When most people picture the old part of Montreal, they think of cobblestone streets and accordion players on busy plazas – and, on some level, they would be right. But there is a vastly underrated part that even locals know very little about, and that only recently started getting some traction.
Ladies and gentlemen, here’s everything you need to know about one of my favourite parts of my hometown: Old Port Montreal.
* Photo credit: Gaelle Leroyer
Old Port Montreal: The Essentials
Both the Old Town of Montreal in general and the Old Port more specifically are certainly easy on the eyes of photographers with their narrow streets and stately townhouses; Rue de la Commune and Bassin de l’Horloge are among the most loved spots in the city. Let your camera be guided by the Old Port’s bygone atmosphere!
Located just south of Old Montreal, this rapidly-changing neighbourhood has lots of cool things to offer, including Montreal’s only West Elm branch, fun eateries like Bête à pain, and incomparable art galleries.
Old Port Food Tour
A visit to Montreal wouldn’t be complete without one (or two, or three…) gourmet indulgences. After all, my hometown is nothing if not a foodie destination but it can be hard to fully comprehend the extent of our culinary heritage without a knowledgeable guide. Local Montreal offers three-hour long fascinating and well-priced food tours of the Old Port and Old Montreal that include five stops and seven tastings.
Spa Scandinave or Bota Bota
If your legs can no longer endure the hilly streets of Old Montreal, then perhaps you should consider a brief (or lengthy, depending on your schedule) stop at one of the city’s best and most-loved spas. Spa Scandinave features outstanding Nordic in a contemporary setting, while the Bota Bota is a little more whimsical as it is located on a permanently docked boat lulled by the rhythm of the St. Lawrence River.
Restaurants & Cafés
As I said before, there is no shortage of noteworthy eateries in this part of town. From high-end dining to classic pub grubs, there really is something for everyone as far as gluttony is concerned. Here are a few of my favourites:
Sure, Old Montreal has the Gothic basilicas and the historic markets; but that doesn’t mean the Old Port doesn’t have anything to offer. Quite the contrary!
- Farine Five Roses: Having welcomed train visitors to the city since the mid-1940s, this 30-feet tall, iconic sign sitting atop a massive flour mill is famous for its blinking, bright red sign that act as a reminder of Old Port’s industrial past.
- Science Centre: a fun and whimsical museum where both kids and adults will be entertained by all things pertaining to science through a wide range of interactive exhibitions, with themes stretching from Star Wars to human evolution.
- Silo Numéro 5: Another token of Montreal’s bygone industrial history, the silos located in the Peel Basin were built in 1885 – right around the industrial revolution – and once were the highest structures in the city.
- Habitat 67: One of Montreal’s quirkiest housing complex that has often been compared to Lego blocks. Very photogenic!
- Clock Tower & Beach: Best enjoyed in the summer, this modestly-sized but rather remarkable space in the Old Port features both a high-rise historic clocktower with fantastic views of Montreal, as well as a sandy and trendy beach along the edges of the marina.
- Musée Pointe-à-Callière: a renowned archaeological site, the museum was built over Montréal’s birthplace, which is beautifully showcased in the museum’s permanent exhibition. The rooftop restaurant also offers unobstructed views of Old Montreal, the St. Lawrence River and even the Montérégie mountains on clear days.
Centre Phi & DHC Art
Festivals & Outdoor Events
One of the main reasons Old Port Montreal has gotten so popular over the past few years is the almost overwhelmingly busy list of events happening throughout the year; from outdoor dance parties in January (yes, you read that right) to an entire weekend dedicated to poutine (again, it really is a thing), let’s just say visitors will not be bored in this area.
No longer a dead-after-business-hours kind of place, Old Port Montreal now has several noteworthy bars and pubs where both locals and visitors can enjoy a well-deserved pint.
Old Port Montreal Outdoor Activities
Not interested in wasting time indoors? if Mother Nature is kind enough to grace you with clement weather, Old Port is the place to be in both summer and winter.
- Saute Moutons Jet Boating on St. Lawrence River
- Ice and summer fishing
- Musical ice skating at Bassin Bonsecours
Place Jacques Cartier
Straddling both the Old Port and Old Montreal, this lively square will be undergoing major transformations over the coming months but it will nonetheless be worthy of a visit, thanks to its sun-filled terraces and ice cream vendors.
Where is Old Port Montreal?
The Old Port of Montreal is located right along the St. Lawrence River at the southern end of Old Montreal, for which I created a walking itinerary that includes the Old Port.