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Time for a good ole French-Canadian throwdown. Competitors have been asked to leave their lumberjack axes and vicious moose at home, and win on cultural merit only. Stay tuned as we decide the winner of Montreal vs Quebec City to discover which is the more worthy travel destination.
While Quebec City has a few high-class restaurants that are celebrated across Canada, including La Planque and Saint-Amour, Montreal’s size makes this a bit of a no brainer. Montreal, in recent years, has been getting attention as a food destination not just in Canada but in all of North America. As a bigger city, and one with a thriving international influence, Montreal presents a much wider array of options. Just on one street, choices can range from Canadian classics like poutine, cheap flavorful Caribbean dishes, and Middle Eastern food, to fancy restaurants celebrating the region’s culinary traditions with things like locally-raised lamb and Arctic char — don’t believe us? Check out the secret food tours Montreal and prepare to loosen your belt buckle.
Again, city scale is going to factor into this showdown. Quebec City’s Old Town and surrounding neighborhoods are far from devoid of entertainment. Cozy pubs and a number of small nightclubs welcome in plenty excitable youth, but those who want to emphasize partying should go to Montreal. Wine bars, breweries, speakeasies, and clubs in places like an old bank vault have all catapulted Montreal’s reputation as Canada’s party capital.
Views & Aesthetic
Don’t get us wrong, Montreal is beautiful. Its old town has nice cobblestone streets and its location on Lake Saint-Louis is great, but to an extent, the rest of the city looks like… a city. Quebec City meanwhile has one of the most distinctive looks of anywhere in the world. Their Old Town, which is split into Old Upper Town and Old Lower Town, has panoramic views of the Saint Lawrence River and architecture that maybe feels more classically European than most places in Europe. Whether it’s the narrow walk streets or the Château Frontenac looming over the city, it’s hard to take a bad picture here.
Winner: Quebec City
Consider this: Quebec City is one of the oldest European settlements in the Americas, having been founded in the early 1500s. On top of that, it’s the only city in North America, north of Mexico, that retains fortified city walls. The entirety of Old Quebec is also the first urban UNESCO World Heritage Site in Canada, making it a place with a huge historical appeal. Factor in amazing museums like the Musée de la Civilisation and Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec and Quebec City takes home this round. Be sure to soak in all the landmarks and stunning scenery on this Quebec City sightseeing tour. The plot thickens…
Winner: Quebec City
Places to Stay
Sure, one of Quebec City’s must-see sights outside of the Old City is called Hôtel du Parlement but it isn’t actually a hotel, instead, it’s a grand parliamentary building. For diverse accommodations options, from resorts to hostels, travelers should instead head to Montreal. For pricier, luxury hotels consider the Ritz-Carlton Montreal or Hotel Nelligan. Meanwhile, Auberge Alternative du Vieux-Montreal is one of the coolest hostels in town and beds go for as little as $16 USD per night. Budget travelers may be able to find a lower average cost in Quebec City but for variety’s sake, the point goes to Montreal.
Montreal is a modern city. And with that comes a well-maintained metro and bus system both inexpensive and reaching most of the city. Urban designers have also made a strong effort to incorporate tree-lined bike paths throughout much of the downtown area. But for many travelers and tourists, figuring a new city’s metro system can be intimidating and cabs can be expensive. There is something to be said for being able to walk to most of the points of interest in a city. Luckily, Quebec City offers that opportunity! With Old Town and popular neighborhoods like St-Roch, Montcalm, and St-Jean Baptiste all within a brisk jaunt of each other, Quebec wins.
Winner: Quebec City
Montreal’s cultural magnitude is unbeatable. The city offers a bevy of amazing options for entertainment. Known to some as the capital of festivals, Montreal seemingly hosts a cultural or music festival just about every month. The most esteemed of these is the International Jazz Festival, maybe the best North American jazz festival outside of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Meanwhile, Osheaga Indie Music Festival, held every August, attracts Canadians from all over the country. Last year’s lineup was headlined by Travis Scott, Arctic Monkeys, Florence and the Machine, and Anderson Paak. Also, to feel truly Canadian, Montreal has the advantage of having a National Hockey League team. Go cheer on the team affectionately and simply called the “Montreal Canadiens” (the spelling is a nod to their French roots) or spend the afternoon browsing the street art on the Montreal mural tour.
Access to Nature & the Outdoors
One of Montreal’s defining features is Parc du Mont-Royale, a grassy and green miniature mountain that rises from within the city. However, to find a winner for this round, all anyone needs to do is look up Quebec City on Google Maps and it becomes obvious. Quebec City is constantly surrounded by nature, from the Saint Lawrence River to the seemingly endless green space to the northwest. One of the city’s most famous parks is Plains of Abraham, a former famous battlefield (see: winner of historical appeal), which is now a great stop for families. Also, just a short distance from Quebec City is Parc National de la Jacques-Cartier and the Stoneham Mountain Resort, one of the best ski resorts in Canada.
Winner: Quebec City
Well, it all comes down to this. It may seem like Quebec City has the advantage here because it’s so photogenic and less visited than Montreal, but we are going to award the point to the bigger city. While Montreal may not be as far off the beaten path, it seems like many people, including those from the US, don’t realize what a cosmopolitan and cool city Montreal has become. The city is abuzz with music, overflows with cool bars and museums, and hosts a uniquely international population — what more could you need?
Winner in the Montreal v Quebec Battle Royale
By the narrowest of margins, Montreal wins 5 – 4. However, that may also be a victory for Quebec City. Long viewed perhaps as the French-Canadian “little brother”, Quebec City is closing the gap between them and Montreal as a premier tourist destination.