Montreal Essentials

Bienvenue à Montréal! By deciding to come to McGill, you’ll not only be attending one of the best universities in the world, you'll also be living in one of its most amazing cities.

McGill is located in the heart of Montreal, one of the largest French-language cities in the world and one of North America’s most cosmopolitan, dynamic and multicultural metropolises. It combines all the amenities of a large modern city with a rich history and diverse landscape, and provides a host of exciting cultural opportunities to explore. This section is a quick guide to help you find nearby necessities and start your discovery of the city.

Of course, the best way to discover more about the city is to get out there. If you only stick to the “McGill bubble”, you won’t really be able to say you got to live in Montreal!

It's easy to fall in love with Montreal, but we know you're wondering about the basics. What language do Montrealers speak? How cold does the city get in winter? Find these answers and get acquainted with the city using the below tips.


French is the primary language used on signs, in public service establishments, and in businesses.

In many regions of Montreal, English is widely spoken, and most of the information is available bilingually. You may want to download a translation app on your phone or pack a French-English dictionary, especially if you plan to venture outside of downtown Montreal.

To help you integrate into Montreal’s bilingual culture, McGill provides various French-language tutorial resources to current and prospective students. McGill’s French Language Centre (FLC) is a department of the Faculty of Arts with a unique mandate to offer credit courses in French as a Second Language to students registered in any academic program. Look for them by their FRSL course subject code. Another fun way to learn French at McGill is to take a SSMU MiniCourse, or a PGSS French Conversation course if you are a graduate student. You can also check into French immersion programs happening during the Winter or Summer break in areas such as Québec City.

Montreal Winter

Montreal is one of the coldest cities in North America, where winter temperatures can reach -30 degrees Celsius (-22 degrees Fahrenheit) with wind chill. Snowfalls generally begin in November, and can occasionally last into April.

While you can move around areas of downtown via the underground city, you will need warm winter clothing, including a winter coat, a knitted winter cap (called a tuque), winter gloves, and waterproof winter boots.


Public Transit

Montreal's public transportation is arguably one of the most efficient in North America. Operated by the Société de transport de Montréal (STM), our buses and Métro (subway) make getting around extremely convenient. Exploring is a simple and inexpensive experience as well — we wholeheartedly encourage you to give it a shot!

If not buying single tickets, you must purchase a rechargeable OPUS card, which is normally good for a year. Reduced fares are available for students. For more information, consult the STM's transit maps, fares, schedules and OPUS card information online. To be eligible for the student fares, order your OPUS card in Minerva, get more information here!

Public transit tips

Bus drivers don't give change. Tickets may be purchased on a bus for exact change (or by over-payment). All Métro stations have ticket booths and some convenience stores (dépanneurs) sell tickets and passes. Student fares are substantially cheaper than regular fares, but you must have a student OPUS (photo ID) card to verify your eligibility.

If you're purchasing monthly passes, you may be eligible for a non-refundable tax credit. Make sure to save your receipt so that you can claim this credit when you file your tax return.

If you are paying in cash, it’s important to keep your proof of payment receipt as it will permit you to ride several buses and the Métro on one ticket, valid for up to 120 minutes. You do not need a transfer or pass to exit the Métro system but STM security does make regular verification of people's tickets or passes inside the Métro or when getting off a bus.


Montreal has a comprehensive system of bike paths, many of which converge downtown.

Bixi is Montreal’s public bike system. The stations are installed in the spring, starting at the beginning of April, depending on weather conditions. Stations are kept in service until Mid-November, before being removed from the streets for the winter. There are many Bixi stations around McGill.

Taxis and Uber


Wearing a mask is required while in a taxi. If the public transit routes or schedules don't suit your needs, you can always hail a taxi on most major streets. Alternatively, give them a call and they'll pick you up. Major taxi services include:


Macdonald Campus (West End/West Island)

East End


Uber is also available in Montreal. They now offer pickup from the airport. For more information, please their website.

Travelling outside Montreal

By Air

Wearing a mask is required when traveling by air, and while in the terminal, as well as while travelling in a bus or taxi.

Montreal is served by Pierre Elliott Trudeau International (YUL) airport. If you are coming to Montreal by car, get driving directions.

Taxis are required by law to charge a flat rate for the trip to or from Trudeau, plus posted rates for luggage handling.

The STM 747 Express Bus line runs from the downtown bus terminal to Trudeau International, making several stops along the way. There is a charge to get in and this comes with a 24h pass for any other bus and the metro. If you have the monthly pass, you may ride the 747 bus for free.

By Bus

Montreal has bus connections to cities throughout North America. The main bus terminal is Station Centrale de l'Autobus de Montréal. Major bus companies include:

By Train

Wearing a mask is required while traveling by train, as well as when within the train station.

