Montreal Walking Tour

 Pierre was our guide for a 3 hour walking tour through Old Montreal.  We have found that this is one of the best ways to tour a city that you don’t know.

Old Town extends from Rue St. Pierre on the west to Rue St Claude on the east, and Rue St Paul on the south and Rue St Antione on the north.  This section is roughly 1km long and .5km wide.  Yet within this section you learn the city’s history beginning in 1642 and the Indigenous, French, Scottish and Irish influences.  The old city and port are contained in a 4km wide section that extends from the St. Lawrence River to the base of Mount Royal.  It is very walkable in this section.

Our tour began at the Notre Dame Biscillica at the corner of Rue Notre Dame and Palace D’Armes.  We first toured the west side in the morning, followed by the east side in the afternoon.

Notre Dame Biscillica.  The first parish church was built in 1672, but the city had outgrown it by 1824.  Which was when this larger church was built.

Located with the Basilica is the St Sulpice Seminary.  The gates and doorways carry the Ava Maria monogram, combining the letters A V M. 

Directly across Rue Notre Dame you find the Palace D’Armes and the Maisonneuve Monument.  Paul Chomey d’ Maisonneuve was the founder, and first governor of what would become Montreal.


Also at the Palace D’ Armes is a pair of cast bronze statues that capture the interplay of Canada’s French and English influences.  First you have a stylish French woman, holding a French poodle, looking at the the Bank of Montreal with an exaggerated upturned nose.  As if holding the English, represented by the bank, in contempt.


About 200 feet away, a companion bronze depicts a proper English gentleman, holding a pug. Like the woman, he has his back to her looking at the Basillica, his exaggerated nose upturned, showing contempt for the French influence depicted by the church.  However, looking at the dogs each is holding, they look at each other in friendship and interest.

Founded in 1817, the offices of the Bank of Montreal were patterned after the Parthenon in Rome.  Montreal was the financial center of Canada, before it transitioned to Toronto.  A move caused primarily by the automobile industry in Detroit.

Public art is found throughout the city.  Here we find the Les chuchoteuses, or The Gossipers.  My Bride could not resist the opportunity to join!

Old Town first developed as a depot of sorts.  Products and supplies were warehoused here as items were either shipped to, or out of the territory via the St. Lawrence River.  Many of the buildings here were first warehouses, built with large windows where goods could be easily displayed.  Storage was on the ground, offices higher.  Small streets separated these buildings. Overtime, the use has changed.  Retail still is on the ground, but is joined by offices and other commercial enterprises.  The upper stories are most frequently high-end houseing.  Uses change over time, but the city’s character remains.

Many parts of Old Town maintain the character of the original city.  Here you find a gas street lamp, using much of the same infrastructure established decades ago.  The lamps on this street remain lit always.  An informal eternal flame to the city’s past.

A walk along Rue St Paul takes you past shops and restaurants and galleries.  Open exclusively to pedestrians.

The Chateau Ramezay was built in 1705 and served many purposes since.  Today it is a museum and one of the oldest buildings in Montreal.  Also on the grounds of the museum is a garden created and maintained as a traditional French colonial garden.  It is separated into three parts to include vegetable, ornamental gardens and an orchard.  The produce from the gardens are donated to various food banks.  Docents at the museum appear in period costume.

The Lord Nelson monument overlooking City Hall

Our guide often pointed out the progression of sovereignty of Canada.  First the Indigenous peoples.  Next settled by France, then the English with Scottish and Irish influences.  However, a glance at this plaque shows an influence from what was to become the United States.  Benjamin Franklin was the emissary sent to negotiate the purchase of the territory, and intended to be the 14th Colony.  For 9 months, from 1775 to 1776 the territory rested in the hands of Colonial America.  The flag that flew during that time were the 13 red and white stripes representing the colonies, and the British Union Jack where today we find the white stars on the field of blue.  Being unable to settle on a price, Franklin returned to Philadelphia for more important matters.

Crew Collective Cafe in what was the home of the Royal Bank of Canada

Our afternoon started in what was the financial district and economic center of Canada.  Since transitioning to Toronto, many of these architecture bastions have transitioned to other uses.  They have become offices, exclusive hotels and in one instance, a coffee shop.

The cafe retains the grandeur of the 1920’s, while selling lattes from what used to be the tellers cages.  The cafe is found in the grand hall, on the main floor.  The space is also set aside for work spaces, conference rooms, and desks that can be rented by the hour or by the month.  The space is simply grand!

Post Box

For Airmail Only

The afternoon tour provided just a taste of Montreal’s Underground City.  First built to accommodate access to a metro station, the idea grew.  It was an ideal situation for a city beset by harsh winters.  Shopping, entertainment, and work spaces contained in some 69 separate buildings are accessed by over 20 miles of underground walkways.  These walkways connect to Montreal’s extensive metro system.  It would be possible to leave your home, and travel to shopping or work in just your shirtsleeves, while outside temperatures are in the sub-zero range.

The plazas and interior walkways were astonishing.  There are historical artifacts and art installations to capture the eye.  This particular section used to be an alley where garbage was placed to be collected by trash trucks in the morning.  The dark tile on the floor show the location of the 18 foot walls that surrounded the original city.

One Captain of Business, whose office overlooked that Alley was so happy to have an improved view that he installed a black granite reflecting pool, for the 18th century marble statue of the Goddess Amphitrite which he had installed.

Also found on our tour was a section of the Berlin Wall.

The design requirements include making the passage ways as artistic as possible.

We ended our tour where Montreal began, at the confluence of the Petite and the St. Lawrence Rivers.  Here there is a tall stone obelisk honoring the French European settlers.


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