There’s nothing like an Old Montreal walking tour, so make sure to head down to the place where it all started. No matter what the conditions or the weather, it’s a great way to spend the day.
1. Notre-Dame Basilica
Spend some time at the Notre-Dame Basilica – an awe-inspiring Montreal landmark that never ceases to amaze visitors.It’s located on the corner of Notre-Dame Street West and Saint-Sulpice Street in Old Montreal.
2. Place d’Armes
Place d’Armes, the Public Square that faces Notre-Dame Basilica and is surrounded by historical buildings, with a monument at its center that speaks to the very essence of the French in New France.
3. Bank of Montreal Head Office
The Neoclassical building that faces Place d’Armes houses the oldest bank incorporated in Canada, which was founded right here in Montreal in 1817. It was primarily opened by some of the most prominent figures of the city to serve business customers and provide a form of paper money. Today, the bank is no longer the head office of the Bank of Montreal but you can visit its museum that’s inside the existing branch.
4. The Art Deco Aldred Building
The Aldred Building is a beautiful Art deco building located at Place d’Armes square. The building is Montreal’s first skyscraper, completed in 1931, standing at a height of 96 metres. The 23-story building actually resembles the Empire State Building in New York City.
From there, head east on Notre-Dame Street on your Old Montreal walking tour where you’ll pass the Palais de Justice or the City Courthouse on your left, at the corner of Notre-Dame and Saint-Laurent Blvd. The next structure next to the Courthouse is Place Marguerite-Bourgeoys and just opposite it is the Court of Appeals. Keep heading east and you’ll pass another city government office – Service des finances de la Ville de Montreal. The structure is designed with large columns, like many others in Old Montreal.
5. Place Vauquelin
Finally, you’ll come along Place Vauquelin, a small square with a fountain, nestled between the Service des Finances de la Ville de Montreal and Montreal City Hall (la Mairie-bureau du maire).
You are welcome to enter and take pictures of the architecture if you so wish, as it is a historical building, erected between 1872 and 1878 in the Second Empire style (if it’s open). Just across the street is the famous Place Jacques-Cartier Square.
6. Place Jacques-Cartier Square
The town square is now a popular tourist attraction in Old Montreal and is one of the gateways to the Old Port of Montreal. The Place Jacques-Cartier Square was created in 1847 and today can be easily accessed by public transit — Champ-de-Mars metro station. It’s bustling with tourists and locals during the summer months.
Nelson’s Column (French: colonne Nelson) is a monument erected in 1809 in Place Jacques-Cartier, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, which is dedicated to the memory of Admiral Horatio Nelson, following his death at the Battle of Trafalgar. Subsequent to the destruction of Nelson’s Pillar in Dublin (1808–1966), Montreal’s pillar now stands as the second-oldest “Nelson’s Column” in the world, after the Nelson Monument in Glasgow.
It is also the city’s oldest monument and is the oldest war monument in Canada.
Lots of street performers take their turn to dazzle and entertain audiences all day and into the night. Either side of the square is lined with restaurants, bistros, ice cream shops, etc. most of which have their own terrace where you can enjoy meals or desserts outdoors as people walk past.
7. Bonsecours Market
Head south and turn left to head east on Saint Paul E. Within moments you’ll come to the architecturally stunning historical landmark, Bonsecours Market. Today it is filled with artisanal shops and restaurants and outdoor cafes Over a century ago, it served as the main public market in Montreal.
The Palladian-style Bonsecours Market officially opened in 1847. In its existence, it housed Montreal City Hall, The Parliament of United Canada, and more. In 1984 it was designated a National Historic Site of Canada – not bad for a structure that was slated for demolition some 20 years before!
8. Montreal Clock Tower
After enjoying a stroll through Bonsecours Market, head east to Bonsecours Street and head south to Rue de la Commune E until you come to the first street on the right – Rue Quai de l’Horloge. You’ll see the tall white clock tower from a distance, so make your way toward it. The Montreal Clock Tower, aka The Sailors’ Memorial Clock, stands 148 ft high and was completed in 1922.
It’s a memorial to Canadian sailors who lost their lives in WWI. The clock itself is a masterpiece and a replica of London, England’s Big Ben! Visitors are welcome to climb the 192 steps to the top to enjoy incredible views of Montreal and the St. Lawrence River (le fleuve Saint-Laurent). It’s totally FREE and open from 11 AM to 7 PM daily from May to September.
9. Clock Tower Beach
You don’t have to go very far after visiting the Montreal Clock Tower to get to this urban beach. Enjoy chairs shaded by parasols and golden sand for the ideal vacation atmosphere right in the Old Port. Swimming is not permitted, however, and there’s a small charge of $2 for teens and adults, but it’s free for kids under 13.
10. La Promenade Fleuve-Montagne (The River-Mountain Promenade)
Stroll the Promenade Fleuve-Montagne to discover Montreal’s landmarks and sites that are not to be missed along the 3.8 km walkway. It starts at Rue de la Commune O. (West) at the corner of Place d’Youville, near the Quai Alexandra. Head west, until Rue McGill and turn right (heading north). As you make your way to Mount Royal, you’ll experience Montreal like never before, from Pointe-à-Callière to the musical Square, the McGill Farmers Market, Ste-Catherine Street, Place Ville Marie, and more. You’ll also see public art along the way!
As we are in the middle of a pandemic at the time of writing this article, please check in advance to ensure whether places are open to the public, and if they are, remember to bring your mask along.