Montreal has a little of everything for travelers, but there's no arguing where the city is at its most charming. At a moment's notice, when the chaotic boulevards of Canada's second largest city transform into a maze of cobblestone alleys, we're suddenly whisked away from a North American metropolis into a scene fit for the streets of Paris or Ghent. And it's right here in Old Montreal, the city's historic heart, where most travelers first fall in love with "La belle ville."
And who could blame them? It's easy to dig Old Montreal. Harnessing a European aesthetic rare for North America, this historic district is instantly likeable with its pedestrian lane ways dotted with street-side cafés, churches, shops, brasseries
, and restaurants. Even if you only have one evening in the city, here are some ideas on how to experience Old Montreal at its fullest:
Chow down on some great grub
Old Montreal's cosmopolitan dining scene beckons traveling taste buds to satisfy their cravings with a diverse selection of international and local cuisines ranging from Indian and Japanese to Eastern European and Mediterranean. A good starting point is RueSaint-Paul
(St Paul Street) where you'll have no problem finding the perfect dish to tame your hunger.
Walk off dinner at the Old Port
After a hearty meal, hop down to the Vieux-Port de Montréal
(Old Port of Montreal), a favorite haunt for Montrealers and tourists alike. On an evening stroll at the Old Port, odd street performers and local artists will grasp your attention as you dodge cyclists and roller bladers along the promenade. To top it all off, catch a glimpse of Montreal from above by conquering the 192 thigh-burning steps at the Tour del'horloge
(Clock Tower) situated at the northern edge of the Old Port.
Rehydrate at Place Jacques-Cartier
As the sun dips below downtown, evening drinks await in and around Place Jacques-Cartier
, one of Old Montreal's liveliest focal points. For experiencing Quebec's rich microbrewing tradition, a better stage than Place Jacques-Cartier
, whose daring entertainers and talented painters provide the ultimate backdrop between sips, could not be set in Old Montreal. On the square itself and on nearby RueSaint-Paul
, the evening perks up early with the sounds of live jazz and rock flowing out of Old Montreal's most popular pubs and bars.
Snap up a late night snack in Chinatown
Before returning to your hotel, traipse west of Place Jacques-Cartier
towards Champ de Mars
, where one of the best views of Montreal's modern skyline unfolds before your eyes. With Old Montreal in the rear-view mirror, chase the blinding torrent of neon across Champ de Mars
into Chinatown to devour Montreal's favorite late night dim sum at Maison Kam Fung on Rue Saint-Urbain
As you leave pedestrian-friendly Old Montreal behind, always be aware of your surroundings. Crossing the streets in downtown Montreal, where drivers are decidedly more Roman than Canadian, can be an adventure on its own—truly anything can (and does) happen. Where a healthy dose of caution fails, a solid medical insurance plan
won't, and can protect you against unforeseen incidents. And in a hectic city like Montreal, a little peace of mind can go a long way.
Have you ever wanted to visit Old Montreal?