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Montreal History

Montreal has ridden a rollercoaster up to the heady heights of being Canada’s commercial hub, plunging into economic gloom, then soaring back up to become a buzzing 21st-century success story.

First Nations people occupied the island of Montreal as early as 4,000 years ago, eventually building fortified villages.

One such place was the Iroquois village of Hochelaga at the foot of Mount Royal, 'discovered' by French explorer Jacques Cartier in 1535.

But when another French explorer Samuel de Champlain arrived 70 years later, the settlement had gone.

In 1642, Paul de Chomedey, sieur de Maisonneuve, created the first building blocks of modern Montreal.

The French ruled the colony until 1760, when it was surrendered to the British.

By 1832, Montreal had become a city. The opening of the Lachine Canal permitted ships to navigate the treacherous Lachine Rapids, while the construction of the Victoria Bridge established Montreal as a major railway hub.

The city enjoyed a brief five-year spell as the capital of Canada. By 1860, Montreal was the largest city in British North America.

In the early 20th century, the city’s fortunes waxed and waned; it became an alcoholic bolthole for Americans during Prohibition but the Great Depression led to mass unemployment.

After WWII, Montreal’s population exceeded 1 million, the metro system was developed, and towering skyscrapers and motorways were built.

Far-reaching social and political changes were ushered in during the 1960s and 1970s as a result of growing unease among the French-speaking population about the preservation of their language and culture.

The 1976 election of the Parti Quebecois resulted in the migration of businesses and people from the city. Montreal was surpassed by Toronto as Canada’s commercial centre.

The 1980s and 1990s were grim years, but the 21st century has seen a revival in Montreal’s fortunes as new industries have taken off.

Did you know?
• John Lennon wrote ‘Give peace a chance’ during his ‘bed-in’ at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in 1969.
• It took Montreal 30 years to pay off the cost of hosting the 1976 Olympic Games.
• Montreal became a UNESCO City of Design in 2006.

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Featured Hotels

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Hotel Quartier des Spectacles

Taking its name from the entertainment district where it's based, Hotel Quartier des Spectacles' exposed brickwork, hardwood floors and simple yet spaciously designed rooms makes it one of the most appealing budget options in the downtown area. Recently renovated, the four-story centennial building currently doesn't offer disabled access.

Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth

Due to reopen in June 2017 following a C$140 million refurbishment project, this Montreal landmark has hosted a fair few celebrities, and was the headquarters of John and Yoko’s famous ‘bed in’. Its central location and métro link up is ideal for disoriented travellers. Services are top of the range with a beauty parlour, health club and indoor pool.

InterContinental Montreal

Opposite the Palais des Congrès convention centre and perched on the edge of Old Montreal, the InterContinental Montreal is well situated for sightseeing and is linked to a stunning atrium. Its 357 rooms and suites are well-appointed and the turret suites offer great wraparound views. For relaxation, there is a fitness centre, sauna and pool.

Hotel Le Crystal

Those in search of deluxe accommodation need look no further. Rooms are kitted out with top of the range gizmos, including flat screen tvs, super powered shower heads, espresso machines and high speed Wi-Fi. Suites range from urban to penthouse, all boasting modern-elegant surroundings, plush beds and excellent bathrooms. The hotel’s pool, spa and health centre are all also state of the art, naturally.

Château Versailles

This Agatha Christie-esque hotel is ideal for anyone looking for a quiet Montreal hotel. Converted from posh townhouses, the interior features antique fixtures, delightful rooms and an overall classy atmosphere. You won’t be able to find a better location, right in the city’s heart and at the base of Mount Royal. Pampered pooches are welcome, as are well-behaved children. In addition to the usual services, the hotel also offers hourly baby-sitting.

Hotel Le Germain

This Montreal hotel has 101 designer rooms. Everything is eye pleasing from the minimalist furniture to the low-lit hallways. If you own an iPad and appreciate nice shoes this trendy hotel should tick your boxes. Rooms are loft style and have superior cotton sheets goose down duvets and – ladies will appreciate this - Aveda bathroom products.