Although the island is just a few miles from downtown Montreal, it is very secluded from the city and remains free of the heavy traffic and some noise of the city. The island is primarily composed of residential apartments, condos and flats, with few very large businesses. The island is noted for its parks and scenery including West Vancouver Park which overlooks the Saint Lawrence River. There is only one school on the island, the grade school École Île des Sœurs.
Originally called Île Saint-Paul in honour of the founder of Montreal, Paul Chomedey, sieur de Maisonneuve, the name of Île des Sœurs or Nuns' Island appears starting from the 19th century and was exclusively used from the 1950s on. The name commemorates the nuns of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame, which had acquired part of the island in 1706 and kept it for over two hundred years. The island was formerly a municipality, L'Île-Saint-Paul, founded in 1899; it merged with Verdun in 1956. The development of the island began in earnest in the late 1960s, and features four buildings attributed to Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, three high rise apartments, the first of which, 201 Corot Rive, was occupied in 1969, and an Esso filling station of the same vintage. Nuns Island is one of Montreal's wealthiest communities.