Montreal vs. Quebec City: Which Should You Visit?

Pinterest pin that reads

Montreal and Quebec City are the most popular destinations in the Quebec province of Canada. Many travelers visit both in the same trip. But what if you only have time for one?

After spending time in both, here’s my take on Montreal vs. Quebec City.

Table of Contents

Montreal vs. Quebec City: Main Considerations

This post contains affiliate links, meaning that I earn a small commission on any bookings or purchases made through those links, at no extra cost to you. This income helps me keep my blog running and is much appreciated!

Montreal and Quebec City are the largest cities in the Quebec province, but Montreal is more than three times larger with a population of 1,780,000 vs. Quebec City’s 542,298.

As a result, Montreal feels more urban and its tourist attractions are sprawled across the city. On the flip side, Quebec City feels more like a quaint European old town. While there are more urban areas, the main points of interest are in Vieux-Québec (Old Quebec).

Montreal does have an old town of its own, with historic stone buildings, but it really doesn’t compare to Quebec City’s colorful facades.

Colorful yellow building with green accents in Quebec

Old Quebec City

Both cities have pretty similar costs, and cost of living indexes rank them almost equally. Coming from Boston at the time, I found the food prices pretty similar when converted back to the US dollar, and they were maybe slightly cheaper.

Accommodation was also cheaper compared to big US cities, and I was able to find Airbnbs for $20-40/night (USD) for a private room. Because Montreal’s attractions are all over the city, I found it easier to find budget housing closer to the things I wanted to do. To get housing in Quebec City at the same price, I had to stay couple miles outside the Old Town.

For hotels, you can expect to pay $50-200 USD, depending on the amenities. If you’re looking for hotels, here are some options in convenient locations in both cities.

Montreal:

  • Budget: Auberge Alternative
  • Moderate: Hotel Bonaventure
  • Fancy: Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth

Quebec City:

  • Budget: Hôtel du Nord
  • Moderate: Au Petit Hôtel
  • Fancy: Fairmont le Château Frontenac

Au Petit Hotel

Au Petit Hôtel in Quebec City

A note on currencies: If you’re coming from a different country, it’s likely enough to have a travel credit card that waives foreign transaction fees (that was how I got around). If you do need cash, I recommend the Wise free borderless account. It allows you to hold 50+ currencies and withdraw the equivalent of 100 USD from ATMs for free each month. If you don’t have the local currency in your account, they’ll draw from the currency that’s the cheapest for you and use the real exchange rate.

I actually ended up getting a Wise account right after this trip because of my issue getting a bus ticket without cash, so I’ll be ready next time!

Transportation

It’s likely easier to get to Montreal than it is to Quebec City. Montreal has a larger airport and main train station. If you’re coming by plane, public transport takes 30 minutes to get you to the city center, while it takes over an hour from the Quebec City airport.

Within the city itself, Montreal has the metro, which is easy to use and takes you almost anywhere you want to go. Quebec City only has a bus system, and despite speaking and reading French fluently, I found it pretty confusing to understand where to buy tickets with a credit card instead of cash. It didn’t seem possible within the area I was staying, so I ended up never using the bus as a result.

I will say that Quebec City is highly walkable though. Even though I stayed in the suburban part of town, it was a decently pleasant walk into the city, and nearly all the touristy spots are in one place. In Montreal, I did have to take an Uber a couple times since there wasn’t a metro or convenient bus nearby (usually when I was going to/from Mont Royal, the major hill/park in the city).

Square Saint-Louis in Montreal with colorful Victorian houses

Square Saint-Louis in Montreal

Language

Quebec’s official language is French, but you can get by very well with just English. As an Asian woman, it was actually difficult for me to practice French, particularly in Montreal, because most people would greet me in English (or respond to me in English when I greeted them in French).

If you want to speak French, I found that English is used slightly less in Quebec City than Montreal, so you may have more opportunities to practice.

I was blown away by Montreal’s cute cafes and restaurants, especially as someone who eats plant-based. There were so many great vegan restaurants. I personally loved La Panthère Verte and LOV for food, and for cafes, Le Petit Dep and Pastel Rita were so charming.

The colorful interior of Le Petit Dep in Montreal with stained glass lamps The interior of LOV, a vegan restaurant in Montreal. There are exposed white brick walls, plants, and hanging basket lamps

Le Petit Dep and LOV interiors

Quebec City food seemed to be a bit more traditional overall, and I didn’t find as many good vegan options. Sadly, the most memorable thing I ate was a vegetarian meatball sub from Subway, or maybe a sugar pie (tarte au sucre) from the grocery store haha.

