The Old Port [Vieux-Port] is between Old Montreal and the river. Montrealers and tourists love the Old Port. It is a great place to spend an afternoon. All year round, people like to walk along the river at the Old Port, but in summer, there are thousands of people enjoying the walk.
From east to west, let’s take a tour of the Old Port. Map of the Old Port (pdf).
First, there is the Clock Tower. It was built between 1919 and 1932 as a memorial for sailors who died in World War 1. During the summer months, you can go inside and climb the stairs to the top for a great view. There is also historical information about the tower and the Old Port inside. The Clock Tower is a great place to see the Fireworks Festival during the summer.
Near the Clock Tower, there is Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours church, which is also called the Sailors’ Church, and Bonsecours Market, which is today a shopping centre full of shops that sell products from Quebec. In the basement, on the river side, there is a glass-blowing workshop where you can watch artisans making beautiful glass objects.
In the Old Port, there are quays, which are docks that stick out into the river. They were built for ships to dock next to. They were covered with buildings (sheds) to keep goods going onto and coming off of ships. Today, the Old Port is a tourist area, so there aren’t many big ships. The first quay, near the clock tower, has commercial services in Shed 16, like rentals for bikes, inline skates, Segways.
The next quay is Jacques Cartier Quay, names after the famous French explorer. In the building, there are fast-food restaurants in the summer. On the quay behind the building, there is an open area where there are temporary activities. For example, the Cirque du Soleil sets up its big blue and yellow tent here for its new shows. At other times, there are art shows or other exhibitions in tents on the quay in summer.
Between Shed 16 and Jacques Cartier Quay there is an area of water. In summer people rent pedal boats in the water. In winter, this is a skating area. You can rent skates in the building in the in the middle. The skating rink is open every day in winter, from morning till night. It costs $4 for admission plus skate rental of $7 (if you don’t have your own skates).
During the summer, on the west side of Jacques Cartier Quay, you will find many harbour tour boats. This is also the place where you can get take a ferry boat to go to Saint Helen’s Island or Longueuil on the south shore.
As you walk along the Old Port, there is a park area between the quays and de la Commune street in Old Montreal. This park has nice trees, benches and tables where you can have a picnic. There are also nice fountains and pools of water, and many sculptures and public art displays.
The next quay is King Edward Quay, and it is home to a science museum called the Montreal Science Centre. It has many interesting science exhibits and an IMAX theatre.
There is a small, old quay next, where there are sometimes there are ships. The next big quay is Alexandra Quay, and it is the terminal for cruise ships that visit Montreal. Sometimes there are very large cruise ships in port. When you are there you can see a famous building across the river. It is called Habitat ’67. It is an interesting apartment complex that was built for the 1967 World’s Fair in Montreal.
Near the cruise ship terminal, you can see the Pointe-à-Callière Archaeology Museum across de la Commune street, by Place Royale. This is a very interesting museum that shows the history of Montreal through archaeology. In the museum, you go down through layers of Montreal history, seeing the various buildings that were on the exact spot the museum is on now.
At the west end of the Old Port, there is the beginning of the historic Lachine Canal. The waterway was very important in the industrial development of Montreal in the 1800s. At the beginning of the canal, there is a the first set of locks. In the summer, you can see the locks in operation, with boats entering and rising a few metres to continue. A bike path runs all along the 13 kilometres of the canal. Just up from the first set of locks you can see an old tugboat called the Daniel McAllister. It was built in 1905, and it worked in the port of Montreal, pushing big ships into their docks.
Across the canal, you can see a huge building. This is Silo #5. It was a grain storage building for exporting Canadian wheat from the prairie provinces. It was built and expanded between 1903 and 1958. When it was working, it could hold enough wheat to make 230 million loaves of bread! It was closed in 1994, and there is a lot of discussion about what to do with the building. Some people think it is ugly, but other people say it is an important part of the history of the port. Some musicians use the empty building for concerts because the sound inside is very interesting. You can “play” the Silophone on the internet, playing a sound inside and listening to the echo.
In the summer every year, between Silo #5 and the canal, there are usually flower or garden shows. You can see interesting displays of plants, trees and flowers. Every year is a different show.
There are many activities in every season in the Old Port. Check the Old Port Website to find out what is happening.