STREET ( SORT OF!) PROFILE: SQUARE VICTORIA

Posted on October 14th, 2010 by .

Astute followers of our Montreal Street Profile series may notice that there is something different between today’s instalment and those about Bleury, Parc, Maisonneuve, Saint-Paul and Saint-Zotique. Yes, Square Victoria is not a street but it is surrounded by them and has enough stuff going on that it deserves its moment in the sun…

Technically it could be called Victoria Square, but we’re in Montreal and that’s not what we call it. Built in 1813, it was originally known as the Place du Marché-à-Foin ( Haymarket Place) and the Place des Commissaires ( Police Place) before being renamed in 1860 for a certain Queen when King Edward VII came to town. It has been both a hay market ( hence the original name) and parking lot in its long history, but serves now as a vital part of the connection between Downtown Montreal and Old Montreal, a meeting point and common space for those working in or visiting the Quartier International de Montreal. As such, it is now host to two major international institutions- the IATA (Air Transport Association) and the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization), the latter of which is in an official arm of the UN. Another major player in the area is the Tour de la Bourse (which houses the Montreal Stock Exchange), a building, designed by Italian architect Luigi Moretti, which is generally considered to be one of the finer skyscrapers built in that era.

On sunny afternoons, you will always find this tree-lined space filled to the gills with people eating lunch near the statue of Queen Victoria or Ju Ming’s “Taichi Single Whip” sculpture. However, perhaps its most famous feature is the iconic Hector Guimard-designed Art Nouveau entrance to the Square-Victoria Metro station, one of the few that exist outside of Paris.

Bordered by Viger to the north, Saint Jacques to the South, Cote du Beaver Hall to the West and Rue Square Victoria (an extension of McGill Street), Square Victoria boasts several great reasons to pay a visit…

Centre Du Commerce: As far as malls go, you’d be hard pressed to find a more picturesque one than the Centre Du Commerce (or World Trade Centre Montreal). The complex joins together a string of historic buildings that sat on Ruelle des Fortifications, one of early Montreal’s earliest and most important streets. These days it serves as the main thoroughfare in the Centre Du Commerce and sits under a vast glass-covered promenade that features a boutiques, coffee shops, eating stops and, of course, the Intercontinental Hotel. Also- if you’re in town on business and notice a banquet or reception being held here: RSVP ASAP.

The W: The clear entertainment star of Square Victoria, The W is of interest not just for travellers looking for a hip hotel in Old Montreal, but for those looking for eat, drink or dance. Ristorante Otto is Executive Chef Yves Lowe’s take on modern Italian food that is accompanied by the resto’s extensive wine list. The big attraction, though, is Wunderbar a slick cocktail bar that is at its most bumping on Wednesday and Thursday nights. For a quieter but no less slick experience, stroll over to the Plateau Lounge

Mann: You can tell this spa is manly due to the fact that it has two Ns in the title. Montreal’s only men-only grooming mecca, it’s got everything the modern man could need- from barbers to full-body massages.

Centre CDP: A spot whose principal business is the management of funds would not normally make a list like this, but this award-winning building is an incredible space that is absolutely worth a stroll through. It also houses a Houston Steak House with a great view.

Victory Hot Dogs: This is up the street from the square, but I need to mention this spot. For years I’d walk by around lunchtime and see a 20-person line stretching out of a place that, frankly, looks like a hole in the wall. I finally went in and realized why: Victory Dogs makes one of the best classic hot dog (steamed or toasted) and fries combos in the city and has been for decades. Grab one and go sit in the square.

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