Categories > Guides and Tips

25 Fun and Interesting Facts about Montreal

25 Fun and Interesting Facts about Montreal

Montreal is Québec’s largest city and a popular tourist spot. But Montreal has a lot of interesting qualities that may surprise you, whether you’re a local or a foreigner! Want to know what they are?

Montreal is rich in cultural diversity and history. As a big city, it has many interesting facts you have yet to hear regarding its history and entertainment activities. In this article, we’ve listed the fun facts about Montreal that will make you go, really?!

If you want to know more, then stick around!

1. Montreal’s name came from Mont-Royal

Montreal's name came from Mont-Royal's Homepage
Image from Britannica

Montreal’s name came about when Jacques Cartier, a French-born explorer, climbed the mountains in 1535. He then called it Mont-Royal or Mount Royal. Now, the name Montreal refers to the entire city and not just the mountains.

2. Montreal has an underground city

Sounds interesting, right? Well, it is! But it’s not a medieval type of underground city. Sometime in the 1960s, the underground city was built.

Nowadays, it has a large network that connects many retailers. It actually has a tonne of features, like shops, dining, and entertainment areas. It’s a mall, just underground.

It is a bit daunting and overwhelming visiting it at first because, we’re not going to lie, you can get lost. It’s a massive underground city!

But don’t worry because it links to metro stations so that you can get home or back to your hotel. You can study this map before going in, just to give you an idea of how big it is.

Oh, it’s a good option if you want to take shelter from the heavy snow during the winter season. Sometimes, you need to wait for the snow removal team before you can walk around.

You can keep warm there, allowing you to do your tasks because the underground city is basically complete!

3. The Cirque du Soleil is based in Montreal

You’ve heard of Cirque du Soleil, right? If not, uhm.. have you been living under a rock?!

This world-class entertainment is actually based in Montreal. But it wasn’t so successful back when it started.

Its first show outside Montreal was in Ontario. Surprisingly, the show failed big time. But the government of Quebec gave it more funding, which led to a more successful show.

Now, it’s the biggest contemporary circus in the world! It’s like a rise to the top! Literally, you can see the performers rise to the top.

4. Montreal offers Just for Laughs

Montreal is home to the world’s largest comedy festival, the Just for Laughs Comedy Festival. If you like stand-up comedy, you should definitely check this one out!

It’s home to big names in the comedy industry due to the many comedians that fly to Canada to perform. Those comedians include Dave Chapelle, Trevor Noah, Gabriel Iglesias, John Mulaney, Fabrizio Copano, and Jimmy Carr.

The Just for Laughs festival is open every July in Montreal. So, make sure to buy your tickets early because, as the largest comedy festival in the world, tonnes of people from the country and overseas are going to come too!

5. Canada’s first Olympics

Did you know that Montreal was the first Canadian city to host the Olympics? Impressive!

The Montreal Olympics was held in 1976. Until now, some of Canada’s Olympic facilities are still being used. Some have even become landmarks, like the Olympic Stadium, that you can visit by going on guided tours.

6. Montreal has many fun festivals

Montreal hosts over 90 festivals every year, regardless of the weather. Canadians are tough, even partying during the winter season (the country has built us up for that!).

If you’re not from Canada, you better experience Igloofest, where partygoers will dance, sing, and have fun even when the temperature is freezing -30°C! Even snow on the road can’t stop us!

Some of these festivals include the Montreal International Jazz Festival, the 2004 Guinness World Records’ largest jazz festival. But if you don’t like jazz, you can go to the Fierté Montréal or the Montreal Pride, an annual LGBTQ+ festival.

This makes the city an entertainment and cultural hub due to the many people that visit these festivals. There are so many in the city that you can attend one almost every week!

8. John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s protest

John Lennon and Yoko Ono's protest's Homepage
Image from Discover Montreal

In 1969, John Lennon and Yoko Ono held a non-violent protest in Amsterdam and Montreal. They went to the historic Queen Elizabeth Hotel and held their bed-in protest in room 1742.

