7 Stops on a Self-Guided Walking Tour of Montreal


One of Canadians’ favourite domestic destinations, Montreal beckons for a quick break this autumn. And even though Montreal isn’t one of the cheaper cities to visit in Canada, there are plenty of ways you can save money and still have a good time:Check out cheap vacation packages and incorporate lots of self-catering and independently organized activities. One of the best ways to see Montreal is on foot, so take advantage of the pleasant streets and world-class architecture by enjoying an educational and inexpensive self-guided walking tour of the historic centre.

Basilique Notre-Dame

The best place to begin your tour of Montreal is the Basilique Notre Dame in Vieux-Montréal. Despite being a Catholic construction in French Canada, the designer was an Irish Protestant New Yorker. This neo-Gothic building was built in the 1820s on the site of an older, smaller church that had been in operation since the 1600s. And the designer of the present building? James O’Donnell converted to Catholicism just before he passed away. He is buried on the site.

Place d’Armes

The basilique is in the Place d’Armes, which is worth a mention. This square has been a hay market, a Victorian garden, and a venue for military events. One of the oldest public areas in the city, it’s now one of the best places to view interesting architecture. We’ve already mentioned the Notre-Dame, but there is also the Saint-Sulpice Seminary, which is the oldest structure in the city, the New York Life Insurance Building, which was the tallest commercial building in the city when it was built in the late 1800s, and the Banque de Montréal’s head office.

Banque de Montréal

This neoclassical bank building was built in the 1840s by Canadian architect John Wells. With its domed and colonnaded exterior, it certainly stands out among the other buildings in the square. Interested in the history of this structure and banking in Canada? The nearby Bank of Montreal Museum offers a look into the history of banking with vintage paper money and other artifacts. Interestingly enough for a museum dedicated to money, admission is free.


Next, take a quick trip to New York City — well, not quite. Head instead for theAldredBuilding, a 23-storey art deco building that looks a lot like the Empire State Building. Built of limestone and granite, this building’s tapered styling was intended to help it adhere to a local law on building height.

Explore the side streets by the Place d’Armes, taking note of the building facades and comparing them to the outstanding examples on the square. You’ll see that many of the buildings are made from limestone, like the ÉdificeAldred, and that archways and colonnades are also left on some of the older structures.

Château Ramezay

From the Place d’Armes, head south on Rue Notre-Dame to the ornate Château Ramezay, which in its history has variously been a governor’s residence, the headquarters of the Continental Army and a university faculty of medicine. Since the 1890s, it’s been a museum and portrait gallery. It features multimedia exhibits on historical figures, classical gardens, and displays illuminating 500 years of Canadian history.

Sir George-Étienne Cartier National Historic Site

See how upper-class people lived in the 19th century at this historic site located in the former residence of French-Canadian statesman Sir George-Étienne Cartier. One of the Fathers of Confederation, Cartier lived in this grand home during his active political career. Inside, visitors will learn about Cartier and his missions. The home features furniture and homewares from the period.

Promenade du Vieux-Port

Next, take a travel down the riverside promenade to the Clocktower Quay. The clocktower was built in the early 1900s as a monument to the sailors of the Merchant Navy who were lost at sea in World War I. You can go up the tower to get views of Old Montreal and the St. Lawrence River. Fun fact: the clock’s inner workings are said to be an exact replica of those of Big Ben in London. The walk to the clocktower ispopular walk for locals during the summer months; on your meanderings here you can people-watch, admire the river, and debate amongst your group about what to do next.

About the Author:Louise Gagne grew up in Ontario, but often visited Montreal while growing up to visit family. She now travels between the two cities in her work with a startup company focusing on conservation and architecture.

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