You will probably want to begin your visit to Montreal in or near the Old City. Montreal was founded in 1642, not too long after Quebec City. Originally named Ville-Marie, it was fortified by the French. Following the French and Indian War (the Seven Years' War in Europe), the British took control.
Wandering the narrow streets lined with quaint shops and cafes, you don't need to be going anywhere in particular. One can browse in the stores inside Bonsecours Market, have a cup of coffee at the Place Jacques-Cartier, take a carriage ride along the Rue de la Commune, or go window-shopping along the Rue Notre Dame.
Place des Armes is one of the three main squares in the Old City (the other two are the Place d'Youville and the Place Jacques-Cartier). The Place des Armes is quite close to the downtown core and contains the Notre Dame Basilica, the first building of the Bank of Montreal, the New York Life building and the Aldred Building, which is done in Art Nouveau style. The variety of architectural styles that can be seen in such a small space is quite impressive, although they all range over only a few decades at the end of the 19th century and start of the twentieth century. The centre of the Place is occupied by the Paul de Chomedey monument, which is dedicated to the young man of the same name who helped to defend the city of Ville-Marie against Iroquois attacks. The Place des Armes is today a very popular tourist destination that attracts crowds even early in the morning. You can buy flowers here during the summer, and the horse-drawn carriages start lining up at 9AM, waiting for tourists looking for a unique way to see the old city.
Place Jacques-Cartier is a delightful square in the centre of Montreal's old city that is lined with cafés and restaurants. The name of this square was made official in 1847, but was used by the people of the city long before the official christening. The most notable monument is the Nelson Column, which was erected in 1810, before the one in London. Place Jacques-Cartier has been restored to its original colonial French glory and today the square plays host to the Hotel de Ville, the town hall. Across the street in the place Vauquelin there are also a number of historical monuments, but it is really in the approach to the Harbour that the true beauty and feel of the square can be experienced. In the summetime you will find many, many patios on which brunch, lunch and dinner are served, and, unlike in other cities, the waiters and waitresses are not so aggressive as to make it difficult to enjoy the square. There are also numerous buskers and performers, and the side streets house a number of shops that sell watercolours of the city and the harbour.
The first French settlement in what is now Montreal dated from 1605, but considerable attacks from the native Iroquois peoples led to the abandonment of the post until 1642, when Ville-Marie (which later became Montreal) was founded by the French. The first hospital was founded by Jeanne Mance in 1645, and the settlement quickly became permanent. Ville-Marie became Montreal in the early 1700s, when the various Catholic orders had established a firm presence (including the first Notre Dame de Bonsecours church), allowing for the growth of a somewhat normal French settlement (rather than just an outpost). The various fortifications were built around the city and commerce took off. In 1763, Montreal, together with the rest of New France, passed into British hands. The British decided to allow French culture to continue in the city, which also meant that the original French architecture and flavour of the old city remains to this day. This provides a unique contrast with the much more British air of the downtown commercial core of the city, which is to the west of Ville-Marie. Many important buildings were destroyed in the Seven Years War, but the new ones that sprang up complemented the character of the city's French origins while also introducing some English design, especially around Place d'Youville.
Bonsecours Market is one of the most notable buildings in Vieux-Montréal and is names after the nearby church, Notre Dame de Bonsecours (which is also known as the Sailor's Church). The market was first opened in 1847, when the city was already under English control. From the 1850s to 1870s, the building housed the City Hall, after a brief stint as the Parliament of Upper Canada (which became the Province of Québec in 1867). The building has an impressive silver copula that towers over the entire area and can be seen from far down the Promenade du Vieux Port. Today the building is touristy collection of cafés, bistros and restaurants.
If you look at Montreal on a map, it is probably hard to imagine that the city is, or at least was, a very important port. The city, however, lies right at the narrowing of the St. Laurence River, an important artery that connects the Great Lakes System with the Atlantic Ocean. Montréal is, in fact, on an island, and thus the city's prime importance has long been as a transit point for people and goods coming from Europe and destined for the Central Canadian provinces. Although the oldest parts of the city are located closest to the harbour, the actual installations along the water are fairly modern, and they are designed more for leisurely outdoor activities than for historical interest. There is a marina filled with smaller yachts and sailboats (always a favourite among kids) and a long river-side promenade with jogging trails. In the winter, this is probably not a good place to hang out. In the summer, however, it provides some of the most beautiful and enjoyable sights and hours that you can have on a warm day.
World Trade Centre in the Old Montreal is kind of an indoor village. You may stroll around anytime of the year and experience Montreal cafes and restaurants, the shopping mall with its specialty shops, boutiques, and art galleries.
You can also find within the premises, the 5-star Inter-Continental Hotel which is a better location if you are on a business trip. The place has easy access to Square-Victoria metro station so much so that you can conveniently move around the city. And mind you, if you are meeting friends or relatives, the World Trade Centre is a perfect location as it is the best place to start exploring the Old Montreal.
Enjoy your tour of the Centre de Commerce Mondial de Montreal.
Very easy to find this , just walked down Notre Dame Street to walk into the old city, narrow streets, some cobblestone. Lots of little cafes and little stores, it was very nice to have a walk around. i was expecting old montreal to be larger, more like a little village of scattered cobblestone streets, but it was smaller, only a couple streets and i think i only saw maybe one actual cobblestone street, maybe i missed them somehow, but all the streets in this area are narrow and its a nice area to roam around
Some people I talk to say that Old Montreal has a 'european' feel. Perhaps. In any event, it is pleasing and relaxing to aimlessly wander through the old streets and inhale historic Montreal. There are several quaint cafes scattered around and you can even ride in a horse carriage, should you feel so inclined. It's a cool place to walk around.
Two other significant buildings at Place d’Armes are the Notre Dame Basilica built in 1827, and the New York Life Building, Canada’s first skyscraper and built in 1888.
The Notre Dame Basilica lays claim to having the largest bell in North America and is able to seat 5000 people. Yes, it’s a very substantial building, but by this part of our trip I was “churched out”, so I left it to Pauline to pay the entrance fee and visit the spectacular interior which also features a superb pipe organ (photos 2,3) while I went to the Aldred Building.
Across the way, the New York Life building in its red bricks (photo 4) was very much “the latest thing” when it was built: with its eight storeys and even a lift, it must have really created a stir! It still warrants a photo, after all I doubt that many places had anything like it when it was built!
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