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Oct. 2, 1535: Cartier discovers site of Montreal

Compass

When French explorer Jacques Cartier arrived at the Island of Montreal, he estimated that the Saint Lawrence Iroquoian village of Hochelaga he found there had more than 1,000 residents. But neither he nor they could guess at what the thriving city would look like almost 500 years later. With about 4 million people in the metropolitan area, Montreal is Canada’s second-largest city and one of the most culturally vibrant cities in North America, brimming with film, music, nature, art and good food.

Cartier reached the island during his second voyage to North America, seeking the fabled Northwest Passage to Asia and claiming parts of the New World for France in the process. He didn’t reach Asia, but he returned to France with some of the Iroquois, who lent credence to his tales of a vast undeveloped land — possibly containing gold, jewels and other riches — ripe for exploration.

The gold never materialized for Cartier, and it would be another 70 years before Canada (which he named) hosted any permanent European settlements. But the modern city of Montreal has riches aplenty for both locals and visitors in the form of universities, festivals and international conferences. The city hosts world-class cultural and scientific museums including the Espace pour la Vie (Space for Life), which incorporates a biodôme, insectarium, botanical garden and planetarium around the 1976 Olympic stadium.

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