Commentary, Opinion

Why Montreal stands out above the rest

As a Torontonian, I, like many, have always recognized Montreal as better than our own city. The ability to legally drink fresh out of high school in such an artsy city was just one of the many reasons McGill was number one on my list. While oftentimes I do yearn for the familiarity of the streets of Toronto, Montreal has been an incredible new adventure in itself. With so much to offer, I can confidently say that it is the best place to be as a student, and a recent report by The Honest Professor agrees with me. Montreal ranks as the number one student city in the world, and special mention is given to McGill as the best institution to study at in the city.

One thing that most young people, particularly students, are looking for is aesthetics––and to enhance their social media feeds. What else would we use as the cover of our Instagram photo dumps if not some random person’s house that happens to have a beautiful spiral staircase, colourful door and big bay window? Montreal is one of the rare places where ill-favoured modern North American architecture doesn’t line the streets, and the charm of historic buildings with old-style masonry still stands. This sets Montreal apart from other cities, particularly Toronto, where historically-infused urban configurations are confined to only a few neighbourhoods. Instead of seeing the same grey condos at every corner, you get to see the charming Victorian-style Plateau houses—and maybe even live in one, too. 

Pair that architectural beauty with walkability, and the streetscapes can resemble a gallery. Very few university students living downtown have cars, and paying for a monthly metro pass is not necessary or feasible for all students. So, when you can walk with ease to various destinations without worrying immediately about contributing to vehicle pollutants, you find yourself in a greener, and more pleasant, home. 

The blend of French and British colonial influences that can be seen in Montreal’s architecture, language, and cuisine define the city’s unique history. But this city is also where immigrants, their descendants, and Indigenous peoples have resisted the imposition of a unilingual and monocultural identity, contending that what we now call Montreal has a more dynamic character.

On top of the unbeatable nightlife that makes it the Sin City of the North, Montreal serves as a vibrant cultural hub, putting the Canadian mosaic into practice. Numerous establishments boast an interior design and ambiance that represents the city’s reputation for art, music, and fashion. Want Afrobeats or Latin fusion or Caribbean jazz? Do you need to stock up on Australian or Russian-Jewish goodies? Montreal’s got you set. The city also has several excellent universities, places where people of different cultures and nationalities meet and come together. When the institution supports individuals and embraces their history and diversity, it marks a site of possibility. And known for having flourishing music and art scenes, Montreal features a large number of theatres, museums, and art galleries presenting both domestic and foreign talent. The Montreal Jazz Festival, Osheaga, and Igloofest make up just a few of the music festivals held at various times of the year in the city. Having festivities and activities to look forward to year-round, indoors and outdoors, is one of the great, unique aspects of Montreal. 

While this all may seem like an ad to convince students to choose Montreal as their four-year home, it isn’t. The truth is, Montreal, like any city, has its flaws. In a perfect world, the city would not be getting less and less affordable for students, inflation would not have us pinching pennies, and housing prices would not be going up. However, compared to other cities like Toronto or Vancouver, Montreal has a more affordable cost of living, and a lot of history and culture to offer in turn. The learning doesn’t start or stop in the classroom—our city brims with lessons. With a never-ending Montreal to-do list, I feel grateful to be in such a great student city, the best one in the world. 

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