Last Updated: October 4, 2021

Quebec City Vs. Montreal

If you’re thinking about a trip to Canada then as well as exploring the incredible wilderness, you’ll probably want to dive into a city for a little while, and two of the best are Quebec City and Montreal.

They are both incredible cities to visit on your next trip, but the chances are you won’t have time to see them both, so which one should you choose? That is what we are here to find out in our comparison of Quebec City vs Montreal.

About The Cities

I find you can get a sense of a place if you know a little bit about its history, size, and its general vibe so let’s dive into that side first. When it comes to Quebec City vs Montreal, you’ll find they are quite different cities and one is probably going to suit you better.

Quebec City

Quebec City is the capital of the Quebec province in Canada. It was built way back in 1608 and the old city called Old Quebec is the only city in Canada that is a UNESCO World Heritage site. This is thanks to having stunning architecture that has been looked after for over 400 years and being one of the most intact fortified cities in the world.

Quebec city sits in quite an amazing location, along the cliffs next to St. Lawrence Seaway and it’s known as the “Gibraltar of the North” thanks to being next to the Saint Lawrence River. Historically, its location played a major role in trade and more.

From a population perspective, Quebec City isn’t too big or too small. It’s home to around 750,000 residents and is a French-speaking city. Don’t worry though, most residents can also speak English.


Montreal is known as the cultural and economic hub of the province of Quebec and it sits on an island in the Saint Lawrence River just to the southeast and downstream of Quebec City.

Unlike Quebec City, Montreal is a big city with a population of 1.9 million people, and up to 4 million within the metropolitan area. It’s the second-largest city in Canada and the second-largest french-speaking city in the world after Paris.

The city of Montreal started off in 1642 as a missionary colony and didn’t officially become a city until the 1830s. It was a base for explorers and a center for trading things like fur. At one point it was named the capital of Canada until the British changed it to Ottowa in 1857.

The city of Montreal is very much alive. It’s super hip with loads to do, has a fun nightlight, and is full of culture.


If you were going to wander around either of these two cities, you would probably find Quebec City a lot more charming. There are fewer people, it is full of ancient architecture, and is quite magical. But they both have the effect of making you think you’re in Europe as they are both French-speaking.

On the other hand, if you like your cities alive with arts and culture you might find that Montreal suits you better.

Things To Do

I only ever tend to visit a city if there is something I really want to do there. Maybe it is to see the town from an incredible viewpoint, wander into famous art galleries or museums, or perhaps that the food scene is something everyone has to try, whatever it is, it’s important to have things to do.

When it comes to Quebec City vs Montreal, you won’t be disappointed. Both are full of awesome things to do and their stunning locations mean you’re not far away from some awesome day trips either.

Quebec City

One major thing Québec City is known for along with Old Quebec is the winter carnival they hold every year. The city comes alive and everyone takes to the frosty icy snowy streets to get involved in loads of fun activities. You can make snow sculptures, go dog sledding, watch the parade and the ice canoe race, and lots lots more.

Being quite an old city, Quebec city is also home to a lot of museums and the one to not miss is the Museum of Civilization which is the most visited museum in Canada and showcases everything you could want to know about you Canada came to be and its evolution to what it is today.

Another one not to miss is the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec that holds excellent exhibitions and the building is stunning in itself. You should also go to the La Citadelle de Québec which is a military museum on the banks of the St Lawrence River that has a great view of the city.

If you live going to the theatre, you’ll love Quebec city. You have quite a few to choose from including The Grand Theatre of Quebec and La Maison de la Musique both of which host concerts, ballets, operas, and plays. The city is also home to the Orchestre Symphonique de Québec so be sure to see them while you’re there.

There are also some great historical sites to visit with some amazing architecture to see inside this UNESCO World Heritage site. The old town in Quebec City is excellent and there is also the Palace Royale, Basilique Cathedrale – Notre-Dame-de-Quebec, and the Parliament building.

You should also go to Parc de la Chute-Montmorency to see the 270 ft waterfall of the Montmorency river which is a short ride outside of town. The falls are even higher than Niagra Falls and are quite spectacular.


Montreal is a city with a beating heart that never turns off. No matter what time of year it is, there is always something happening in Montreal whether it’s art festivals, film festivals, car races, bike races, and in winter there is some dog sledding too. You’ll never be short of something fun, interesting, and different to do.

Outside of the event side of Montreal, there is also a rich architectural side that is worth exploring. As you walk down Montreal’s streets be sure to go through Old Montreal to experience the old town architecture at its fullest.

Then onto Mount Royal Park to see St Joseph’s Oratory with its stunning fortress style building with a dome roof, Notre-Dame Basilica which is alive with color inside, and lots more.

