One of the best ways to experience the city’s diverse nature is on foot, and what better place to start than with Old Montréal, where history meets cutting-edge ideas and European style shares each block with Montréal flare. Take this walk in a morning, afternoon or evening to discover everything from centuries-old architecture to remarkable restaurants.
Start your Old Montréal walk with some local history, beginning at the corner of Notre Dame Street East and Saint Claude with City Hall built in the mid-1870s and where French President Général de Gaulle declared “Vive le Québec libre!” in 1967. Across the street, find the Chateau Ramezay historical site and, a couple of blocks east, the Sir George-Étienne Cartier National Historic Site for a peek at 19th century Montréal. From there, walk past the Place De La Dauversière gardens to admire the view from the Nelson monument before walking down Place Jacques-Cartier, a wide boulevard filled with restaurants, shops, live music and street artists. Take Saint Paul Street East to go to Marché Bonsecours, Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel, the Museum of Costumes and Textiles and the Marguerite Bourgeoys Museum.
Walk a short block along Bonsecours Street down toward the Saint Lawrence River and the Old Port – you’ll find a wide boardwalk along the water that spans from Clock Tower Beach and Terrasses Bonsecours and along the Quays west, home to the Montréal Science Centre and IMAX theatre, ice skating and ice fishing in winter, Bota Bota spa and much more.
Where to eat: Along Rue de la Commune, find great brunch, lunch or dinner at Communion, the Auberge du Vieux-Port terrasse (at the top of Auberge du Vieux-Port hotel – a great place to see the fireworks in July), Taverne Gaspar, where you’ll find a huge selection of excellent bourbon and a $1 oyster special Monday to Friday. Or go for the Italian classics and upbeat atmosphere of Bevo Bar + Pizzeria, open until 2 am on St-Vincent Street, or newly renovated Modavie bistro and wine bar at 1 Saint-Paul Street, with live music and space for larger groups.
Once at Saint Sulpice Street, take the cobblestone street uphill – past Spa Scandinave, Verses restaurant, Le Saint Sulpice Hôtel and Les Glaceurs bakery – until reaching Place d’Armes, the plaza directly in front of the gorgeous Notre-Dame Basilica, with a statue of Montréal’s founder Paul de Chomedey at its centre.
Where to eat: Stop for food and drink down the block from the Basilica at Accords Wine Bar and Restaurant, French restaurant Chez Delmo, Italian Ristorante Quattro, modern resto-bars Assommoir and Méchant Bœuf, specializing in beef done all ways, including “cru” (tartare), with live blues on Tuesdays and rock on Wednesdays.
For more historical insights, take Saint Francois-Xavier Street past the Centaur Theatre and Ateliers et Saveurs cooking school and down to the Pointe-à-Callière Montréal Museum of Archaeology and History, where multimedia exhibitions expose the city’s 17th, 18th and 19th centuries in living colour and where the foundation of the city’s first building can be found. A block to the west on Place D’Youville, find the Centre d’histoire de Montréal in a 1903 firehouse near the site of Canada’s first parliamentary building.
Where to eat: Re-energize with a delectable treat from Maison Christian Faure on Place Royale. And shake up both local history and geography with a slice of Beunos Aires at L’Atelier d’Argentine restaurant down the street from the Centre d’histoire.
Walk up Saint Pierre, with the wonderful Olive Gourmando cafe and bakery and Flyjin Japanese izakaya on the way, to step into present-day arts and culture at the PHI Centre art complex and nearby DHC/ART Foundation for Contemporary Art contemporary art gallery (close to top restaurant L’Orginal). From there, take back down to Saint-Paul and out to McGill Street, a main street connecting Old Montréal to downtown. At this point, the adventurous and art-loving will want to take a five-minute detour west to the Darling Foundry gallery on Rue Ottawa.
Where to eat: On Rue McGill you’ll find gourmet shop and eaterie Le Cartet, excellent drinks and food at Restaurant Holder, Commerce, Mercuri and Boris Bistro, artisanal beers and locally sourced dishes at Bistro Brasserie Les Soeurs Grises, and French and Québecois fare at Vallier, Bistro Et Comptoir.
Afterwards stroll back down the lively, narrow and picturesque Saint-Paul Street to see architecture from the first years of the city, numerous art galleries and boutiques, and more of Old Montréal’s timeworn cobblestones.
Where to eat: Along Saint-Paul Street find edible maple syrup creations at Canadian Maple Delights, delicious Portugese natas pastries at Cantinho De Lisboa, the Vieux-Port Steakhouse, and a bird’s eye view of Old Montréal at Terrasse Nelligan, the rooftop bar and restaurant of Hôtel Nelligan.
Whether you’re in Montréal in the fall, winter, spring or summer, know that if you ask a Montréaler, they’ll tell you that any time of year is a good time for a walk in the city – simply dress well for the weather, choose your footwear wisely, and you’re good to go!
Up next: Romance for all in Montréal
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