Neighbourhood Guide: Old Montréal

One of the oldest urban areas in North America, Old Montréal has a certain character and charm that is different from the rest of the city. This area, home to the beginnings of Montreal, dates all the way back to the discovery of Canada by the French. It is a major tourist attraction, being one of the most popular neighbourhoods in the city. With easily walkable and photogenic cobblestone streets, the stunning architecture of buildings blends well with the modern shops within them. Notre-Dame Basilica, Vieux-Port, Place Jacques-Cartier, and Place d’Armes are just some of the most well known monuments in the area. In this post, I’ll be giving you the ultimate guide to Old Montréal, showing you all the best spots and activities to do in the neighbourhood. 

What to See 

Bonsecours Market (Marché Bonsecours) 

exterior; inside shops

Once the city hall, Bonsecours market is a century and a half old, making it the largest and oldest public market in the city. The interior shops of the market are slightly disappointing, but it is still worth a visit for the history and architecture of the building itself. 

Notre-Dame (Our Lady) Basilica  

centrepiece; exterior; pipe organ

Built in the 1820s, Notre-Dame is a Gothic Revival church that is one of the most celebrated in Canada. With its beautifully detailed stained glass scenes, 7000 pipe organ, and shining royal blue ceiling, the interior of church is what really pulls visitors to the monument. Located within the Place d’Armes, where famous singer Celine Dion got married, it is the crowning jewel of the square. It is definitely worth a visit when in Montreal, and likely the most important spot in this entire guide. 

Montreal City Hall (Mairie de Montréal) 

exterior of city hall

The Montreal City Hall, built in the 19th century, is one of the best examples of Second Empire style in Canada. It was modelled after Paris’ Tours Town Hall, and declared a National Historic Site in the 1980s.  

Montreal Ferris Wheel (La Grande Roue de Montréal) 

bonsecours market & the wheel

Built for the 375th anniversary of the city, just a couple years ago, Montreal’s Ferris Wheel is the tallest in Canada. 60 metres high, it offers great views of the harbour, river, mountains, skyline and streets of the city. I didn’t get to go up the ferris wheel during my visit to Montreal, though hopefully next time I’m back I get the chance to do so! 

What to Do 

Explore St-Paul Street 

street sign; Notre-Dame-de-Bon Secours chapel; horse & carriage

St. Paul Street is the main street in the neighbourhood, dating back to 1672. Down this famous street you’ll find a mix of posh restaurants and tourist shops, relaxing cafés and expensive shops, and tons of one of a kind buildings. The oldest church in Montreal, Notre-Dame-de-Bon Secours chapel, is located near the north end of the street. Horse carriages can regularly be found heading down the street, making for a European atmosphere throughout the area. 

People Watch in the Squares 

Place d’Armes; Place Jacques-Cartier; Place d’Armes

Tons of interesting people can be found throughout the many squares of Old Montréal, as well as often some live musicians. The Place d’Armes is a small, quaint, picturesque square with the famous Notre-Dame Basilica, making it one of the most visited spots in the neighbourhood. Just northeast of that square is the Place Jacques-Cartier, the main square. Named after the discover of the area, it streches from Old Port to Rue Notre-Dame. Nelson’s Column in the centre of the square is the oldest war monument in Canada. Another good spot to visit is the Place Royale, the sight of the first fort during fighting with the indigenous.  

Photograph the Streets 

views; alleyway; Notre-Dame St.

Pretty much everywhere you walk throughout the Old Town you’ll find a photoworthy scene. With the quaint streets and perfectly designed buildings, the neighbourhood is very bright and colourful. Old Montréal also makes for a great spot for a photoshoot, with tons of great backgrounds for the perfect instagram shot. 

Where to Eat 

Bella Vita 

margherita pizza; views; menu

Located down Jacques-Cartier square, Bella Vita is a classic and simple Italian restaurant. It has a nice interior, as well as a large selection of delicious foods. 

Taverne Gaspar 


Both the outside and inside of this restaurant are beautifully decorated, making it a more high-class and expensive restaurant. Taverne Gaspar has a middle sized menu, and is located near the Old Port.

That’s all for my post today. I hope you enjoyed! 

Thanks for reading.  

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