Montreal consistently ranks as one of the world's top student cities, and it's not difficult to see why. At McGill, in Montreal, and even off the island you will never run out of things to do and sights to see.
All first year McGill students are offered a spot in student residence, called Rez. Students living in Rez together share common experiences of coming to university for the first time, often to a new city far away from home, making Rez a very close-knit community. This sense of community is bolstered by a group of floor fellows, upper year students who live in Rez with students to support and guide them through the challenges of their first year. Options for housing include Upper Rez, which lies at the foot of Mont Royal; various luxurious “hotel residences”; the Royal Victoria College, which includes an all-women wing; and New Residence, McGill’s largest and newest residence hall.
Rez Life Programming
A team of boisterous McGill students run Rez Life. The Rez Lifers work all year to organize events and activities to get students in Rez involved with the community. The events they organize include RezFest at the beginning of the year, the year-long Rez Wars competition, Faculty in Rez, and much more. Living in Rez gives students the opportunity to be active in their community and makes the transition to McGill, Montreal, and university life in general much smoother.
Venture outside of the McGill bubble and one finds a charming little city. Although it is a major metropolitan centre, Montreal is also known for its green spaces. In addition to the most famous of Montreal's parks, Mont Royal (pictured), there are innumerable parks and squares that dot the island. To the east along Sherbrooke Street, you find Parc Lafontaine. The second largest park on the eastern half of the island, it reflects the two main cultures of Quebec: the eastern or French half of the park is laid out in geometric shapes; the western or English half is made up of meandering paths and irregularly shaped ponds. The park is also home to tennis courts, two artificial lakes complete with paddleboats, an open-air theatre, and one of the many dog parks on the island where dogs are permitted to run off the lead. Other smaller parks or squares abound, including the famous St. Louis Square in the Plateau (complete with a spectacular fountain) and Place Jacques Cartier in Old Montreal. The Vieux Port (or Old Port) is another of Montreal's major green spaces and a popular spot to hang out by the St. Lawrence River. Even in the winter, Old Port brims with Christmas markets and an ice skating rink.
Montreal is known for its restaurants, creative cultural life, performing and visual arts, and sports events, as well as a plethora of annual festivals: these include International Film, Jazz, Humour, Fringe Theatre, New Film and Video, Folk Arts, Performance Poetry, and Science Fiction as well as many tied to specific cultures. Many of these cultural and recreational activities are free or offer reduced rates for students. Montreal is home to over 30 museums, including the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (pictured), the Musée d'art contemporain, and the Canadian Centre for Architecture. It is also home to four professional sports teams: the Canadiens of the National Hockey League, the Alouettes of the Canadian Football League, the Expos of the National Baseball League, and the Impact of A-League Soccer. Few cities of the world are as safe, as accessible, as enjoyable, and offer as much variety for students as Montreal does.
Off the Island
Described as "a little bit of Europe in North America," our provincial capital is only a three hour drive from downtown Montreal. Once there, you step into a charming combination of the old and the new. From the heights of the Plains of Abraham to La Place Royale below in the Old Town - whose narrow streets have witnessed more than three centuries of traffic - you are surrounded by history. Québec City is the only historic district in North America to have preserved its ramparts; fortifications built as early as the 17th century still surround the Old City. Québec City can also boast the only Funicular of its type in Canada. A ride on the Funicular affords a panoramic view of the St. Lawrence River and the Old Town from a 45-degree angle.
Of the many festivals and events held throughout the year in Québec City, the most famous is the Carnaval de Québec. It is held each year from the end of January to mid February. The Bonhomme - a snowman complete with toque and ceinture - is the Carnaval's mascot. A Petit Bonhomme, a pin that you purchase at Carnaval and that you must wear visibly at all times, is your ticket to most venues and events. You will also learn about the warming effects of Caribou Punch, a truly unique Québécois concoction.
Canada's capital city, located on the banks of the Ottawa, Rideau and Gatineau rivers, is an easy two-hour drive by either car or bus. A G8 capital and a global technology centre, Ottawa is home to the Parliament Buildings, the Supreme Court of Canada, the National Archives, and the National Gallery. Over the river in Gatineau, you'll find the Canadian Museum of Civilization and the Canadian Radio and Television Commission. These are only a few of the National Capital Region's historic and cultural attractions.
Once in Ottawa, you can see the changing of the Ceremonial Guard of the Canadian Forces on Parliament Hill (June to August, weather permitting), tour the Parliament Buildings and climb one of Canada's most famous landmarks, the Peace Tower. Grey Line Tours offer single and three-day bus passes for their double-decker buses that make a circuit of the city's major museums. The Rideau Canal, the world's longest skating rink at 7.8 km one way, runs from the Chateau Laurier in the heart of downtown to Dow's Lake. Temperatures permitting, it is open, free of charge, from December to March. During the rest of the year, you can take advantage of the bicycle paths that run alongside the canal. Each May, Ottawa-Gatineau celebrates the Canadian Tulip Festival, a tradition that began when Queen Juliana of the Netherlands sent thousands of tulip bulbs to Canada in recognition of the Canadian Forces role in liberating Holland during WWII. Today, there are 4 official festival sites, 2 partner sites, and 15 participating attractions along the Tulip Route where you can see over 3 million tulips in bloom. Don't forget to try a Beaver Tail too!
The Montérégie and the Eastern Townships
Southeast of Montreal across the river lies the St. Lawrence River valley, often referred to as the Montérégie because of Mont Royal's sister mountains. Monts St. Bruno, St. Hilaire and St. Gregoire - the Mountains of the King - rise incongruously out of the plain. The Eastern Townships (or Cantons de l'est) abut this region and are famous for numerous charming communities, such as North Hatley on the shores of Lake Massawippi, where you can find activities to please all tastes year round. Drive just a bit further south and you find yourself in Vermont with all its attractions, including the Jay Peak and Stowe hiking and ski resorts. Townships South-east of Montreal across the river lies the St. Lawrence River valley, often referred to as the Montérégie because of Mont Royal's sister mountains. Monts St. Bruno, St. Hilaire and St. Gregoire - the Mountains of the King - rise incongruously out of the plain. The Eastern Townships (or Cantons de l'est) abut this region and are famous for numerous charming communities, such as North Hatley on the shores of Lake Massawippi, where you can find activities to please all tastes year round. Drive just a bit further south and you find yourself in Vermont with all its attractions, including the Jay Peak and Stowe hiking and ski resorts.
Just north of Montreal are the Laurentien mountains, a haven for skiers, hikers, golfers, and other outdoor enthusiasts. While Mont Tremblant is renowned worldwide as the premier ski and snowboard resort in North America, there are many other excellent ski hills and kilometres of cross-country, snowshoe, and snowmobile trails in resort towns closer to Montreal. These same trails are open for hiking and biking in the non-winter months. The resort towns of St. Sauveur, Val David, and Val Morin are an hour or less away by car, an easy day trip at any time of year. In the fall, due to the predominance of the Canadian Maple, the mountains burst with reds, oranges, and yellows. Many ski hills like Mont St. Sauveur operate their lifts to allow greater and easier access to mountain top views. Additionally, three provincial parks - Oka, Rivière du Nord, and Mont Tremblant - all offer kilometres of hiking and biking trails. In the 1492 square kilometre Mont Tremblant Park, campsites abound and canoeing is popular on its over 100 lakes and 6 rivers.