Notre-Dame's twin towers have served as an Old Montreal landmark since the Neo-Gothic basilica was finished in 1829. Today they continue to be the focal point, where tourists disembark from buses and calèche drivers line up for passengers. The interior glows with gilded statuary and gold-leafed fleurs de lys, and is home to one of the largest pipe organs in the world. The Montreal Symphony Orchestra performs its Christmas production of Messiah here at the Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal or the Notre-Dame Basilica.
The namesake of the city and one of its most recognizable landmarks, Mount Royal is the city of Montreal's highest point. The volcanic hill is a part of the Monteregian Hills, nestled between the Appalachian Mountains and the Laurentians, its highest summit measuring at 233 meters (764 feet). At its highest point sits the Mount Royal Cross, originally installed in 1643 by the city's founder, Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve, in honor of Mother Mary who he believes saved the colony from a potentially devastating flood. The existing, illuminated cross was added in 1924. Beaver Lake and the Mount Royal Park are other popular features of the hill, just west of Downtown. The park, in particular, is renowned as one of the city's largest, originally designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, and the venue of the weekly Tam-Tam Jams. For unmatched views of the city, Mount Royal's Camilien-Houde and Kondiaronk Chalet lookouts offer sweeping vistas over Downtown and East Montreal.
Straddling a two-kilometer (1.24 mile) stretch along the St. Lawrence River, the Old Port of Montreal has operated as an active hub since 1611 when it was used as a fur trading post by French settlers. It has since transformed into a bustling area which beckons tourists and locals alike. Besides being home to a bevy of attractions like the IMAX Theatre, the Montreal Science Centre and the Montreal Clock Tower, it is also a recreational wonderland, especially during winter months. Marked by ice sculptures, skating and a lively nativity scene, as well as vibrant festivals like the Festival Montréal en lumière, the Old Port of Montreal hosts a decidedly thriving cultural scene. With numerous dining options, bargain shops, trendy boutiques, tours and riverfront activities dotting its pretty vicinity, the Old Port is an all inclusive attraction in itself.
Plans for the construction of the Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral first began in 1852, soon after Saint-Jacques Cathedral was destroyed by fire. At the behest of Ignace Bourget, the architect Victor Bourgeau was assigned the ambitious task of designing a cathedral in the image of the magnificent St Peter's Basilica in Rome. The architectural masterpiece was completed in 1894 and is renown today as one of Quebec's most revered religious sites. Inside a spectacular baldachin adorns the altar and elaborate paintings depict the early history of Montreal, while outside exquisitely wrought statues of the city's 13 patron saints watch over the people, replacing the 12 statues of Christ's apostles that adorn the exterior walls of St Peter's Basilica. The cathedral remains a sacred place of worship even as it attracts droves of tourists who are drawn to its austere beauty and artistic treasures.
Musée des Beaux-arts de Montréal has put together one of the best collections of fine art in North America. The museum moved to its present location just before the World War. The Jean-Noel Desmarais building holds most of the temporary exhibits while the permanent collection lies in the Benaiah Gibb building across the street. The museum also stages special programs such as lectures, noontime and evening concerts, and films.
Featuring an extensive collection of Barbie dolls decked in iconic designer wear, Barbie Expo attracts scores of visitors who flock here to admire the intricate detailing and haute couture designs pertaining to different styles. This fascinating expo displays the work of many world-renowned designers, including Ralph Lauren, Christian Dior and Carolina Herrera among others.
Once the residence of Governor Claude de Ramezay, Château Ramezay Museum chronicles the rich history of Montreal. The history of this building dates back to the 18th Century when it was built and has been listed as an must-see historic sites by UNESCO. Now, it houses an impressive collection of antiques, photographs, paintings and costumes. This site is known for its frequent exhibitions from upcoming and veteran artists and has two permanent exhibitions.
If you are looking for something other than the ordinary run-of-the-mill sightseeing tours, then consider the Old Montreal Ghost Trail. A historical mystery tour set in Montreal's French colonial days, the tour includes some of the city's most famous ghosts. Other tours include the New France Ghost Hunt and Montreal's Historical Crime Scenes. Tours are in both English and French.
Maple Delights is a charming spot and a must visit if in Old Montreal. This sweet bistro and museum is a wonderful way to discover this national pride. At the bistro you can relish delish baked goodies, gelatos, candies, waffles, milkshakes, coffees and sorbets, all with the goodness of maple syrup and sugar in them. Check out their small museum that gives an insight of how the sap is collected. You can also taste the products made from maple that highlight its unique quality.
The Rue Saint-Paul is named in the honor of Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve, Canada's governor. This street has the charm of Old Montreal and is known for attractions like Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel and Bonsecours Market.
The Notre-Dame Street is a historic street running parallel to Saint Lawrence River. This beautiful street dates back to 1672, and has the prestigious city hall located on it. The street also used to have the Château Vaudreuil, Dominion Park and Montreal's Citadel.
Saint Jacques Street or the St. James Street has been an important street of the city since its opening in 1672. In different eras, this street has always been the financial center of the city owing to the buildings of various companies built here. Insurance, banking, utility companies, you name it and the sector was present. Montreal City and District Savings Bank, Canadian Pacific Express, Royal Bank of Canada, New York Life Insurance Company and many other esteemed companies were or still a part of the Saint Jacques Street.