Old Montreal is the historic center of the city. Although not much remains of its original French colonial architecture (most buildings that stand today were built by the British in the 19th century), the neighborhood still encapsulates the spirit of a distinctly European settlement. Old Montreal is charming, touristy, and relatively compact (you can easily circle and then criss-cross it in one afternoon).
Perhaps one of the top attractions in the city, the Notre Dame Cathedral, built over several decades from 1824 on, was Montreal’s answer (or, rather, a nod) to the revered Parisian landmark. Interestingly, this quintessentially Catholic church was created by a protestant (and anglophone) architect, James O’Donnell (though he eventually converted to Catholicism and was buried at the same cathedral).
Rue St-Jacques (formerly Saint-James Street) played the role of Canada’s financial center for over a century. Today, you can still admire the old bank headquarters on the stretch of St-Jacques between Boulevard St-Urbain and Rue McGill.
Located across the Lachine Canal from Old Montreal proper, Habitat 67 is a very unusual (perhaps even revolutionary at the time of its contruction) housing complex designed in the 1960s by the then-young architect Moshe Safdie. The Habitat 67 can be seen from the Rue de la Commune promenade.
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