Old Montreal, Montreal Travel Guide
Old Montreal and the Old Port Summary
- Compact, so you'll be close to the action no matter where you stay
- Within a five-minute walk to three metro stops from most of neighborhood
- Cobblestone streets reminiscent of European cities
- Largest concentration of historic sites and museums, including one of Montreal's oldest churches
- Family-friendly attractions, like ice skating, science museums, and adventure parks
- Arguably the most romantic district, complete with beautiful riverfront bike path
- New, excellent restaurants opening to counter touristy offerings
- Sunbathing on Clock Tower Beach in the summer
- Home to Marche Bonsecours -- a century-old public market
- Some parts are very touristy, particularly along Rue St-Paul and Place Jacques Cartier
- Summertime construction can be an issue
- Nightlife options are more low-key than other parts of the city
What It's Like
Old Montreal is -- arguably -- the biggest draw for travelers arriving in the city. And that's for good reason: From the small cobblestone streets to the abundance of cafes and French bistros, it feels like you’ve suddenly landed in Europe when you're in this part of town. There are even horse-drawn carriages wandering the streets. You’d do well simply meandering -- it's a scenic district no matter which corner you're turning -- but Old Montreal has way more than just pretty vistas to offer. In fact, everyone from couples seeking romance to families with energetic kids have something to do in this part of town. If you have kids, the Science Center can take a whole day. It's chock full of playrooms and learning stations for children aged 2 and up. If you're the athletic type, check out Voiles en Voiles, a massive outdoor ropes course, with opportunities for all skill levels and ages. Travelers in search of something more historic can also visit the gorgeous Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours, which was built in the 18th century and is where Celine Dion was married. When they open the doors at 10 in the morning, a live organ concert greets visitors.
No less impressive is the Basilique Notre-Dame-de-Montreal, a cathedral-like sanctuary that towers over the southwest portion of the neighborhood. It's also worth checking out the Palais de Justice and Hotel de Ville de Montreal, which crown the hill that separates Old Montreal from the business districts inland from the river. Most visitors to Old Montreal will make the trek up Rue St-Paul, where the glut of touristy shops are located, but you'd be better served for local flavor by sticking to the neighborhood's southwest, where trendy eateries, cafes, and bars pack the narrow streets toward Rue St-Pierre and Rue McGill, heading in the direction of Griffintown.
Down at the Old Port (Vieux Port), you can rent a pedal boat, bike or roller blade along the beautiful riverside path, or indulge in some treats from the food trucks posted up in this area. We recommend seeking out Felix & Norton, whose cookies are a Montreal staple. You'll also find all sorts of shops, restaurants, and bars along the water. Just a short walk up from the river is Place Jacques Cartier, which is the most touristy spot in the city. Here you'll find patio cafes and restaurants that charge exorbitant prices for mediocre food. Still, it can be entertaining enough to watch the performers engaged in everything from unicycling to fire-blowing, or stopping at one of the portrait artists that draw a comical renditions of your face for a fee.
Where To Stay
Let's get one thing clear: There are two types of hotels you probably won't find in Old Montreal -- chain hotels and cheap hotels. Most proeprties within this district are cute, historic boutique properties with a premium price tag to match the atmosphere. It can be worth it, though, for atmosphere alone. We love options like Le Petit Hotel, Hotel Gault, and Le Place d'Armes Hotel & Suites. Riverfront hotels provide spectacular views, and those nestled back in street alleys are -- naturally -- within easy walking distance from many restaurants and pubs. If you'd like to be away from the crowds -- at least marginally more away from the crowds -- opt for hotels that are closer to Griffintown, in Old Montreal's southwest. No matter where you stay, you'll be close to one of the neighborhood's three metro stations, which run just north of Rue St-Antoine.