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 upon 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: 4,220,566

Quebec City: 826,109

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. 

Winter in Montreal hits a low of 21°F but that doesn’t stop the locals from taking part in multiple festivals and events throughout the season. My advice is to bundle up, grab a hot drink or cocktail, and partake in all the local festivities!

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

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.

Winter in Quebec City would have been too cold for us to handle with temperatures dropping to 17°F

If you’re brave enough to visit during the winter, check out their famous winter carnival.

Verdict: Montreal wins this round by a landslide for me. I will still suggest aiming to visit in the summer, mainly because, as I’ve said, I hate the cold. 

If you’re into freezing weather then visit either location and turn into a popsicle. 

Safety

Screen Shot 2020 09 24 at 1.49.32 AM

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

Montreal Quebec City
Monthly Transport Pass Cost $86.50 $89.40
Single Transport Pass Cost $3.50 $3.10
Bike Sharing Available Yes – $2.99 per trip Yes – $1.00 per trip
Number of Airports 1 1
Cabs You 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.

Quebec City: I’m shocked to report that they only have public transportation via bus with no local trains. That said, those buses speed down the street, I’m sure they’ll get you to your destination faster.

Dean and I took the VIA train from Montreal to Quebec City and it was a wonderful experience. The Gare du Palace train station is beautiful and worth a peek inside, even if you’re just strolling by.

I love that taxis are available to hail. Coming from New York, it drives me crazy not being able to just easily hail a ride. 

It also makes me wonder how these cab companies can compete with Uber. Given the choice between calling a cab company and just booking a car via an app, Uber wins every time!

Verdict: I’ve got to give this one to Montreal—they really seem to have it together and they keep things affordable on all fronts.

Cleanliness

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: Montreal is a city filled with year-long entertainment. It has multiple film festivals, dance competitions, a car race, holiday events, art festivals, a popular cycling race, and even dog sledding!

Not to mention the Quebec National Library, Place des Arts, which is its main arts theater, plus a hockey team that’s won more Stanley Cups than any other Canadian team. 

Oh, and did I mention it’s also home to world-renowned Cirque du Soleil

Quebec City: Quebec City is known for its annual winter carnival. It’s got a ton of activities including dog sledding, an ice canoeing race, snow sculptures, and a parade. 

It also has an art deco theatre called La Maison de la Musique that hosts concerts throughout the year, as well as the Grand Theatre of Quebec, which hosts operas, ballets, classical music, and theater. 

Plus,  it has Canada’s oldest active orchestra, Orchestre Symphonique de Québec. 

If you’re looking for nightlife, check out cool clubs like Scanner Bistro, which is known for its rotation of popular DJs. If that’s not  your speed, they also have tons of different wine bars, breweries, and speakeasies. 

Let’s not forget the museums—Quebec City has plenty! Some more popular ones are Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, which offers a collection of heritage pieces, and the Museum of Civilization, which is one of the most visited museums in Canada. 

Verdict: Montreal wins this round, with Quebec City close behind. Both cities have plenty of activities to occupy tourists’ time, but Montreal has the edge with all of its festivals and events. 

Diversity

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: The average rent for a one-bedroom is $1,403.

Quebec City: The average rent for a one-bedroom is $960.

Verdict: I can’t believe a one-bedroom can cost under $1,000. Quebec City is the clear winner of this round.

Hotel Cost

Montreal: With an average cost of $229 per night, Montreal hotels are more expensive than I’d imagined. Though that’s not a bad price considering it’s one of the bigger cities in Canada.

Quebec City: Averaging $117 per night, Quebec City has a more reasonable rate. 

Verdict: Quebec City wins this one because it’s almost half the rate of Montreal’s average cost. 

Though I’d try to use Airbnb in both cities. I know we got way better deals using it for our stays in each city, plus both locations were preferable to any hotels we looked at.

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Food Scene

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!

Quebec City: Quebec City has plenty of notable French restaurants, modern cuisine, ethnic restaurants, and crepes. It even has a few vineyards and sugar shacks that produce maple syrup.

Speaking of which, if you love maple syrup, you must try Pouding Chômeur. It seriously might be my new favorite dessert. 

Created by female factory workers during the Great Depression, the name translates into “unemployment pudding”. 

It’s essentially a bit of batter that’s cooked in maple sauce then served with fresh cream poured over it. My mouth is watering just thinking about how heavenly this dessert is. If you see it on a menu, order it ASAP!

It turns out that poutine is said to have originated in the 1950s in a small town between Montreal and Quebec City called Centre-du-Québec. It’s fair to say that both cities can legit claim poutine as a specialty. 

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. 

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.

And that winner is…

*drum roll*

Montreal! It nudged ahead with the most points overall. 

Do you have a favorite? Let me know in the comments below!


Check out some of these popular Montreal attractions!

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If you click this link and make a booking, I earn a commision at no additional cost to you.

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