A view of Montreal at Dusk

Travel Guide: Explore the Diversity and Multiculturalism of Montreal

Montreal: A Brief History

Montreal is a metropolitan city located in the province of Quebec in Canada. It has a population of almost 2 million people, living not only on the island of Montreal itself, but also in the GMA (Greater Montreal Area).  The GMA includes other islands like Laval and the South Shore.  

A photo of the city at dusk. https://www.cushmanwakefield.com/en/canada/offices/montreal

Holiday Inn LAVAL - MONTREAL - Saint-François-de-Laval, Laval – Great prices at HOTEL INFO
A aerial view of Laval, a suburb in the GMA. https://www.hotel.info/en/holiday-inn-laval—montreal/hotel-283876/

Historically, Montreal, as was the case across North America, was home to multiple Indigenous groups, including the Iroquois.  The Iroquois cultivated maize and other grains along the St. Lawrence River, which is a major waterway that runs across the city.   

Was the Iroquois Great Law of Peace the Source for the U.S. Constitution? | HowStuffWorks
A sketch of an Iroquois meeting. The tribe is known for being matriarchal and matrilineal. This means women were the heads of tribes and that ancestry was traced from mothers, not from fathers. https://history.howstuffworks.com/history-vs-myth/iroquois-great-law-peace-source-us-constitution.htm

 
The Iroquois are also known for their unique homes, known as ‘longhouses’. As opposed to tipis and wigwams, the Iroquois lived more communally in large, long tent-like homes. http://www.nysm.nysed.gov/exhibitions/ongoing/native-peoples-new-york/mohawk-longhouse

Mohawk Iroquois Longhouse aNew York State Museum
Credit: http://www.nysm.nysed.gov/

In 1603, French explorer Samuel de Champlain (1567-1635) arrived in Quebec, pushing the Iroquois out of their lands and passing on deadly European diseases like Measles, Typhus, Smallpox, and Cholera that saw the deaths of many. Unfortunately, much of Canadian history includes mistreatment of Indigenous groups.  It is worth mentioning that they occupied lands like Montreal before European colonization to show respect and recognition for their ancestral and territorial histories.  

How Europeans brought sickness to the New World | Science | AAAS
Initial contact and trade with Indigenous groups meant that diseases that Europeans had become immune to were transmitted quite easily. Likewise, many Europeans developed diseases like Scurvy, to which Indigenous groups were immune. Scurvy is often a product of a lack of vitamin D/sunlight. https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2015/06/how-europeans-brought-sickness-new-world

By 1642, Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve (1612-76) founded the city of Ville-Marie, which eventually became known as ‘Montreal’ by 1665.  The city was not only a missionary site of Evangelics hoping to assimilate Indigenous groups to European culture and convert them to Christianity, but it also became a major trading post.  In fact, until the 1960s and into the 1970s, Montreal was the largest and most prosperous commercial centre in all of Canada.  

Missionaries in the 17th Century | The Canadian Encyclopedia
A sketch of 17th century missionaries in Canada. https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/missionaries-in-the-17th-century-emc

Architecture

Since Montreal was colonized by the Europeans, it is still influenced by European culture.  Despite the negative effects of Indigenous colonization, European architecture, food, and culture continues to permeate Montreal in significant and meaningful ways.

A Design Lover's Guide to Montreal | Architectural Digest
A photo of a street in Montreal in the winter. https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/montreal-design-travel-guide.  

Montreal is known for its stunning architecture, much of which is inspired by European styles and construction.  Especially in Old Montreal, the historic trading centre of the city, which connect to the Old Port, the cobble-stone streets and ornate building furnishing give off a characteristically European flare.

The 21 Best Restaurants in Old Montreal - Eater Montreal
Old Montreal’s trademark cobble-stone streets. https://montreal.eater.com/maps/best-restaurants-old-montreal-vieux-montreal-old-port

Another popular feature of Montreal’s architecture is the structure of apartment buildings that line bustling streets like St. Denis.  These homes are narrows and known for their spiral staircases.  They can be a hassle in the wintertime when icy weather strikes but they are a unique feature of the city that cannot be missed.

A Guide to Canada's Most Notable Architectural Styles by City
An example of the famous spirally staircases of Montreal apartments. https://www.hgtv.ca/photos/a-guide-to-canada-s-most-notable-architectural-styles-by-city-1903795/

Montreal’s replica of the Parisian Notre Dame Basilica is also a must-see architectural beauty.  It is located in the heart of Old Montreal.

