Montreal vs Quebec City: Which City Should You Pick?
Montreal and Quebec city are charming cities, but there can only be one winner in the great debate of Montreal vs Quebec City. Which city do you think will win?
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Montreal might be one of the most under-rated cities for a quick weekend getaway from the US.
I love how it’s a quick flight from New York, plus has major French vibes, and delicious restaurants.
It’s funny, I didn’t realize Montreal was even this exciting, until I lived there for three months during COVID with a boyfriend.
Even though we didn’t get to enjoy most of the city because it was only partially open while we were living there, we really loved it.
It was so charming walking to the bakery and being able to practice my French, not to mention getting to try all the delicious restaurants around the city on our very rare date nights.
It’s been years since I’ve been to Canada, and revisiting Montreal has been on my mind.
In fact, it’s been on my mind so much that I’ve created my dream itinerary for spending three days in Montreal.
Keep reading to find out exactly what I can’t wait to show friends and the spots I’m dying to return to!
Start your morning by grabbing a coffee or tea and heading to the Old Port.
It’s the perfect spot for a leisurely morning stroll, with its charming cobblestone streets, unique shops, and picturesque waterfront scenery.
If you want to stop for breakfast, check out one of these popular spots:
Next, head to Notre Dame Basilica.
It’s the church Celine Dion got married in, and is absolutely worth checking out.
Take some time to admire the stunning architecture and vibrant colors inside the basilica.
Montreal is a fabulous city for foodies, with so many places to choose from that it can be overwhelming!
Here’s a list of popular lunch spots in or near Old Town that you should check out:
One of my favorite things to do while I’m in cities is to hit up a museum or two.
Montreal has some really fantastic ones, so I figured instead of choosing for you, I’d list some of the best for you to choose your own museum adventure this afternoon.
These are the ones I’d pick between:
Depending on your vibe for dinner and your overall energy level, you may or may not be thrilled about going out for dinner.
So I’ve divided this into two lists. The first is a list of the fancier spots around Old Town, and the second is a list of the more low-key ones.
If you’re anything like me, I’m always too excited to be somewhere new to go to sleep early.
Which means I always end up checking out at least one cocktail bar after dinner.
If you’re still craving a bit of nightlife, hit up one of these local spots:
The best way to start off any day is with breakfast, or at the very least coffee.
These are some of the best spots to eat near where you’re heading today.
Start your day exploring the Plateau Mont-Royal, a vibrant neighborhood known for its street art, boutiques, and cafes.
Take a leisurely walk to admire the stunning murals and graffiti that bring life and character to the area.
Check out Rue Saint-Laurent, Duluth Avenue, and Rue Saint-Denis for some of the best examples of Montreal’s street art scene.
While wandering the streets, take time to explore the unique boutiques and shops that populate the area.
Stop by a local café for your morning coffee and croissant, immersing yourself in the Plateau’s atmosphere.
After all that walking, I’m sure you’re ready for a hearty lunch.
Here are some popular spots nearby to check out:
After experiencing the urban energy of the Plateau, make your way to the Montréal Botanical Garden.
This peaceful oasis is home to a variety of themed gardens, such as the Japanese, Chinese, and Alpine gardens.
Take a stroll and admire the beautifully crafted landscapes while soaking in the tranquility.
Once you’ve explored the Botanical Garden, head over to the nearby Olympic Park.
They built this park for the 1976 Summer Olympics.
As the evening begins, return to the vibrant Plateau Mont-Royal and experience its thriving culinary scene.
Trust me, with many French-inspired restaurants and cafes, it’s the perfect place for a delicious meal.
Some popular spots to check out for dinner are:
After dinner, explore the neighborhood’s nightlife. Live music venues, bars, and clubs are plentiful in this area.
Whether you prefer a low-key lounge or a lively dance floor, the Plateau Mont-Royal has an option for every type of night owl.
Enjoy the eclectic atmosphere and embrace Montreal’s cultural heart at one of these hotspots:
Start your day with a refreshing visit to Mount Royal Park, the green lung of Montreal.
Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the same landscape architect who created New York’s Central Park, this urban oasis offers a unique view of downtown Montreal and the Saint Lawrence River.
Next, wander over to Beaver Lake.
This picturesque spot is perfect for a morning stroll.
If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can also rent a paddleboat to enjoy some time on the water.
During the winter, the lake transforms into a popular ice-skating destination.
