Neighbourhood Guide: Old Montréal
Dating back to 1642, Old Montréal is one of North America’s oldest urban neighbourhoods. The historical area’s cobblestone streets and centuries-old buildings have made it one of Montréal’s most popular places for tourists and locals alike. Old Montréal counts many noteworthy streets among its grid, such as rue Saint Jacques and its collection of old financial institutions, and rue Saint-Paul and its charming restaurants. It’s an area not to be missed when visiting Montréal, and here are the spots you should check out.
Place d’Armes and Notre-Dame Basilica
Old Montréal’s Place d’Armes is the second-oldest public space in Canada. It’s surrounded by buildings that are great examples of specific architectural styles. To the north, the Bank of Montréal was constructed in 1659, to the east, the beautiful red stone New York Life building dates to 1887, and standing next to it is the Aldred building, a great example of Art Deco architecture built in 1931. And, of course, the jewel of Place d’Armes is the Notre-Dame Basilica. Sitting on the south side of the square, Montréal’s grand dame was the largest church in North America upon its completion in 1830. Notre Dame is visited by 11 million people every year, who stand in awe of its intricate interior space.
900 Place Jean-Paul-Riopelle; restaurant-toque.com
Restaurant Toqué! is the definition of fine dining in Montréal. The 26-year-old establishment has never been one to follow trends, but rather has always been a trendsetter. Chef Normand Laprise was at the forefront of the farm-to-table movement and still champions Québec’s local producers. Toqué! is a greatly-celebrated institution that lives up to its high standards, and dining in the beautiful, jewel-toned dining room is a unique experience with excellent service and cuisine.
El Pequeño Bar
401-A St-Vincent; elpequenobar.com
Old Montréal’s El Pequeño Bar is a tiny space that conjures sizzling Havana nights. The marble-topped bar, dark wood paneling, ornate light fixtures, and opulent textures add to the charm of this miniature bar that may be small on square footage, but is big on appeal. In the warmer months, the bar triples its seating capacity with a lovely patio. Order a rum-based cocktail and pair it with the Cuban sandwich for a remarkable experience.
Plus, check out:
Crew Collective & Café
360 St. Jacques St.; crewcollectivecafe.com
Located inside the former Royal Bank headquarters in Old Montréal, Crew is guaranteed to provide some Instagram-worthy shots. Crew is a co-working and café space that is as stunning as it is delicious. The impressive and intricate vaulted ceilings, grand staircase, and shiny brass accents have all been preserved and attest to the space’s glory days as one of the oldest banks in the country. Crew’s monthly coffee master classes are very popular, as is their food, which includes a generous array of pastries from some of Montréal’s best bakeries.
407 Saint-Pierre Street; phi-centre.com
Located in a beautifully-restored heritage building, the Phi Centre is one of the most innovative and state-of-the-art exhibit spaces in the city. The green building includes an art gallery, a cinema, a theatre, and a stunning rooftop terrace. Phi is “at the intersection of art, film, music, design and technology,” showcasing international as well as local artists and installations. The well-curated programming is always surprising, entertaining, and thought-provoking.
The Old Port
Running along the banks of the St. Lawrence River, the Old Port is a treasure-trove of activities. It’s the quintessential Old Montréal spot for joggers, rollerbladers, and bikers to take to its paths. There’s no shortage of activities for the whole family, including the Montréal Science Centre, IMAX theatre, the Cirque du Soleil big top when it’s in town, the Grande Roue de Montréal ferris wheel, and ice skating in the winter. You can also hop on a sunset dinner cruise or embark on a boating adventure on the Lachine Rapids. Or, indulge in an afternoon of relaxation at popular Bota Bota, a spa lodged inside a reclaimed riverboat.