The Top 16 Things To Do and See in Old Montreal
Montreal’s version of the Notre Dame Basilica. https://theculturetrip.com/north-america/canada/articles/the-top-10-things-to-do-and-see-in-old-montreal/

For a taste of traditional, stone and brick buildings, take a stroll through Old Montreal.  This sector is full of artisanal shops, cafes, restaurants, and even high fashion stores, which are all located within stunning buildings that are often centuries-old.

Old Montreal - Manoir Sherbrooke
The streets of Old Montreal. https://manoirsherbrooke.ca/old-montreal/
Vieux Port De Montréal | Old Port Montreal Neighborhood
Another view of the streets of Old Montreal. https://www.realestatemontreal.net/vieux-port-de-montreal/

Montreal also boats exquisite modern architecture.  The city’s urban engineers have flawlessly meshed old and new structures in a way that is both remarkable and breathtaking for Montrealers and tourists alike.

A Tour of Montreal's Modern Architecture | AFAR
Habitat 67: one of Montreal’s most famous modern architectural structures. It was originally meant to house the Olympic athletes for the 1976 summer Olympics. The complex now operates for community housing. It was designed by Israeli architect Moshe Safdie. https://www.afar.com/travel-tips/a-tour-of-montreals-modern-architecture
14 Stylish Places to visit in Montreal | Architectural Digest
Another famous modern structure in Montreal: The Palais des Congres. It is located in the international Quarter of the city and hosts a number of events and conferences since 1983. It is currently being used as a Covid vaccination centre. https://www.architecturaldigest.com/gallery/montreal-highlights-slideshow

Foods to Try and Where to Find Them

Montreal is not only aesthetically beautiful, but it is home to amazing culinary dishes from a number of cultures.  From cafes, to restaurants, to pasty shops, the city is worth visiting for the food alone.

25 Restaurants with the Most Iconic Montreal Food You Need to Eat
Perhaps the city’s most iconic dish is ‘poutine.’ Consisting of thick-cut fries, gravy, and cheese curds, poutine is a classic French Canadian dish that has become a tourist favorite for its addictive saltiness and unique flavors. https://www.timeout.com/montreal/restaurants/best-iconic-montreal-food

Coffee and Pastries

Alati Caserta
Bakery and Pastry shop Alati-Caserta is a must-visit spot on thr east-end of Montreal. It sells one of the city’s best and authentic Italian-style cannolis. The cannoli is a popular Italian dessert that consists of a hard shell filled with either sweetened ricotta cheese or vanilla custard. https://www.alaticaserta.com/
OLIVE & GOURMANDO, Montreal - Ville-Marie - Updated 2021 Restaurant Reviews, Menu & Prices - Tripadvisor
Cafe and bakery Olive et Gourmando is a classic breakfast and lunch spot with a number of delicious baked goods and dishes. For breakfast, an almond croissant paired with the coconut chia pudding is delicious. For lunch, you cannot go wrong with the grilled cheese. The cafe is situated in Old Montreal and prides itself on serving fresh, Parisian style foods. https://www.tripadvisor.ca/Restaurant_Review-g155032-d1022618-Reviews-Olive_Gourmando-Montreal_Quebec.html
Tommy Café + Apéro - Old Montreal, Montreal - Café Cuisine Restaurant
Tommy Cafe has a number of locations across Montreal. It is a trendy spot serving yummy food, from coffee, to croissants, to avocado toast. All the locations are striking and known for their abundance of greenery. https://www.tommymontreal.com/notre-dame/?lang=en
CAFE VASCO DA GAMA, Montreal - Ville-Marie - Menu, Prices & Restaurant Reviews - Tripadvisor
Cafe Vasco de Gama is located on Peel Street, in the core of downtown Montreal. They serve delicious coffee and a number of Portuguese delicacies like natas, which are custard filled cups of soft dough. The cafe also serves a mean omelette with fillings of your choice. It also provides a number of decadent pastries, from mini apple tarts to classic french croissants. https://www.tripadvisor.ca/Restaurant_Review-g155032-d953982-Reviews-Cafe_Vasco_Da_Gama-Montreal_Quebec.html
Boulangerie & Pâtisserie Tillemont Inc - Opening Hours - 1812, rue Tillemont, Montréal, QC
Boulangerie and Patisserie Tillemont is another east-end Italian spot to visit for amazing pastries and bread. Definitely try their round baguette-style loaf or classic baguette for an authentic taste of Italian bread. Their bread is fluffy on the inside but crunchy on the outside and is absolutely irresistible. https://www.yellowpages.ca/bus/Quebec/Montreal/Boulangerie-Patisserie-Tillemont-Inc/2133589.html
PÂTISSERIE RHUBARBE - 157 Photos & 60 Reviews - Patisserie/Cake Shop - 1479 Avenue Laurier E, Montréal, QC - Phone Number
Pattiserie Rhubarb serves delicious French pastries. From classic berry tarts, to passion-fruit eclairs, this spot is a little pricey, but you will not regret taking a visit. https://www.yellowpages.ca/bus/Quebec/Montreal/Boulangerie-Patisserie-Tillemont-Inc/2133589.html
Boulangerie Guillaume
Serving arguably the best bread and baked goods in the city, Guillame on Saint-Laurent boulevard is easy to miss, but worth your while. From their classic french baguette, to their white chocolate muffins, they serve fresh baked goods that will leave you wanting more with every bite. https://en.guillau.me/