You’ve got two options here: either go to a sit-down restaurant and take a well-deserved break, or head straight to Jean Talon Market to check out the food booths.
If you want to hit up a restaurant, these are the ones in the area to check out:
For a list of spots to eat at Jean Talon Market, skip below to that section.
Next, make your way to Little Italy neighborhood.
In this vibrant neighborhood, you’ll discover a mix of Italian heritage and modern urban life.
Stroll along the colorfully decorated streets, and don’t forget to try some authentic gelato or espresso.
After that, visit Jean Talon Market.
It’s one of the largest and oldest public markets in North America.
The market has tons of fresh produce, meats, cheeses, and artisanal goods. If you’re shopping for Canadian themed souvenirs, this is a great place to snag some maple syrup.
Plus, lots of food stalls to check out for lunch. If you’re ready to eat, these are the spots in the market to check out:
As the sun sets on your last day in Montreal, treat yourself to a special evening at one of these delicious spots:
Board a dinner cruise along the Saint Lawrence River, where you can appreciate the city lights while enjoying a gourmet meal and live entertainment.
Or hop on the iconic La Grande Rue to see the city sparkle.
Fair warning though, this is going to be cold unless you go during the summer!
Buy your tickets early!
While you’re enjoying your three-day visit to Montreal, there are several additional attractions worth exploring.
Start by visiting the Biosphere, an environmental museum in the iconic geodesic dome designed by architect Buckminster Fuller.
This impressive structure offers exciting exhibits and activities, highlighting contemporary environmental issues with innovative solutions.
Next, head over to the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium to explore the night sky and beyond.
This modern facility offers immersive shows, interactive exhibits, and a chance to delve into the mysteries of the universe.
Don’t forget to visit the nearby Insectarium, a fascinating museum dedicated to the world of insects.
Here, you can discover the incredible diversity of insects from around the globe.
A trip to Old Montreal is a must on any Montreal itinerary. This historic district is home to cobblestone streets, charming shops, and picturesque plazas. Take a stroll through its narrow streets and be sure to visit Notre-Dame Basilica and Pointe-à-Callière Museum for a deeper insight into the city’s rich history.
For a unique experience, make your way to the Montreal Tower, the highest inclined tower in the world.
Standing at 175 meters (574 feet) tall with a 45-degree incline, the tower offers breathtaking views of the city and beyond.
Here’s a tailored list of the mentioned places to explore:
Mile End is a unique and lively neighborhood in Montreal, known for its trendy boutiques, street art, and cultural diversity.
Spend some time exploring the area and stopping by local shops, like Maison Espace Pepin for unique souvenirs.
Don’t forget to taste the famous St-Viateur Bagel. Even as a New Yorker, I’ve got to admit they give ours some great competition!
The Quartier des Spectacles is Montreal’s lively arts and entertainment district.
Check out the local event schedule to see what’s happening during your stay.
Montreal offers incredible rooftop views and a vibrant nightlife scene.
Head to one of these popular spots for panoramic city views.
You can also find several comedy clubs, live music venues, and bustling bars.
Montreal offers an extensive and affordable public transportation system, which will make exploring the city during your 3-day trip a breeze.
The primary mode of public transport is the metro, which comprises four lines that cover most of the city.
To make the most of it, consider purchasing a 3-day pass, allowing for unlimited travel on both the metro and the buses.
Here are some key metro stops for popular attractions:
Berri-UQAM: Old Montreal and Quartier des Spectacles
Champ-de-Mars: Notre-Dame Basilica
Peel: Mount Royal Park
Jean-Drapeau: Parc Jean-Drapeau and La Ronde
Besides the metro, Montreal offers a bus network that can help you access places the metro might not reach.
Buses operate on similar schedules to the metro, usually running from 5:30 AM to 1:00 AM.
Montreal is famous for its outdoor staircases, which add a distinctive character to the city’s architecture.
Many homes in the city feature these wrought-iron staircases as a space-saving solution in narrow plots.
While exploring the city, include these picturesque staircases in your itinerary.
You’ll find some noteworthy examples in the neighborhoods of Plateau Mont-Royal and Mile End.
Another unique feature of Montreal is its Underground City or “La Ville Souterraine.”
This underground network, stretching 33 km, connects various shopping malls, hotels, office buildings, and metro stations.