I think this may be partially because I was staying in a residential area; there is definitely good vegan food in Quebec City, but it’s mainly in the city center, so I didn’t try as many restaurants and ended up cooking myself a couple times.

Bowl with lentils, shredded carrots, shredded beets, roasted tempeh, and white sauce at La Panthere Verte Sweet potato vegan poutine at La Panthere Verte

vegan bowl and poutine at La Panthère Verte in Montreal

Weather

Quebec City is further north, so it does tend to get a little colder/snowier than Montreal. If you’re visiting in the winter, the snowscapes are especially beautiful, and the city is quite festive-looking.

A perk of Montreal, however, is that it’s home to an underground city known as RÉSO, which is a network of metro stops, restaurants, shops, and more. Having the RÉSO can make big difference if you’re trying to shield yourself from the frigid winter or the humid summer.

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view from the top of the toboggan slide with the Chateau Frontenac in the distance

toboggan slide in Quebec City

Nearby Attractions

Finally, you want to consider the other places you have on your list for this trip.

Quebec City is closer to the Ice Hotel (a hotel made of ice and snow) and Montmorency Falls.

Montreal is closer to Mont-Tremblant, a ski resort and beautiful mountain town. It’s also just a couple hours from Ottawa, the capital of Canada.

Bright ice sculptures and an ice chandelier The dinosaur room with T-Rex carved into the snow, behind a truck-shaped bed made of ice

The Hôtel de Glace, about 30 minutes from Quebec City

The Bottom Line

Montreal is a better choice if you’re looking for a more urban feel, amazing food and cafes, and a more bilingual city.

Quebec City may be better if you want a charming old town experience, all the major attractions in one place, and a festive winter holiday.

If I had to go back and pick only one, I’d say that my time in Quebec City was more memorable, though I really enjoyed the food I had in Montreal.

I also felt that there were a lot more things to do in Montreal. I spent 3 nights in Quebec City, and towards the end, I felt that I was ready to leave, or at least take another day trip. If I had to pick a city to visit again, I’d probably go with Montreal since there’s much more I haven’t discovered.

Ultimately, the choice is yours! Let us know what you’re considering or what you ended up deciding!

I have winter travel guides for both Quebec City and Montreal, so check those out if you want a better idea of things to do.

Montreal vs. Quebec City: Which Should You Visit?

Pinterest pin that reads

Montreal and Quebec City are the most popular destinations in the Quebec province of Canada. Many travelers visit both in the same trip. But what if you only have time for one?

After spending time in both, here’s my take on Montreal vs. Quebec City.

Table of Contents

Montreal vs. Quebec City: Main Considerations

This post contains affiliate links, meaning that I earn a small commission on any bookings or purchases made through those links, at no extra cost to you. This income helps me keep my blog running and is much appreciated!

Montreal and Quebec City are the largest cities in the Quebec province, but Montreal is more than three times larger with a population of 1,780,000 vs. Quebec City’s 542,298.

As a result, Montreal feels more urban and its tourist attractions are sprawled across the city. On the flip side, Quebec City feels more like a quaint European old town. While there are more urban areas, the main points of interest are in Vieux-Québec (Old Quebec).

Montreal does have an old town of its own, with historic stone buildings, but it really doesn’t compare to Quebec City’s colorful facades.

Colorful yellow building with green accents in Quebec

Old Quebec City

Both cities have pretty similar costs, and cost of living indexes rank them almost equally. Coming from Boston at the time, I found the food prices pretty similar when converted back to the US dollar, and they were maybe slightly cheaper.

Accommodation was also cheaper compared to big US cities, and I was able to find Airbnbs for $20-40/night (USD) for a private room. Because Montreal’s attractions are all over the city, I found it easier to find budget housing closer to the things I wanted to do. To get housing in Quebec City at the same price, I had to stay couple miles outside the Old Town.

For hotels, you can expect to pay $50-200 USD, depending on the amenities. If you’re looking for hotels, here are some options in convenient locations in both cities.

Montreal:

  • Budget: Auberge Alternative
  • Moderate: Hotel Bonaventure
  • Fancy: Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth

Quebec City:

  • Budget: Hôtel du Nord
  • Moderate: Au Petit Hôtel
  • Fancy: Fairmont le Château Frontenac

Au Petit Hotel

Au Petit Hôtel in Quebec City

A note on currencies: If you’re coming from a different country, it’s likely enough to have a travel credit card that waives foreign transaction fees (that was how I got around). If you do need cash, I recommend the Wise free borderless account. It allows you to hold 50+ currencies and withdraw the equivalent of 100 USD from ATMs for free each month. If you don’t have the local currency in your account, they’ll draw from the currency that’s the cheapest for you and use the real exchange rate.

