Severed from downtown by the Autoroute Ville-Marie, the gracious district of Vieux-Montréal was left to decay until the early 1960s, when developers started to step in with generally tasteful renovations that brought colour and vitality back to the area. North America’s greatest concentration of seventeenth-, eighteenth- and nineteenth-century buildings has its fair share of tourists, but it’s popular with Montréalers, too – formerly as a symbolic place to air francophone grievances; more recently as a spot to check out the buskers on Place Jacques-Cartier, take in the historic monuments and roam the port’s waterfront.
The focal point of Vieux-Montréal is Place d’Armes, its centre occupied by a century-old statue of Maisonneuve, whose missionary zeal raised the wrath of the displaced Iroquois. The mutt that you see represents the animal who warned the French of an impending attack in 1644; legend says the ensuing battle ended when the supposedly unarmed Maisonneuve killed the Iroquois chief on this very spot. Place d’Armes is the most central Métro station, although Square-Victoria or Champ-de-Mars are handier for the western and eastern ends of the district.