Montreal is one of North America’s oldest cities, with architecture going all the way back to the 1600s. It’s also the second-largest French-speaking city in the world after Paris. Vieux-Montréal, the oldest part of the city, remains much the same as it did in the city’s earliest days. A walking tour of Old Montreal will show you some of the city’s charming European culture and quaint cobblestone streets. If you’re visiting Montreal, you could check here to find the best deals on hotels near this neighborhood.
Begin Your Tour at Pointe-à-Callière
Pointe-à-Callière, the Montreal Museum of Archeology and History, is located on the very site where Montreal was founded almost 400 years ago. The Pointe-à-Callière is named after Louis Hector de Callière, the third governor of Montreal who built his house on this spot in 1688. The Pointe-à-Callière is the largest archeological museum in Canada. Decades of excavations have revealed more than a millennium of human habitation here.
Continuing Your Tour
Your next stop will be the Centre d’Histoire de Montreal, the Montreal Historical Center. Here you’ll learn everything you need to know about Montreal’s history. The structure was built as a fire station in 1904 and was reopened as a museum in 1983 after being decommissioned in 1972.
Next, you’ll visit the DHC/ART Foundation for Contemporary Art where you can take interactive tours, participate in creative workshops or enjoy one of the museum’s regular events. The museum is open to anyone who wants to learn about contemporary art, with free interactive tours available.
The nearby Centaur Theatre showcases some of the best English-language theater in Quebec. See award-winning shows put on by some of the world’s best actors of the stage and screen. After the show, walk down Rue Saint-François-Xavier and take a right on Rue Saint-Jacques to visit the Bank of Montreal Museum. This museum honoring Canada’s first bank, which opened in 1817, contains old banknotes and 19th-century banking documents, mechanical moneyboxes and other banking objects of historical significance.
Montreal Science Centre and the Old Port
You’ll have to cross Rue de la Commune to get to the Montreal Science Centre on the banks of the St. Lawrence River, but it’s worth it for the museum’s exciting and interactive exhibits. You can learn about the technology we use to protect the environment and practice more sustainable living, monitor maritime cargo shipping, make hockey sticks stronger and keep bridges standing.
When you leave the Science Centre, check out the Old Port of Montreal on the St. Lawrence River, which offers a range of activities for everyone in the family all year long. Enjoy a walk on the riverfront or rent a paddle boat. In the winter, the Old Port is home to the city’s largest natural outdoor ice-skating rink.
If you’re interested in ceramics, the Bonsecours Ceramic Centre on Rue Saint Gabriel showcases pieces by emerging artists as well as internationally recognized names. Students come from all over Quebec to train at the Ceramic Centre, but you can see stunning examples of the best in ceramics art as well.
Perhaps the bigger nearby draw is the Marché Bonsecours, or Bonsecours Market. The building itself is more than 100 years old, and is the city’s oldest and biggest public market. The two-story, domed neoclassical structure once held banquets, exhibits and festivals, and was where grocers and other merchants sold their wares. Now, it’s home to some of the city’s finest upscale boutiques.
Ending Your Tour
Perhaps one of the more picturesque parts of your tour of Vieux-Montréal, the Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel is also home to the Marguerite-Bourgeoys Museum at Rue Saint Paul. The chapel was built in 1771 on the ruins of a previous chapel that burned down in 1754.
Marguerite Bourgeoys was the remarkable woman and teacher who inspired the Montrealers to build this first chapel in 1675. She traveled to France in 1672 to bring the wooden statue of Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours back, which stands in the reliquary in the left side-altar.
Near the end of your tour, visit Chateau Ramezay, the first structure classified as a historic monument in Quebec. The castle, built by Montreal governor Claude de Ramezay in 1705, opened as a museum in 1895. It encompasses more than 500 years of local history. Its collections include almost 30,000 artifacts including paintings, printed materials and furniture.
Finish your tour with the Sir George-Etienne Cartier National Historic Site, Montreal’s only Victorian home museum. See what life was like for members of the bourgeoisie in the 19th century, and learn about this important Canadian historical figure.
Old Montreal is one of the most exciting parts of this historic city. You can retrace your footsteps through the district at night to see the historic streets and architecture at their loveliest!
Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel photo credit: Marcio Cabral de Moura / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND
About the Author: Louise Vinciguerra is a native of Brooklyn. She loves gardening and traveling almost as much as she loves content.