Narrow, cobblestone Rue St.-Paul E. is Montreal’s oldest street. At the corner of Rue St.-Claude, if you look across the street, on the harbor side, you’ll see the dome of (1) Marché Bonsecours (350 Rue St.-Paul E.; www2.ville.montreal.qc.ca/marchebonsecours), in a beautiful neoclassical building that has been a market, a concert hall, and the House of Parliament. Now, it’s a great place to shop for upscale, handmade arts and crafts from Montreal’s finest craftspeople. You could continue down Rue St.-Paul for more toothsome shopping at (2) Les Délices de l’Erable (84 Rue St.-Paul E.; www.mapledelights.com), and to visit the (3) Pointe-à-Caillere Museum (350 Place Royale; www.pacmusee.qc.ca), but instead, gather your packages and double back slightly to go up Rue Gosford to the (4) Château Ramezay (280 Rue Notre-Dame E.; www.chateauramezay.qc.ca), constructed in 1705 for the governor—a house so fine that it ruined its first occupant.
As you turn onto Rue Notre-Dame E., you can’t miss Montreal’s grandiose (5) Hôtel de Ville (275 Rue Notre-Dame E.), built in the Second Empire style, which faces the port. The grassy meadows of the (6) Champ-de-Mars (Rue St.-Antoine and Rue Gosford), a good summertime resting place, lie behind City Hall, and the building is usually open to public access—it’s worth a look inside at its marble archways and graceful pavilions. As you continue along Rue Notre-Dame E., you’ll see (7) the old courthouse, followed by the new one, called the Palais de Justice, a mopey Bauhaus-esque building where locals go to contest their parking tickets. As you continue down the next block, you’ll come to the lovely facade of the (8) Place d’Armes Hotel & Suites (55 Rue St.-Jacques; www.hotelplacedarmes.com), where a rooftop terrace serves cocktails and panoramic views of the neighborhood during summer months.
Around the corner in (9) Place d’Armes (corner of Rue St.-Sulpice and Rue Notre-Dame) is the main attraction: (10) Notre-Dame Basilica (110 Rue Notre-Dame O.), attracting both the faithful to Sunday mass and tourists to get a peek inside at stained-glass windows that depict important moments in Quebec history, and the elaborate color and design scheme of fleur-de-lis and blue.
A statue of Montreal’s founder, Paul de Chomedy, sieur de Maisonneuve, dominates the square. On the other end, the lovely (11) Seminaire St.-Sulpice (116 Rue Notre-Dame O.), the oldest building in Place d’Armes, is still a Sulpician residence. Similarly, that glorious old (12) Banque Royale building (corner of Rue St. Pierre and Rue Notre-Dame) is still an imposing Royal Bank. The tellers’ room is worth a look inside to peek at the detailed ceilings and marble stairways.
Head north along Rue St.-Pierre, over the hill and past the (13) Centre de Commerce Mondial de Montreal (747 Rue Square-Victoria; www.centredecommercemondial.com) to the brightly colored building on the corner of Rue St.-Antoine O. This is the new (14) Palais des Congrès (1001 Place Jean-Paul Riopelle; www.congresmtl.com), a hotly contested architectural statement with its blue, pink, green, and yellow windows.
You are now in (15) Place Jean-Paul Riopelle, a new city park designed to showcase a work by Quebec’s best known artist (1923-2002). He first created the work displayed here, “La Joute” ("The Joust") for a site near the Olympic Stadium, but the work has found a permanent home in this square which also houses an “urban forest” of 88 different trees of 11 different species.
If you time your visit right (evenings, May-October), you’ll see Riopelle’s sculpture lit up in a 30-minute fiery display. Otherwise, you can always duck into the specially designed spaces of (16) Restaurant Toqué (900 Place Jean-Paul Riopelle, www.restaurant-toque.com), one of Montreal’s best known gourmet terroir restaurants, for a splurge dinner.
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