Re-discover the new Old Montréal

Mark Hamilton

Mark Hamilton is the community director for QueerMTL, an internationally-touring musician with his projects Woodpigeon and Frontperson  and a graduate studies student of history researching LGBTQ+ activism in the city. He’s lived in Montréal since 2015, during which time he’s most often spotted atop a BIXI bike usally running a few minutes late.

 

No visit to Montréal is complete without exploring Old Montréal and the Old Port, the city’s postcard-pretty historic districts. And while the area’s iconic history lives on in Montréal en Histoires - Cité Mémoire's eye-popping nightly app-triggered projections, Old Montréal is one of the city’s most dynamic and constantly evolving areas. Proving age ain’t nothing but a number, Montréal's oldest quartier is one of its most modern, where history meets high tech, haute couture, and gourmet delights. Old Montréal’s future is so bright, we’ve gotta wear shades!

From the bottom to the top!

The Pointe-à-Callière Archaeology and History Complex marks the spot where Montréal was founded in 1642 and houses a plethora of artefacts from throughout the city’s early history. The museum also offers a rare opportunity to head underground to the city’s foundational roots via the Memory Collector, a cutting-edge visual and sound experience in the neighbourhood’s old river-routing sewer system.

After exploring underground, it’s time to go up!-up!-up! to take in the stellar views across Old Montréal’s angled rooftops and the St. Lawrence River atop La Grande Roue de Montréal. With heated, comfortable cars perfect for groups or a romantic moment, La Grande Roue’s calming vistas make for a picturesque rest on a bustling day.

And if you want to get up close and personal with the the St. Lawrence’s rushing waters without getting your feet wet, the Montréal Science Centre on King Edward Quay offers great views over the waters and creative programming and exhibitions to keep you learning and dry.

Let’s get artsy!

Old Montréal is home to several forward-looking galleries, featuring works by the leading names in contemporary art. The Phi Centre's focus on trend-setting VR and digital arts will keep your finger on the pulse, while its partner the PHI Foundation for Contemporary Art has hosted works from both big names and up-and-comers including Jasmina Cibic, Larry Achiampong and Yoko Ono. At Old Montréal’s border, the Fonderie Darling houses monumental works within the shell of the former Darling Brothers Foundry, and its open-air Quartier Éphémère terrasse space is a gathering spot for artists and art lovers alike.

Explore Montréal’s rich Indigenous history at Ashukan Cultural Space gallery and boutique and take a further look at artisanal creations at Heritage GalleryIndianicaGalerie d'art Images Boréales, and Galerie Le Chariot.

Transformation in light

AURA (created by the magicians at Moment Factory) at the Notre-Dame Basilica of Montréal returned in autumn 2021 with a new, revamped edition. A marvel of video mapping, awe-inspiring light and a thrilling soundtrack, AURA transforms the Basilica into a living, breathing immersive environment you won’t soon forget. 

Housed in the Palais des congrès de Montréal, OASIS Immersion is Canada’s largest immersive destination with regularly changing themed exhibitions that offer a complete head to toe sensory experience. There’s so much to take in, we’d suggest booking a second ticket for another look.

Time for a cuppa

Old Montréal’s cozy cafés cover a full range of moods from the breathtaking Crew Collective & Café to the design-savvy Tommy, the film set worthy Le Petit Dep, to the Mile End mainstay Cafe Olimpico outlet. Bringing a taste of the west out east, Vancouver’s 49th Parallel's unique blends have recently arrived to McGill Street (and they’ve brought their famous Lucky’s Donuts along for the ride too). And if you’ve got some things to catch up, bring a laptop and enjoy some of the best co-working spaces in the world.

New cuisine in the old city

Old Montréal has long been a culinary hot spot in the city, packed with classic favourites and bold new flavours. With a taste palette as colourful as the neighbourhood itself, Old Montréal’s restaurants are sure to sate any appetite.

Offering a new twist on Mediterranean favourites from Morocco to the Middle East, Babacool is not only delicious but its monochromatic backdrop makes for a great selfie backdrop. Restaurant Sauvage also explores Mediterranean flavours, drawing from Italian, French and Spanish cuisine.

Serve your cravings for classic French brasserie fare at Place Carmin, the latest restaurant from the creators of Cadet and Bouillon Bilk. Discover lesser-known pastas including the capunti and stuffed triangoli at Stellina, and rediscover old favourites with all-new flourish at Buvette Pastek.

Chef Alexandre Payton and mixologist Jake Cristofaro join forces at Vandale, a graffiti-covered speakeasy-themed spot tipping its hat to Montréal’s rebellious spirit while 212 offers gourmet eats in a Euro-club atmosphere, transitioning into a neon cocktail bar after dark.

Experience Old Montréal lists Antonopoulous Group’s eleven old city restaurants, every one a must-eat: Pincette Lobster Bar, NELLi Café / Vin Nature, Jacopo, Vieux-Port Steakhouse, Taverne Gaspar, Maggie Oakes - Brasserie Montréalaise, Modavie, Méchant Boeuf Bar-BrasserieKyo Bar Japonais, Brasserie 701 and BEVO Bar + Pizzeria.

Bottoms up!

Sometimes there’s no better reward after a long day of exploring than a cocktail at one of Old Montréal’s wealth of deluxe options. Grab a quiet corner at Philémon Bar or keep it like a secret at Clandestino mezcal and tequila bar. Try the latest in mixology at Flyjin or turn back to the clock to the roaring ‘20s when Montréal was a prohibition-free party town at Bord’elle and the tucked-away Coldroom (if you know you know, and in this case you want to know).

Home away from home

Old Montréal’s hotels define deluxe comfort, from the all-suite Le Saint-Sulpice Hôtel - Montréal next to the Notre-Dame Basilica, to the magnificent Hotel Gault and the elegant Hôtel St-Paul, guaranteeing the most modern of amenities in distinctly historical settings.

The Antonopoulos Group’ portfolio of boutique hotels in the district includes some of the city’s shining gems of accommodation including the Hôtel William Gray, the Lofts du Vieux-PortLe Place d'Armes Hôtel & SuitesLe Petit HôtelHôtel Nelligan and Auberge du Vieux-Port. Trust us, you’ll feel like royalty stepping out onto the cobblestones after a sound night’s sleep, ready to take on another day in Old Montréal!

Mark Hamilton

Mark Hamilton is the community director for QueerMTL, an internationally-touring musician with his projects Woodpigeon and Frontperson  and a graduate studies student of history researching LGBTQ+ activism in the city. He’s lived in Montréal since 2015, during which time he’s most often spotted atop a BIXI bike usally running a few minutes late.

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