I actually ended up getting a Wise account right after this trip because of my issue getting a bus ticket without cash, so I’ll be ready next time!

Transportation

It’s likely easier to get to Montreal than it is to Quebec City. Montreal has a larger airport and main train station. If you’re coming by plane, public transport takes 30 minutes to get you to the city center, while it takes over an hour from the Quebec City airport.

Within the city itself, Montreal has the metro, which is easy to use and takes you almost anywhere you want to go. Quebec City only has a bus system, and despite speaking and reading French fluently, I found it pretty confusing to understand where to buy tickets with a credit card instead of cash. It didn’t seem possible within the area I was staying, so I ended up never using the bus as a result.

I will say that Quebec City is highly walkable though. Even though I stayed in the suburban part of town, it was a decently pleasant walk into the city, and nearly all the touristy spots are in one place. In Montreal, I did have to take an Uber a couple times since there wasn’t a metro or convenient bus nearby (usually when I was going to/from Mont Royal, the major hill/park in the city).

Square Saint-Louis in Montreal with colorful Victorian houses

Square Saint-Louis in Montreal

Language

Quebec’s official language is French, but you can get by very well with just English. As an Asian woman, it was actually difficult for me to practice French, particularly in Montreal, because most people would greet me in English (or respond to me in English when I greeted them in French).

If you want to speak French, I found that English is used slightly less in Quebec City than Montreal, so you may have more opportunities to practice.

I was blown away by Montreal’s cute cafes and restaurants, especially as someone who eats plant-based. There were so many great vegan restaurants. I personally loved La Panthère Verte and LOV for food, and for cafes, Le Petit Dep and Pastel Rita were so charming.

Read Post  20 Best Mountains In The World (For Your World Travel Bucket List)

The colorful interior of Le Petit Dep in Montreal with stained glass lamps The interior of LOV, a vegan restaurant in Montreal. There are exposed white brick walls, plants, and hanging basket lamps

Le Petit Dep and LOV interiors

Quebec City food seemed to be a bit more traditional overall, and I didn’t find as many good vegan options. Sadly, the most memorable thing I ate was a vegetarian meatball sub from Subway, or maybe a sugar pie (tarte au sucre) from the grocery store haha.

I think this may be partially because I was staying in a residential area; there is definitely good vegan food in Quebec City, but it’s mainly in the city center, so I didn’t try as many restaurants and ended up cooking myself a couple times.

Bowl with lentils, shredded carrots, shredded beets, roasted tempeh, and white sauce at La Panthere Verte Sweet potato vegan poutine at La Panthere Verte

vegan bowl and poutine at La Panthère Verte in Montreal

Weather

Quebec City is further north, so it does tend to get a little colder/snowier than Montreal. If you’re visiting in the winter, the snowscapes are especially beautiful, and the city is quite festive-looking.

A perk of Montreal, however, is that it’s home to an underground city known as RÉSO, which is a network of metro stops, restaurants, shops, and more. Having the RÉSO can make big difference if you’re trying to shield yourself from the frigid winter or the humid summer.

view from the top of the toboggan slide with the Chateau Frontenac in the distance

toboggan slide in Quebec City

Nearby Attractions

Finally, you want to consider the other places you have on your list for this trip.

Quebec City is closer to the Ice Hotel (a hotel made of ice and snow) and Montmorency Falls.

Montreal is closer to Mont-Tremblant, a ski resort and beautiful mountain town. It’s also just a couple hours from Ottawa, the capital of Canada.

Bright ice sculptures and an ice chandelier The dinosaur room with T-Rex carved into the snow, behind a truck-shaped bed made of ice

The Hôtel de Glace, about 30 minutes from Quebec City

The Bottom Line

Montreal is a better choice if you’re looking for a more urban feel, amazing food and cafes, and a more bilingual city.

Quebec City may be better if you want a charming old town experience, all the major attractions in one place, and a festive winter holiday.

If I had to go back and pick only one, I’d say that my time in Quebec City was more memorable, though I really enjoyed the food I had in Montreal.

I also felt that there were a lot more things to do in Montreal. I spent 3 nights in Quebec City, and towards the end, I felt that I was ready to leave, or at least take another day trip. If I had to pick a city to visit again, I’d probably go with Montreal since there’s much more I haven’t discovered.

Ultimately, the choice is yours! Let us know what you’re considering or what you ended up deciding!