Montreal is on Via Rail's Windsor-Quebec City corridor, and train travel is possible throughout North America. As well, Amtrak's Adirondack line runs daily to and from New York.


Near the Downtown campus

The banks listed below are within walking distance of McGill’s downtown campus. The Royal Bank has several ATMs (Automated Teller Machines) located on campus and the Scotia Bank has an ATM in the Students' Society's Shatner University Centre on McTavish Street (open during building operating hours). To learn more about the various student bank plans, click on each bank’s link below.

Near the Macdonald Campus

The Bank of Montreal and the National Bank of Canada have branches located in the vicinity of the Macdonald Campus, and the Royal Bank has an ATM machine in Laird Hall, a residence on Macdonald campus.

For more information on banking options near the Macdonald campus, consult the list of branches below:

  • CIBC has an ATM is available on the campus of John Abbott College.
  • National Bank has an ATM is available near campus located at 33 Saint-Pierre, Ste-Anne-De-Bellevue
  • Royal Bank has an ATM is available directly on campus in the Department of Bioresource Engineering.

Cell Phones and Internet

Several cell phone companies offer cell phone coverage across Montreal.

You can try living without internet service (as a McGill student, you'll have free high-speed wifi on campus), but if you prefer to stay connected at home too, here are some local Internet providers you can turn to. Prices and availability of options may vary depending on where you live.

Grocery Stores

Most grocery stores now offer online grocery delivery services so you may order groceries from the comfort of your couch! Please make sure you have a credit card.

The following are grocery stores relatively close to the downtown campus.

West of Campus

Supermarché PA
1420 du Fort

Place Alexis-Nihon (Metro Atwater)
1500 Atwater Avenue

Atwater Market (Metro Lionel-Groulx)
138 Atwater Avenue

East of Campus

3575 Parc Ave., Suite 5100 (in La Cité)
(10% discount for students on Mondays)

3421 Parc Ave.
(10% discount for students on Mondays)

In addition to major supermarkets, Montreal neighborhoods are also filled with epiceries (smaller grocery stores), offering fresh produce and other staples.

Cultural Activities

There's so much to do in Montreal! Browse below or check out Tourisme Montreal for even more events and activities!

Museums & Galleries

As a city bursting with culture and expression, it’s no wonder that Montreal is home to a wide range of galleries and art venues – no matter your taste!

Visiting the Musée des Beaux-arts de Montréal (Museum of Fine Arts) is a great way to spend an afternoon, and reduced rates are available for anyone under 30! Click here for more information about Art Galleries in Montreal. Check out Museums Montreal for information about Montreal's many museums.

You can also take in some world-class art and architecture on your very own campus! The McGill Visual Arts Collection (VAC) regularly puts on free and guided tours of the public art on the downtown campus. Their introductory tours include such highlights as the Three Bares Fountain, the James Sculpture Garden, and the Lichtenstein Tapestry. Check out the VAC website for more details on weekly and special occasion tours.

Music & Nightlife

The thriving music scene and nightlife is one of the best things about living in Montreal. Major local festivals include Osheaga, held in Montreal’s Parc Jean-Drapeau, and Igloofest, which brings together thousands of electronic music fans to enjoy the best local and international DJs in the industry – all in the thick of winter.

Besides its many festivals, Montreal is home to a plethora of music venues ranging from intimate bars to arenas. One thing is for sure, you’ll never be at a loss for places to go on a night out in Montreal! Check out for a directory of where to go (“Où aller”) and what to do (“Quoi faire”). (Take note: the website is only available in French, but at least it’s an excuse to practice!)

Restaurants and Walking Tours (a.k.a. Bitesize MTL)

Sink your teeth into your new city!

These maps, put together by International Student Services, will give you a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the flavor of an iconic Montreal neighborhood, topped off by enjoying some quintessential local snacks in great company. Invite a friend or two to join you on your adventure!

Battle of the Bagels Cheap Eats Mount Royal & Ice Cream
Montreal Chocolate Tour Old Port - China Town Plateau - Little Portugal


Parks & Sports


Montreal is home to an array of parks, each with their own character and attractions in every season. Closest to campus are the iconic Mount Royal Park, Jeanne-Mance Park, and Lafontaine Park. You can also venture to the Macdonald Campus and visit the Morgan Aboretum, a large forested reserve with trails you can walk or ski.


Home to the 1976 Summer Olympics, Montreal is not shy about its obsession with sports. Whether you’re a diehard Montréal Canadiens (Habs) hockey fan or an avid hiker, Montréal has something for you. We recommend you grab tickets to a hockey game at le Centre Bell, check out the Grand Prix du Montreal, or visit one of the city’s many ice-skating rinks. Don’t forget to also look into other Montreal teams, like the CF (soccer) the Alouettes (football), and our own McGill teams.

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