Mount Royal Park is also an excellent place to go if you’re looking for somewhere to relax in nature and a trip to the Montreal Botanical Garden is a must, even just to see the head and hand sculptured from plants that has a waterfall pouring from it.

There are some great food markets as well. The Jean-Talon Market is a huge indoor food market that is brimming with fine produce, little stalls, shops, and has some great little eatery stalls serving some of the best street food. If you’re staying in Montreal for a while, head on down to the Atwater Market for a seemingly endless selection of fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, and even flowers.

You’ll also find some great museums to explore, and the Old Port of Montreal is quaint and delightful when lit up at night.

Montreal is home to Cirque du Soleil so be sure to catch a show too and heading to the Quebec National Library, and Place des Arts theater for a show is something that is not to be missed.


It’s hard to choose between Montreal vs Quebec City when it comes to things to do, they both have a lot to offer. I guess the best way to decide is if you want a faster, livelier pace for your exploring or a slower, relaxed one.

If it’s fast and alive you want, then Montreal is the place to go. If you want slow and relaxed, then Quebec City is the sure winner.

What’s The Food Scene Like?

There is nothing more fun, in my and my taste buds’ opinion than going somewhere new to try all the delicious things on offer. It’s one of my favorite parts of traveling and I often make decisions based on food when everything else is a close tie.

When it comes to Quebec City vs Montreal, their food scenes are pretty similar, which would make sense considering they are in the same country and not too far away from each other. Plus, being French cities, you can guarantee you’ll find some great French cuisine in both, but what about other cuisines and traditional local food?

Quebec City

Quebec City is home to some great restaurants, they are so great that even Conde Nast Traveler readers named it one of the Top 20 Foodie Cities In The World, so let’s find out why.

Poutine, a famous dish from the region is said to have been thought up in a town between Quebec City and Montreal. If you don’t know what poutine is, let me enlighten you. It’s a dish made with fries that are covered in cheese curds and brown gravy. Every local restaurant in Quebec City will have its own spin on it, but if you want to try the best, head over to Chez Aston or Snack Bar Saint-Jean.

Other local delights include fèves au lard (baked beans & maple syrup), tourtière (pork/beef mince pie), and pouding chômeur or poor man’s pudding which is made by deep-frying bread and covering it with maple syrup and cream. You’ll find these local dishes at most restaurants in the city.

Outside of traditional cuisine, you have award-winning French restaurants serving things like warm foie gras alongside pigeon breast, you get the idea.

It’s not all French restaurants though, you’ll also find quite a few ethnic options, modern fusion restaurants, and some great Gastro eateries too.

As you can see, Quebec City is a seriously tasty place, so much so, you can even book food tours that take you around the city and have you trying the best of what’s on offer.


Montreal is just as much a foodie hub as Quebec City is, if not even more so, simply because it’s a lot bigger. You’ll find all the traditional food that you’ll find in Quebec City but you’ll also find a more diverse range of options in Montreal too.

Let’s start off with some places that your taste buds simply can’t miss when visiting Montreal.

Montreal is, of course, as much a poutine capital of Quebec as Quebec City is and the places to try it in Montreal are listed below.

La Banquise takes poutine to the next level and gave created 30 different variations of poutine with different flavors in a single menu for you to choose from.

Then you have Au Pied de Cochon who have made their poutine quite posh adding delicious extras like foie gras. And, if you really want to eat poutine decadently, the Le Garde-Manger serves it up with lobster chunks. WOW.

Outside of poutine, a local favorite is Schwartz’s Deli where you’ll find one of the best smoked meat sandwiches you might ever encounter and without trying to sound like you’re in New York City, the bagels in Montreal are awesome.

The best bagel spots in the city are Fairmount Bagel or St-Viateur Bagel. These bagels are on a par with New York bagels and as they come out of the wood-burning ovens, the bagels smell and taste like a drop of heaven. The show bagel bakeries are just a short walk from each other so why not get one from each and see which is best.

Outside of all these little Montreal gems, you’ll also find world-class french restaurants, great pizza, pasta, and ethnic restaurants too.


You’re pretty spoilt for choice when it comes to the food scene of Quebec City vs Montreal. You’re guaranteed to taste some incredible local and french cuisine in these two cities but I think Montreal has Quebec City beat on this one.

The range of different restaurants in Montreal opens up the palate nicely and it’s not all about French cuisine either. Just the fact that there are great bagel spots and smoked meat delis means you’ll find a better range of options and more interesting menus. It’s not Quebec City’s fault, this is often the case when comparing a medium-sized city to a large one.

