Can’t decide between Toronto and Montreal? We’ll help you figure out which Canadian city is the better option for you, with this detailed comparison of Toronto and Montreal!
Although they’re both big Canadian cities, they’re very different from one another. Toronto is very much a North American city with tall skyscrapers, towers, and an exciting restaurant scene. Montreal, on the other hand, resembles European cities much more with its cobblestone alleys, quaint cafes, and charming old buildings.
Read on to learn more about both Canadian cities and see which is our favorite for first-time visitors!
Both cities are worth visiting without a doubt, but Montreal just has more to offer to the average traveler. Although Toronto gets more tourists annually, the number of people visiting Montreal every year has been increasing, and it wouldn’t be surprising even if it surpassed Toronto.
There’s just so much to do and see in the city, from the famous Mount Royal to the iconic riverfront promenade. The cuisine is more diverse in Montreal, the buildings are older, and there’s just much more history to explore.
That being said, if you’re a European traveler, you might feel like Montreal is familiar – that’s because it’s much more similar to European than North American cities. In that case, Toronto might be the better option for you, especially if you want to explore something new and exciting.
The skyline of Toronto is reminiscent of that of New York, with its tall skyscrapers and many glass buildings. Montreal, on the other hand, has a restriction in place that doesn’t allow for buildings to be taller than Mount Royal and the famous Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal is one of the few exceptions to the rule.
The two cities boast very different architecture, so they’re going to appeal to different types of travelers. In general, Europeans might feel like they’ve seen Montreal before since it’s so similar to other cities in Europe. On the other hand, Toronto is very much a North American city with its tall skyscrapers and diverse population that are highly reminiscent of New York.
Both cities are fun and exciting, with lots of things to do and see for first-time visitors. Those visiting Toronto get to enjoy some beautiful waterfront views, as well as visits to some of the best and biggest buildings of their kind in North America.
On the other hand, those who decide to visit Montreal will get to learn about the city’s rich history and explore the spectacular nature in and around the charming city.
Toronto and Montreal are Canada’s two largest cities by population and that’s one of the very few similarities they share. Toronto is quite similar to US metropolises, and it’s often compared to New York, both because of its tall towers and large immigrant population.
Montreal, on the other hand, is the largest city in Quebec, Canada’s largest French-speaking region. The French influence is evident everywhere in the city, especially in the dominantly European architecture.
Also, Montreal is one of the oldest cities in North America, and it’s more than 100 years older than Toronto. It boasts a more diverse architecture than Toronto, with buildings that are several centuries old – something that’s not very common in Toronto.
If you’re from Europe and you want to see something new and different, you’re better off traveling to Toronto, since Montreal can feel like just another European city. But if you’re from North America, then Montreal is the better option since Toronto is just so similar to major US cities.
Montreal is much older than Toronto, so it’s no surprise that it boasts much more historically important attractions. The buildings are older, the museums tell a much richer history, and it’s a much more enjoyable destination if you like exploring old towns and seeing landmarks and monuments that have been around for centuries.
Toronto, on the other hand, is known for its extravagant skyscrapers and tall glass buildings. Sure it’s the newer city, but it is also a melting pot of different cultures and traditions, thanks to the large immigrant population.
Toronto is kind of like New York on a budget – if that’s generally the city vibe you enjoy, then it’s easily the better city for you. Toronto highlights include tall towers, skyscrapers, modern architecture, and such a diverse array of restaurants that you’ll never be able to decide where to have dinner.
The cost of visiting is another reason why Montreal is simply the better option. The city is cheaper than Toronto in every aspect, from the cost of accommodation to the cost of public transport. It’s cheaper to go out and eat at restaurants, as you can generally expect to pay less for tickets to major tourist attractions.
It’s worth noting that neither of these two cities is exactly cheap, and you will still need a generous budget to really get to enjoy either of them. But Montreal is easily the more affordable option out of the two, especially if you’re considering staying there for more than a month.
With tall skyscrapers, busy city streets, and outrageously expensive real estate, Toronto is very much a standard North American city. It’s fun for Europeans, but most Americans don’t even get the sense that they’ve traveled outside the country. Nonetheless, it’s still a very fun city to visit with plenty of interesting things to do and see – read more about them below!
The CN Tower is easily the most famous landmark in Toronto and without a doubt one of the top things to check out in the city. The iconic 553-meter tower features a revolving restaurant where you can enjoy some delicious meals alongside the best city views.
The tower is the tallest structure in Canada, and it even held the record for the world’s tallest free-standing structure until 2007, when it was surpassed by the Burj Khalifa.
Casa Loma is an 18th-century mansion and one of the oldest buildings in Toronto. Built in Gothic Revival architectural style, the impressive mansion nowadays serves as a museum and it can be rented out in the evenings when the museum closes for the public. The mansion also boasts vast gardens on the property, which happen to be a popular wedding venue in Toronto.
It’s possible to tour Casa Loma and all of its beautifully decorated rooms. Perhaps the most interesting room in the mansion is the Round Room, which boasts curved doors and windows on its round walls. Permanent exhibits in the museum include the Girl Guide Exhibit, as well as an exhibit of vintage cars that are set up in the mansion stables.
High Park is a vast public park in Toronto with a children’s playground, zoo, sports field, and hiking trails. It’s one of the top places to visit for families, especially if you’re looking to spend an entire day outside exploring and having fun.
The beautiful park is home to cherry blossoms, which attract countless visitors to High Park in May and April. But High Park is not just about Sakura trees – the vegetation in the park is quite diverse, featuring everything from Chinese Gardens to wild forests. There are even off-leash zones in the park, where you can let your furry friends roam free while you sit back and admire the pretty views.
