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Profile: Montreal’s Quays of the Old Port

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Grain silos in the Old Port of Montreal

The iconic grain silos bordering the Western end of the Quays of the Old Port of Montreal.

Photo © Marie Asselin.

The Quays of the Old Port, a linear park that runs along the St. Lawrence River in Old Montreal, welcomes over six million visitors annually, who come to enjoy the park's countless winter and summer activities, major attractions, festivals and cultural events. The area features beautifully landscaped walking paths as well as restaurants and terraces boasting gorgeous views of the city, making the Quays one of Montreal's most inviting year-round tourist destinations.

History of the Quays

The history of the quays goes back to the founding of the city in 1642. The first colonists built Montreal's first port here, installations that played a key role in allowing old Ville Marie to grow into the major international city it is today. In the mid-19th century, the port's critical location prompted the city to open the Lachine Canal -- connecting the St. Lawrence River to the Great Lakes -- to allow for further development of commercial activities. The port gradually enlarged and improved its facilities over the years, but in 1970 the Lachine Canal, too small to accommodate modern shipping vessels, was closed to shipping. The port was moved farther east a few years later, and the area left vacant by the move was redeveloped as the leisure destination it is today.

Visiting the Quays

The Quays are easily accessible by car or public transportation.

By car: Main entrances to the site are on De la Commune and Berri Streets, as well as on the Saint-Laurent Boulevard.

Parking: The Quays feature three spacious parking lots that are open 24/7.

  • Clock Tower Quay: Access via Berri Street or De la Commune West
  • Montreal Science Centre: Access via Saint-Laurent Boulevard or De la Commune East or West.
  • Alexandra Quay: Access via De Callière or De la Commune East or West.

Public Transit:

Things to Do

  • Montreal Science Centre / IMAX® Telus Theater: The Montreal Science Centre houses science and technology exhibitions for the entire family. The museum's programming is composed of permanent and temporary exhibitions that allow visitors to explore, learn and understand through a variety of dynamic and interactive installations. The IMAX® Telus Theater, located inside the Montreal Science Centre, is always a hit with the whole family. Programming changes regularly, so see the theater's website for the full schedule.

  • Outdoor Activities: A wide range of outdoor activities are offered on the Quays: Walking, cycling, rollerblading, and quadricycle and pedalboat rentals are just a few of the many options available. During the winter, an atmospheric skating rink, complete with music and special lighting at night, awaits those who want to make the most of Quebec's cold weather.

  • Boating Activities: The proximity of the Quays to the St. Lawrence River makes it easy to find a wide variety of boating activities. Visitors can enjoy relaxing options such as the Bateau-Mouche or dinner cruises, unique experiences like amphi-bus tours or more exhilarating activities such as jet boating on the rapids.

  • Gardens on the Quays: All of the park surrounding the Quays is beautifully landscaped, but the Gardens on the Quays is especially attractive, particularly during the summer. Learn more about Quebec's specific flora in gardens that have been especially designed to be "green." Free admission.

  • Clock Tower Beach: A new attraction in 2012, Clock Tower Beach is a carefully designed urban beach, complete with fine sand, chairs, parasols and refreshing mist. A fully outfitted bar caters to the vacationing crowd. See the Clock Tower Beach website for schedule and admission rates.

  • Bota Bota Spa: For those seeking relaxation, the Bota Bota Spa offers body treatments and massages in enchanting surroundings, as well as access to a water circuit with breathtaking views. Full treatment and price listing on Bota Bota's website.
  • Where to Eat

    • Food Trucks and Pop-Up Restaurants: Montreal city laws severely limit the operation of food trucks, which explains why they are so hard to find. Thankfully, the Quays hosts a few, as well as finger-licking good pop-up restaurants, such as the Porchetta Box and the Lobster Box, both of which are very popular with Montreal's food-loving crowd.

    • The Food Chain: For a quick bite, King Edward Quay is home to "The Food Chain," a collection of nine fast-food restaurants that offer quality dishes visitors can enjoy either in the air-conditioned indoor dining room or on the large outdoor terrace.

    • Le Glacier Bilboquet: A favorite of Montreal sweet tooths, Le Glacier Bilboquet produces high-quality, handmade ice cream and sorbets made with the freshest local ingredients.

    • Terrasses Bonsecours: Recently voted "favorite terraces of Montreal" by the Métro newspaper, Terrasses Bonsecours spread over four levels, all offering stunning views of the city and the river. The terraces are especially popular at the cocktail hour, and music events attract famous DJs from around the world. The terraces can also be reserved for private and corporate events.

    Events at the Quays:

    From Cirque du Soleil shows to outdoor symphonic concerts, there's always something happening at the Quays. Sign up to the Quays' newsletter or join the Quays of the Old Port on Facebook to be informed of all upcoming events.

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