Is one city more affordable than the other?

If you’re still struggling to decide between Quebec City vs Montreal, maybe the costs of each will help you make your final decision.

Traveling on a budget is the reality for all of us, well most of us, and if your money can go for longer in one place compared to another, it generally means you’ll have a lot more fun and do less tightening of your purse strings.

When it comes to Quebec City vs Montreal, there is actually a pretty huge difference between them price-wise.

Quebec City

Let’s start off by looking at accommodation as this is usually the most expensive part of anyone’s stay and it’s a cost that is out of your control. You can always just go to one nice restaurant while you’re there but you can’t keep changing hotels every night based on whims.

A hotel room for one in Quebec City will cost you on average around $62 USD a night, and it’s around $124 a night for a double room, so you’re not getting any discount there.

Food typically costs around $32 USD a day for travelers in Quebec City, this is of course an average and it doesn’t include going to a fancy French restaurant, so it’s best to count that in another part of the budget.

Another thing you’re going to rely on while in Quebec City is the public transport system and it costs around $14 a day per person to get around the city. If you’re on a budget, you will probably want to avoid taxis as they are much more expensive than public transport.

When it comes to going out and having fun, you’re likely to spend around $21 USD a day in Quebec City for tickets to events and the like and about $16 a day if you like to drink beer, wine, or cocktails while you’re on holiday.


Montreal is a bit more expensive than Quebec City, well not a bit, quite a lot and the main difference comes in the cost of accommodation. For a single room in a hotel in Montreal, you are going to pay on average around $111 USD per night and for a double room the price is $222 USD per night, so no discounts for doubles again.

Food costs in Montreal are $32 USD a day on average for someone traveling around the city, so the same as Quebec City, and again, this doesn’t include any fancy meals.

Public transport costs are around $18 USD a day on average for Montreal, which is a tad more expensive than Quebec City. You can make it a little cheaper by only using the buses but you might waste a lot of your day in traffic.

Having fun in Montreal is the only thing that is more affordable when compared to Quebec City. For tickets to shows and events, you’ll spend on average around $18 USD a day, and for drinks at bars, it’s about $14 USD a day. It’s not much of a saving against Quebec City but it’s something.


Both Montreal and Quebec City cost around the same when it comes to daily life in the city – public transport, food, drinks, and entertainment. The bit that kills you is the accommodation costs. You are close to paying double in Montreal for the same room you’d find in Quebec City.

If you’re on a budget, then visiting Quebec City is the obvious choice. If you have your heart set on Montreal, best start looking daily for a great hotel deal to bring the price down.

The Weather And When To Visit

One thing I always have to look at before I pick a place to travel to is the weather. Good weather can make a good holiday great, and bad weather can make a good holiday pretty average, so it’s an important consideration. I don’t find hot or cold get’s in the way of vacations, it’s rain that gets in the way the most, as getting wet isn’t so fun when you don’t have a home to warm up and be cozy in.

Quebec City

Quebec City is lovely and warm in summer and incredibly cold during the winter. In the summer months of June to August, you can experience highs of up to 25 Celcius but in winter between December and March, the warmest it’s going to be is -5 Celcius, with a max low of -16 Celcius, which is cold!

When it comes to rainfall and snowfall in the winter, the city gets on average around 10 days a month of rain, peaking in December with 14 days of rain.

The best time to visit Quebec City weatherwise is between June and August but the city gets flooded with tourists. I’d suggest going in either September or May, as the temperatures are still warm but you’ll have way fewer tourists to manage.


Montreal is a little way south of Quebec City which makes it a bit warmer all year round. The summer highs of June to August can reach up to 26 Celcius and the winter highs stick around -1 or -3 Celcius with maximum lows of -12 Celcius.

From a rainfall perspective, it’s the same as Quebec City with around 10 days a month and a peak in December of 13 days.

Just like Quebec City, during the hot summer months, Montreal is alive with visitors so it’s best to stick to May and September.

Quebec City vs Montreal – The Verdict

Have you managed to choose which one of these delightful cities you prefer? It’s not that easy is it and as I said at the beginning, it’s best to see both of them at some point.

If you want a quaint and claiming city break with a ton of great architecture and local vibes, then going to Quebec City is a great choice. You’ll also save a packet on your accommodation and get to see most of what you would in Montreal just without all the fuss.

If you want to have a lot of fun and spend late nights on the town, trying loads of different foods, and really getting involved in the energy of a big city, then Montreal is for you. Just be prepared to burn a big hole in your wallet as to live the lavish lifestyle in Montreal doesn’t come cheap.

About the Author Roger Timbrook

Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!

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