14 Jul 15

Old Montreal, testament to our city’s long history

To get an idea of life in New France during the 18th and 19th Centuries, a walking tour of Old Montreal is a must. A good place to start would be the Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours Chapel, which is located at the corner of the rue Saint-Paul and rue Bonsecours in the eastern end of Old Montreal. The nearby Bonsecours Market (Marché Bonsecours), built in 1847, is a testament to Montreal’s influence in British North America. The building, comprising of a Greek Revival portico, a tin-plated dome and cast-iron columns imported from England, is a good example of that era’s Neo-Classical style. Today it houses boutiques and exhibits.

A few blocks to the west lies Place Jacques Cartier, named after the French explorer who discovered the island of Montreal in 1535. The square is the central part of Old Montreal; City Hall (Hôtel de Ville) and the Château Ramezay Museum on Notre-Dame Street are situated just to the north, while de la Commune Street and the Old Port of Montreal are a block south. The square is especially enjoyable in summer, with street musicians, jugglers, artists and cafés lining both sides. Calèche drivers beckon strollers to hop on their carriages for a romantic guided tour of the old city. This would be a good time in your busy day to grab a bite for lunch and rest your feet. Try Medi Medi, a cozy Mediterranean restaurant nestled in the heart of Old Montreal. The menu is limited but everything on it is exceptional.

Moving west along tiny St-Amable Street, which is filled with shops and artists, you will find the Pointe-à-Callière museum of archaeology and history. It protects and displays the remains of the city as far back as when the first buildings were erected by French settlers in 1642. The old Customs House, now part of the museum, was designed by British architect John Ostell, who was also responsible for the Old Courthouse.

At the north-western edge of Old Montreal you will find the World Trade Centre (Centre de Commerce Mondial), which integrates a number of old buildings through the use of a spectacular atrium that stands several stories high over the former Rue des Fortifications; it’s well worth a stroll. St-Jacques Street, one street south, features several buildings with stately architecture and lavish interiors: the Bank of Montreal, opened at the corner of rue Saint-Jacques and Avenue Jeanne-Mance in 1847, is a notable example.

Directly across from the bank is Notre-Dame Basilica, a Gothic Revival church built in 1829 and modelled after Notre-Dame in Paris. It’s one of the most popular attractions in Montreal, welcoming over one million visitors a year. After a full day of sight-seeing (and a lot of walking) treat yourself to an up-scale dinner at Marée (La). This charming French restaurant serves exceptional seafood-try the scallops or the lobster.