Montreal (i/ˌmʌntriːˈɒl/; French: Montréal , pronounced: [mɔ̃ʁeal] ( listen)) is a city in the Canadian province of Quebec. It is the largest city in the province, the second-largest in Canada and the fifteenth-largest in North America. Originally called Ville-Marie, or “City of Mary”, it is named after Mount Royal, the triple-peaked hill located in the heart of the city. The city is located on the Island of Montreal, which took its name from the same source as the city, and a few much smaller peripheral islands, the largest of which is Île Bizard.
As of 2011, the city of Montreal had a population of 1,649,519. Montreal’s metropolitan area (CMA) (land area 4,259 square kilometres (1,644 sq mi)) had a population of 3,824,221 and a population of 1,886,481 in the urban agglomeration of Montreal, all of the municipalities on the Island of Montreal included. French is the city’s official language and is also the language spoken at home by 56.9% of the population in the city of Montreal proper, followed by English at 18.6% and 19.8% other languages (as of 2006 census). In the larger Montreal Census Metropolitan Area, 67.9% of the population speaks French at home, compared to 16.5% who speak English. 56% of the population are able to speak both English and French, making Montreal one of the most bilingual cities in Quebec and Canada. Montreal is the second largest primarily French-speaking city in the world, after Paris.
Montreal was named a UNESCO City of Design. Historically the commercial capital of Canada, it was surpassed in population and economic strength by Toronto in the 1970s. Today it remains an important centre of commerce, aerospace, finance, pharmaceuticals, technology, design, culture, tourism, gaming, film and world affairs.
In 2009, Montreal was named North America’s number one host city for international association events, according to the 2009 preliminary rankings of the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA). In 2012, QS World University Rankings ranked Montreal the 10th-best place in the world to be a university student.
The mountain is the site of Mount Royal Park (French: Parc du Mont-Royal), one of Montreal’s largest greenspaces. The park, most of which is wooded, was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed New York’s Central Park, and was inaugurated in 1876.
The park contains two belvederes, the more prominent of which is the Kondiaronk Belvedere, a semicircular plaza with a chalet, overlooking Downtown Montreal. Other features of the park are Beaver Lake, a small man-made lake, a short ski slope, a sculpture garden, Smith House, an interpretive centre, and a well-known monument to Sir George-Étienne Cartier. The park hosts athletic, tourist and cultural activities.
The mountain is home to two major cemeteries, Notre-Dame-des-Neiges (founded in 1854) and Mount Royal (1852). Mount Royal Cemetery is a 165 acres (67 ha) terraced cemetery on the north slope of Mount Royal in the borough of Outremont. Notre Dame des Neiges Cemetery is much larger, predominantly French-Canadian and officially Catholic. More than 900,000 people are buried there.
Mount Royal Cemetery contains more than 162,000 graves and is the final resting place for a number of notable Canadians. It includes a veterans section with several soldiers who were awarded the British Empire’s highest military honour, the Victoria Cross. In 1901 the Mount Royal Cemetery Company established the first crematorium in Canada.
The first cross on the mountain was placed there in 1643 by Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve, the founder of the city, in fulfilment of a vow he made to the Virgin Mary when praying to her to stop a disastrous flood. Today, the mountain is crowned by a 31.4 m-high (103 ft) illuminated cross, installed in 1924 by the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste and now owned by the city. It was converted to fibre-optic light in 1992. The new system can turn the lights red, blue, or purple, the last of which is used as a sign of mourning between the death of the Pope and the election of the next.