Moreover, this is the room where they recorded “Give Peace a Chance.” Today, this is one of the most famous pop culture moments.

9. Habitat 67

Habitat 67's Homepage
Image from philippe collard on Unsplash

If you come across Habitat 67 randomly, you wouldn’t believe it’s a real building. The structural design makes it look like it’s from a utopian movie!

It’s like Jenga, except really heavy and should never, ever collapse! 

Would you believe that this started as a thesis project by Israeli-Canadian architect Moshe Safdie? It’s a housing complex, and even Safdie lives there.

Unfortunately, the process of building it came across many hurdles, specifically funding. At the time, the rent for Habitat 67 was so high that no one could afford it.

Remember, this was the time of the Vietnam War. The economy wasn’t in good condition.

It was supposed to provide affordable housing. But now, you need a lot of money to afford it (think: millions!).

Nowadays, you can visit Habitat 67 on a 90-minute guided tour. This is great if you want to see it because it’s a private residence and tenant-owned, which means you can’t just go inside!

10. Mount Royal Mountain remains to be the tallest

Mount Royal Mountain remains to be the tallest's Homepage
Image from Pavol Svantner on Unsplash

…because no building can be taller than it. Have you noticed the consistency of the tallest buildings seen in the Montreal skyline? The tallest ones are almost the same height.

Why is that? Well, buildings in Montreal cannot be 232.5 metres above sea level. It’s the mountain’s height, so you cannot build past it. It helps the city’s skyline because it certainly is beautiful.

11. French is widely spoken in the city

French is widely spoken in the city's Homepage
Image from kaitlyn 🙂 on Unsplash

Oui, French is a dominant language in Montreal. A survey by Statista showed that over 71% of Montreal’s population has French as a first language.

It’s so widely spoken that its part of the residents’ cultural identity. In fact, you will find many shops and restaurants with French signs and menus.

If you’re a tourist, there’s nothing to worry about because most menus are written in French and English. Plus, you can ask the servers for help, so you know what you’re ordering.

12. Only 20% of Montreal’s population speak other languages

Only 20% of Montreal’s population speak other languages' Homepage
Image from Leonardo Toshiro Okubo on Unsplash

Montreal is one of Canada’s most diverse cities. It’s also the second largest, just behind Toronto.

But only around 20% speak languages other than French and English. That’s a small number, considering its population of 4.3 million people.

So, if you plan to move there, you need to at least speak English fluently. It will help you get by, and maybe learn a French word or two – or maybe more than that.

13. Montreal’s culinary scene is iconic

Montreal’s culinary scene is iconic's Homepage
Photo by @withlovefromchile on Unsplash

We can talk all night about Montreal’s famous food scene. It has creative dishes that are worth digging into.

Montreal’s most famous food is poutine, which is probably also the most famous Québécois dish. In fact, you’ll see it on almost every menu in the city! That’s how in demand it is!

What is poutine, you ask? Poutine is a favourite Canadian food that is a concoction of crispy fries topped with cheese curds and rich gravy spread on top. Thinking about it makes us want to have some!

Montreal is also known for its smoked meat sandwich. It’s made by putting smokey meat on top of each other on rye with mustard. It’s jam-packed with meat that is dry-cured with spices before smoking, making it a favourite among Montrealers.

You can even ask for lean or fatty meat to make your eating experience better, depending on your food preferences.

Don’t forget the popular roadside attraction, the Gibeau Orange Julep. It’s hard to miss because it’s a giant orange on the side of the highway.

The orange julep is a blend of skimmed milk powder, pectin, juice concentrate, and vanilla flavour. It’s so good and famous that it was patented in 1993.

If you happen to visit Montreal, you’ll find these dishes in most restaurants. You don’t even have to think about where to find them. Ask the locals, and they’ll tell you where to get the best one.

