Quebec Parliament Building

Solo Trip to Canada: Should You Go to Quebec City or Montreal?


You don’t need a travel companion or travel with a group to enjoy yourself. Some people prefer the solitude, others want to make new friends, and some like the rewarding feeling of doing something completely on their own.

In the region of Eastern Canada lies two French-speaking and most popular cities in the country, Quebec City and Montreal. Their history and culture are deeply rooted in the French Colonization and what these settlers brought into North America but they are still two very unique and distinct cities.

There are many fantastic things to do in each city, so it’s always hard to decide which one is a priority on your solo adventure. If you have been before you may love each city or not for several different reasons. But for those with wanderlust choosing to come here for the first time, it can be a difficult choice. That’s why we want to help you make an informed decision with our own recommendations and personal experience in each city.

So let’s dive in to see what each of these cities has to offer for you to end up with some good travel stories.

Location and Size

Montreal is the second-largest city in all of Canada, behind Toronto and ahead of Calgary. It’s the largest in the province, with Quebec City being second. Because of this, the location and population sizes are vastly different. Montreal is in the Southwestern part of the province with Quebec City being in the Eastern part. Montreal has a population of over 1.7 million and Quebec City is less than half that number at 557,375 from recent census takers.

This makes a significant difference in both hotel pricing and transportation throughout each city to the food and nightlife we will be comparing below.

Quebec City Hotels

Quebec City Hotel
Photo Credit: Nicholas Rosen

Here in Quebec City, there is more a focus on the historic charm so you will find this inside older historical buildings, sometimes above restaurants and shops. These boutique hotels want to provide you with that classic French-Canadian experience which is both delightful and unique. The only drawback is that some of the rooms may be smaller than you are used to due to the original construction of the building. But does it matter that much if you are going to be out and about most of your day?

Most of these can be found near Old Quebec in small clusters. It also allows easier access to all the attractions and shops you will want to explore during your stay here. You may get lucky and have some rooms with great views of the river and city skyline to add to your trip. They are also budget-friendly to mid-range in price to make up for the space, such as Hotel Clarendon and Hotel Acadia. There are some luxury hotels like the Auberge Saint-Antoine and of course, the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac if you feel like splurging but they all provide acceptable accommodations and isn’t really necessary.

Montreal Hotels

Montreal Hotel
Photo Credit: Nicholas Rosen

The hotels in Montreal are more luxury hotel chains like Hilton, Ritz-Carlton, and Hyatt with modern contemporary designs. You also have more budget-friendly boutique hotels like Hotel Faubourg Montreal and Chateau Versailles Hotel. With additional features like rooftop bars and indoor high-end restaurants, you’re going to have a more cosmopolitan vibe here. Most are anywhere between 3 to 5 stars and there always seems to be available rooms all year-round.

Recommendation: Quebec City

Quebec City Transportation

Due to the layout and size of the city, the transportation here differs from Montreal. There is a public transit system but no metro system in this city. The public buses focus mainly on the city and the closest neighborhoods. Because of this, there is less coverage of the entire area resulting in longer wait times between buses if you are on the city outskirts. Tickets are affordable with single rides or day passes for your schedule.

You of course have the better option of a ride service as Uber is the most popular here. Once you arrive in the city center and attractions it’s less of a hassle to get around. It’s also a bike-friendly city with designated lanes and rental stations, especially in Old Quebec if you rather not walk.

Montreal Transportation

In Montreal, you have a commuter train, metro system, and bus network. You can get anywhere in the city easily with these transportation options. It has less of a wait time and better access for you. It’s a bit more expensive compared to Quebec City transportation but less than if you were to use a rideshare service. But the upside is you have more ticket options, including various discounts and unlimited travel. This works out better if you are staying for a longer period.

The downside is that this isn’t a completely walkable city. You will need to take some breaks to rest your feet and reliable transportation to get to some of the popular attractions and neighborhoods.

Recommendation: Montreal

Quebec City Cuisine

Quebec City Breakfast
Photo Credit: Nicholas Rosen

The food in Quebec City is of course more focused on the city’s French heritage. You will find plenty of fine dining eating options here. There is a focus of course on artisanal cheeses to go along with the game meats such as venison, wild boar, and caribou. Try the traditional dishes such as tourtière and of course, poutine, finishing off with a pouding chômeur dessert. Just be open-minded in trying something new and not go with your usual entree.

