Saunders 1865 | Moving to Montreal

Moving to Montreal

Are you moving to Montreal? Quebec’s biggest financial and business centre, Montreal occupies an island where the Ottawa and St Lawrence rivers meet. Its name comes from Mont Royal, a 765-foot hill in the centre of the city.  It was incorporated as a city in 1832 and is the 2nd biggest city in Canada, after Toronto.

Montreal has the most restaurants per capita in the country and the second highest in North America, only outpaced by New York City.

Our free, in-depth Moving to Montreal report includes info on:

• The best areas to live
• The good schools
• The average monthly rental prices
• The excellent public transport system in the city

Putting Montreal on the Map

The second biggest French-speaking city after Paris, Montreal is known as the bilingual city.  With a population of 1.7 million in the city, and 6.1 million in its metropolitan area including the islands, 16.5% of the population is English-speaking, 67.9% French and the balance a mix of other cultures.  56% are bilingual, both English and French speaking. There are pockets of areas which are more popular with each of the language groups.

Quebec’s business centre is ethnically diverse.  Little Italy, Little Portugal, China Town and other neighbourhoods make for interesting contrasts.

Transport links are excellent.  Montreal can be reached by air, road, rail and water.

Montréal–Trudeau International airport is located on the Isle of Montreal, 12.5 miles from the city centre. The 747 airport bus shuttle runs 24 hours, seven days a week to the bus terminal at Berri-UQAM station in the city centre and takes around an hour, depending on traffic.

Major cities are easily reached by road. Ottawa is 90 minutes away, Quebec City 3 hours, Toronto 5 hours and New York City, 6 hours. The train from Montreal Central Station takes around 3 hours to Quebec City.

The Metro and the bus service are the quickest and easiest ways to get around in Montreal, with an abundance of stations and bus stops. These services are integrated, so weekly and monthly passes can be used at either of them.

Despite the weather, cycling is a popular mode of transport.  There are more than 218 miles of bike paths in the city.

The RÉSO is the city’s Underground City which is not a city at all but an underground network of tunnels, escalators and stairs connecting metro stations, offices, hotels, schools and more. The first sections were built in 1962 and connections were added when the Metro began operations in 1965. There is now more than 20 miles of tunnels so that shoppers never have to venture out into the open air. Lonely Planet voted Montreal the second happiest city in the world, and in 2015 it was voted the second best city in the world to live in; taking factors such as living, democracy, safety and business environment into account.

Although Montreal was originally settled by the French, nowadays the population is divided between a less affluent French speaking working-class and the elite business-class of predominantly English-speakers.

With an inland climate, temperatures vary from cold in winter at -9°C, to hot and humid summers at around 30°C. It snows more here than it does in Moscow, with 84” in average annual snowfall.

No building can be higher than the cross on Mount Royal Mountain.

The Areas

It is important to decide whether you would be more comfortable living in an English or French-speaking neighbourhood.


Accommodation consists mainly of lofts and apartments, ranging from basic to the lap of luxury, and prices vary accordingly. Being close to the business centre has its advantages but clearly, rental costs are higher than normal.  Shopping centres abound and, known as the City of Churches, Montreal caters for all religious groups. With a vibrant nightlife, there are plenty of excellent restaurants and somewhere in the region of 71 museums, plus all the normal city centre activities.


With all the classic architecture and the atmosphere, this area is ideal for those who don’t mind an influx of tourists in the summer.  Picturesque pedestrian streets and riverbanks cater to the visitors, with many souvenir shops and beautiful architecture.

Rents are higher than average and the area lacks family amenities, making it a great place for younger singles and couples. Downtown is just a short walk away and the Metro makes all the other centres easily accessible.

Activities, events, and festivals are commonplace, and the community spirit in the Old Port area cannot be beaten. There is a lack of major grocery shops, but plenty of chic boutiques and the cafes and restaurants are top notch.


Situated close to the city, this suburb is within walking distance of cafes and some the best restaurants around. Predominantly French-speaking, the area is ideal if you are looking to learn the language. Within the area, Mile End is a multilingual pocket, stylish and chic. More English is spoken here, along with the Hassidic community having a strong presence and communicating in Hebrew. It’s a hop and a skip to the business district, so commuting is quick and easy with an efficient bus service. Home to an eclectic mix of writers, artists, musicians and other creative types, there are many boutiques, cafes, designers’ workshops and art galleries. The architecture varies from high-density apartments to Victorian style homes, with very few new condo-type buildings.


This expensive, classy area is mainly English speaking and is home to some of the city’s best private schools. Huge green spaces, alongside the most opulent Victorian architecture, Queen Anne brick mansions and classic townhouses are all fiercely protected by the city’s preservationists. Located on the western slopes of Mont Royal, getting to work downtown is facilitated by the Métro, buses and by car along the Ville-Marie Expressway, or even by walking – it’s that close.


Located in the city’s west end, about 15 minutes from the centre and situated on a long plateau running south-west from Mont Royal , NDG has a large English-speaking community in the western ward, while the eastern ward is mainly francophone.  Housing can be expensive, but this area is popular with young families thanks to  its playgrounds, libraries, public schools, places of worship and athletics facilities. The buildings tend towards Beaux-Arts, Art Nouveau and Art Deco influences on Quebecois architectural concepts. An array of restaurants and pubs eliminates the need to travel into town. The metro is quite a distance from this western side of NDG, but buses run frequently to the station.


Laval and Longueil are two cities off the Island of Montreal, both cosmopolitan but away from the normal hustle and bustle of the city.  They are excellent for expats, but the commute to the city centre may be a hindrance and should be taken into consideration.  The South Shore is made up of Longueil, Brossard and St Hubert, which, with its good schools and amenities, makes it a good area for families.  The North Shore, in the Laval area, also has good schools, with green areas of parkland, also great for the kids.