I have winter travel guides for both Quebec City and Montreal, so check those out if you want a better idea of things to do.

Montreal vs Quebec City: Which City Should You Pick?

Montreal vs Quebec City 1

I’ve lived in Montreal for almost two months and have spent a long weekend in Quebec City.

This has given me a solid amount of information to breakdown facts and form an opinion of which city is the best.

I’ve really loved my time in both places.

Both cities are charming, mainly French-speaking, and the people are friendly.

So let’s look at the facts and let them decide the answer to which is the better city.

This is my Montreal vs Quebec city-off. Who do you think will win?

Read on to find out the answer!

Year Founded

Montreal Street

Montreal: Montreal began as a missionary colony in 1642, becoming an official city in 1832. It’s Canada’s second-largest city and is quite proud of its French origins.

The city began as a center for fur trading and a home base for explorers. It was even considered the capital of Canada for a while.

The title of capital shifted between Montreal and Toronto until 1857 when Queen Victoria gave the title to Ottawa.

Montreal hosted the International World Exposition in 1967 and the 1976 Summer Olympics making it a city known around the world. Both sites are still popular places for tourists to visit today.

Fun Fact: Similar to Manhattan, Montreal is actually a big island.

Quebec City

Quebec City: Built-in 1608, Old Quebec is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for being one of the most intact fortified towns with architecture that’s been retained for over 400 years.

Quebec City is referred to as the “Gibraltar of the North” because of its helpful positioning along the St. Lawrence River.

In fact, the name Quebec is rumored to derive from an Algonquin word meaning “narrowing of the river.”

Because of its prime location, this French settlement became the center of trading, politics, and the military.

A must-see is Chateau Frontenac, which is in historic Old Quebec. It’s a truly gorgeous hotel that was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway Company and named after the French governor that defended Old Quebec against British and Iroquois attacks.

Verdict: I love that both cities still default to speaking French first. It’s a testament to their original French heritage and really made me feel like I was in Europe.

Both cities have beautiful old town sections, but I’ve got to give this one to Quebec City. The intact architecture and tiny village of Old Town really took my breath away.

Population

Montreal Population

Montreal: 1,715,937

Quebec City: 535,019

I’m surprised the populations aren’t closer. After living in Montreal and spending time in Quebec City, I really got the vibe that the cities were similar in terms of population.

That said, Montreal is more spread out, which may be why the number of people around feels similar in population to Quebec City.

Verdict: I’d call this a tie—honestly, both cities felt the same population-wise to me. Quebec City’s Old Town and Montreal’s Old Port felt equally crowded…but we’ll talk more about why below.

Number of Tourists Per Year

Montreal Winter Iceskating 2 1

Montreal: 22.1 million

Quebec City: 4.6 million

Verdict: Montreal wins this round by a landslide based on the numbers. Quebec City felt equally as touristy but that may be because I was consistently seeing tons of tourists in their smaller Old Town section.

Weather

Summer Montreal

Montreal: Summer is one of the best times to visit Montreal with temperatures hitting a high of 79 °F. The only downside is that the city is busy as it’s the peak time for tourism. Be prepared to wait in lines and pay higher prices for accommodations.

Summer Quebec cITY

Quebec City: I have a feeling that Quebec City is beautiful any time of year. Though my preference would be to visit during July when the weather hits a nice high of 77°F.

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My boyfriend, Dean and I spent time in the city at the beginning of September and were freezing. I couldn’t believe how fast the temperature dropped, especially compared to the New York temperatures I normally experience in early fall. For reference, the temperature hit 45°F one evening.

best time to visit montreal 1

Montreal: 47 homicides in 2018

Quebec City: 3 homicides in 2018

Verdict: So obviously Quebec City is winning this round. Something to note is that Montreal has one of the country’s lowest crime rates, with only Toronto and Quebec City coming lower.

Public Transport

Montreal Bus

MontrealQuebec City
Monthly Transport Pass Cost$86.50$89.40
Single Transport Pass Cost$3.50$3.10
Bike Sharing AvailableYes – $2.99 per tripYes – $1.00 per trip
Number of Airports11
CabsYou must call them ahead of time.Available to hail from the street.

Montreal: Public transportation in Montreal is the most popular way to get around the city. To be honest, I have yet to take the metro, but I hear from locals it’s like New York’s system (just cleaner).

I love using Montreal’s BIXI bikes to explore new neighborhoods. I highly recommend it if you’re visiting during the warmer months!

I’m surprised that for how large the city is that they don’t have cabs readily available to hail, but it’s not the end of the world having to call an Uber.

