17 things to know if you're coming to Montreal for the first time

Apr 11 2022, 3:15 pm

Is it your first time in Montreal?

There are a few things about the city you might want to know beforehand because Montreal runs a little bit differently than the rest of the country.

Montreal is the second-most populous city in Canada and the most in Quebec. The city is named after Mont-Royal, the triple-peaked hill in the heart of the island.

While French is the obvious standout in Montreal, this handy little guide might give you a little leg up if you’re coming to the city for the first time. Because if you call it a “patio” once, everyone will know you’re from out of town.

Here are 17 things to know about Montreal before you come here for the first time.

1. There are bikes EVERYWHERE


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Tourisme Montréal (@montreal)

Montreal has more than 350 km worth of bike paths so as a first-timer, keep your head up. Whether you’re on any of the city’s bike paths or the regular road, be wary of bikes. Bikers are serious and if you’re not paying attention, you might start off your time in Montreal on your keester.

2. Speaking French is not a deal-breaker

Montreal is the second-largest primarily french speaking city in the world, next to Paris. The downtown core, however, speaks both English and French. Sure, the French language is everywhere (signs and laws) but it’s not a deal-breaker.

Master the basics as a form of respect and politeness: Bonjour: hello, toilette: restroommerci: thank-you, and une autre bière s’il vous plaît: another beer, please, should do you just fine, to start.

3. You can get beer everywhere


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Couche-Tard (@couchetardqc)

Speaking of beer, you can purchase it everywhere. Besides liquor stores, beer and wine are sold at grocery stores, depanneurs, and even gas stations from 7 am to 11 pm and the legal purchase age is 18.

Despite being convenient and easily accessible the aforementioned stores (for the most part) have a good selection of products as well and it’s cheap: A 24 of local beer ranges from $25 to $30.

4. They’re called depanneurs

Obviously, we have convenience stores in Quebec, they’re just not called that. They’re colloquially referred to as depanneurs, or deps, for short.

Don’t say ‘convenience store’ – that sounds like a trendy new bar in The Plateau, not somewhere you’d go when you need milk, bread, and a six-pack.

5. We have metros, not subways


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by STM Mouvement collectif (@stminfo)

Similarly, our underground public transit system is referred to as the metro, not the subway.

6. Terraces, not patios

If you and your friends want to hook up for a few drinks and a meal outside, there’s plenty of opportunities, especially downtown. But, we call them terraces, not patios. Start throwing around words like ‘depanneurs,’ ‘terrace,’ and ‘5 à 7,’ and people will think you’ve been here for years.

7. No right on red

Montreal is one of the only places in the country where it’s not permitted to make a right turn on a red light. In the rest of Quebec, it’s allowed but on the island of Montreal it’s a no-no.

8. Leave early: Construction and traffic is constant


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by jessica mathewson (@jemathewson)

Construction in Montreal is a constant struggle. As a first-time, we’d recommend doing your due diligence before heading out. Roads, highways, and streets are often detoured and diverted without notice. Leave early to ensure you’ll get wherever you’re going to on time, especially class. Also, watch out for the potholes, they’re lethal.

9. Parking is a whole thing

Similarly, plan ahead if you’re going to park downtown. The constant construction minimizes parking spots, there are a few gems to be found and be sure to download the P$ Mobile Service app so you can cover your parking costs from a distance.

10. 5 à 7 is our happy hour

Most bars and restaurants offer a 5 à 7 deal on weekdays which is our version of happy hour. It varies per bar and is most definitely not limited to two hours. Plenty of spots have a 5 à 7 that lasts from 4 pm to 8 pm, meaning you’re getting a deal on beer, wine, cocktails, and sometimes even free snacks as the work hours (and the sun) dwindle down.

11. Public transit is $3.25


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by STM Mouvement collectif (@stminfo)

Public transit in Monteal is a joint network called the STM (The Société de transport de Montréal) between the bus and metros. Single-ride tickets cost $3.25 and can be used as a transfer from the bus to metro and vice versa.

12. It’s f*cking cold

We don’t care where you’ve lived in Canada, Montreal is right up there (actually down there) when it comes to winter temperatures. This isn’t a tropical island location, it’s an icebox.

The city embraces the cold and you should too, it’s all part of the charm. The city offers tons of winter carnivals, events, and activities and as long as you have a warm coat, tuque, gloves, scarf, and boots you’ll be fine.

13. Last call is 2:45 am

Bars, restaurants and nightclubs start kicking people out at 3 am and last call happens 15 minutes prior. Some spots are a bit more lenient in terms of when you actually have to go, but don’t become that person until they’re comfortable with you.

Customers can’t be on the terrace past 10 pm, either and they’re also smoke-free.

14. All the signs are French

Under Bill-101, all signs are required by law to be written in French. An English subtitle follows in smaller writing underneath for the most part, but don’t let that scare you.

Just because a sign is written in French, doesn’t mean they won’t speak or deal with English. The majority of places downtown speak both languages.

15. No street food, food trucks

Street vendors aren’t allowed in Montreal. So, no streetside pretzel but we make up for it with food trucks. Various boroughs in Montreal have food truck parties and the food is delicious.

You can find the food truck schedule on the Ville de Montreal website.

16. July 1st is moving day

If you’re about to sign or lease for a new place, understand that they run from July 1 to July 1. Canada Day in Montreal shares a date with what is known as Moving Day. The province gets pretty hectic on Moving Day, so we’d recommend planning ahead. Rent vans, movers, and painters well before the first of July.

17. Don’t jay-walk

Jay-walking is a no-no in Montreal and you’ll get slapped with a $53 fine if you’re caught crossing the street when you shouldn’t be. Montreal police are pretty good at catching you too, so don’t even try.

18. Last but not least


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Hurleys Irish Pub (@hurleysirishpub)

It’s common for bartenders and wait staff to do shots/have drinks with customers. If you want to show your server that they’re doing a good job (or heck, even if you don’t want to drink alone), a shot goes a long way.

Bars and restaurants are usually good at repaying the favour as well and it’s certainly a good way to establish yourself as a good regular.


Ty JadahTy Jadah

+ Curated