The Old Port of Montreal (French: Vieux-Port de Montréal) is located between the centuries-old charm of Old Montreal and the St. Lawrence River. It is one of Montreal’s most popular landmarks and a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. Situated along the Montreal waterfront, the Old Port stretches for over two kilometers along the St-Lawrence River and was used as early as 1611, when French fur traders used it as a trading post. In the early 1990’s, the Old Port was redeveloped by architects Aurèle Cardinal and Peter Rose. Now it serves as a recreational and historical area that draws millions of tourists and locals annually. With six million visitors a year, Montreal’s Old Port is the most popular recreational tourist site in all of Quebec.
You can visit the Old Port and enjoy an authentic and unique cultural experience while also being within close range to plenty of accommodations, great cafes, and interesting museums. It is not only restaurants, bars, cafes, and boutiques you will discover in this part of town, but also a Science and Technology Center, a large, open-air ice rink, an IMAX cinema, and seemingly countless buildings and monuments that hearken back to the time when the Montreal Old Port was fortified with walls. The historical Old Port offers locals and visitors alike access to a wide variety of activities, including the Montréal Science Centre, with an IMAX Theatre, the Montreal Museum of Archeology, the Montreal Clock Tower and an urban beach, called the Plage de l’Horloge (Clock Beach). It offers riverfront access for walking, cycling, roller-blading, quadricycle, pedalo and Segway rentals. Cultural events include the Festival Montréal en lumière, the International Fireworks competition, Igloofest and the International Reggae Festival.
The Old Port is also located at the eastern end of the Lachine Canal, which has itself been extensively refurbished as a popular destination for cycling, roller-blading and pleasure boating. Visitors can hire pleasure boats, roller blades, bicycles and all sorts of two and four wheeled modes of transport to explore the canal and its shaded banks at their leisure. The Old Port is small enough that it can be easily explored on foot. Exploring the old port on foot exposes you to restaurants, cafes, boutiques, galleries, and the lovely architecture of Old Montreal. You can walk through the cobblestone streets and witness some of the most historic buildings in the city, including those built around the time of Montreal’s founding in 1642. From historic churches, museums, and monuments, to bustling cafes, restaurants, and public gathering places, Montreal’s Old Port is easily one of the most exciting places to spend time in this city.
A benefit to strolling in the Montreal Old Port is the beautiful scenery of the ferries, yachts, and motorboats skimming across the Saint Lawrence River. The boats, quays, and overall atmosphere of the Montreal waterfront in the Old Port is unique in the city. Popular things to do at the Old Port include:
- The Promenade – The promenade runs the length of the Old Port, with picnic tables and grass. Rent bikes and surreys (quadricycles) and take a ride down the Vieux-Port Promenade. In summer, take La Balade, a cheery blue and white tram that goes between the Clock Tower and Lachine Canal Locks, May to September.
- The Clock Tower – In summer, climb up the Clock Tower for a bird’s eye view of the Old Port. Bring your lunch, there are picnic tables nearby. Bonsecours Basin (Bassin Bonsecours) – The Bonsecours Bassin provides various activities throughout the year. In summer, rent pedal boats and go around the basin (don’t worry, you can’t get out onto the big river). In winter, rent skates at the pavilion and go ice skating outdoors. There’s also fireworks displays in December.
- Montreal Science Centre – Educational and fun, this science center offers completely hands-on, interactive exhibits. An IMAX theater is located in the main building, as are exhibits on the environment, health, space, and technology.
- Fireworks Festival – Every summer, Montreal holds the fireworks competition, where teams from different countries compete for the splashiest effects, colors and music. The fireworks start at 10 PM, on weekends June to August.
Visitors to the Quays of the Old Port during the summer months enjoy a rich and diverse experience. Crowded with tourists and locals in the summer, (39% of the Old Port’s visitors are tourists) the site offers a wide range of activities, including boat tours, zip-lining, indoor mazes, animatronic dinosaurs, a poutine festival, a sand beach that doesn’t allow swimming, and a haunted house. Depending on the season, there are many more family-oriented activities, including swimming, boating, biking, and more. IN 2005, the Old Port of Montreal changed its name to The Quays of the Old Port as part of a re-branding effort. The Quays of the Old Port are ranked among the top three recreational tourism attractions in Montreal. Every year, approximately 6 million people flock to this popular landmark located on the Montreal waterfront.