Stephan Poulin, courtesy of Tourisme Montréal
View from the square toward Nelson¥s Column and the Montreal City Hall, Place Jacques_Cartier, Old Montreal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Place Jacques_Cartier is a square and an entrance to the Old Port of Montreal.
Garry Black / age fotostock
Running from the waterfront to Montréal’s City Hall, at the opposite end of a gently sloping hill, Place Jacques-Cartier has been a center of the city’s street life for more than two centuries. It was laid out at the beginning of the 19th century after the Château Vaudreuil, which had stood on the site, burned down in 1803. Originally known as New Market Place, the square stays true to those roots with the many vendors who sell flowers here in the summer. You’ll find them on sunny days alongside the outdoor tables of the cafés that line the square. In December, Place Jacques-Cartier is dressed for the holidays with rows of Christmas trees. Given the name of the square, you might expect the column at its western end to be topped with a statue of the French explorer. Instead, the English admiral Lord Horatio Nelson looks over the city from the perch. Erected in 1809, it is Montréal’s oldest public monument and preceded London‘s column honoring Nelson by three decades. To this day, the choice of hero to honor still causes some resentment in this largely francophone city.
The Epicenter: Place Jacques-Cartier
Forget the hagglers and the steep prices: Place Jacques-Cartier really is the epicenter of Old Montreal. It was the gateway to the Old Port and to Chinatown—and to where it all began, back in 1723. The square is named in honor of Jacques Cartier, the explorer who claimed Canada for France back in 1535. Just attempting to imagine how much history happened on this small square goes further than the imagination! Locals usually visit the Place to grab ice cream, on their way to one of Old Montreal’s many restaurants or simply to wander around and admire the beauty. Fun fact: Did you know the Nelson’s Column at the northern end of the Place is actually older than its London equivalent?