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A Winter Walking Tour of Montreal

Montreal is a wonderful city to explore on foot. It’s got a European feel to it, especially Old Montreal. It’s compact enough that you can see most of the interesting parts of the city in a day or two. And the Metro is quick and easy so everything is in reach if you tire of walking.

I only had a morning to do a winter walking tour. I started in Old Montreal at Hotel Pierre du Calvet, my hotel for three nights – which because of its history (built in 1725) and rooms merits its’ own blog. It location near a beautiful old church, just minutes away from the port and the heart of the district is an ideal base.

My plan was to walk Boulevard Saint Laurent to Mont Royal Avenue and then to return to Old Montreal via side streets. I’d been told the previous day that Boulevard Saint Laurent was the most historically important street in Montreal. It takes you through a series of neighbourhoods – Chinatown, Little Portugal, Mile End and Little Italy. Some of Canada’s famous artists and writers come from here or were heavily influenced by the area – including Irving Layton and Leonard Cohen. Walk along St. Urbain Street and you will be in the old stomping grounds of writer Mordecai Richler (The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, Solomon Gursky Was Here).

Here’s what I was able to see on a three hour walking tour of Montreal.

"The cobble stoned streets of Old Montreal"

The cobble stone streets of Old Montreal

"The streets get full around lunch time"

The streets get full around lunch time

"The Gossipers"

The Gossipers – seen in Old Montreal

"Walking into Chinatown on Boul Saint Laurent"

Walking into Chinatown on Boulevard Saint Laurent

"The sign painter is an optimist"

The sign painter is an optimist

"North of Chinatown on Boul Saint Laurent"

North of Chinatown on Boulevard Saint Laurent

"Schwartz's Deli - famous for their smoked meat sandwiches - with empty tables only because it just opened"

Schwartz’s Deli – famous for their smoked meat sandwiches – with empty tables only because it just opened.

"Jeanne Mance Park"

Jeanne Mance Park

Street art is everywhere – if you look for it. 

"Seen along Boul Saint Laurent"

Seen along Boul Saint Laurent

"Pedestrians seem oblivious to the art"

Pedestrians seem oblivious to the art

"Sculpture in a small neighbourhood park"

Sculpture in a small neighbourhood park

"Street sculpture in the downtown area"

Street sculpture in the downtown area

DOORS, WINDOWS and STAIRCASES in MONTREAL

One of the defining features of Montreal is the exterior staircase. There are books devoted to the subject. I think its great fun to wander off the main streets just to look at the design, colour and texture of not only the staircases but the windows and doors. They aren’t afraid of a little colour in Montreal.

I do feel for the old folks who must negotiate the stairs – especially in a Montreal winter.

"Exterior stairs - one of the defining features of Montreal"

Exterior stairs – one of the defining features of Montreal

"Montreal exterior staircases"

"Black, slippery looking stairs"

Black, slippery looking stairs

"I can't resist blue doors"

I can’t resist blue doors

"Purple and white doors"

"Beautiful old brick buildings are all over the older sections of Montreal"

Beautiful old brick buildings are all over the older sections of Montreal

Whatever you do, don’t miss the chance to see the inside of Notre-Dame Basilica, located in Old Montreal. I walked by the outside of the church and thought why bother? Do I need to spend $5 when I’ve seen a picture on Pinterest.

Yes  I do and so do you. I can honestly say it took my breath away and there isn’t a church anywhere in the world that I’ve seen that is quite like it. I asked my daughter to look at the photo – and her comment was – don’t bother me I’ve seen too many churches already. Then she looked at the photograph – not the real thing – and was in awe. And that is how you will feel no matter what your religion is when you step inside.

"The stunning interior of Notre Dame Basilica"

The stunning interior of Notre-Dame Basilica

After walking for many hours you work up an appetite and in Old Montreal there is no shortage of excellent restaurants. Try Les 400 Coups for an inventive take on lunch or Olive and Gourmando for great coffees, pastries and paninis.

Other posts related to Montreal you might enjoy:

***Thank you to Tourism Montreal for making this trip possible.***

Leigh McAdam

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Author Leigh

Avid world traveler. Craves adventure – & the odd wildly epic day. Gardener. Reader. Wine lover. Next big project – a book on 100 Canadian outdoor adventures.

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Join the discussion 40 Comments

  • Boomergirl says:

    I love my home town. You captured it beautifully Leigh!!

  • Beautiful set of photos from Montreal. I was thinking of going there this winter, but plans fell through. Hope to get there sometime and see that amazing church.

  • I love the street art and the architecture. I’ve never been to Montreal but it looks like an incredible city to explore.

    • @Tonya It is a city I recommend putting on your list to visit. Also include Quebec City if you’re up there. It’s such an easy city to explore and there is enough English spoken that it’s not a hard place to visit.

