Montreal is the home base of bands such as Arcade Fire, Stars, Grimes, and more, some of Canada’s best indie designers, fashion magazines, creative writers, and performers. But beyond these world-famous names, the city is also home to countless local groups, galleries, cafés, bookshops, and other venues that cater to creatives at all stages of their careers. Additionally, unlike some other Canadian cities, Montreal incorporates less (sub)urban sprawl. Instead, it was designed with active street life in mind—rather than accommodating high-rise buildings.
People working in the creative fields require a strong support structure in order to thrive, and Montreal naturally offers certain practical necessities that provide space for a creative life. One of the most significant factors in this regard is the city’s relatively low cost of living, which includes rent and mortgage costs, public transit passes, food prices, and medical care.
Additionally, Greater Montreal incorporates a network of 17 large parks that cover a total of around 2,000 hectares, along with over 1,000 smaller neighborhood parks. The city also has easy access to rural areas and national parks, some less than an hour outside of the city, that offer opportunities for refuge and creative inspiration.
One thing that makes Montreal stand out is the array of striking and unusual street art found in neighborhoods throughout the city. During the annual Mural Festival, artists from all over the world gather in Montreal to construct murals right in front of the audience’s eyes. The city is also home to some top art galleries and museums in North America, including the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the Contemporary Art Museum of Montreal. Also, the city’s layout incorporates a blend of historical and contemporary architecture that makes each neighborhood distinctive and adds to the city’s creative character.
All year long, Montreal is alive with countless end-to-end festivals of all kinds. Many of these events highlight local, national, and international artists—from musicians and DJs to writers and spoken-word poets, graffiti artists to photographers, dancers, comedians, and actors. These festivals can help bring different creatives together and help promote their work—in addition to contributing to the general sense of imaginative joie de vivre for which the city is celebrated.
Montreal is shaped by a diverse cultural fabric that has historically been defined by a blend of both European and North American influences. Approximately one-third of the city’s population was born outside of Canada, and this diversity of heritages and languages also lends itself to Montreal’s creative pulse. The interplay of different cuisines, music, literature, and fashion all contribute to the city’s dynamism, which also plays out through its various ethnic neighbourhoods—from Chinatown to Little Italy.
Unlike many major cities, public areas throughout Montreal, as well as the city’s downtown core, are lively both day and night throughout the year and are generally safe to pass through or linger in. The crime rate, which is already low for a major North American city, has been steadily decreasing since 1990. While this might not be the first factor that comes to mind when thinking about a creative city, the ease of moving through and gathering in parks and other public spaces, as well as taking public transit, adds to the general sense of well-being and accessibility that can contribute to and create a foundation for an abundantly creative urban fabric.