Salads and Foods for Health Nuts 

Incredibly popular Montreal salad restaurant Mandy's is coming to Toronto
Mandy’s has several locations across the island of Montreal. The salad joint has become an iconic and trendy staple food stop throughout the city. Don’t be fooled by the salads and power bowls on the menu, they also offer some absolutely delicious desserts, including their famous chocolate chip cookies. If you want a more upscale dining experience, be sure to visit the location in Old Montreal, where wine is served table side. https://www.blogto.com/eat_drink/2020/02/montreal-salad-restaurant-mandys-coming-toronto/
FRESHII - 43 Photos & 17 Reviews - Fast Food - 3454 Park Ave, Montreal, QC - Restaurant Reviews - Phone Number
Freshii is an up-and-coming franchise that originated in Toronto, another major metropolitan city in Canada. Freshiis serves a number of delicious wraps, salads, and smoothies, with a number of vegetarian and vegan alternatives.  Their energy bites and frozen yogurt are perfect compliments to any meal. https://www.yelp.ca/biz/freshii-montreal-4
THE GREEN PANTHER, Montreal - Le Plateau Mont-Royal - Updated 2021 Restaurant Reviews, Menu & Prices - Tripadvisor
Green Panther in the Mount Royal borough of Montreal is a great vegetarian/vegan spot serving creating takes on typical dishes like tacos and burritos. https://www.tripadvisor.ca/Restaurant_Review-g155032-d6654164-Reviews-The_Green_Panther-Montreal_Quebec.html
Lola Rosa - Le Plateau-Mont-Royal - Restaurant Photos, Menus, Reviews & more - RestoMontreal
Cafe Lola Rosa is another great spot serving vegetarian options. Their motto is about showing non-vegetarians that a plant-based meal can be equally as delicious, filling, and nutritious as a non-plant-based meal. https://www.restomontreal.ca/resto/lola-rosa-montreal/3532/en/
LOV McGill - LOV
Lov is a trendy restaurant with several locations throughout Montreal. The Gnocchi and Mac and Cheese are great options with healthy twists. Their desserts, coffee, and matcha are also delicious. https://lov.com/en/restaurants/lov-centropolis/
VENICE MTL, Montreal - Ville-Marie - Restaurant Reviews, Photos & Phone Number - Tripadvisor
Another great spot with a number of vegetarian and vegan options is Venice, located in Old Montreal. Their surfer aesthetic and kind staff make the experience eating there vibrant and enjoyable. be sure to try out their tacos or any of their power bowls.https://www.tripadvisor.ca/Restaurant_Review-g155032-d10154104-Reviews-Venice_MTL-Montreal_Quebec.html

Smoked Meat

Schwartz's : Montreal's most famous & renowned deli - TASTET
Schwartz Deli is an iconic spot to get a classic smoked meat sandwich. If you’re looking to pair your sandwich with fries or a hot dog, this is not the place. Schwartz prides itself on serving authentic smoked meat, and only smoked meat. Smoked meat is similar to baloney or pastrami. It is usually smoked with a layer of pepper crust and the best kind always includes some fat for tenderness. https://tastet.ca/en/2018/03/11/schwartzs/
SNOWDON DELI - 143 Photos & 121 Reviews - Delis - 5265 Boulevard Décarie, Montréal, QC - Restaurant Reviews - Phone Number - Yelp
Snowden Deli is an iconic spot located in the Notre-dame-de-Grace/Cote-des-Neiges region of Montreal. As a typical Jewish deli, it also serves matzo ball soup and fresh latkes. https://www.yelp.ca/biz/snowdon-deli-montr%C3%A9al-3
DUNNS FAMOUS, Laval - Menu, Prices & Restaurant Reviews - Tripadvisor
Dunn’s is a truly famous smoked meat joint in Montreal. Although it is pricier than places like Snowden Deli, you cannot go wrong with the smoked meat here. https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g155029-d5107544-Reviews-Dunns_Famous-Laval_Quebec.html

