Montreal is known for its European vibes, being the first Canadian city to host the Olympics and the cultural capital of the country.
Montreal is a major city of Quebec and has a population of 4,200,000. It is the fourth largest French-speaking city in the world but the majority of its population is bi-lingual, speaking both French and English.
Its old-world charm and modern-day sophistication make it a sought-after travel destination for visitors from all over the world. But what is Montreal known for? What sets this city apart from so many others and makes it stand out?
What Is Montreal Known For?
Well, for starters, it snagged the 2022 title of “Coolest Street in the World”. It was also the first Canadian city to host the Olympics; we all know that the committee doesn’t settle for just anybody.
Montreal is known for its European vibes. Its cobblestone streets and stunning architecture will have you feeling like you have been transported directly to Europe. Its uniqueness attracts millions of tourists every year who come to check out the culinary scene, the nightlife, and the world-renowned festivals.
Oh, and one more little tidbit that Montreal is famous for in case the first few weren’t enough to pique your interest. John Lennon and Yoko Ono wrote the song “Give Peace a Chance” during a bed-in here after they were denied entry to the States.
We have only covered the tip of the iceberg! Here are the top things Montreal is known for from someone who has lived in Canada. And you won’t want to miss a single one.
History, Culture, And Traditions Montreal is Known For
Montreal is famous for being a vibrant city that embraces its cultural heritage. Throughout the year, there are tons of popular festivals that celebrate diversity and bring people together. Whether you’re interested in music, comedy, food, or art, Montreal has it.
The Festival Montréal en Lumière is one of the largest winter festivals in the world. Spanning over ten blocks, this winter wonderland is illuminated with art installations and features music, food, parties, and shows. You could even make your way down to the Ice Bar after in Riverside St-Henri to keep on brand with the winter theme.
If winter isn’t your thing, summertime in Montreal is known for the Just for Laughs festival, the Montreal International Jazz festival, Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, Montreal, the Montreal Pride Festival, and also the Montreal Fireworks Festival.
See… we told you there was something for everyone!
Arts & Culture
With the first language of Quebec being French, Montreal is known for being a unique city that has combined French and English traditions in a way nowhere else in the world has. This has earned it the title of “Canada’s Culture Capital”.
It is not only a hub for French-speaking tv, radio, and film productions but is also recognized for its rich dance, theater, and music scenes.
Museums & Historical Sites
The history of Montreal is extensive and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is the place to go if you want to learn all about it.
If you are drawn more to science than history, Montreal has an abundance of science-related museums located in the Olympic Park Complex including the Montreal Biodome and the Montreal Planetarium.
Montreal was founded in 1642 which makes it the fourth oldest city in Canada. However, the St. Lawrence Iroquoians were the original inhabitants of the land.
The neighborhood of Old Montreal has narrow sidewalks, cobblestone streets, and historical buildings where you can learn about Montreal’s indigenous and colonial past.
Cirque du Soleil
Montreal is famous for being the birthplace of Cirque du Soleil. Guy Laliberté and Gilles Ste-Croix were the creative geniuses of this contemporary circus masterpiece.
If you have never seen a Cirque du Soleil show, it is a must. The themes, the acrobats, the storytelling, the music, it turns everyone into a raving fan and you will not regret it. Trust us on this one, it is one of the best things to do in Montreal.
Districts And Areas Montreal is Famous For
Verdun is a neighborhood located just 15 minutes from downtown along the St. Lawrence River. The world’s coolest street, Rue du Wellington, is also located in Verdun and is well worth checking out.
From a secret beach to Tuk Tuk and endless restaurants, bars, and activities it’s a family-friendly place with so much to see and do.
Another “cool” list spotlight, the Mile End neighborhood has earned recognition as the fifth coolest neighborhood in the world. This trendy area in Montreal is known for its relaxed atmosphere and authentic charm.
There is an abundance of festivals, quirky cafes, and a pretty impressive indie arts scene. Even the back alleys are charming, many having been transformed into walkable green spaces.
Old Montreal is the place to go if you want to get a genuine feel for the history that Montreal is famous for.
This area is around 400 years old and just strolling through the neighborhood is an activity in itself. The charm, the architecture, and the view take you back in time and have you appreciating the true wonder of the city.
The district is also renowned for being one of the best places to shop in the entire city. There are many boutique shops and the only vintage poster art gallery in the country is located here if you’re looking for something that is truly one of a kind.
Montreal is famous for being a city that is built around a mountain, and that mountain is Mont-Royal. If you’re looking to get some spectacular 360-degree views of the city or a great spot to watch the Montreal Fireworks Festival, this is it!
Mont-Royal is also a great place to take part in some recreational activities such as hiking, tobogganing, and birdwatching.
Architecture And Landmarks Montreal is Known For
Notre Dame Basilica
Built in the 1820s, Notre Dame Basilica is one of the oldest and most visited churches in North America.
This famous Canadian landmark is an absolutely breathtaking building that is reminiscent of an old-time castle with its bell tower, blue stained glass, and shimmering gold-leaf accents all crafted in a Gothic Revival architecture style.
In addition, you want to keep an eye out for the timing of shows and events. The Aura is a visually stunning light show that is put on multiple times a week. It highlights the architecture of the Basilica in a way like nothing you’ve ever seen before.