Monreal Fall

Montreal: Montreal honestly isn’t as clean as I imagined it would be. Coming from Toronto, I was expecting similar maintenance to garbage and litter on the streets.

Since moving here I’ve witnessed multiple people littering and even saw the super of the building next to us sweeping litter and excess trash onto the street, and sometimes just sweeping it in front of our building, instead of just picking it up and putting it in the bin.

There’s a lot of construction and random streets in our neighborhood that are closed off for no major reason. Literally, we had an Uber driver get out mid-ride and move safety cones out of the way before driving straight through the area the safety cones were guarding.

Quebec City Funacular Street view

Quebec City: We spent less time here, and presumably more time in touristy areas that were better kept, but I’ve got to say I didn’t see much litter.

The streets we walked around were pretty well kept, even in a dodgier neighborhood we ended up strolling through. The upkeep in this city seems to be a lot better.

Verdict: Quebec City wins this one hands down! I love that Montreal has more grit to it, but let’s be honest; it needs to do better with the litter.

Check out some of these popular Quebec City spots!

Entertainment

Montreal Diversity 2 Quebec City Diversity 3

Montreal: Montreal is one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse cities in the world. This is likely because it has a high number of immigrants moving there each year.

Quebec City: Quebec City isn’t super diverse, especially compared to Montreal. It keeps getting more diverse each year, as new immigrants are settling there more often.

Verdict: Montreal is obviously the more diverse city here.

Housing

Montreal: I didn’t realize until moving here that Montreal has a happening food scene. In fact, it’s one of the few cities other than New York that’s known for its bagels.

Montreal has plenty of swanky cafes, craft beers, crepes, and poutine.

With its French heritage, it’s not a total shock that gastronomy is big here. For non-foodies, gastronomy focuses on the relationship between food and culture. It’s about not only the ingredients but also about the experience of eating it.

We’ve had plenty of great food here, but have found that it’s been impossible to find good Indian and Chinese cuisine, though the search continues. Let me know if you have any recommendations!

Crepe Quebec City

Verdict: Montreal wins for the overall food scene, though I’d love to give Quebec City another shoutout for introducing me to my new favorite dessert.

Top Sights

Montreal Notre Dame

Montreal: There’s no shortage of sights for tourists to check out in Montreal.

You’ve got Notre-Dame Basilica, the Fine Arts Museum, the Biosphere, Saint Joseph’s Oratory, the Biodome, botanical gardens, La Ronde amusement park, hockey, and the boardwalk along the Old Port of Montreal.

Look ahead to see what festivals will take place, there’s so many throughout the year you’re almost guaranteed to catch one.

How to Spend One Day in Montreal 1

If you only have one day in Montreal, don’t run around without a plan. This guide will tell you the best things to do during your 24 hours in the city.

Quebec City Old Town 3

Quebec City: Visiting the Old City and taking in its over 400-year-old architecture is a must. Stroll down Terrasse Dufferin for gorgeous views of the St. Lawrence River, then stop by Fairmont Le Château Frontenac for an afternoon tea or evening cocktail.

There’s also Montmorency Falls, Notre-Dame de Quebec Basicila, the Museum of Civilization, Aquarium of Quebec, and if you’re into it, hockey.

If you’re visiting during the summer, check out the Changing of the Guard ceremony at the Citadelle de Quebec, and be sure to look out for Batisse, the famous guard goat!

Verdict: Both cities have a fair amount of sights but there can only be one winner, and it’s Montreal. Quebec City is wonderful for a low key romantic weekend but Montreal has something to offer for everyone.

Montreal vs Quebec City: The Winner!

Mount Royal Montreal

Visiting Quebec City is like visiting a cheaper and North American version of Europe. It’s the more underrated city, that’s perfect for a romantic weekend away. It’s even called the “Paris of Canada” by some. I really loved exploring it, but could imagine getting bored living there after a while.

Montreal has way more going on with all its events and festivals. It’s got a more cosmopolitan feel to it, which is perfect if you’re like me and prefer the chaos of cities to the calm of the country.

Honestly, I don’t think you could go wrong with visiting either city. Both have plenty of charm and history.

Unfortunately, there can only be one winner in the great debate of Montreal vs Quebec City.

Source https://imperfectidealist.com/montreal-vs-quebec-city/#:~:text=Montreal%20is%20a%20better%20choice%20if%20you%E2%80%99re%20looking,in%20one%20place,%20and%20a%20festive%20winter%20holiday.

Source https://imperfectidealist.com/montreal-vs-quebec-city/

Source https://allytravels.com/montreal-vs-quebec-city/

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