14. It has a large open-air market

The Jean-Talon Market, or the Marché Jean-Talon, is one of Montreal’s largest and one of North America’s largest (and oldest) open-air markets. It’s been around since 1933 and was frequented by immigrants.

You can find it in the heart of Little Italy. There, you’ll find many stalls and vendors selling fruits, vegetables, meats, spices, pastries, cakes, flowers, and specialty shops.

Good news for travellers because it’s open all year. So, if you happen to pass by Montreal, this is something you need to experience. 

15. Montreal saw the first ice hockey game

Montreal saw the first ice hockey game's Homepage
Image from Markus Spiske on Unsplash

One hundred forty-eight years ago, the first-ever indoor ice hockey game was played in Montreal at the Victoria Skating Rink.

It was on March 3, 1875, when two teams competed against each other, with nine players on each side – mostly from McGill University.

Moreover, this was the first organized ice hockey game. That’s an important fact because we all know that ice hockey is embedded in Canada’s cultural identity.

Back then, ice hockey was more of a casual game played between friends. There wasn’t any set of rules, unlike how it is today.

Who should we thank for this? We can give credit to James G. A. Creighton, who made formal rules for the game.

Many people should know about this event. Without it, what would ice hockey look like now? We can’t even think about it.

16. Montreal has a permanent Barbie Expo

We talked about festivals, but we cannot forget about mentioning the Barbie event. Yup, you read that right. There’s a permanent event specifically for Barbie collectors in Montreal!

Can you imagine looking at over 1,000 beautiful vintage and modern Barbie dolls lined up? We can!

Oh, to be Barbie. You can find her wearing designer brands like Vera Wang, Dior,  Carolina Herrera, and Monique L’Huillier. Plus, she gets to play famous movie characters!

The expo has free admission and is open every single day. Travellers and Montrealers can visit any day and see the famous Barbies.

17. Hollywood films in Montreal

Hollywood films in Montreal's Homepage
Image from Thea Hdc on Unsplash

It’s no secret that Montreal is a breathtaking country. Because of that, Hollywood continues to knock on the city’s doors to shoot movies.

The Montréal-Mirabel International Airport was used as the JFK International Airport in Steven Spielberg’s 2004 blockbuster, The Terminal, starring Tom Hanks.

Additionally, the city of Montreal was the setting in Life of Pi, Blades of Glory, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and The Notebook.

The city has picturesque views worthy of being seen on the big screen. But it’s even more beautiful seeing it in person! So, pack your bags and book a flight to Montreal!

18. Eight bridges connect to Montreal

Eight bridges connect to Montreal's Homepage
Image from Eva Blue on Unsplash

That’s a lot of bridges connecting to just one city. These bridges definitely help lessen the traffic when driving from one borough to another.

Did you know that the first bridge built in Montreal was a wooden one? It’s scary to think about that now, but this was built back in 1847 as a connection of Rivière des Prairies to Île Jésus. 

Since then, more bridges have been erected to connect the city to its neighbouring areas. In fact, the latest bridge was the Samuel-De Champlain Bridge, which finished its construction only in 2019.

19. Montreal has a horror movie school

Montreal has a horror movie school's Homepage
Image from Vadim Bogulov on Unsplash

Kier-La Janisse founded the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies in 2010, and the institute is composed of horror enthusiasts looking to share their knowledge and enthusiasm for the genre.

It has several locations in Montreal, so keep your eyes peeled for the available classes because it depends on the availability. It has a busier schedule now, especially since opening branches in other countries.

20. Montreal is a bike friendly city

Montreal is a bike friendly city's Homepage
Image from Roxanne Desgagnés on Unsplash

Montreal is a bike-friendly city with about 1,000 km of bike paths that are safe for cyclists. As a result of the extensive cycling network, it’s easy to travel around the city without breaking the bank or getting stuck in traffic.

