November 7, 2012— At the very birthplace of this great metropolis, Old Montréal beautifully illustrates the city’s characteristic duality. Heritage buildings nestle comfortably alongside modern architecture and its Museum of History and Archaeology – built upon the very foundation of the first colony – faces a Science Centre that features state-of-the-art interactive exhibitions. Explore a neighbourhood with two “faces” and multiple charms.
A veritable masterpiece of neo-gothic architecture, the Notre-Dame Basilica reigns majestically over Place d’Armes. Discover its exquisite woodwork, intricate stained glass, incomparable sculpted columns and gold leaf ceiling mural, either on your own or with a guided tour.
No one knows the area better than an experienced tour guide from Guidatour. Armed with an arsenal of stories and interesting tidbits of historical information, a Guidatour guide will unveil Montréal’s rich history, from its very origins to present day, and spin a yarn or two along the way.
Art galleries abound in Old Montréal. In contrast to the old buildings that house them, the showcased contemporary artwork therein screams out its daring, brightly-coloured vision from the windows across the ancient cobblestone streets. Among the many artisans who have set up shop in the area, two are particularly noteworthy: the DHC/Foundation for Contemporary Art gallery and the Darling Foundry. The first exhibits some of the most engaging artwork on the international scene, whereas the latter is more focused on ephemeral and experimental art, as well as raising public awareness vis-à-vis vacant or abandoned industrial buildings.
When the lunch bell rings, Montréal’s much-loved Le Cartet gourmet restaurant and boutique is just a few streets away. High-ceilings, abundant natural light and communal dining tables set the stage for an unusual, yet charming dining experience featuring deliciously simple fare: fresh sandwiches, soups and salads, tartars and French classics the likes of bison steak and duck confit. And the desserts…oh the desserts…! You can even take them to go.
In Old Montréal, you’ll find a host of unique little boutiques, such as Librissime, that is hailed as “anything but a bookstore” and well-known for its hyperstylish books – including exclusive and limited editions -and objects. Another spot along the same lines, but unique unto its own, is la Papeterie Casse-Noisette where you’ll find an extensive selection of international paper products, stationary and writing tools.
Now from stationary over to fine linens and home décor, Le Baldaquin is a must-see, packed with fine quality bed, bath, table and baby linens, not to forget opulent robes, towels, accent pieces and throws in distinctive designs and lush colours from world-renowned artists and designers.
And then there’s the L’Empreinte Coopérative, an impressive gallery-boutique chock-full of unique, handcrafted items by some of the province’s most talented artists. Featuring jewellery, glass, wood, ceramics, textiles, paper, toys, and more, l’Empreinte is home to a wide array of unique, contemporary crafts just waiting for you!
Just adjacent, be sure to make a stop on the Quays of the Old Port. This pedestrians-only walkway offers a moment of sweet escape as you stroll along the river. From here, you may admire the modernistic Habitat 67 residence–designed by the (then) young architect, Moshe Safdie, for the 1967 World’s Fair.
Body warming, cold rinse stations, relaxation areas, massages… Spa Scandinave Les Bains promises you an experience that is both energizing and relaxing in an authentic and contemporary environment. Enjoy the benefits of thermotherapy before heading over to the Taverne Gaspar, where you can enjoy fresh pub grub with a stunning waterfront view. Historic charm on the inside, lavish seasonal patio on the outside, the Taverne Gaspar serves up comfort food in the British Gastro Pub tradition, with French and Quebecois accents thrown in for good measure.
Montréal overflows with incredible restaurants and Old Montréal is no exception. We have, however, pulled from two of our favourites: one for its unusual recipes, its daring culinary creativity and its edgy New-York atmosphere – Le Garde-Manger (Chef Chuck Hughes’ restaurant) – and the other for its impeccable wine/food pairings, named appropriately Accords Wine Bar and Restaurant. With over 50 wines served by the glass, their objective is to offer the perfect pairing for each locally-sourced, gourmet dish on its menu. But it doesn’t end there – for each “accord” (or pairing), there is a “disaccord”, an unusual pairing that may seem to disagree with the dish in question, but turns out to be a surprising discovery.
And finally, to end the evening in style, we suggest that you blithely stroll along Saint-Paul, De la Commune and Notre-Dame streets, all beautifully illuminated thanks to the Lighting Plan that emphasizes the architectural beauty of Old Montréal’s heritage buildings for all to admire.