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Montreal is a city in the Canadian province of Quebec. It is the largest city in the province, the second-largest in the country (after Toronto) 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, or Mont Réal as it was spelled in Middle French. 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. Montreal is the second largest primarily French-speaking city in the world, after Paris.
Montreal was called “Canada’s Cultural Capital” by Monocle and recently 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, 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 world to be a university student.
For over a century and a half, Montreal was the industrial and financial centre of Canada. The variety of buildings included factories, elevators, warehouses, mills, and refineries which today provide a legacy of historic and architectural interest, especially in the downtown area and the Old Port area. There are 50 National Historic Sites of Canada in Montreal, more than any other city in Canada.
Today there are also many historic buildings in Old Montreal still in their original form: Notre-Dame de Montréal Basilica, Bonsecours Market, and the impressive 19th century headquarters of all major Canadian banks on St. James Street. Saint Joseph’s Oratory, completed in 1967, Ernest Cormier’s Art Deco Université de Montréal main building, the landmark Place Ville Marie office tower, the controversial Olympic Stadium and surrounding structures, are but a few notable examples of 20th century architecture.
Pavilions designed for the 1967 International and Universal Exposition, popularly known as Expo 67, featured a wide range of architectural designs. Though most pavilions were temporary structures, several remaining structures have become Montreal landmarks, including the geodesic dome U.S. Pavilion, now the Montreal Biosphere, as well as Moshe Safdie’s striking Habitat 67 apartment complex.
The Montreal Metro is filled with a limited amount of public artwork by some of the biggest names in Quebec culture.
In 2006 Montreal was named a UNESCO City of Design, only one of three design capitals of the world (with the others being Berlin and Buenos Aires). This distinguished title recognizes Montreal’s design community. Since 2005 the city has been home for the International Council of Graphic Design Associations (Icograda); the International Design Alliance (IDA).
Montreal’s Underground City is the set of interconnected complexes (both above and below ground) in and around Downtown Montreal.