21. Old Montreal has eerie cobbled streets

Old Montreal has eerie cobbled streets' Homepage
Image from Maria Elena Zuñiga on Unsplash

Old Montreal is a beautiful place, with its cobblestone streets and captivating structures. If you want to join a ghost hunt, then get ready for a spine-tingling experience because you just might encounter one!

You can even join a ghost tour through the streets of Old Montreal to visit the locations where disturbing events have happened. But it’s not for the easily scared.

You see, some spirits still haunt these places. Maybe even Mary Gallagher, a 19th-century murdered prostitute. It is believed that she haunts the site of her murder every seven years, looking for her decapitated head.

22. The Haunted Hall of Fame

The Haunted Hall of Fame's Homepage
Image from gerhard crous on Unsplash

Another ghost that’s haunting Montreal is a woman called Dorothy. Her legend started when she showed herself to musician Joanna Jordan in the 1990s.

You see, the Hockey Hall of Fame’s current location used to be a branch of the Bank of Montreal for almost 100 years. 

Sometime around the 1900s to the 1960s, Dorothy shot herself in the bathroom in the bank. She later died at St. Michael’s Hospital.

She was a beautiful woman who, unfortunately, fell in love with the wrong guy. It was rumoured that she was having an affair with a married man employed at the bank, either a teller or a branch manager. 

The building has seen some strange occurrences, including footsteps, screams, lights flickering, and doors opening and closing. Some even said they felt someone’s hand on their shoulders or legs. Is it Dorothy or…another ghost?!

23. Montreal was known as a Sin City

Montreal was known as a Sin City's Homepage
Image from Wil Stewart on Unsplash

From 1920 to 1933, during the prohibition of the United States (and some Canadian cities), Montreal was called the Sin City because it became a popular place for people looking for fun, both illegal and legal kinds.

Montreal had an active nightlife. People back then found it incredible that they visited just for fun. Another reason for the name is because of alcohol.

Many cities banned alcohol during that time. One of those was Quebec City. Due to this, many people from Canada and the US travelled to Montreal, where alcohol purchase was allowed.

Thus, it became one of the sin cities at the time. It’s not a good title, and it’s a good thing Montreal got rid of that name! Nowadays, when you say Sin City, it means Las Vegas.

24. Quebec was a colony of the British

Quebec was a colony of the British's Homepage
Image from Rich Martello on Unsplash

Before being a French city, Quebec was a colony of the British in 1763 after the Seven Years’ War. Can you imagine Montreal as a British city? Non, we cannot!

When France was defeated by the British Empire, they gave up many things. That includes giving Quebec and all their other territories to the British. Thus, they weren’t controlled by France anymore.

The British Empire even divided Quebec into two: Upper Canada and Lower Canada. The former is now Ontario, and the latter is Quebec.

Plus, it was only on July 13, 1974, that French became the official language in Quebec. But it wasn’t fine and dandy.

The francophones and anglophones fought because many residents of Quebec wanted the French language protected. This alienated the English-speaking population because a law was even passed to slowly phase out English.

Isn’t it nice that we can all get along now? Fun fact about Quebec: most of its population is bilingual now. The French and English languages co-exist now, thankfully.

25. Quebec is home to many historical sites

Quebec is home to many historical sites' Homepage
Photo by William Rudolph on Unsplash

Quebec has a rich history. It’s famously known for its many historical sites. If you haven’t seen one, you should because they’re beautiful!

Some of these sites are in Montreal. Probably the most famous one is the Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal.

Is it worth visiting? Yes, it is! It can even be a highlight of your trip to Quebec if you love being transported back in the old days.

You see, it’s a religious place with gothic revival architecture, recognized for its intricate details and deep blue and gold interior. Seriously, you should visit and see the beautiful architecture!

It’s an important part of Quebec’s history, too. Why? Aside from the stunning design, it was also considered innovative at the time it was built because of its architectural intricacy.

FAQs about Montreal’s Interesting and Fun Facts

Related topics