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.
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.
Saint Joseph's Oratory in Montreal is the nation's largest church, its regal dome second in height only to St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. A small chapel dedicated to Saint Joseph was built at the site in 1904 by Brother André, renowned for his miraculous ability to heal the injured and ailing. He was later beatified in 1982 and canonized in 2010. Completed in 1960, the renaissance church that replaced the original shrine encompasses a basilica, a votive chapel lined with discarded crutches, and the heart of Brother André amongst several other treasures. Outside, the Stations of the Cross grace the sculpture garden where scenes from the film Jésus of Montréal were shot. The oratory itself is a striking beauty that dominates the skyline for miles around, its elegant dome rising high above the bucolic scene. One of the world's most revered Catholic shrines and an important place of pilgrimage, Saint Joseph's Oratory inspires wonder in the hearts of the devout and the simply curious.
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.
The historic city center is rich in museums, shops, restaurants and grey stone architecture spread out along narrow, cobblestone streets. Old Montreal is also home to the Vieux Port attractions and lively public squares like Place Jacques-Cartier. Exploring Old Montreal means exploring the very heart of one of North America's greatest cities, a multifaceted place where the past and the present come together in exciting and unexpected ways.
Christ Church Cathedral is nestled within the central region of the city and has been serving it since the early 19th century. Designed by famed architect Frank Wills, Christ Church Cathedral is a great example of 19th-century Neo-Gothic architecture. Inspired by the Gothic-style churches of the 14th century, the cathedral displays some impressive architecture through intricate designs and awe-inspiring stone-work. Its aluminium steeple, square crossing tower and stone spire are some of its key features, which were considered a rare sight in its time.
Architect Henri-Maurice Perreault's magnificent structure is one of the city's most beautiful and famous. View the exterior either from Notre Dame Street or from Champ-de-Mars, the pleasant patch of green-space to the north where Montreal's original fortifications once stood. The striking marble Hall of Honour, which is usually open to the public, contains portraits of every Montreal mayor. Other historical events have included Charles de Gaulle's vive le Québec libre gaffe and the like. Call ahead for more details.
This monument is dedicated to Admiral Horatio Nelson, who lost his life in the Battle of Trafalgar.
Located behind the City Hall, this huge public space is a good place to relax, get a great view of downtown, and check out the remains of the old fortifications that surrounded the new city. Though the fortifications themselves were demolished in the 1820s as the city outgrew them, you can still see the pieces in the shape of two lines of stone. It's a fine vantage point from which to view the City Hall.
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.
Located in the cultural and tourism heart of Old Montreal, this neoclassic building dates from the mid-18th Century. It has been home to a city hall, a reception center, and public markets. In fact, following an 1849 fire in the Parliament Building, it became the seat of the United Canada Government. Today, following two restorations, the silver-domed building is used as an exhibition hall. It teems with sidewalk cafes, boutiques, souvenir shops and fine arts galleries. You will find everything from maps to fashion accessories and First People's art.
Thanks to the Our Lady of the Harbour statue atop its dome, made famous by poet-songwriter Leonard Cohen, this chapel is known as The Sailor's Church. Inside are original Édouard Meloche (1886) frescoes on wooden slats, and you can look out over the Old Port from an observation tower. The chapel underwent extensive renovations as well as archaeological excavation. The new interpretation center includes artifacts pre-dating the arrival of the New France colonists in 1642.