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The basics
Canada: Destination Guides - Must read

The ultimate student guide to Montréal

Montréal is one of Canada’s major cities and is located close to the U.S. border, offering students a bustling city lifestyle while being significantly cheaper than other popular student cities.

Montreal, Canada

Montréal is the second-largest city in Canada, with a population of over 4.2 million people. It’s the largest city in the French-speaking province of Quebec and has a rich French cultural history, reflected in its architecture, cuisine, and bustling food markets. You’ll want to have at least some French-speaking ability if you’re looking to complete some or all of your studies in Montréal. French is widely spoken, and university courses are typically delivered in French.


Though it’s not the capital of Canada, the volume of artistic, cultural, and academic activity that takes place in Montréal puts it clearly on the map of North American cities. With a blend of sparkling skyscrapers and 18th-century French-inspired architecture, you’ll be able to find world-class museums, exceptional food options, unique bars, and a strong coffee culture all within a few minutes of each other.


With a small mountain at its centre, Montréal offers an unbeatable Canadian winter experience. The city’s cosy sugar shacks and wide range of pubs and restaurants make it easy to stay comfortable during winter, perhaps after a ski session in the city, or in the nearby mountains.


With several internationally renowned universities, road and air links to the rest of Canada and the U.S., and a thriving arts and music scene, Montréal is hard to resist when it comes to international student cities.


What is Montréal like?


Montréal is located in the province of Quebec in the south-eastern part of Canada. The city is at the southern end of the province, close to the border with the United States. The border is less than 30 miles away from Montréal’s centre. It’s also the largest city in the province and the second biggest city in the country.


Montréal is a multicultural city, and its population comes from many nationalities and cultures. Its European Canadian population originate from various countries, including France, Italy, Ireland and England. Less than half of its population in total has a Canadian ethnic origin. 


Culture and history 

The island on which Montréal now stands was first inhabited by First Nations people, who lived there for thousands of years before European settlers arrived. The area was made a French colony from the 1600s until being taken over by Great Britain in 1763. 


It became Montréal in 1832 and grew quickly in the 1950s when it built a metro system and many of its skyscraper buildings. Today the city is a cosmopolitan centre for arts and economic activity and a global destination.


Read more about what makes Canada unique


What universities are in Montréal?


Montréal has some of the highest student numbers relative to its city population out of any city in North America, and for good reason. The city boasts several institutions ranking among the world’s best, and they have great industry links.


McGill University is a world-leading Canadian higher education institution, rated 31st globally in the QS World University Rankings 2023Often referred to as the ‘Harvard of Canada’, it’s a famous university that offers ivy league level education across numerous undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. McGill’s academic reputation and research intensity attract students from more than 150 countries.


The (University of Montréal) is ranked 111th in the world according to the QS 2022It’s popular with international students due to its broad scholarship options for international learners, respected engineering and management schools, and global reputation as a public research institution.


Concordia University is also based in Montréal and is an internationally notable institution with a rank of 521st by QS 2022. It is known for its English, rather than the French language of course instruction. Montréal is also home to other universities and colleges suitable for international students, including the University of Quebec at Montréal, the Polytechnic School of Montréal and the School of Higher Technology - University of Quebec.


Discover more universities in Canada


What does Montréal offer students?


What transport is there?

Montréal is a city that suits life as a pedestrian or cyclist, with hundreds of kilometres of bike paths and a range of interesting neighbourhoods within walking distance of each other. It also has a great public transport system, with public rental bikes complemented by a rapid and efficient metro system that’s easy to use. A wide range of buses also run across the city, so you’ll always have an option handy.


What about entertainment and food?

As a student in Montréal, you might struggle to find enough time to enjoy all the entertainment, food, and drink options this cosmopolitan city offers! Montréal is home to various culturally distinct neighbourhoods, to which locals and visitors alike flock for their unique experiences. It includes poutine and bagels at Plateau-Mont-Royal, a huge range of street food, events and entertainment across the city, or special events like Italian Week, that you can find in Little Italy in August.


Discover the top five things to do in Canada


What accommodation is there?

Students attending university in Montréal can choose from student halls organised by their university, located close to campus, as well as a range of private student halls which will allow them to live and socialise with international students from all the city’s universities. Private renting is also an accommodation option if you want to immerse yourself in one of Montréal’s many neighbourhoods.


Don’t forget that you can apply for financial aid to study in Canada. Check out the top scholarships in the country


How much does it cost to live in Montréal?


You’ll be able to do more with your student budget as a student in Montréal compared to other cities like Vancouver and Toronto, as the average prices of essentials like rent are significantly lower. A 2018 UBS study found Montréal to be the most affordable major city in Canada, making it a great choice for international students.


Discover more about the cost of living in Canada


Student budget

As a single international student living in Montréal, your average student budget will probably be between CAD 300 and CAD 700 per week. This includes rent, utilities, food, transportation, and other living costs. Your budget will vary depending on your living arrangements, lifestyle, activities, and where in Montréal you’re living.


Explore how to find a graduate career in Canada and the top five graduate jobs


Financial requirements

The Government of Canada asks international students to demonstrate that they can access a minimum of CAD 10,000 per year before starting their studies in Canada. This is equivalent to CAD 833 per month.


Find out what tuition fees in Canada cost


What are the main attractions in Montréal?


Montréal has all sorts of great attractions that you’ll be able to enjoy all year round, as well as some special seasonal activities. Mount Royal sits at the heart of Montréal and is the source of its name. This low mountain provides unbeatable views of the city and is also home to a huge city park stretching over nearly 700 acres. In the winter, you can swap your shoes for skis and carve up the park’s trails before heading back into town for a hot drink.


Montréal is also home to the impressive Underground City, a subterranean shopping experience that links different plazas and metro links across the city. Whatever the weather outside, you’ll be able to explore the hundreds of shops and entertainment options in a network of dazzling shopping plazas and arcades.


Old Montréal is one of the city’s central neighbourhoods, offering a glimpse into the past with period architecture, cobbled streets, museums, and fine dining. Just a short journey from Montréal will allow you to explore a dizzying array of tourist destinations in areas like New York, Vermont, Ontario and, of course, the rest of Quebec itself. Enjoy a classic North American experience amongst lakes, forests, and mountains in any season.


Montréal is Canada’s most affordable city, adapted for cosmopolitan living in every season, and home to some world-class universities. What’s not to love? Explore more study options in Canada and Montréal with our course matcher tool

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