The Art Gallery of Ontario is a must for all art lovers who are traveling to Toronto. It’s one of the largest art galleries in the city, with an impressive collection of European masters and an absolutely huge Canadian collection.
Also, the gallery is not impressive just because of its vast collections of artworks – the entire building takes up around 45,000 square feet, making it one of the largest art museums in entire North America.
The museum is home to more than just the exhibition spaces – it also boasts a library, lecture halls, a gift shop, and many other spaces for artists. Even the exterior of the building is impressive, thanks to the recent renovation led by renowned Canadian architect Frank Gehry.
Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada is an incredible aquarium in downtown Toronto, situated right at the base of the CN tower. It boasts the largest underwater viewing tunnel in North America with over 5.7 million liters of water. There are more than 20,000 different aquatic animals in the aquarium and over 100 interactive opportunities.
St. Lawrence Market is a Toronto landmark more than two centuries old. It’s the place to go if you want to shop for good food since there are more than two hundred vendors who sell everything from artisanal bread to fresh produce. The city’s iconic market is also great for souvenir shopping, and you can even shop for antiques on the weekends.
Toronto Island Park consists of four large islands featuring everything from scenic views to carousel rides. It’s popular for hiking, beaches, and spectacular views of the Toronto waterfront.
The Centre Island is most popular with tourists thanks to the amusement park with dozens of fun rides for both kids and adults. It also boasts stunning beaches that are perfect for everyone who wants to go for a quick dip in Lake Ontario.
It’s no secret that hockey is very popular in Canada and the Hockey Hall of Fame is a great way to learn more about the sport. The museum boasts an extensive collection of various hockey memorabilia, including the coveted Stanley Cup. You can also see all kinds of statues and hockey gear, including jerseys worn by some of the most famous players in the world.
The Royal Ontario Museum is the largest in Canada with an astonishing collection featured in 40 different exhibition and gallery spaces. The exhibits are very diverse, and they cover everything from natural history to modern art. There are even dinosaurs in the Royal Ontario Museum, making it the best place in the city to take your children!
It’s worth noting that it’s possible to leave the museum for a short break and then return later.
A dash of France in North America – that’s the best way to describe Montreal! The European charm is enough to make most visitors fall in love with the city as soon as they arrive, and it’s the main reason why it’s our favorite out of the two. Here are some of the top things to do once you arrive in Montreal.
The Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal is easily one of the best-known landmarks in the city. The 19th-century church is famous for its dramatic interior, which is regarded as one of the most impressive examples of Gothic Revival architecture. The basilica is also one of the most-visited monuments in North America, as it receives more than 11 million visitors every year.
Mount Royal Park is a large public park that’s home to the city’s tallest peak – Mount Royal. The iconic mountain peak is thought to be the inspiration behind Montreal’s name, and it boasts extraordinarily beautiful views of the city.
The park is home to lookout points, observation decks, historical landmarks, hiking trails, lakes, and more. On a warm sunny day, you could easily spend an entire day just roaming around the park, admiring nature and exploring the different hiking trails, trying to figure out which one offers the best view of Montreal.
Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal is one of Montreal’s most iconic sights. The grand church is best-known for its large green dome, which happens to be one the largest church domes in the world. The building is also the highest in Montreal, rising more than 30 meters over the summit of Mount Royal.
Parc Jean-Drapeau is a large public park made of two islands, with many fun attractions. It’s home to the Biosphere Environment Museum, La Ronde amusement park, and the famous Circuit Gilles Villeneuve that hosts Canadian F1 and NASCAR races.
And these are just some of the more popular attractions in the park – there are many other fun things to do and see in Parc Jean-Drapeau, so plan to spend a good chunk of the day exploring the islands.
Vieux-Port de Montréal is the city’s historic waterfront complex with restaurants, stores, and all sorts of activities. The city’s scenic riverfront area is the perfect place for an evening stroll while admiring the beautiful vistas of Montreal.
One of the more popular attractions in this part of the city is the Montreal Ferris Wheel. It’s over 60 meters tall, and the ride is very scenic, with spectacular 360-degree views of Montreal and the St. Lawrence River.
Bonsecours Market is a vast shopping mall situated in a two-story domed building. It used to be the main market in Montreal for more than a hundred years, and the building even hosted a session for the Parliament of United Canada in the 19th century. The market building is a great example of Renaissance Revival architecture, and it’s one of the top sights in Montreal’s riverfront area.
The historic building is also where you’ll find Montreal’s best boutiques and eateries. It’s the perfect place to go if you need to do some shopping in the city and try some of Montreal’s excellent diverse cuisines.
The Montreal Botanical Garden is easily one of the most beautiful spots in the entire city. With more than 185 acres of different flora, the botanical garden boasts 10 themed greenhouses with exotic plants, as well as a Chinese lantern garden.
You’ll also find a planetarium at the Montreal Botanical Garden, with all sorts of astronomy-related shows. There’s even the Biodome science museum here, which features replicas of four distinct ecosystems housed in a former Olympics velodrome. If you’re interested in nature, plants, and astronomy, the Montreal Botanical Garden is an unmissable stop on any proper tour of the city!
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is an absolute must for art lovers. With an extensive collection of Quebec and Canadian art, you can discover some amazing local artists, plus there’s also a large collection of international contemporary art. The museum is quite big and it can take up to 4-5 hours to see all the different collections.
If you ever played with Barbie dolls, you need to visit the Barbie Expo museum. It boasts thousands of different dolls, dressed in outfits by the world’s most famous fashion designers.
The dolls are also used to recreate famous films and world events, so you can see everything from Grease to the Royal Wedding recreated in the museum. It’s certainly not Montreal’s most interesting museum, but it’s definitely interesting enough that it’s worth checking out.
Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.