Baloney Sandwiches 

Wilensky's - Wikipedia
Wilensky’s stands alone, serving authentic boloney sandwiches just as they did fifty years ago. The interior is full of paraphernalia from the past that takes you through a time warp. Never ask for your sandwich to be modified, and especially do not ask for ‘no mustard.’ Be sure to check out their selection of sodas, including cherry and vanilla cola options as well as a number of fun twists on the classic root beer. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilensky%27s

Gelato 

BEST ICE CREAM & GELATO'S IN TOWN - Roberto, Montreal Traveller Reviews - Tripadvisor
Robertos in Montreal serves the best gelato in town. It is arguably the only place serving Italian ice cream that resembles the real thing. https://www.tripadvisor.ca/ShowUserReviews-g155032-d708464-r27248988-Roberto-Montreal_Quebec.html
Dolce & Santella Gelato Artisanal | Tourisme Laval
Dolce and Santella is a new gelato joint located in the suburb of Laval. It comes close to the quality at Robertos, even offering some new and unique flavors like mascarpone and maple bacon.https://www.tourismelaval.com/en/activities-in-laval/restaurants/dolce-santella-gelato-artisanal 

Bagels

Our locations - St-Viateur Bagel
St. Viateur Bagel sells wood-oven baked sesame bagels. They have been a Montreal staple for decades and have multiple locations in the Plateau borough as well as in Laval. https://www.stviateurbagel.com/en/locations
Fairmount Bagel - Wikipedia
Fairmount Bagel is located around the corner from St. Viateur. Their bagels are equally as delicious and they also often fun alternatives like blueberry and cranberry flavors. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairmount_Bagel

Pho and Bahn Min 

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Pho is a delicious Vietnamese soup dish that has become wildly popular among Montrealers. I Am Pho is one of the most highly rated locations to get this dish in the city.  https://iampho.net/
The Best Vietnamese Restaurants for Pho in Montreal - Eater Montreal
Other Pho places worth visiting include: pho Duy Anh, Vien Dong, and Pho Tay Ho. https://montreal.eater.com/maps/best-pho-soupe-tonkinoise-vietnamese-restaurants-montreal

Green Spaces

Montreal is home to a number of stunning parks and natural habitats.  Mount Royal is by far the most popular visited spot in the city.  It is an inactive volcano that has become a key location for hiking, biking, and picnicking.

Mount Royal in Montréal: Come Visit, Help or Volunteer - Les amis de la montagne
View of the city from Mount Royal during the fall. https://www.lemontroyal.qc.ca/en
Mount Royal Park | Montreal | Quebec | Canada 🇨🇦 - YouTube
An aerial view of Mount Royal, featuring its famous Beaver Lake, where individuals can cool off during the warm summer months. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7L-qPi11u5A
Mount Royal Park | Tourisme Montréal
Skiers admiring the viewpoint at Mount Royal in the winter. https://www.mtl.org/en/what-to-do/activities/mount-royal-park
Jarry Park - Wikipedia
Another beautiful green space in Montreal is Jarry Park. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jarry_Park
Jeanne-Mance Park - Montreal
Park Jean Mance is another stunning green space in the heart of the city, located in the trendy area of Mount-Royal/The Plateau and not far from McGill University. https://imtl.org/montreal/image.php?id=1894
Centre de la nature: Family Fun for Everyone | Laval News | thesuburban.com
In the suburb of Laval, Centre de la Nature park is a vast green space offering playgrounds for children, soccer fields, a public pool area, tennis courts, a lake for summer and winter activities alike, and a number of stunning walkways. https://www.thesuburban.com/news/laval_news/centre-de-la-nature-family-fun-for-everyone/article_11bd45e0-f124-5f88-91ba-3af088ca1cea.html

Why visit Montreal?

Overall, Montreal is a stunning city.  It champions diversity, multiculturalism, and social progress in admirable ways.  So much about the city was missed in the short article, but it truly does offer a great taste of different cultures, traditions, and cuisines.  From restaurants, to architecture, to its own history, the city is certainly worth visiting the next time you take a trip to Canada.

In the Eyes of Montreal: How it gets its fame from being a Non-Capital City?
An aerial view of Montreal’s Old Port. https://worldarchitecture.org/architecture-news/eccvv/in-the-eyes-of-montreal-how-it-gets-its-fame-from-being-a-noncapital-city-.html

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