There are also various concerts put on by orchestras and other groups so it’s worth checking out to see if one is going on when you’re visiting Montreal.
Montreal Underground City
The Underground City, also known as RESO, is the biggest underground pedestrian network in the world and is used by half a million people every day.
It is a 33-kilometer indoor pedestrian network that connects over 2,2000 shops and has over 250 access points, making it easy to find. RESO is used not only to escape the harsh winters but also to escape the hot, humid Summers Montreal is known for.
It may sound like a labyrinth but there are many signs to help you navigate the maze so you don’t get lost. You can access hotels, a shopping mall, museums, train stations, and universities all from the Underground City. There is even a skating rink down there that is open year-round!
You can imagine this is one of the most commonly visited landmarks in Montreal for both visitors and locals.
The site of the first Canadian Olympic games is still a bustling attraction with lots to offer. From the science-themed museums to monthly food truck events, a winter village, and many other festivals, the Olympic Park always has something going on for adventure-seekers of all ages.
You can also take a tour of the Olympic stadium or even go for a dip in the actual Olympic pool for the low price of $7 CAD!
If you’re into theme parks, La Ronde is the second biggest amusement park in Canada and part of the Six-Flags chain. It is home to The Goliath, one of the highest and fastest roller coasters in North America.
There are more than 40 attractions making La Ronde a great way to spend an exciting day with the family, especially if you have some hard-to-please thrill seekers in the mix.
Sports Montreal Is Famous For
Montreal is known for having some of the most hardcore fans in hockey and for good reason – the Montreal Canadiens are one of the greatest teams in the NHL.
They hold the record for the most Stanley Cups. Their most famous players, Maurice Richard, and Guy Lafleur both hold legend status, not only in Montreal but in the hearts of hockey fans everywhere.
Catching a hockey game in Montreal will have you buzzing with the contagious electric energy that is felt throughout the stadium. From the chants to the cheers and even the team itself, it will highlight why hockey is 100% Canada’s game.
Since there is no NFL in Canada, the CFL team, Montreal Alouettes are the ones to watch if you’re itching to catch a football game. The CFL does have many NFL players who just couldn’t hack it in the big leagues but still play in Canada because of their love of the game.
The CFL season runs from June to November but if you’re looking to catch a game later in the season, be prepared for snow!
Car racing fans around the world know Montreal is famous for three high-profile racing events that the city hosts every year. The Formula One Canadian Grand Prix, the NAPA Auto Parts 200, and the Montreal 200. The Grand Prix is the largest sporting event in the country, attracting fans and racers from all over the world.
Food Montreal Is Known For
Foodies around the world are well aware of the mouth-watering delight that Montreal is known for, the smoked meat sandwich.
Sure, the bagels in this city are also top-tier, but the bagels haven’t had an entire musical made about them like smoked meat has. You could get the best of both worlds by making a smoked meat sandwich in a bagel to have your mind really blown.
Be sure to take advantage of the exciting Montreal food tours to explore the hidden gems and best dishes in the city.
Canada is known for maple syrup and it is no surprise that the country produces 85% of the world’s supply.
That said, Montreal is famous for its maple syrup festival, Cabane Panache, which is one of the most Canadian events we have ever seen.
There is wood chopping, ice sculptures, and maple syrup frozen on snow into taffy, so if you’re looking for an authentic Canadian experience, you need to check this out.
Poutine was created in the province of Quebec and the Montreal restaurants that serve it do not disappoint. While it is just french fries topped with cheese curds and gravy, the dish hits all markers.
The cheese curds add an element to the dish that will change the way you look at fries for the rest of your life. Once you have tried this iconic symbol of Montreal cuisine, you will be complete.
Famous People From Montreal
Canadian treasure and world-renowned singer, Celine Dion hails from Montreal, Quebec. She holds the title of the best-selling Canadian artist and best-selling French-language artist of all time.
Celine has received many awards and nominations throughout her career, but something that many people don’t know about her is that she performed for the Pope and 60,000 others at the Olympic stadium when she was just 16 years old.
While Celine has always been incredibly successful, the 90s were huge for helping to catapult her career to new heights.
She not only co-performed the title song for Disney’s Beauty and the Beast but also the theme song, My Heart Will Go On for Titanic. The song won an Oscar for best original song, multiple Grammy awards, a Golden Globe, and was one of the best-selling singles of all time.
William Shatner, more famously known as James Kirk in the original Star Trek series is another famous face from Montreal.
He began acting at the age of 6 at a summer camp and continued throughout his childhood at local productions. Shatner carried his love of theater to college and acted on CBC Radio.
It wasn’t until after he had graduated from McGill University in Montreal that he got his big break on Broadway.
Christophe Plummer was supposed to perform the role of Henry V in a production of Tamburlaine the Great but was hospitalized. Shatner was called in with 3 hours notice to replace him. The rest of his outstanding career is history.
Discovering More Things Montreal Is Known For
Montreal is a city with great people, rich history, and lots of culture. Everything that you find in this city has a uniquely French twist and a special, enchanting feel to it. There are so many things that Montreal is famous for that did not make our list but are still worth checking out.
If you are planning a trip there in the future, the lively city has so much to offer that it will leave you in awe!