Almost everyone’s favourite neighbourhood in Montreal is Old Montreal [Vieux-Montréal]. This is the oldest part of the city, with buildings dating back to the beginning of Montreal in 1642. It is nice to spend a day (or a few days) walking around the little streets paved with stones, looking at the beautiful old buildings.
People live and work in Old Montreal, so it doesn’t feel like just a tourist area. There are many apartments and condominiums, and many companies have offices in the neighbourhood. But tourists and Montrealers love to go to Old Montreal because there are so many things to see and do.
Map of Old Montreal (pdf)
Place d’Armes is a famous square in Old Montreal. It is very popular with tourists because of the beautiful old buildings around it. It is a few minutes walk up the hill from metro Place d’Armes and Chinatown. To the north of Place d’Armes, there is the Bank of Montreal building, which was built in 1845. It is very beautiful inside, and it has a bank museum.
To the south, there is Notre-Dame Basilica, one of the most beautiful churches in the world. Next to Notre-Dame, there is the Old Seminary, which is one of the oldest buildings in Montreal, built in 1683. It has an old clock that was built in 1701.
To the east, there is the red-brown New York Life building, which was built in 1888. The New York Life building was the first building in Montreal to have an elevator. The Aldred Building, which was built in 1929, is in the Art Deco style.
In the square, there is a statue of de Maisonneuve, the man who founded Montreal in 1642. Around the square, you can see horse-drawn buggies called calèches that you can take a ride in for about $60 an hour. Near Place d’Armes, there is the Montreal Courthouse [Palais de justice], and the Centaur Theatre.
Place Jacques-Cartier is another famous square in Old Montreal. It is a few minutes walk up the hill from metro Champ-de-Mars. It used to be an open public market in the 19th century. The square is like a wide street going down from Notre-Dame street to De la Commune street at the bottom. At the top of the Square, there is Montreal City Hall, which is the main government building for the City of Montreal. The mayor’s office is there, and it is where the city council meets. The building has a green roof, and it was finished in 1878.
Also at the top of the square is Nelson’s Column, a famous statue built in 1808 to remember Admiral Horatio Nelson, who died fighting Napoleon at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Across the street from City Hall, there is the Château Ramezay Museum, which is a small museum of the history of Montreal.
The sides of Place Jacques-Cartier have many restaurants with “terraces” which are patios where you can eat outside. In the summer, there are many street performers – jugglers, magicians, and acrobats who do little shows, trying to get people to give a few dollars. They are very interesting and funny. If you like the show, give them something! Also in the square, there are artists who are selling their pictures. It is an interesting place to be. To see what is going in right now, check the Place Jacques-Cartier webcam.
Near Place Jacques-Cartier, there is the Notre Dame de Bonsecours Church, which is also called the Sailor’s Church, and Bonsecours Market, which was built in 1847. Bonsecours Market is a big, long building on Saint Paul Street that has a silver dome on it. It used to be an indoor public market, and it was Montreal City Hall from 1852 to 1878.
Today, it is like a small shopping centre full of special shops that have art and clothes from Quebec. It is very interesting. In the basement, on the De la Commune street side, there is glass-making shop. You can watch people making beautiful glass objects.
Place Royale is a small in the western part of Old Montreal, near the Old Port and the entrance to the Lachine Canal. You can visit the very interesting Pointe-à-Callière Archaeology Museum here. The gift shop for the museum is in the old Customs House.
It is a lot of fun to walk around Montreal in any season. It is beautiful and romantic, and it is easy to go. Just take the Orange line metro to metro Champ-de-Mars or metro Place d’Armes.
There are many activities in Old Montreal that change in every season. Check the Old Montreal Website for more information.