Place d'Armes

Top choice in Old Montréal

Maisonneuve Monument in Place d'Armes

Getty Images/Lonely Planet Images

This open square is framed by some of the finest buildings in Old Montréal, including its oldest bank, first skyscraper and Basilique Notre-Dame. The square’s name references the bloody battles that took place here as religious settlers and indigenous groups clashed over control of what would become Montréal. At its center stands the Monument Maisonneuve, dedicated to city founder Paul de Chomedey, sieur de Maisonneuve.

The red sandstone building on the north side of the square is the New York Life Building, Montréal’s first skyscraper (1888). It’s said to be built with the blocks used for ballast on ships bringing goods to Montréal. Next door, the Aldred Building is made of limestone and was designed to emulate the Empire State Building. Completed in 1931, it has an opulent, L-shaped, art-deco lobby. On the west side of the square, the Bank of Montréal was Canada’s first permanent bank. On the south side, two statues by Montréal artist Marc-André J Fortier flank the Banque Nationale and give some comedic relief: one of a French woman in a Chanel suit carrying a poodle and turning her nose up at the English commerce of the Bank of Montréal; the other of a pug-carrying Englishman, offended by the religious grandeur of Basilique Notre-Dame.