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Connaught Park playground at sunset on a summer evening, in the town of Mont-Royal.iStockPhoto / Getty Images

In some ways, Mont-Royal could be considered Canada’s first designed suburb – and because of that, it may well be the perfect one.

Avi Friedman, a professor at McGill University’s school of architecture, says the planned town exemplifies the dream of suburbia that has been lost in modern versions of other metropolitan suburbs, which opted to build more homes to maximize profit in exchange for amenities such as park space.

Mont-Royal – technically a municipality situated entirely within Montreal – features relatively low density with large homes and expansive backyards, along with plenty of park spaces, an enviable canopy of old trees, a strong integration of commerce within residential neighbourhoods, and a good concentration of schools, which means that most children can walk to class.

They’re all reasons that a comprehensive data study by The Globe and Mail in partnership with Environics Analytics Group Ltd. found Mont-Royal to be the most livable city in Quebec, and the 11th most livable city in Canada. It scored particularly high in the education category for the close proximity of schools to residents, and in transportation for its high walkability score and closeness to transit stops.

Mont-Royal was designed in 1910 according to tenets of the North American “City Beautiful” movement, which sought to blend the best parts of urban and suburban life. Roadways were planned to maximize sunlight for homes, and lush vegetation was meant to give the feel of an urban park.

“These attributes have not been compromised. ... They maintained that original character since the city’s establishment,” Prof. Friedman said.

Mont-Royal Mayor Peter Malouf said the park effect is visible when you fly into Montreal’s airport; he can always spot the tiny 7.5-square-kilometre city as an island of green in a sea of concrete.

Mr. Malouf said another detail that shows the sense of community is that more than 8,000 people are enrolled in the city’s sports and recreation programs – a remarkable number for a population of roughly 22,000.

One of its residents is Laila Sayhoun, who immigrated with her Palestinian parents to Mont-Royal in her 20s in 1990.

Now that she has children of her own, three generations of her family live in the town, and she said the community has been ideal for every part of her family’s lives.

She said her children benefited from the sense of community and could enjoy suburban joys such as playing hockey in the streets. In her 20s, she had an easy commute to study at McGill University.

And her parents are able to enjoy a large living space and loved the city’s welcoming environment and multiculturalism when they immigrated.

Despite its livability, however, Mont-Royal isn’t necessarily for everyone.

Mont-Royal is an affluent suburb, and its homes are typically very expensive when compared to other parts of the Montreal area. Prof. Friedman added that people who desire a more urban style of life may prefer some of Montreal’s renowned inner city neighbourhoods such as the Plateau.

Ms. Sayhoun admitted she sometimes wishes there were more eclectic restaurants and cafés. But the tradeoff for Mont-Royal’s comfortable lifestyle is worth it, especially when Montreal neighbourhoods such as Outremont are so nearby.

Mont-Royal is a little city within a much larger city that gives her the best of both worlds, she said. “It’s like an oasis in the city.”

Canada’s most livable cities in Quebec

1. Mont-Royal

2. Westmount

3. Rosemère

4. Québec

5. Lévis

6. Laval

7. Gatineau

8. La Prairie

9. Longueuil

10. Boucherville

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Editor’s note: (March 4, 2024): A previous version of this article incorrectly included a photo of Mount Royal Park. That photo has been replaced with the current photo taken in the town of Mont-Royal.

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