All the way back in May 1642, a group of French settlers founded Montréal city on the banks of the St. Lawrence River on what is now Old Montreal. Bordered by McGill Street, Ruelle des Fortifications, and Saint Lawrence River in the south, this is the oldest district in Montreal, and if you’ve just moved here, it’s a great place to start getting to know the city. This historic centre has been French and then British, it has been a fortified city, it has been the central hub of political Canada and in 1964 the Ministère des Affaires culturelles du Québec declared it historic. There is plenty to see, eat and do in this quaint part of Montreal and history buffs will enjoy the trip back in time. What to See With much of Old Montreal still in original 17th Century condition, simply walking through the cobblestoned streets will transport you back to Old Europe. But for those of you who want a little more direction, be sure to stop by Place Jacques-Cartier – one of the most popular spots in Montreal, locals and tourists alike have been gathering here for years to mingle and people watch. This European-style plaza has plenty of nearby cafes where you can happily wile away the day just taking in the atmosphere. If that’s a bit too calm for your liking, try browsing the craft stalls that line the plaza, where local artisans hawk their wares. Be sure to use your best negotiation skills and shop around – don’t be tempted to buy the first thing you see (you may see the same “original” one three stalls down for half the price!). The St Lawrence River: grab the kids and the Frisbee and head down to the Old Port. After a riverside stroll and an ice cream, this area offers plenty of wide open green spaces for the kids to run and Mum and Dad to relax. You will find a free skating rink in winter that is free to the public, so either way the kids will be exhausted and in bed nice and early! What to do Shop, shop and then shop some more! Unfortunately, like many other tourist areas, cheap tourist shops selling trinkets and kitsch are all too common in Old Montreal. Be sure to give these a wide berth and try the art, jewellery and gourmet shops. For a more academic pursuit, try a visit to Notre Dame Basilica. This Baroque style church was originally completed somewhere between 1672 and 1683 and is steeped in local history. Not just a religious experience, Notre Dame Basilica houses Montreal’s major archaeological museum. What to Eat With over 200 restaurants in the historic district, only the fussiest eaters will be disappointed (and really, who brought them on holiday anyway?). Here are just a few suggestions: The famous Stash Café offers traditional Polish food, with the house special being pierogies. Vodka optional (not really, it’s a must!). Brit and Chips on MacGill Street offers what has often been called “the best fish and chips”. That’s a pretty big call to make, so stop by and judge yourself. If you are the organized type and have booked the required one month in advance, the trendy Garde Manger , on Rue Saint François Xavier offers a fine dining experience. Olive and Gourmando on Rue Saint Paul Ouest offers breakfast and lunch fare – think soups, sandwiches and salads as done by hipsters.
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