It offers a convenient way to navigate the city while staying warm and dry during Montreal’s colder months.
Key access points to the Underground City include:
The best time to visit Montreal is between April and September.
I like visiting around then because the weather is normally lovely and there’s almost always some sort of fun outdoor event happening.
May and June are both popular months, with several festivals happening throughout the city.
December is a lovely time to visit as well, as long as you don’t mind the cold!
When planning your Montreal itinerary, selecting the perfect place to stay is crucial.
The city offers a wide variety of accommodation options, catering to different budgets and preferences.
Here are some recommendations for various budget levels:
For those looking for budget-friendly options, consider staying at a hostel or guesthouse in the city. One popular area is the Plateau Mont-Royal, which is known for its charming, artistic vibe, and it’s close to a variety of restaurants and bars.
If you’re willing to spend a little more, you can opt for boutique hotels or cozy bed & breakfasts in neighborhoods like Old Montreal. This historic district offers easy access to major attractions and plenty of dining options.
For a luxurious stay, Montreal has several high-end hotels in prime locations throughout the city.
During your visit to Montreal, the city’s rich history and culture, which are reflected in its various architectural landmarks, will amaze you.
Specifically, Old Town is a must-visit destination, home to some of Montreal’s most iconic sights.
One masterpiece you shouldn’t miss is the Notre-Dame Basilica, known for its stunning stained glass windows and intricate Gothic Revival architecture.
Fun Fact: Notre-Dame Basilica is where Canadian legend Celine Dion got married.
Montreal boasts incredible cultural diversity, since it bridges the gap between the French-speaking province of Quebec and the predominantly English-speaking rest of Canada.
As you stroll through its vibrant neighborhoods, you’ll hear locals engaging in conversations in both English and French, an experience that is quintessentially Montreal.
In fact, when I was living there with my ex, our local butcher, bakery, and grocer, all would default to French unless we spoke English with them.
The good news is because of this diversity, you’ll find some truly amazing international food, art, and culture around Montreal.
During your three-day trip, you must visit Old Montreal, Notre-Dame Basilica, Olympic Park, and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
Don’t miss Mount Royal Park for panoramic city views and the vibrant neighborhoods of Plateau Mont-Royal and Mile End.
Day 1: Start by exploring Old Montreal and the Old Port, featuring historic architecture, cobblestone streets, and beautiful waterfront views. Visit the Notre-Dame Basilica and have lunch at a local café.
Day 2: Head to Mount Royal Park for a hike or leisurely walk and take in the stunning city views. Spend the afternoon in Plateau Mont-Royal and Mile End, exploring local shops, art galleries, and experiencing Montreal’s diverse food scene.
Day 3: Visit Olympic Park and the Biodome, followed by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts to see contemporary exhibits. End your day by discovering the lively Boulevard Saint-Laurent, packed with cultural attractions and nightlife.
If you’re eager to explore beyond Montreal, consider a day trip to Mont-Tremblant.
It’s a beautiful mountain resort town just a two-hour drive from the city.
Or visit Quebec City for a day of history and beautiful architecture, about a three-hour drive from Montreal.
If you have a long weekend to split between Montreal and Quebec City, I’d recommend spending two days in Montreal and one day in Quebec City.
I lived in Montreal for about three months, and there was so much to see and do. You’ll want two days.
During my time in Canada, my ex and I went on a weekend trip to Quebec City. Honestly, a weekend was the perfect amount of time, but there’s a lot you can see in just a day.
Little Italy, Griffintown, and the Gay Village are all unique neighborhoods worth exploring.
Each offers distinctive atmospheres, restaurants, and local attractions that showcase Montreal’s diverse cultures and personality.
Don’t miss trying some of Montreal’s famous culinary delights, like smoked meat sandwiches, poutine, and Montreal-style bagels.
Even though I prefer NYC bagels, I’ve got to say the Montreal-style ones are pretty solid!
The Jean-Talon Market is a popular stop to explore the city’s food scene and pick up fresh local produce.
For a cultural experience, consider checking out one of Montreal’s renowned festivals during your stay, like the International Jazz Festival or Just for Laughs Comedy Festival, depending on the time of your visit.
I hope this itinerary has helped you plan your perfect three days in Montreal.
Creating it has certainly made me very excited to pitch it as a girls trip to some of my friends over the holidays.
Let me know in the comments below which activity you’re most looking forward to checking out in Montreal!
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