Travelers visiting eastern Canada likely know a bit about Canada's two French-speaking cities there. But, what if travelers only have time to visit just one of the two cities? Montreal and Québec City both offer an incredible look into the region's connection to French settlers and all that they brought to North America. But, if there's only time to visit one, let's check out which city is right for which travelers. From Montreal's stunning parks to Québec City's Old Town, travelers may have a tough choice but one where they really can't go wrong.
Why Montreal Is The Right Fit
Montreal serves as a bit of a gateway to the rest of North America. With train, plane, bus, and car access to many Canadian and American cities, it is easy to travel to and from Montreal. The city’s European vibes make it quite unique from other nearby cities. The French-colonial roots of Montreal give the city a feel that is unique to the part of the world. From the language and food to the architecture, the French influence is clear. All of this, with its stunning parks and St. Lawrence River, will have travelers saying this is the perfect city for them.
Architecture And City Layout
As walkable cities go, Montreal has to rank among some of the most walkable in the world. The city’s downtown provides an easy connection to the city’s more hip and residential neighborhoods. Thanks to a system of boulevards, public parks, bike paths, and a relatively simple metro system make for a great city for on-foot navigation.
The city is also home to some stunning structures that a great to observe during walks through this city. Locations like the Mile End and The Plateau bring a bit of diversity to the culture of the city, too, with their trendy boutiques, small bars, restaurants, and international food markets.
Food and Drink
With amazing cuisine influenced by both the French and other cultures that have ventured to Montreal over the years. Travelers visiting Montreal will have the most amazing selecting restaurants and enjoying the tastes of the city.
Fromagerie du Marché Atwater
Some may say that dairy simply tastes better in Montreal. With an incredible selection of everything from yogurt to cream cheese, Montreal is Canada’s dairy capital. With their strong French culture, dairy is important to this city. Home delicious stinky cheeses, this is the perfect destination for dairy lovers.
- Address - 134 Atwater Ave, Montreal, Quebec H3J 2J4, Canada
- Contact - +1 514-932-4653
- Their Cheese
Jean Talon Market
This European market is a go-to destination for fresh produce and specialty goods. But one of the major draws for travelers to this market is the oyster shop located there. All travelers need to do is pull up a stool and dive into a mollusk adventure.
- Location - Google Maps
- Contact - +1 514-937-7754
- Must-Try - Oysters
This traditional French bistro approaches its menu with a bit of a rustic and populist style. They provide their visitors with smoked games, foie gras, and savory terrines. For travelers who love a good cut of meat, this is a must-visit foodie destination in Montreal.
- Address - 2491-2501 Rue Notre-Dame, Montreal, Quebec H3J 1N6 Canada
- Contact - +1 514-935-6504
- Cost - $$$$
Part of Montreal’s charm is the beauty that surrounds it. Travelers visiting Montreal will have the chance to discover local inns, wineries, and the traditional sites of maple sugar production, Cabanes–à-sucre. For travelers who want to venture into the surrounding parks and wilderness, there are also an array of hikes to select from too.
- Local Hikes - Trail Maps
Cultural and Special Events
One of the other great aspects of Montreal is the number of free or affordable ways to enjoy the city streets and public areas. Events like the International Jazz Festival draw visitors from far off to enjoy the summer and a bit of dancing along with the drummers in Parc du Mont-Royal, and Piknic Electronik in Parc Jean-Drapeau. In the warmth of summer, street vendors become prevalent, and the pedestrian-only blocks of Rue St. Catherine become crowded with people out enjoying the weather.
Why Québec City Is The Right Fit
Quebec City and Montreal of Canada’s two east-coast and French-speaking cities. Just a three-hour drive apart, they share a lot of history. They are both picturesque and culturally important cities, and they both offer a great deal to their visitors. However, if travelers had to choose, then Quebec City would be the superior of the two, and here’s why.
Closer to the ocean and with large waterways like the Saint Lawrence River and with access to the Gaspé Peninsula, Quebec City is a nature lover's dream. With old French architecture, cobblestone streets, and historic districts, Quebec can offer even more of the French vibe than Montreal. And with food and dining, which is at least equal to Montreal, Quebec has to be a traveler's pick.
Old Québec is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a bastion of traditional French culture in North America. It is also the only fortified city in Canada, as well as the entirety of the US. Travelers can walk along its historic cobblestone streets, viewing the various historic site in Old Québec. This is the best location in North America to experience European charm and influence on the continent.
Food and Drink
Québec City is home to many passionate chefs working at both established and emerging culinary establishments. This collection of enthusiastic and skilled chefs has made Québec City a go-to foodie destination.
Restaurant Le Saint-Amour
Since its establishment by Jacques Fortier and Jean-Luc Boulay in 1978, Restaurant Le Saint-Amour has been serving gastronomical circles for years. Its stellar French cuisine has made this a destination iconic with foodies and those who just like good food alike.
- Address - 48 rue Sainte-Ursule, Quebec City, Quebec G1R 4E2 Canada
- Contact - +1 418-694-0667
- Cost - $$$$
- Must-Try - The Halibut
Le Clocher Penché
Somewhere between the unique cocktails, the savory appetizers, and delicious mains, Travelers should realize just how amazing an establishment Le Clocher Penché is. Travelers will have an incredible evening if spent here.
- Address - 203 St-Joseph E Quartier St-Roch, Quebec City, Quebec G1X 5H4 Canada
- Contact - +1 418-640-0597
- Cost - $$-$$$
- Must-Try - Ricotta Cavatelli
Those who love freshly baked everything, and in particular French baking, should check out Paillard. Travelers can enjoy a bit of everything here, including Freshly baked bread, viennoiseries, pastries, special coffees, soups, salads, gourmet sandwiches, and gelato in the summer.
- Address - 1097, rue Saint-Jean, Vieux-Quebec, Quebec City, Quebec G1R 1S3 Canada
- Contact - +1 418-692-1221
- Cost - $
- Must-Try - Croissant
Montreal may be an island full of stunning parks and surrounded by beautiful nature, but Québec City is still the superior city for exploring nature. Much of this is due to its proximity to the Saint Lawrence River and to the Gaspé Peninsula. These two destinations provide visitors to the city with nearly endless nature to explore and enjoy.
- Chute Montmorency - Saint Lawrence River, 272 ft (83 m) waterfall.
- Local Hikes - Trail Maps
Culture and History
Travelers who know a bit of history will take pleasure in taking glimpses of historic structures in this city that boldly boast their French influence. Some of these sights include the Notre-Dame de Québec Basilica. Travelers can also discover the historic defensive structures as well as a variety of museums to discover, making it the superior of the two cities for experiencing the French culture and roots of this region.
- Notre-Dame de Québec Basilica - Built 1647