Unofficially the name for a conglomerate of suburbs such as Beaconsfield, Pointe-Claire, Kirkland, Lakeshore, St Anne de Bellevue and others, the West Island is the most Anglophone area in Quebec, with a large English-speaking population. All are family-friendly neighbourhoods, featuring houses and townhouses that have gardens, plus playgrounds and parks, and the district has some of the best secondary schools available. The area has more green spaces than elsewhere in Montreal including Morgan Arboretum for skiing, Terra Cotta park, Cap-Saint-Jacques, and a multitude of swimming pools. It is quiet and clean, tranquil and peaceful and is only a 40-minute commute by train to the hustle and bustle of the city. A proposed electric light-rail network has recently been announced, with work starting in 2017 for completion in 2020, which will improve transit times and reduce consumer congestion on other forms of transport.

Who lives and works in Montreal

As a result of being the largest inland port in the world, Montreal has one of the largest rail hubs in the country, transporting in excess of 26 million tonnes of cargo annually, including shipments of grain, oil and sugar for export. The Port of Montreal generates over 18,000 jobs and generates $1.5 billion USD a year.

The majority of French Language media production takes place in Montreal, including radio, TV and movies, and one often sees film crews recording in different parts of the city.

In the interval from December 2015 to December 2016, employment on the island of Montreal increased by 70,000, with 57,000 of them working full time.  The unemployment rate dropped to 7.3% from 10.3%.  Video games, visual effects, artificial intelligence and IT services have shown outstanding growth in employment, showing a healthy 4%, or around 4,500, new jobs.

Barely affected by the general economic downturn of recent years, Montreal continues to develop by concentrating on high-tech and the more creative fields and remains an important centre for finance, technology, education, tourism, film, design, commerce, gaming, aerospace and world affairs. The International Civil Aviation Organisation is based here and it is also one of the three homes to the United Nations in North America.

The laws require that, in order to work with the public, employees must speak French competently, although being bilingual is preferred.

International employees enjoy the same fringe benefits as their Canadian counterparts including :

  • The Quebec prescription drug plan, covering 70% of basic prescription drugs if there is no access to a private company plan.
  • Quebec Health Insurance – free basic medical care.
  • Education is free from fees from nursery school through to college for the children of foreign workers. University fees at the four institutions are amongst the lowest in North America.
  • Daycare services. Reduced-contribution slots for children from birth to five years of age at early childhood centres.
  • The Quebec Parental Insurance Plan pays benefits to eligible employees on adoption, maternity, paternity or parental leave. The parents are entitled to up to 55 weeks of combined parental leave.
  • Employment Insurance, allowing temporary workers unemployment benefits lasting the term of their work permit.
The Best Bits

Low crime rates, good employment prospects, and high salaries place Montreal as a desirable location.

With its masses of cultural activities, which include the 70+ museums and art galleries, English, French and bilingual theatres and cinemas, this is the place for culture seekers. It is a haven for winter sports, from ice fishing at the Old Port, curling, ice skating on the frozen lakes, skiing and snowboarding to tobogganing.

Montreal is a festival city, with dozens of events to attend. The wildest one has to be Igloofest, held in January and February which showcases local DJs. It is held outdoors, so one would have to brave the freezing temperatures. There is also a St Patrick’s Parade in March, a croissant festival in April and the Montreal International Music Competition in May, to name a few.

Shopping features highly as some of the best shops and brands are available in this diverse city. From street markets to world-class boutiques, underground and on terra firma, Montreal was made for those who were born-to-shop.

Montreal is home to the Cirque du Soleil.

John Lennon wrote “Give Peace a Chance” during a famous Bed-In with Yoko Ono in 1969 at the Queen Elizabeth hotel.

Bringing the kids

Unless your child speaks French or is very young, it would be unadvisable to place him or her in a public school, as the teaching medium is French.

The EMSB, or English Montreal School Board, which oversees 40 primary, 17 secondary and 11 outreach schools, is responsible for the English-speaking schools in the eastern and central sectors of Montreal Island for international scholars, with around 38,000 pupils enrolled.  With the highest success rate in the province of 89.4%, the EMSB beat the province-wide rate of 78.8% to the winning post.

There are three private English language schools in Montreal, five international schools, and a number of private secondary schools which, as the government subsidises a few of them, many parents prefer to public school education. The child would need to have a good primary school record and pass an entrance exam. If the school chosen by the parents is not subsidised then the fees are very expensive. Public schools are free of fees.

There are 11 universities, or their equivalents, in Montreal.  Students pay the lowest tuition rates in Canada.

Relocating to Montreal

With a number of job opportunities, a lower cost of living than the rest of Canada, low crime rate, beautiful homes and even a number of government family benefits, this historic and beautiful city has a lot to offer.

Its proximity to the USA offers extended travel benefits, with the rest of Canada at your doorstep as well.

There’s a varied choice of residential areas to suit your unique circumstances, but choosing your area and a school for the children may prove complex and it would be advisable to use the services of an expert relocation agent to smooth the way.  Spousal support is also available, helping the expat partner to adjust to a new way of life.


Family friendly
Great Transport
Average Monthly Rent - Montreal
Apartment (1 bedroom) in city centre C$1,049
Apartment (1 bedroom) outside of centre C$708
Apartment (3 bedrooms) in city centre C$1,892
Apartment (3 bedrooms) outside of centre C$1,218
Contact us for a free initial consultation about your specific situation.
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