Old Montréal, Canada
Old Montréal is a remarkable concentration of buildings dating from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. The district has the delightful feel of a Parisian-style quarter, situated as it is between the waterfront and the business hub. Its many historic sites, streets, and landmarks are best explored on foot. Those not to miss include the twin towers of Notre-Dame Basilica, the quays of the revitalized Old Port, and the open-air gathering space of Place Jacques-Cartier.
Extending along the river, close to Marché Bonsecours, is the site of the old port. It was restored to enjoy a role as an entertainment and leisure center. Special attractions include an IMAX cinema, a Clock Tower reminiscent of Big Ben, and the Montréal Science Center. In winter, skaters take to an open-air rink. From the old port a magnificent view is obtained of the impressive Montréal skyline. Boat tours run from the quays.
The gentle slope down from the Nelson monument affords a superb view of the Old Port. Built in 1804, and restored in 1998, on the old site of Château de Vaudreuil, Place Jacques-Cartier was used as a public market for many years. A major gathering place and entertainment site in Old Montréal, it draws passers-by and visitors who enjoy street artists. Facing City Hall, Place De La Dauversière is a magnificent public garden restored in 1997.
Montréal City Hall has a more turbulent history than its peaceful façade suggests. The building went up between 1872 and 1878, and survived a severe fire in 1922. And it was from this balcony that French President General de Gaulle uttered his famous "Vive le Québec libre!" (Long live free Québec) during a state visit in 1967. At dusk, when it is lit up it is absolutely spectacular. Behind the City Hall, two lines of stone run across the surface. This is one of the few spots in present-day Montréal where you can still see physical evidence of the fortified town of yesteryear.
Pointe-a-Calliere, Musee d'Archeologie et d'Histoire
At the southeast corner of Place Royale in Montréal lies the Pointe-à-Callière, the "Cradle of Montréal city". Place Royale was the heart of French colonial life, its market, and its parade ground, until transformed in the 19th century with various government buildings. The Musée d'Archéologie et d'Histoire documents the city's beginnings by taking visitors underground to see the remains of the first foundations. Two plaques and an obelisk, the work of Québécois artists, unveiled in 1894, commemorate the 1642 founding of the French settlement.
A prestigious residence from the 18th century, The Château Ramezay is one of the oldest buildings in North America; Montréal's portal to its past and the first building in Québec classified as an historic monument. It was the site of Benjamin Franklin's attempt to persuade Montréal to become the 14th state in the United States. The Château invites you to relive more than 500 years of history, from the pre-contact Amerindian era to the 20th century. The Château exhibits its collections in a variety of ways, intermingled with multimedia portrayals of historical figures recounting, in six languages, highlights of their lives at the manor. The site includes the Governor's Garden, a typically delightful 18th century urban retreat.
Le Musee du Chateau Dufresne
Built between 1915 and 1918, the Château Dufresne is a beaux arts-style private mansion which was owned by the Dufresne brothers, two important members of the Montréal French Bourgeoisie. Today, it houses the museum, dedicated to Montréal's East End history. The studio features cardboard mock-ups of finished artworks as well as an ancient stove and explanations of stained glass production techniques. The studio highlights the inspiration of Italian - Canadian artist Nincheri whose murals, painted in the 1920s are found in Catholic churches across North America. Stained-glass windows, marble floors and Italian Renaissance ceilings and beautiful furnishings are on display year-round.
Chinatown dates back to the 1860s when Chinese immigrants came to Canada to work in the mines and on the railroads. They settled mainly along De La Gauchetière Street near Saint-Laurent Boulevard. Today the district is less residential than commercial but it has kept its Asian flavor. The Chinese community continues to shop and celebrate its traditional festivals and holidays here. The narrow streets are lined with shops selling exotic foods, traditional crafts, martial arts accessories, herbs, and natural medicines. Acupuncture and Asian medical services can also be found here.
Lachine, on the southeast bank of Montréal Island (in Lac St.-Louis), got its name from the first pioneers who, in the 17th century, made their way up the St. Lawrence looking for a route to China (in French, "la Chine"). The Lachine Canal, a way of getting round the Lachine Rapids, was dug in 1825. The gateway to a network of canals linking the Atlantic Ocean to the heart of the continent, the Lachine Canal paved the way for the urbanization of the island of Montréal's southwest. Being a major part of the Montréal area's heritage, the Canal was Canada's main industrial center for many years. By bike, on foot or by boat, visitors to the Lachine Canal can experience a nature break just a stone's throw from the bustle of the city.