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Vieux-Montréal (Old Montréal) is the city of Montréal's biggest attraction. Rattling horse-drawn carriages, centuries-old boulders and antique street lanterns: soak up the romantic and nostalgic atmosphere of this Canadian city. This part of the city is full of historical attractions and dozens of shops and restaurants – a tour of Vieux-Montréal is a must for every visitor.
The history of Montréal goes back to the year 1642, when the French landed on the shores of the St. Lawrence River and founded a settlement there. The town became a lively trading post and well into the 19th century this was the commercial and financial centre of Canada. The economic heart of Montréal has since shifted to downtown, but Vieux-Montréal continues to captivate visitors with its charm and European flair.
One of the 3 main squares in the old town, the Place d’Armes, is the vibrant heart of Vieux-Montréal. The square is lined with buildings of historic interest, such as the New York Life Insurance building, the city’s first skyscraper. In 1888, this 8-story building was the tallest in Montréal. Another eye-catching construction is the Aldred Building from 1929 with typical Art Deco architecture. The staggered elements of the tower are no coincidence: according to the laws at the time, street-side buildings in Montréal were not allowed to exceed 33 metres in height. But by setting the façade back, the architect circumvented this rule and was able to build much higher. This law was intended to allow enough daylight to reach the street and that explains why many buildings from that era have a so-called 'wedding-cake’ layered design.
Place d'Armes is also home to one of Montréal's landmarks: the Basilique Notre-Dame. This cathedral is regarded as one of North America’s most beautiful churches. The neo-Gothic building was inaugurated in 1829 to replace an older church that previously stood here. The many blue and gold elements in the breathtakingly beautiful interior are inspired by the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris. From the square you can easily explore Vieux-Montréal on foot, but even more fun is to take a ride in a calèche, an old-fashioned horse-drawn carriage. You can enjoy tours of either half an hour or one hour.
Head to the Quais du Vieux-Port for a leisurely walk, a visit to a museum or a drink on a terrace. The old port of Montréal is one of the liveliest parts of the city. Roller skaters and cyclists whiz along the quays and there are dozens of restaurants. Children will also enjoy attractions such as the 3D IMAX theatre and the Montréal Science Center. In winter there is a huge skating rink that is beautifully illuminated at night.