Geography of Montreal



Some people in North America say, "If you can't go to Paris, go to Montréal". But that is unfair to a city that is great in it's own right. It combines the enchanting old world charm of Europe with innovation all of its own. The city is an eclectic mix of French, English, native, and immigrant roots into something which embodies the height of culture. The island metropolis has a world-class music scene, divine cuisine, and vibrant arts community. This city of duality equally embraces the old and the new.

Natives are incredibly proud of their bilingual city and immigrants from around the world are drawn to it's flame. Artists, university students, working professionals, and tourists all flock to the largest city (second largest metropolitan area) of Canada. The city is Canada's leading commercial, industrial, service, cultural, and intellectual center. Montréal just has "je ne sais quoi" (An intangible quality that makes something distinctive or attractive).

The city is located in the southwest of the province of Québec at latitude: 45 degrees 3 North; longitude: 73 degrees 35 West. The cultural capital, it lies approximately 275 kilometers (171 miles) southwest of Québec City, the provincial capital, and 167 kilometers (104 miles) east of Ottawa, the federal capital. Neighboring cities include Toronto (NE 502 kilometers or 312 miles), Boston (NW 407 kilometers or 253 miles) and New York City (N 530 kilometers or 330 miles). It has a population of 1,649,519.

Named after a three-head hill called Mount Royal, the city is located on the central and eastern portions of the Island of Montréal, the largest island in the Hochelaga Archipelago. The archipelago has more than 320 islands and about one-third of it is occupied by the city proper, which covers 177 sq km (68 sq mi). The Saint Lawrence and Ottawa Rivers border the island with the port of Montréal at one end of the Saint Lawrence Seaway. This stretches to the Great Lakes into the Atlantic Ocean.


Most of the city streets are arranged in a grid pattern. Cross streets are named and numbered as being east and west of St. Lawrence Boulevard boulevard. St. Lawrence (popularly known as The Main) is a major thoroughfare, crossing the island from south to north. Traditionally, this was the border between Francophone (French-speaking) east (est) Montréal and the Anglophone (English-speaking) west (ouest) section. Today, these sections mix and overlap, with French pockets dotting both sides of the Main.

Directions are also a bit confusing in that north, south, east, and west as determined by the compass are usually ignored. Instead, directions are given relative to the St. Lawrence River, which is taken as flowing west to east (even though it flows north or northeast past the island). This means that directions along streets parallel to the river are referred to as "west" and "east," and those along streets perpendicular to the river as "north" and "south". This means that while a site will be described as being "north", it is actually northwest. This is sometimes indicate by saying "Montréal directions". This has led to Montréal being called "the only city where the sun sets in the north."


The island of Montréal is divided into 19 boroughs (arrondissements) and 15 municipalities (which are considered autonomous "suburban units"). Most of the city's boroughs are further sub-divided into neighborhoods. Each of the city's neighborhoods have a distinct personality. Explore them all, and decide which suits your best to find a place to live. Below are some of the major neighborhoods.

Borough Ville-Marie: Ville-Marie is the oldest and most central of Montréal's boroughs.
Centre-Ville (Downtown) - Main commercial and business area, with many hotels and restaurants. Limited, high-end housing.
Old Montréal (Vieux-Montréal) - The historic heart of the city holds the oldest monuments and main tourist attractions of Montréal.

The Cité Multimédia - A former industrial suburb turned densely packed area for new condos and conversions. Located just west of Vieux Montréal.
Quartier International - Mostly office / commercial and hotel buildings, with new condos on the build. Located north-west of Vieux Montréal (Old Montréal).
The Quartier des Spectacles - Neighborhood being re-developed with new living space. There are many entertainment venues in the area.
Shaughnessy Village - Lively area west of rue Guy and east of rue Atwater. Predominantly high-rise and residential housing filled with students and recent immigrants.
Quartier Latin - Small area next to the UQAM (Université du Québec à Montréal) campus. Great bars and restaurants, but occasional issues with social problems.
The village - Known as the gay area in Montréal, it is one of the largest gay villages in North America. Popular areas center on Saint Catherine street, Amherst street and Papineau avenue. There is excellent nightlife in Montréal's Village Gai or "le Village".
Chinatown - Located in the area of De la Gauchetière Street, this neighborhood contains many Asian restaurants, food markets, and convenience stores and is home to a segment of the city's Asian population. Smaller than Toronto and Vancouver's communities, this is a tourist-designated pedestrian area.

Borough Le Plateau Mont Royal:
Le Plateau-Mont-Royal - Low-rise residential area with many of the city's best restaurants and bars. Trendy and creative, Plateau Mont Royal is located on the twin North-South axes of Saint Laurent Boulevard and Saint Denis Street, and East-West axes of Mount Royal Avenue and Sherbrooke Street. Pedestrian-only Prince Arthur Street is also located in this neighborhood. The Plateau boasts the highest population density of all Montréal with something going on, day or night.
Mile End - Officially part of the Plateau borough, this tiny area is distinct. Home to artists and filmmakers and the city's two famous bagel emporia, the Fairmount and St-Viateur bakeries. Go here for art galleries, designers, and boutiques. It is more linguistically mixed than the predominantly French-speaking Plateau.
McGill Ghetto - Residential area east of McGill University, it is populated largely by its (mostly English-speaking) students. "Ghetto" is a bit misleading as the area is neither dangerous or dilapidated .

