Once surrounded by ramparts, this historic area within Montreal city now shines as one of the oldest and best preserved urban centers in North America.
Nestled between the banks of the St. Lawrence River and Montreal Downtown is the original fortified town of Old Montreal. Although the walls have disappeared years ago, the cobblestone streets and architecture spanning three centuries make Old Montreal feel more like an old European city than a New World capital.
Visit the birthplace of the city at Pointe-à-Callière and wander the narrow, twisting Rue Saint-Paul, the city’s oldest surviving street. Just opposite Montreal City Hall, join Benjamin Franklin on the guest list at the Château Ramezay. Built as the governor’s residence in the 18th century, today the mansion serves as a museum dedicated to Montreal’s history. Just a block away at the Marguerite-Bourgeoys Museum, see the foundation of the city’s first stone chapel, which was built in the 17th century.
The Montreal Museum of Archaeology and History traces the city’s past back to its days as a 17th-century fur-trading post and beyond. Examine artifacts of local Amerindian people dating back thousands of years. Many of the exhibits are innovatively displayed underground in their original dig sites.
The culinary arts play a central role in Old Montreal’s history too. Dine at the Cabaret du Roy in Bonsecours Market to experience traditional cuisine alongside colonial characters brought to life by local actors. Old Montreal is also a hotbed of contemporary culture. Watch a show at the Centaur Theatre or the latest in local contemporary art at DHC/ART.
To get the most from your visit, join a walking, Segway or bicycle tour. Self-guided maps and guides are available from the visitor center and museums. For the quintessential Montreal experience, take a ride in a horse-drawn calèche after dark, when Old Montreal's finest buildings are beautifully illuminated with specially designed lighting.
Old Montreal is easily accessible via buses, metros, ferry and Underground City walkways. For drivers, street parking is nearly impossible, but paid garages are available.
Most museums in Old Montreal charge admission. During the summer months, museums are open daily, but during the offseason, they are closed part of the week, so a little preplanning is advised.