Montréal’s oldest neighbourhood is fittingly called Old Montréal. This historic neighbourhood dates back to the early 1600s. It spans several blocks next to the waterfront of the Saint Lawrence River. Stroll the cobblestoned streets and you’ll feel like you are in Europe. Beyond the historic sites, you’ll also find many cafés, restaurants, boutique hotels and shops.
Explore the best of Old Montréal with this walking tour.
The Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel was built over the ruins of another church in 1771, making it among the oldest chapels in Montréal. It’s also home to the Marguerite Bourgeoys Museum, which honors the woman who was Montréal’s first teacher and founder of the original Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours. For an incredible view of Old Port, climb to the lookout at the top of the chapel.
Address: 400 rue Saint Paul Est
The Bonsecours Market, from 1847, is recognized as a National Historic Site of Canada and was once the largest public market in Montréal. Today, the domed space offers eateries and boutique shops selling mainly local Quebec-made items from art to fashion. You’ll find many sketch artists sit on the edge of the market to capture this historic square of the Chapel and L’ Auberge Saint-Gabriel.
Address: 350 rue Saint Paul Est
1-minute walk from Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel
Château Ramezay is a museum in a historic building built in 1705. It was the first building to be recognized as a historical monument in Quebec and was also designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1949. The museum honours the early era of the city’s history. Through its exhibitions, it shows how the people of New France lived over many centuries ago. The historic site and museum were selected as one of the ‘1001 Historic Sites You Must See Before You Die’ by a team of experts in partnership with UNESCO.
Be sure to walk around the back of the Château and stroll through the Governor’s Garden. It mimics the original 18th century garden, only on a much smaller scale. The garden is in the formal French style and is divided into three equal-sized sections: a kitchen garden, an orchard and an ornamental garden. Surrounding these sections, at the foot of the stone walls, is a fourth section consisting of herbs and medicinal plants. A ram’s-head fountain greets you as you enter the garden.
Address: 280 rue Notre-Dame Est
3-minute walk from Bonsecours Market
Montréal City Hall
Montréal City Hall (or Hôtel de Ville) is an impressive building. Built between 1872 and 1878 it was inspired by the Hôtel de Ville Tours in France. It is known as one of the best examples of the Second Empire style in Canada. Located next to Vauquelin Square and its beautiful fountain, this incredible landmark is not to be missed.
275 Notre-Dame St. Est
1-minute walk from Chateau Ramezay
Place Jacques-Cartier is a historical square named after the explorer who claimed Canada for France in 1535. It leads from Montréal City Hall to the Old Port. The stretch of cobblestone street is pedestrian only, and in the summer months is host to events and festivals. It’s bustling with performers, artisans and artists. At the north end of Place Jacques-Cartier stands Montreal’s oldest public monument, Nelson’s Column, which was erected in 1809 to honour the British officer Horatio Nelson. The square is also lined with many restaurants. Sit and stay a while, you’ll want to soak up the lively atmosphere.
Address: Rue Jacques-Cartier
2-minute walk from City Hall
Old Port Montréal
The Old Port of Montréal (or Vieux-Port) was used by French fur traders as early as 1611. Although it is has not operated as the city’s main port since the 1970s, it still has a main purpose – tourism. Here, you can eat, drink, walk, cycle or paddleboat along the pier. Other attractions include the Montreal Science Centre, a wintertime skating rink, a Ferris wheel and a zip line. This family friendly spot is lined with food trucks along the pier.
Address: Promenade du Vieux Port
1-minute walk from Place Jacques-Cartier
Walk along the Promenade du Vieux Port until you reach the Grand Quay. Jutting into the Saint Lawrence River, the Grand Quay is a newly addition to the Old Port. From here take a boat cruise where you can admire the views of the waterway and its surroundings. The Grand Quay is one of the best vantage points to see Habitat 67, a cube-like housing complex famously designed by architect Moshe Safdie for Expo 67, the world’s fair hosted by Montreal in 1967.
Address: rue de la Commune and rue Saint Sulpice
5-minute walking distance from Old Port
One of Montreal’s most acclaimed architectural structures is undoubtedly the Notre-Dame Basilica. The interior of this stately 19th-century church is known to be one of the world’s most dramatic. The blue-and-gold vaulted ceilings, ornately decorated carvings and vivid stained glass walls are a sight to be seen. It is known for being the first Gothic Revival-style church in Canada. In addition to regular mass services, many ceremonies of Canada’s most prominent citizens are held here, like Celine Dion’s lavish wedding.
Address: 100 rue Notre-Dame
5-minute walk from Grand Quay
Place d’Armes is the oldest public square in the city. Here you will find some of the most impressive architecture- the old Bank of Montreal, Art Deco buildings and the Notre-Dame Basilica. Look out for the bronze statues called ‘The English Pug and the French Poodle’ also known as the Two Snobs. They face away from each other on opposite sides of a building wearing a snobby theatrical nose mask. It’s meant to poke fun at the French and English Canadians ‘friendly rivalry’.