  • When you first mentioned that Montreal is known for its staircases, I was thinking New York style brownstone steps but wow, these are steep stairs! They must be tricky in winter! Montreal certainly looks like a beautiful city. My husband used to go to there a lot and loved it..maybe one day he’ll take me!

    • @Jenny When I saw the steepness of the stairs the first thing I thought was how many emergency room visits are the result of a fall on these stairs. If you didn’t have to deal wit them I think they’re very pretty to look at.

  • budget jan says:

    This bought back such wonderful memories of our five days in Montreal. We were staying in a fantastic hostel in Old Montreal and walked the streets of Chinatown every day. I have that photo of the gossipers! I am so sorry that I did not step inside the Basilica :(

  • Marcia says:

    I have not done a walking tour but I’d love to! My last trip was a blurry 2-day of activities and family visits and before that, it was just too cold to stay out for too long. Another visit is long overdue so I’ll add a walking tour – and go in June!

    Thanks for taking us along on your tour. I love the vibrant colors against the snow.

  • noel says:

    That was a fun tour, love all the art and graffiti and the cool and colorful portals, thanks for the tour…why does it all look so quiet?

    • @Noel I started the walk at about 9 in the morning and people seem slow to get going in the morning. It is a completely different place by the afternoon – and that deli in the photo has people lined up outside to get in. Montreal is an extremely lively city – but perhaps they’re as a broad generalization not morning people.

  • Wow, what a beautiful city! And you were certainly able to see a lot in only 3 hours…I especially love the Gossiper statue, so funny!

    • @Jess I got a real chuckle out of the Gossiper statue too. I think it perfectly depicts the act of gossiping. I did cover a lot of ground as I knew I was on a time limit. I wish I could have walked several more miles further up Boulevard Saint Laurent.

  • I have always wanted to visit the Notre Dame Basilica. I’m glad it lived up to its hype for you. It looks breathtaking. I love how Montreal has such a European feel. What a great place to walk around even in winter. Love those The Gossipers sculpture.

  • Carolyn @ Holidays to Europe says:

    Awesome photos. I love the gossiping women and the pic of the Notre Dame Basilica took my breath away. I can only imagine what it must feel like to step inside the church and see it in real life.

  • That picture of Notre Dame Basilica has definitely sold me on paying the admission price to be able to see it in person. It’s not what I expected for some reason. All that blue is so beautiful. I’ve always wanted to visit Montreal, but I’ll hope that I don’t have to navigate any exterior stairs on a wintry day.

    • @Michele I’m with you on the wintry stairs. I can only say that Notre-Dame in person far surpasses any photo of the inside that you will see. I am SO GLAD I went in. The blue colour took my breath away.

  • Johanna says:

    Have not yet been to Canada, and you’re the second person this week I know who’s blogged about Montreal! I so want to go. Loved your pics of the architecture in particular, and the street scenes.

  • Jackie Smith says:

    Wow! What great photos in this one, Leigh. Loved the tour you gave us – certainly captured a feel of the city. (And of course, now I want to visit – add it to the list!)

  • Nancie says:

    You brought back some great memories. Did you eat at Schwartz’s? I remember the first time I did. I even had a cherry coke with my sandwich. Love the sandwich, hated the cherry coke!

    I second your comment about visiting the Bascillica; not to be missed!

    • @Nancie I would have loved to have a sandwich at Schwartz’s but I’d just had breakfast and I had a lunch date. It gives me a reason to return. I can’t say that I’ve ever had a cherry coke.

  • santafetraveler says:

    Years ago, when we lived in New York State we took Amtrak to Montreal one January. It was a beautiful ride over very bumpy track. We had a wonderful time walking, dining, shopping and going to the art museum. I love Montreal- a slice of France on my side of the pond.

    • @Billie I think Montreal has a lot of personal and it feels very European to me. There’s a lot to keep you busy for many days and I’m sorry I didn’t have any time for shopping or art museums.

  • Sophie says:

    I haven’t seen near enough of Montreal. Love the bright doors and the unusual stairways. Very cool photos, Leigh.

  • Maria Alexandra @LatinAbroad says:

    I absolutely LOVE Montréal. Great food, gorgeous architecture, the Cathedral of Notre Dame…! I can’t wait to go back, I feel like I didn’t enjoy it as much because it was so cold, I spent like 3 out of my 6 days there indoors!

    -Maria Alexandra

  • A Montrealer Abroad (@marievallieres) says:

    Glad you had a nice time in my fair city! I do love to photograph those exterior staircases, they’re one of my favorite subjects and constantly fill my Instagram!

  • Les 400 Coups says:

    Thank you for the mention! We really appreciate it.
    Hope to see you back again! Summer time is also pretty amazing :)

  • Lauren | JustinPlusLauren says:

    We visited Montreal in the summer and are dying to go back – had such a wonderful time and there are so many other places to explore! I think we will have to step foot inside Notre-Dame Basilica, we never did last time but you’ve convinced me!

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