A trip to a big city for first time can seem overwhelming, especially to a place that may speak a foreign language. Montreal is the second largest French speaking city in the world after Paris, however you need not worry as the downtown area is largely bilingual. To help you enjoy your time in Montreal I have put together the top must see stops, suggestions on where to eat, and general tips and tricks for getting around the city.
The first stop for any visitor to town should be the Place d’Armes. Place d’Armes is one of the squares in Old Montreal quarter, which is very similar to the central squares you could find in many European cities. A monument for Paul de Chomedey – the founder of Montreal – can be found in the center of the square.
Across from the monument you can find the main feature of the square, Basilique Notre Dame de Montreal. I didn’t get a chance to go inside as the line was very long that day, but the exterior is looks like what you would find at a European cathedral. If you have a chance to go in, take a look at the beautiful stained glass that depicts scenes Montreal’s religious history.
The square is surrounded by some of Montreal’s most notable buildings including the Aldred Building, Saint-Sulpice Seminary, New York Life Building and the Bank of Montreal. Make sure to take a look around the entire square before you begin to head down the old cobblestone streets of Old Montreal.
Rue Saint Paul & Place Jacques Cartier
Head down Rue Saint Paul, a beautiful old cobblestone street that is just a short walk from Place d’Armes. Rue Saint Paul and the surrounding streets have great shopping where you can get souvenirs from your visit to the city. If you continue down this street you will end up at Place Jacques Cartier. Here you will find lots of expensive restaurants, ice cream shops and street vendors.
As you continue to head down Rue Saint-Paul you will come upon the 150-year-old Bonsecours Market. This market is the oldest and largest public market. For the first hundred years of its existence, this two-story domed building was the main public market in the greater Montreal area. Now you will find that is the home to upscale cafes and boutiques, however it still stands as a pillar of French-Canadian architecture.
Parc Du Bassin Bonsecours
This beautiful park is great to visit in all seasons. Located just off rue de la Commune in the old port. If you happen to be in the city during the Fall season, make sure to walk to the end of the pier towards the Sailors Memorial Clock. The reflection of the trees on the water and the wide open green space makes for a perfect area to have a picnic, explore and relax.
The science centre is located right in the heart of the old port on the waterfront. This museum opened in 2000 and is home to many science and technology exhibits, as well as an IMAX theatre.
Maison De Mere D’Youville
Found on Saint Pierre Street, the Maison de Mere d’ Youville is a historical square named after Marguerite d’Youville. This was the site of the hospital for the poor built in the 1690’s and was run by the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of Montreal, also known as The Grey Nuns and founded by Marie-Marguerite d’Youville. You can now do guided tours through the old facility.
RESTAURANTS & CAFES
There is no shortage of great places to eat throughout Old Montreal with everything from fine dining to pubs. Here are a few of my favourite places to eat that I highly recommend:
- Olive et Gourmando
- Nolana Pizzeria
- Restaurant Da Emma
- Brit & Chips
- Merchant Boeuf
These are some of the most popular places to visit in Old Montreal and can easily be done in half a day worth of walking. If you feel like going on an extra tour of the city, one of the best ways to do so is by horse drawn carriage. The carriage drivers are incredibly knowledgeable of the city and don’t forget to tip their four footed partner a carrot or apple!