10 Things To Know When Visiting Old Montreal

Bonsecours Market of Montreal
••• Pierre Ogeron / Getty Images

Guide to Old Montreal | Montreal's Top Attractions 

Old Montreal is a unique place: vibrant and historic. With much of the architecture of this well preserved Quebec neighbourhood dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries and a prevalent French culture, you will feel like you have stepped across the Atlantic Ocean.

Before you go to Montreal, here are 10 things you should know that will help you make the most of your visit.

  • 01 of 10

    Lots of Places Shut Down for Winter

    Morning glory
    ••• Photographer Chris Archinet / Getty Images

    Montreal has a bitterly cold winter with lots of snow and ice. Not surprisingly, Old Montreal is more popular as a summer destination.  

    In fact, many shops and restaurants shut down for large chunks of time between November and March.

    Hotels and restaurants mostly remain open, but some more seasonal tourist shops and guided tours will go on hiatus. Of course, the low tourist season can mean savings for those willing to brave the winter and partake in some of Quebec's great winter traditions.

    Read More:  Montreal Weather & Event Guide

  • 02 of 10
    Street in Montreal
    ••• Visions Of Our Land / Getty Images

    Old Montreal attracts tourists from all over the world. In fact, at any given time in Old Montreal, tourists certainly far outnumber locals.

    Almost all the shop and restaurant owners and staff will be able to speak to you in English. Of course it never hurts to learn a bit of basic French for travellers.

     

     

  • 03 of 10

    It Tends To Be More Expensive

    Hotels are historic and beautiful in Old Montreal as are many of the restaurants, but if you stay and eat only in Old Montreal, you will likely spend more than if you were to head to some of the other Montreal neighbourhoods where you'll find where all the cool locals shop and dine.

  • 04 of 10

    Tourist Traps Abound

    Le Pierrot Restaurant, Rue Saint Paul, Old Montreal, Quebec.
    ••• Alan Marsh / Getty Images

    Old Montreal is authentic and exotic, unlike just about anyplace else in North America. If you are unfamiliar with this Montreal neighbourhood, you may find it difficult to navigate the huge number of restaurants, many of which look charming and "French" on the outside but lack quality of food and service. Do yourself the favour of reading up on where to dine instead of picking one on a whim.

    Something else to beware are the horse and carriage rides. Nevermind the controversy surrounding the ethics of working these horses; if you decide to treat yourself to one, make sure you work out a price ahead of time.

    Street artists are part of the Old Montreal landscape as well. Be sure to visit a few vendors before buying anything. Prices vary and in many cases, the seller is not actually the artist.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    It's Not the Only Part of Montreal Worth Visiting

    Following up on the last point, though Old Montreal is the highlight for many people visiting Montreal, there are so many other interesting spots to spend time.

     

  • 06 of 10

    Driving and Parking is Not Fun

    Walking in Old town Montreal, Canada
    ••• L. Toshio Kishiyama / Getty Images

    Old Montreal streets are narrow and packed. Many are cobblestone. I find it much nicer to leave the car behind and arrive by the Montreal metro, which is convenient and easy. The closest metro stations to Old Montreal are Square-Victoria, Place-d'Armes, Champ-de-MarsPlaces des Armes, Champs de Mar and Place Victoria.

  • 07 of 10

    The Waterfront Cruise is Dullsville

    Maybe I had a flukey bad experience, but I do remember contemplating hurling myself overboard and swimming to shore on this 90 min. Croisières AML cruise that heads down the St. Lawrence River close to the Montreal shore.

    In our case, we were held up for a half hour waiting for a freighter to pass. The ship, which is comfortable but in no way luxurious, has basic amenities but is not conducive to lingering or lounging.

    The excursion is largely educational, with a guide in period garb offering insights about the city's history and geography along the way.

    Montreal doesn't lend itself in the same way as, say, Quebec City, which sits high above the water and makes a particularly stunning study by water.

     

  • 08 of 10

    You Have to Navigate Cobblestone Streets & Narrow Sidewalks

    Old Montreal Auberge-Restaurant
    ••• Old Montreal: the historic L'Auberge Saint-Gabriel, 426, rue St-Gabriel. Jeremy Sullivan / Getty Images

    Anyone with difficulty walking or if you're planning to bring the Cadillac of strollers, be advised that streets are narrow and congested and the cobblestone can be precarious.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Notre Dame Basilica is Not Free

    Notre Dame Basilica is a central highlight in Old Montreal but you can't just poke your head without entrance fee-donation. Don't worry though, Montreal's oldest Catholic church is well worth the visit, with tours that

  • 10 of 10

    Free Waterfront Skating in the Winter

    Ice skaters on the frozen water of the Old Port
    ••• Doug McKinlay / Getty Images

    If you do go to Old Montreal in winter, be sure to stop by the meandering waterfront skating rink that is free while weather permits. Skate rental is available on-site. Funky music accompanies skaters.