Americans interested in living abroad generally concentrate on Europe or Asia. But you don’t have to cross the ocean to find someplace new and exciting. A few miles north, Canadian cities like Montreal offer a flavor, personality, and quality of life that’s both unique and unforgettable. Montreal is a bilingual city. In fact, there are more French speakers living in Montreal than any city outside Paris.
However, moving to Montreal is more than a chance to practice your French. It’s a chance to experience one of the most creative, prosperous, and laid-back cities in North America. For anyone who’s been thinking of life in another country, here are a few reasons Montreal might be exactly what you’re looking for.
Montreal is a major center for finance and industry. Since 2020, it’s added more than 19,000 jobs and will likely add another million over the next decade, thanks to continued growth in four key economic sectors:
- Life Sciences. Montreal is a leading hub for neuroscience, cardiology, oncology, biotechnology, medical technology, pharmaceuticals, and digital healthcare. The city has over 300 contract research and contract management organizations (CROs/CMOs). Investors have pumped millions into its R&D centers, which employ 44,000 people and counting.
- Education & Culture. There are eleven major universities in Montreal, helping students prepare for careers in science, business, music, dance, theater, architecture, urban planning, and digital design. The city is also a major center for film and television production. Most of the country’s French language movies and TV shows are shot here. The city is a favorite with English language productions as well. Its cobblestone streets and historic architecture make it a perfect and less expensive stand-in for Europe and a popular backdrop for period dramas.
- Engineering. Montreal contains Canada's largest aerospace cluster: 200 companies that generate more than $15 billion every year and are responsible for over half of Canada’s aerospace sales. It’s home to the world’s biggest concentration of AI researchers as well. The Province of Quebec has invested $140 million in Montreal’s deep learning technology firms, with additional funding from IBM, Google, FaceBook, and Amazon. The city’s also a leading producer of robotics, 3D printing, advanced materials, smart textiles, and smart manufacturing machinery.
- Finance & Commerce. Montreal is one of the largest providers of business services in the country, with hundreds of firms specializing in banking, insurance, accounting, digital marketing, web design, web development, IT strategy, IT management, consulting, and employee training.
Montreal has added 40,000-50,000 new residents almost every year since 2008. Despite this, the city has managed to keep its housing prices under control. In fact, low rent is one of the most common reasons people move to Montreal in the first place. Whether you prefer to live in the city center or out in the suburbs, the price of an apartment in Montreal is 16-40 percent lower than in other major Canadian cities such as Ottawa, Vancouver, or Toronto. Compared to American cities such as Seattle, New York, or Austin, it’s 50-70 percent lower.
Montreal knows how to cultivate nature. From its ponds to its playgrounds to its tree-lined fountains, the city provides plenty of escape from the urban jungle. With so many ways to enjoy the outdoors, it’s no surprise that parks here are packed year-round: spring, summer, fall, and winter. A few of its most popular attractions include:
- Mount Royal. Located in the center of town, Mount Royal is the namesake of Montreal. At 764 feet tall, it’s not technically a mountain, but don’t tell residents that unless you’re looking for a fight. Designed by the same architect as New York’s Central Park, it’s home to a fascinating array of plants and wildlife. During summer, people come to jog, hike, bicycle, and sunbathe. During winter, they come to ski, skate, sled, and have snowball fights.
- Jardin Botanique. The extensive grounds of this botanical garden contain over 22,000 plant species, 10 greenhouses, and 30 themed gardens, including a Chinese Garden, Japanese Garden, Southwestern Garden, and Rose Garden.
- Insectarium de Montréal. Immerse yourself in the insect realm at this interactive museum. Learn about insect biology, life cycle, and the role bugs play in our ecosystem. Enclosed environments let you get up close and observe how insects eat, fly, and climb in their natural habitats.
- Parc Olympique. Built for the 1976 Olympic Games, the Parc Olympique is a massive sports complex where residents go to swim, skate, climb, ski, and sled. It also hosts major events throughout the year, such as food fairs and monster truck rallies.
