Montréal is home to much of the French language media in Canada, including television and film productions, theatre, radio, print and multimedia publishing. The city is unique in Canada as it straddles English and French traditions, giving it many distinctively North American characteristics, while also maintaining an element of its European roots.
This exchange of cultures has led to a population that is immersed in the arts, especially visual arts, theatre, music and dance. Montréal is home to many large-scale cultural and social events, particularly festivals, most of which take place in the summer months. The most famous of these is the Just for Laughs comedy festival (July 11-29, 2018), which is the largest comedy festival in the world. Other popular festivals include the Montréal World Film Festival, Nuit Blanche, Montréal International Jazz Festival, Les FrancoFolies de Montréal, Nuitsd’Afrique, Igloofest, Pop Montréal, the Canadian Grand Prix (a Formula One race) and the Montréal Fireworks Festival.
The venue for many of these festivals is the Place des Arts, which is located on the east side of the downtown core. This complex houses six performance halls, used for both concerts and theatre, which are laid out around a large outdoor square (the Esplanade). In the summer, the Esplanade is used for many free shows and events. The Place des Arts is the headquarters of the Montréal Symphony Orchestra, the OrchestreMétropolitain du Grand Montréal and the chamber orchestra I Musici de Montréal, the Opéra de Montréal and Les Grands Ballets Canadiens.
Montréal is home to several museums, galleries and exhibition centres. The Montréal Museum of Fine Arts (Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal) showcases a varied collection of European, Amerindian, Inuit and Canadian art. The Musée d’art contemporain has a diverse collection of contemporary art from Québec, Canadian and International artists. Other museums of note include the Montréal Museum of Archeology and History, the Redpath Museum, the McCord Museum of Canadian History, the Stewart Museum and the Canadian Centre for Architecture.
In addition to the various museums dedicated to the arts and history, Montréal has severalscience and nature museums. The Montréal Biodome reproduces some of the most interesting ecosystems in the Americas, including a tropical rainforest and the sub-polar regions of Labrador. This museum is located in the Olympic Park complex along with several others, including the Montréal Planetarium, the Montréal Insectarium and the Montréal Botanical Gardens. In the Old Port of Montréal is the Montréal Science Centre, which has many interactive exhibits and an IMAX theatre. The Laval Cosmodome is 40 minutes northwest of Montréal. It houses Canada’s Space Camp and the Space Science Centre. The Ecomuseum Zoo and the Granby Zoo are also just a short drive from downtown Montréal.
The city is also known for its architecture, especially its churches. In fact, Montréal is often called “la ville aux cent clochers” (the city of a hundred bell towers). There are four Roman Catholic basilicas in the city: Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral, Notre-Dame Basilica, St. Patrick’s Basilica and Saint Joseph’s Oratory. The Oratory is the largest church in Canada and has one of the largest domes of its kind in the world. From its location at the top of Westmount hill, the church provides excellent views of the entire city.
The nightlife in Montréal is unparalleled in the rest of Canada. This reputation is often attributed to the city’s large university population, the relatively late “last call”, the drinking age, which is eighteen, and its excellent transportation system. The variety of its clubs and bars attest to the popularity of Montréal’s nightlife, with options to appease the diverse interests of its population. The nightlife in Montreal is especially lively in the Quartier Latin and downtown. In the Quartier Latin, Saint-Denis Street is popular among the French-speaking population. English-speaking Montréalers are typically drawn to the western part of downtown, especially Crescent Street. Saint-Laurent Street is also a popular nightlife destination. These streets are all crossed by Sainte-Catherine Street, which extends east into the heart of Montréal’s gay nightlife scene.
Points of interest outside Montréal include the cities of Ottawa, Toronto, Kingston, Québec City and Niagara Falls. Tourists are also attracted to Upper Canada Village, Québec City’s Carnaval de Québec, the Thousand Islands, the Laurentians, Wakefield, the lakes in Gatineau Park and whale watching in Rivière-du-Loup.
There are several large mountains near Montréal which have excellent trails for hiking and skiing, including Mont Tremblant, Mont Cascades, Gatineau Park, Bromont, Mont-Sainte-Anne, Mont Blanc, Saint-Sauveur, Le Massif, Whiteface in New York State and Jay Peak in Vermont. Montréal is also close to many popular lakes and beaches, notably Lac Phillipe, Emerald Lake, Beach club de Pointe-Calumet, Parc Jean-Drapeau, Bois de L'Ile Bizard Beach and Nature Park, Cap St. Jacques Nature Park, Park National d'Oka, and St. Zotique Beach.