To call it Old Port, or Old Montreal, that is the question.
Sorry to pull a Shakespearian cliche (English Lit student habits die hard) but the question has some real merit. All too often do we hear the terms "Old Montreal" and "Old Port" used almost interchangeably, creating a lot of confusion on which should be used when.
We're perpetrators of this geographic-designation-confusion ourselves, often times referring to the entire area south of Notre-Dame as the Old Port, even though that isn't quite the case. And we aren't alone, with many Montrealers (and especially tourists) doing the exact same thing.
Unfortunately, a lot online resources don't really answer the question.
The City of Montreal website doesn't say much of anything about a formal distinction between the two, as "Vieux-Montréal et Vieux-Port" are roped in together within the larger Ville-Marie borough page.
Nothing on the website lists out any geographical boundaries, either. But given that Old Montreal isn't a borough unto itself, this is expected, but still makes things kind of complicated.
Further blurring the lines between the two areas is the STM's 715 bus route, titled "Vieux-Montréal/Vieux-Port." This particular bus goes up Peel, along Wellington and de la Commune, and up Berri all the way to the metro station. Again, not very helpful.
Adding to the confusion is the fact that neither really used to be bear the "old" descriptor. Old Montreal itself only became a Heritage Site in 1964. Well before, during the city's infancy (but after being called "Ville-Marie"), Old Montreal was just "Montreal."
The Old Port wasn't called as such back then either. And if we're going to be historical about everything, it's worth noting that the banks of the Saint Lawrence actually used to be farther inland, specifically at about where Pointe-à-Callière Museum stands.
So should we be using the boundaries of yore or follow a modern outline? The latter would be a lot easier if there was an official designation listed out somewhere, though that isn't as easily reachable as it should be.
Now, some of you reading probably think this is a moot point. Anyone familiar with city (or can read a Wikipedia page) knows that everything below Sainte Antoine between rue des Soeurs Grises and St. Hubert is Old Montreal, and the Old Port is the along de la Commune. You know, where the actual port is, right?
Well, you're almost right.
After getting in touch with representatives from both Old Montreal and the Old Port, we were able to get some official answers on the geographical distinctions between the two.
Let's start with Old Montreal. Saint-Antoine serves as the northern-most border of Old Montreal, with Saint Hubert and rue Duke enclosing the area on the east and west.
Rue de la Commune is the southern border of Old Montreal, contrary to what many believe, as the street is often cited as Old Port territory.
So if not rue de la Commune, what serves as the border between the Old Port and Old Montreal?
Officially, it's the train tracks.
Yup, according to both representatives, everything from the train tracks to the water is the Old Port, and above is Old Montreal. The handy image provided by the SDC Vieux-Montréal below gives a better visual representation of what's considered Old Montreal, for those wondering.
Now you can finally stop scratching your heads in wondering what the difference between Old Montreal and Old Port. And, of course, school anyone who happens to make the mistake in front of you.