Montreal is the Canadian city that never sleeps. During Prohibition, thousands of Americans visited the city every week to enjoy its bars and taverns. Though it might not attract as many partiers as it did in those days, Montreal is still a city that knows how to have fun. Residents out for a good time can be found in:
- Crescent Street. Located in the heart of downtown, Crescent Street is famous for its bars, restaurants, and nightclubs. One of its biggest destinations is the Sir Winston Churchill Pub Complex, which offers a huge array of English Ales on the ground floor; burgers, fries, and pizza on the second floor; and a dance bar on the third floor, complete with cocktails and DJ. Down the street you’ll find Hurley’s Irish Pub, which serves the best Guinness in town, along with 50 scotch whiskeys. Most nights, you’ll find Irish dancing and music as well.
- Boulevard St-Laurent. Cutting through many of the city's ethnic neighborhoods, such as Chinatown and Little Italy, the Boulevard St-Laurent contains the largest collection of brewpubs, nightclubs, cabarets, dance halls, karaoke bars, and dive bars in town. It’s the place to catch the city’s top hip hop, techno, rock, acid, house, and jazz artists. Most nights, the party picks up around twelve and goes well into early morning.
- Quartier Latin. A growing hub of art, shopping, entertainment, and culture, Montreal’s Latin Quarter offers an eclectic mix of restaurants, bars, boutiques, cinemas, theaters, and art galleries. There are more than 20 pubs in the area, including Le Cheval Blanc, an artisanal brewpub known for its artsy and political patrons, and Le Sainte-Elisabeth, famous for its wide selection of liquor and its incredible beer garden ‒ perhaps the best place to grab a drink and enjoy the fall colors during autumn.
There is no end to the fun in Montreal. The city hosts nearly 90 public festivals every year. Some swallow up whole city blocks while others are confined to only a few buildings. No matter your interests or background, you’ll never be at a loss for something to do. Some of the biggest and most popular celebrations include:
- Festival International De Jazz De Montréal. The largest jazz festival in the world, with over 450 indoor and outdoor concerts featuring local and international artists. Listen to innovative beats from Canada’s best up-and-coming bands and the smooth tunes of industry legends from around the world.
- Just For Laughs. The world’s largest comedy festival, with acts presented in both French and English. Comedians, sketch comedy, and side-splitting Broadway shows will keep you laughing well into the night with their zany antics, rapier wit, and hysterical one-liners.
- Montreal International Fireworks Competition. The world’s greatest pyrotechnicians gather together to try and outdo one another with a fantastic array of light and color. Buy your tickets early and watch the explosions light up the sky over the St. Lawrence River.
- Festival Du Nouveau Cinéma. Screens more than 200 movies from 60 different countries in order to promote cutting edge cinema and film technology. See what the future holds for movie screens across Canada and the world!
- Fetes Des Neiges (Winter Fest). Encourages every Montrealer to get out and have fun in the snow. Go snow tubing, snowshoeing, ice skating, and ice climbing around the city’s parks. They even have a mini-golf course set up on the ice. When you’re done, grab some hot cocoa and marvel at the festival's glittering ice sculptures or attend one of the many concerts held throughout this incredible, four-week event.
Vibrant Art Scene
Montreal is a town that puts its imagination on display. Its diverse population attracts a wide range of creative and adventurous artists, eager to push the boundaries of craftsmanship and self-expression. Walls and alleyways around the city are decorated with bright, intricate, and fantastic murals, a living and ever-changing testament to the city’s creativity. But no deep dive into Montreal’s art scene would be complete without a visit to:
- The Contemporary Art Museum of Montreal. Contains over 8,500 sculptures, paintings, and art installations reflecting the influential artistic and social movements of the past 100 years.
- Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. A multidisciplinary museum with more than 40,000 pieces of art, including classical art, modern art, early modern art, international art, and decorative art, as well as an extensive sculpture garden on the grounds outside.
- Station 16. An urban art gallery featuring works by emerging and established artists who blend classic, modern, and pop culture influences in order to present a fresh and challenging perspective on Canadian society.
- La Guilde. A non-profit gallery that promotes Inuit and First Nations art. Drawing on traditional craftsmanship and modern technology, La Guilde sheds new light on indigenous communities and aesthetics.
- Articule. The only artist-run center in Montreal, created to give voice to rising and experimental Canadian artists and build networks with the creative community throughout the country and around the world.
Moving to Montreal
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