Borough Côte-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grâce: A large, mostly residential borough which consists of two large neighborhoods.
Côte-des-Neiges - One of the most ethnically mixed areas of Montréal. Its residents speak more than 100 languages at home, but French is spoken almost universally on the street.
Notre Dame de Grâce - Most buildings in the area are low-rise (3-5 floors). There is a point of contention with the redevelopment of Benny Farms - a housing complex owned by the federal government which used to house war veterans.

Borough Sud-Ouest:
Griffintown - Once known as the Irish gateway to North America, this is Montréal's southwest district. It is commonly referred to as "the Griff."
Saint-Henri - Rapidly gentrifying working-class neighborhood just west of Rue Atwater.

Municipality of Westmount:
Westmount is a predominantly English-speaking district located just west of Shaughnessy Village. It one of the self-governing municipalities located on the island of Montréal (and thus it is not a borough, but a city in its own right).


It is hard to comprehend the total mass of Canada. The world's second-largest country by total area, Canada extends from the Atlantic to the Pacific and northward into the Arctic Ocean. It is 9,984,670 km2 or 3,855,100 sq miles (land: 9,093,507 km2 or 3,511,023 sq miles; water: 891,163 km2 or 344,080 sq miles) which makes it slightly less than three-fifths as large as Russia and slightly larger than Europe. Covering 41% of northern North America, the country is divided into ten provinces and three territories. Canada shares the world's longest land border with it's neighbor to the south and northwest (Alaska), the United States of America. Greenland lies is to the northeast and off the southern coast of Newfoundland lies Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, an overseas collectivity of France. Since 1925, Canada has claimed the portion of the Arctic between 60 degrees W and 141 degrees W longitude to the North Pole - however, this claim is contested.

The physical geography of Canada is widely varied. Boreal forests cover much of the country, with ice taking over the northerly Arctic regions and through the Rocky Mountains, and the flat Canadian Prairies of agriculture occupying the southwest. The Appalachian mountains (more specifically the Notre Dame and Long Range Mountains) are approximately 380 million years in age and include notable mountains of Mount Jacques-Cartier of Québec (Elevation: 1,268 meter or 4,160 feet) and Mount Carleton of New Brunswick (Elevation: 817 meter or 2,680 feet). The Great Lakes feed into the St. Lawrence River in the southeast, which along with history has made it the host to much of Canada's population.

Environmental concerns include air pollution and the resulting acid rain. These factors have adversely affected lakes, forests, and ocean. Metal smelting, coal-burning utilities, and vehicle emissions have all been blamed for these effects. As part of the larger picture, global climate change and the warming of the polar region will affect the world at large, and in particular - Canada.


The population of Canada is approximately 34,980,000 and Canadians make up 0.5% of the world's total population. It is unusual in that it is concentrated along it's southern border, with a population density of 3.5 people per square kilometer (9.1/sq miles). The most densely populated part of the country is the Québec City - Windsor Corridor, situated in Southern Québec and Southern Ontario along the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River. Overall, the country is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world. This has led to the country being predisposed to open immigration which has been an important factor in its historical population growth and current make-up.

Provinces & Territories

Canada is a federation composed of ten provinces and three territories in four main regions (Western Canada, Central Canada, Atlantic Canada, Northern Canada; "Eastern Canada" refers to Central Canada and Atlantic Canada together). Provinces have more autonomy than territories such as social programs like health care, education, and welfare.

  • Alberta
  • British Columbia
  • Manitoba
  • New Brunswick
  • Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Nova Scotia
  • Ontario
  • Prince Edward Island
  • Québec
  • Saskatchewan
  • Northwest Territories
  • Nunavut
  • Yukon


As Canada is such a large nation, average temperatures and climate vary from region to region. Coastal Canada is more temperate, offering moderate highs and lows, with the interior and Prairie provinces experiencing more dramatic shifts. In the north, snow can cover the ground year-round. The National Climate Data and Information Archive offers detailed information on climate throughout the country.

Montréal is at the confluence of several climatic regions. It is classified as humid continental or hemiboreal with 4 distinct seasons.

  • Spring - Mild temperatures ranging from chilly to warm weather. The weather tends to be very unpredictable.
  • Summer - Warm to occasional hot & humid summers with average highs around 26°C. Summer is the wettest season statistically, but it is also the sunniest.
  • Fall - Mild weather starts to cool off towards the end of September. This time of year provides brilliant fall foliage.
  • Winter - Cold winters averaging around -30°C with average yearly snowfall of 2.25 meters (84 inches).
Montréal gets over 2,000 hours of sunshine annually, and precipitation is moderate throughout the year. For up-to-date weather information, consult Montréal Weather.

Time Zone

Canada uses six primary time zones. From east to west: Newfoundland Time Zone, Atlantic Time Zone, Eastern Time, Central Time Zone, Mountain Time Zone, and the Pacific Time Zone. In most of Canada, Daylight Saving Time begins at 2:00 local time on the second Sunday in March. On the first Sunday in November, areas on Daylight Saving Time return to Standard Time at 2:00. During Daylight Saving Time turn your clocks ahead one hour.

Montréal operates on North American Eastern Time Zone, UTC/GMT -5 hours.

Update 21/05/2013

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