Walking Tours

Led by professional storytellers and guides, our walking tours mix the city’s best sites and attractions with a thorough history of Montreal, including its darkest secrets, taboos and most hidden elements. Whether you are looking for a classic walking tour with a modern twist, a visit that divulges the city’s most underground secrets and hidden histories or a themed postcolonial excursion, Griffin Tours has something for you!

Hidden Histories

Learn the secrets of Montreal's "Hidden History" while exploring some of the city's famous districts, including McGill University, Downtown, and the Underground City. Created by Donovan King, the "King of Montreal's Hidden History", this classic walking tour delivers a full overview of Montreal, while delving into the city's hidden, underground and controversial sites and topics.

Clients will delve deep into the island's past, and be exposed to Indigenous history as taught by Kanien'kehá:ka Elders. Guests will also learn the locations of tens of thousands of bodies buried throughout Downtown Montreal, discover hidden surprises lurking in unknown places, hear deranged ghost stories, legends and unthinkable crimes, plus will enter the vast Underground City. Scandals that continue to rock the city will be explored, including the MKULTRA brainwashing experiments, Pastagate, the scandal-plagued tourism industry, and growing demands to remove offensive colonial statues in the Age of Truth and Reconciliation.

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The Hidden Histories of Montreal Walking Tour offers a postcolonial twist that is sure to please tourists seeking out the secrets of the city, fans of true crime and ghost stories, urban history buffs, and anyone interested in Truth and Reconciliation initiatives in Montreal's antiquated tourism industry.

Clients will also be invited to add their voice help update Montreal's tourism industry to make it more inclusive of Indigenous voices and perspectives, and more diverse by including marginalized communities in the tour guiding milieu.

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Irish History in Montreal

Explore the history of the Irish in Montreal! The Irish History in Montreal Walking Tour treats clients to an overview of the Irish influence on Montreal, from the days of New France to the present.

Starting at Montreal’s oldest Irish Pub, this walking tour visits historic Irish sites, including Saint Patrick’s Basilica, the ruins of a refuge, forgotten areas like Little Dublin and Paper Hill, Notre Dame Basilica, the offices of The Vindicator newspaper and Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours Church.

Montreal’s most interesting and influential Irish citizens will be highlighted, including politicians, newspapermen, soldiers, artists and rebels. Tec Aubry, Edmund Bailey O’Callaghan, Father Patrick Dowd, Thomas D’Arcy McGee, Joe Beef, and Émile Nelligan will be covered, along with many others.

Guests will learn about Montreal’s Irish throughout history, in the days of New France, during the Rebellions of 1837-38 and subsequent Fenian Raids, how they coped with the Famine, their role in the city’s industrialization and Canadian Confederation, and other memorable episodes leading right up to the present day.

The Irish History in Montreal Walking Tour is sure to please Irish and Montreal history buffs as well as tourists and locals interested in the remarkable story of the Irish in the city’s history.

The Irish Famine in Montreal

The Irish Famine in Montreal Walking Tour revisits one of the darkest chapters in the city’s history, also known as Black ’47. Starting in June, 1847, Montreal was overwhelmed by wave after wave of Irish refugees fleeing brutal oppression at home, including a massive famine triggered by a potato blight and colonial British landowners, many of whom forced tenants off their lands.

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Over a million died on Irelands shores and a million more were scattered all over the planet. Those arriving up the Saint Lawrence River were packed into “Coffin Ships”, Canadian lumber ships that were never intended to transport human beings, but rather ballast. Crammed in filthy conditions, the Irish refugees were subjected to typhus, a deadly and contagious disease. A Quarantine Station on Grosse-Ile near Quebec City tried to contain the spread of typhus, but was unable to.

As the first ships arrived in Montreal, dying refugees began collapsing on the wharves and in overcrowded fever sheds. Over the course of 1847, 75,000 Irish refugees fleeing the Famine landed on Montreal’s wharves, a city of only 50,000 at the time. Despite the risks, Montreal’s finest citizens went to the aid of the refugees, including three orders of nuns, doctors, clergy and the Mayor himself. Many made the ultimate sacrifice when they contracted typhus and perished. The death toll was staggering.

The walking tour provides in-depth history about the Irish Famine's impact on Montreal in 1847. Guests will visit key sites associated with this tragedy, including the Old Port and Lachine Canal, the Grey Nuns Motherhouse, the two locations of Montreal’s fever sheds and mass burial grounds, and the infamous Black Rock monument.

The Irish Famine in Montreal Walking Tour is sure to please those researching family roots, history buffs, and tourists and locals interested in this dark episode in the city’s history. The tour also supports efforts by the Irish Monument Park Foundation to establish a commemorative park at the Black Rock, which sits atop the gravesite of over 6000 Irish Famine refugees.

Our Guides

Donovan King

Donovan King

Co-founder of Griffin Tours, Donovan King is an Irish-Montrealer with a passion for acting, guiding, education, ghost stories and postcolonial activism. Known as the “King of Montreal’s Hidden Histories”, Donovan researches and creates the walking tours and pub crawls and also leads many of the tours himself.