Address: Place d’Armes
1-minute walk from Notre-Dame Basilica
Royal Bank Tower
Once the tallest building in all of Canada, the 1920s Royal Bank Tower is still an incredible sight to see. The Neoclassical building is open to the public as it now houses a café in its impressive lobby. Or, return in the evening and check out its nightclub in its historical bank vaults.
Address: 360 rue Saint-Jacques
5-minute walk from Place d’Arms
Centre d’Histoire de Montréal
The Centre d’Histoire de Montréal is a museum dedicated to learning about the city’s eventful history. With three floors and several exhibitions, it traces Montréal’s history through photographs and artefacts, including the story behind Montréal Expo. It used to be an old fire station which was in use from 1904 to 1972.
Address: 335 Place d’Youville
6-minute walk from Royal Bank Tower
Maison de Mere d'Youville
The Maison de Mere d’Youville is a historic site dedicated to the first Canadian saint, Marguerite d’Youville. In 1693, 51 years after the founding of Montreal, a ‘home for charity’ was built, followed by a hospital and chapel that was run by Saint Marguerite and the Grey Nuns. Today, a permanent exhibition recounts the influence of her work.
Address: 138 rue Saint-Pierre
2-minute walk from The Centre d’Histoire de Montréal
St Paul Street
St Paul Street is the oldest and most picturesque street in the city. Walk along the cobblestone street lined with historic greystone buildings. These elegant buildings are filled with shops, galleries and restaurants. The entire street runs through Old Montréal. It’s worth just walking from tip to tip and back again gazing upon the architecture and perusing the shops each way.
Best Urban Parks
Marguerite Bourgeoys (1620-1700) was a nun and known as the foundress of the Congregation de Notre Dame de Montréal. She was recruited to educate the French and Indian children in the new colony. In 1659 she began receiving girls (known as the filles du Roy) who were sent by the King of France to establish homes in Montreal and became a mother figure to them. She introduced a school system and a network of social services which gradually extended throughout Canada. For that she is referred to as Marguerite the “Mother of the Colony”.
Address: Rue Notre-Dame
Nearby: Montreal City Hall
Place de la Dauversière
Place de la Dauversière is an unassuming public space that is frequented by the locals. Sitting adjacent to the lively Place Jacques-Cartier, it provides a quiet, relaxing respite away from the crowds. Sit awhile, under the large tree canopies, and watch the pigeons flutter about.
Named in honour of Jérôme Le Royer de La Dauversière, founder of the Société de Notre-Dame, it was the site of the Lemoine-Despins family home in 1750, then James McGill in 1805.
Address: 280 Rue Notre-Dame Est
Nearby: Sits between Place Jacques-Cartier and Château Ramezay
Victoria Square is a public space where Old Montréal ends and Downtown Montreal begins. The Square was named after Queen Victoria (1819-1901) and the monument was unveiled in 1872. The entrance to the métro station in the Square bears an authentic Paris métro railing. The Art Nouveau casting was designed by Hector Guimard in 1900 and was offered to the city of Montréal by the city of Paris, on the occasion of the 1967 World Exhibition.
Address: Rue du Square-Victoria
Near by: Royal Bank Tower
Here are the best places to go for…
- Boulangeries: L’Amour du Pain Vieux-Montreal, bar à beurre, La Cave à Manger
- Brunch: Olive et Gourmando, Jardin Nelson, Chez Suzette
- Cafés: Café Olimpico, Tommy, Café de Mercanti, Le Petit Dep
- Ice Cream: Ca Lem, Le Petit Dep, Mlle Catherine
- Dinner: Toqué! Garde Manger, Pyrenees
Or, why not dine at one of these two historical places…
Best Place to Stay
St Paul Hotel
The St Paul Hotel is located in Old Montréal in a Beaux-Arts building. Beaux-Arts architecture was the academic architectural style taught at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris during the period of 1830s until the end of the century. The interior is just as impressive as the exterior. The award-winning Borrallo Interiors, a Montreal design firm, created a sophisticated, yet bold space. Vibrant colours in rich jewel tones adds a bit of drama to its modern clean lines. And, it’s also known as the first ever boutique hotel in Canada.
Top 5 reasons why St Paul Hotel is the best place to stay:
- It’s dog friendly (note there is a $50/night charge for your pet).
- The location. Even though Old Montreal is small and walkable, the hotel is away from the most ‘touristy’ area of this neighbourhood.
- It’s an architectural gem.
- The interior design is highly stylized and uber cool.
- Their personalized service was top notch.
Tip when booking: ask for the top floor and you will be awarded with amazing views of the city (Request Room 1007).
As a holidaymaker…
Montréal is a such a lively historic city. The late, and great, Anthony Bourdain had deep affection for the city and said, “It’s where the cool kids hang out.” And he’s right! I love everything about this city, but especially Old Montréal. It can rival any European city. With this intinery, plan to spend a full day in Old Montréal. Au reviour!
Disclosure: As an Affiliate Associate of Booking.com if you click on the link contained in this post, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you decide to book. Thank you.