge public market has been a Montreal staple since 1933.

So, what exactly makes Jean-Talon Market so memorable? Let’s take a look!

1. Vibrant Atmosphere

Located in the heart of Little Italy, the Jean-Talon Market is bustling with energy. The vibrant atmosphere of the market attracts locals and tourists alike. 

Here, you can see shoppers examining fresh produce, tasting samples of local specialties, and chatting with vendors about their products. 

Not to mention, the smells emanating from the tasty food offerings (think fresh breads, cheeses and more!) will get your stomach growling!

2. Wide Range of Products

Jean-Talon Market offers a wide variety of products from small local producers—everything from organic herbs to locally sourced meats to handmade cheeses. 

You can also find products from small vendors that offer unique items such as homemade soaps or artisanal jewelry. 

Plus, on top of all this delicious diversity, there are special events happening throughout the year such as cooking workshops or live music performances that add to the overall atmosphere and make it even more special.

The next time you’re in Montreal, make sure you check out Jean-Talon Market—it’s one experience you won’t want to miss!

8. The Montreal International Jazz Festival

The Montreal International Jazz Festival's Homepage

Did you know that every summer, thousands of music fans flock to Montreal to take part in the Montreal International Jazz Festival? The event is held in late June and features over 500 concerts featuring local, Canadian and international jazz musicians.

It’s also the largest jazz festival in Canada—in 2019, over two million people attended.

The festival has over 100 free outdoor shows, so you can enjoy some great music without breaking the bank!

When I attended this, the tickets sold out fast! So the best way to get them is by waiting until they go on sale which I recommend around February. 

If you don’t want to wait until then, there are still ways around getting tickets; some people sell their extras on Craigslist or Kijiji which makes them more affordable than buying them directly from Festival Productions Inc.

Going to a festival like this is a great way to celebrate Montreal and to experience what it’s like living in this multicultural city. It’s also a good opportunity for people of all ages and backgrounds to enjoy music from around the world. 

9. The Canadian Grand Prix

The Canadian Grand Prix's Homepage

You may not know this, but Montreal hosts the world’s second-longest running Formula 1 race—the Canadian Grand Prix. It’s been taking place in Montreal every year since 1967, and it’s one of the most popular Formula 1 races in the world.

The Canadian Grand Prix first started out as a street race on Notre-Dame Island in Downtown Montreal, but moved to its current location at the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve in 1978. 

The track is 4.361km long and features 14 turns, two straights and two separate chicanes, making it one of the more challenging circuits on the calendar. The race itself is a huge event as it brings an estimated 400,000 people to the city over three days.

The Canadian Grand Prix is only held in Montreal—it doesn’t happen anywhere else in Canada—so it really does feel like a unique event for Quebecers. It’s a great time for locals and tourists alike to come together and experience high-speed thrills!

AddressParc Jean-Drapeau, Montréal, QC H3C 6A1, Canada
WebsiteCircuit Gilles Villeneuve
Operating Hours6 AM – 10 PM

10. Being a multicultural melting pot

Being a multicultural melting pot's Homepage

This melting pot of cultures and languages can be seen in the city’s many attractions, including its lively festivals, wide range of restaurants and shops, museums, galleries and more. 

The diversity of Montreal is also evident in its world-class universities, with students from around the globe contributing to an atmosphere of learning and collaboration.

Of course, no discussion of Montreal’s multiculturalism would be complete without mentioning its famous St. Laurent Street. It is home to hundreds of ethnic stores, restaurants and markets that offer a taste of other cultures from around the globe. 

Best Restaurants in St. Laurent Street
Omnivore St-LaurentAddress: 4306 St Laurent Blvd, Montreal, Quebec H2W 1Z3, Canada
Hours: 11 AM–9 PM
Le ButterblumeAddress: 5836 St Laurent Blvd, Montreal, Quebec H2T 1T3, Canada
Hours: 11 AM–3 PM
Breizh CaféAddress: 3991 St Laurent Blvd, Montreal, Quebec H2W 1Y4, Canada
Hours: 11 AM–9 PM
Labo culinaire – FoodlabAddress: 1201 St Laurent Blvd, Montreal, Quebec H2X 1K4, Canada
Hours: 5 PM – 10PM

It’s also home to some of the best music venues in town — from jazz clubs to salsa bars — where you can find yourself surrounded by people from all backgrounds enjoying everything this amazing city has to offer.

11. Being one of the oldest cities in Canada

Being one of the oldest cities in Canada's Homepage

Montreal was founded by the French in 1642, making it one of the oldest cities in Canada. The city was initially called Ville-Marie – or City of Mary – and it was the first permanent settlement in what would later become Canada. 

By the 17th century, Montreal had become one of North America’s most important cities. 

It was an important center for trading fur with Native Americans, and a major port for goods from Europe and other parts of the world. 

Ultimately, these factors made Montreal incredibly wealthy and powerful for its time. 

Fun Fact: Throughout its history, Montreal has been home to some of the most significant events in history. In 1967, Montreal hosted Expo ’67, becoming the first non-European city to host a World’s Fair.

Montreal has hosted numerous world-class events, such as:

1976 Summer Olympics2006 International AIDS Conference2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference2010 Inter Action Council Meeting

Being one of the oldest cities in Canada

FAQs about Famous Things in Montreal

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