There is also a thriving cider community here as well. You can take a short day trip to Ile d’Orelans for a sightseeing tour of the many apple orchards and enjoy the unique regional beverages. The farmers markets here are usually seasonal but there are a lot of them. All the fresh and local produce being brought in is perfect if you are staying somewhere with a usable kitchen for homemade meals.

Montreal Cuisine

The culinary choices in Montreal are much wider than Quebec City being that you are in a metropolitan area. You can go from French to Chinese to Mexican to Contemporary to Italian all in the same area. There are plenty of fine dining choices and fusion mixes so you will always have a variety to choose from.

Montreal also has a larger public food market in comparison. You have the Jean-Talon Market, the largest and oldest open-air market on the entire continent as well as the smaller markets of Atwater and Maisonneuve. This is the recommended best place for foodies to enjoy all the delicious highlights while in Canada.

Recommendation: Montreal

Quebec City Culture and Attractions

Quartier Petit Champlain
Photo Credit: Nicholas Rosen

As Quebec City dates back to the 1600s, its focus is more on the history and culture, especially centered in Old Town with cobblestone streets. The more European feel it gives in North America is what makes it so attractive for tourism. It’s no wonder with the attractions that it has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site There is really where you want to spend more of your time while you are here.

You can take your picture at the most photographed hotel in the world, the Chateau Frontenac, and then make your way down to the lower level to walk around the Petit Champlain. If you don’t feel like exploring solo, you can find locally guided tours to take you through the city and give you a more detailed history lesson.

Montreal Culture and Attractions

Montreal
Photo Credit: Nicholas Rosen

Montreal may have strong French influences but its culture is extremely diverse and has that atmosphere of being cosmopolitan. You can see that is aptly called neighborhoods like Little Italy, Chinatown, Latin Village, and so on. While still rich in culture and history, there are also more modern museums to explore. They are more comprehensive with subjects in contemporary art, science, natural history, and insects.

Recommendation: Quebec City

Quebec City Nightlife

In Quebec City, the nightlife here follows the same type of culture as it does in France. You will find it pretty active and vibrant throughout the season in the after-hours. The popular street of Rue Saint-Jean is filled with restaurants and bars close enough together that it’s easy to hop from one place to another and sample different drinks. The central square of Place d’Youville has ice rink skating during the winter and across the street is the Theatre Capitole for performing arts with live bands and musical performances. There are also plenty of nightclubs for those of you who feel like dancing.

There is just a sense of community still even when you are out for a night on the town. Maybe because you can walk wherever you need to go in a city of this size. Everything doesn’t seem to be packed in like a city and instead, you have room to breathe and walk around and enjoy the cool night air.

Montreal Nightlife

The nightlife here in Montreal is typical of any major city but with some slight differences. Such as there is a premium contemporary casino located on the island of Ile Notre-Dame. One of the largest casinos in the world, it will be worth checking out even if you aren’t a gambler.

Neighborhoods like Gay Village and Plateau-Mont-Royal along with Crescent Street just come alive even more when the sun is down. You’ve got cabaret drag shows, upscale cocktail lounges, speakeasies, musical jazz clubs, and lowkey pubs to just relax. Or if you feel like just taking a stroll you can see street performers at popular squares. There is something for everyone’s taste here.

Recommendation: Montreal

Conclusion

Choose Quebec City if you are:

  • Looking more for a European, medieval feel in the architecture and city streets
  • Traditional Quebecois cuisine and culture
  • Want a more quiet, less active, relaxing trip

Choose Montreal if you are:

  • Looking to sample multiple cuisines in various neighborhoods
  • You want a larger city to explore
  • Want a more active, adventurous trip

Both cities have their positives and no real negatives to help deter you from picking either one, or even both if time permits. It comes down to your own personal preferences and maybe your potential budget. With Canada, you will always find it difficult to not have a good trip. Just always remember when you are on your solo journey, to travel safely.

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