Located in Canada’s predominantly French speaking province, Québec, Montréal and Québec City are both beautiful and historic. Montreal has a metropolitan vibe with cool urban projects such as Underground City and Habitat 67, and combined with the cobblestoned, French colonial Vieux-Montréal, becomes a vibrant and charming city. Quebec City, on the other hand, is romantic with the Château Frontenac, the impressive Citadelle, distinct streets of Champlain filled with florals, bistros and European charm.
The two cities are connected by a 3 hour scenic train ride operated by ViaRail Canada, making them a perfect combination for a few summer days.
I personally did a solo trip to the two cities and it was a wonderful experience!
About This Trip
This itinerary is for 4 days, with the first 2 days in Montreal and the later 2 days in Quebec City, which I think was the perfect length. If you have more time, definitely take it to enjoy both cities more!
Tips From This Trip
While Quebec is beautiful year-round, the summer time is ideal with delightful weather, beautiful greeneries, and lots of outdoor activities. As you will be walking around the cities a lot by foot, that perfect summer breeze is the cherry on top of it all.
In Montreal: If you are flying into Montreal, the 747 bus from the airport is both very convenient and affordable; it takes passengers straight into the city. Once you are in the city area, you can easily get around by using the subway. I recommend purchasing a day pass for unlimited rides as you may be using it a lot. Beyond the subway, you can travel by foot.
From Montreal to Quebec City: As mentioned, it’s extremely convenient to travel between Montreal and Quebec City via a 3 hour train ride, operated by ViaRail. The tickets are not too expensive at all if you book early, so definitely plan it out ahead.
Quebec City: Once you arrive in Quebec City, the station is in a very convenient location, within walkable distance to lots of lodging options (including the monastery I stayed at). You can pretty much explore the city by foot, but definitely be prepared to walk a lot and wear comfortable shoes.
Part of travelling’s charm is to explore unique places to stay. For my time in Montreal, I decided to go with Le Square Phillips Hotels & Suites, a luxury hotel located in a very central location right next to Hudson’s Bay, and is within walkable distance from Old Montreal.
In Quebec city, I stayed at Le Monastère des Augustines. It is a truly memorable experience staying there, as Le Monastère des Augustines is an active monastery where the Augustinian Sisters reside. The site preserves a rich history and provides a meditative, tranquil stay like no other.
As a traveler, you can stay in an authentic room, which is a former “cell” filled with antique furniture and a communal bathroom. It is perfectly homey and comfortable, though just different enough to feel as if you’ve traveled back in time. If you are not used to the idea, there is also a contemporary room option where the room is furnished in a contemporary design, but still in harmony with the heritage site.
There is almost always absolute silence and quietness throughout the wing. Guests are encouraged to enjoy breakfast in silence, which is actually a really novel yet calming experience (how often do you eat in a dining hall full of people, but it’s absolutely quiet?) The architecture is a combination of old and modern, with the buildings connected to a church and a museum that you can visit. The location is also fantastic, as most sites in Quebec City are within walkable distance. I highly recommend a stay here!
Day 1: Arrival and Explore Old Montreal
I arrived into Montreal mid-day. After a quick lunch and settling in, the first stop is the famous Old Montreal area. Old Montreal is a beautiful neighborhood dating back to the 17th century, with old cobblestone streets filled with boutique shops and restaurants, as well as several spectacular landmarks. It’s a real experience to just wander through the streets for a few hours, and there are so many things you can do there. Below are some landmarks I really enjoyed checking out along the path, in order from the north end to the south:
Montreal City Hall
As the seat of the local government, this is a great architectural landmark, designed by Henri-Maurice Perrault and Alexander Cowper Hutchison, and built between 1872 and 1878 in the Second Empire style. It has a really impressive view inside and out, and the space features exhibitions from time to time.
Considered by many locals to be the heart of Old Montreal, this is my favorite square lined with many beautiful cafes and restaurants. It’s charming and lively with street musicians and festivities. It’s a great spot to get a meal in, people watch and relax.
As the oldest street in the area, Rue St-Paul is a really charming pedestrian street, known for its narrow cobblestone alleys and a number of lovely, quaint shops. Simply walking through the streets will put you in a good mood.
Next, visit the most iconic landmark in Old Montreal, the Notre-Dame Basilica. As one of the oldest masterpieces of Gothic Revival religious architecture in Canada, this basilicas was built between 1824 and 1829. It has an intricately designed interior and beautiful, vibrant stained glass. It’s probably the most popular landmark in the area, so be prepared to encounter lots of other tourists.
Montreal Museum of Archeology and History
If you are in the mood for more exploration and learning, this is a great museum to learn about how Montreal was founded. It features a spectacular collection of historical artifacts, and the museum itself is built atop an authentic archaeological site, Pointe-à-Callière. The real highlight, however, is a picturesque lookout on the third floor, where you can get a sweeping view of Old Montreal, as well as Habitat 67, an architectural complex designed by Israeli-Canadian architect Moshe Safdie, in the distance.
As a contemporary art space, Center Phi is an intersection of art, film, music, design and technology. There are sometimes really cool exhibits going on here, so definitely stop by for a visual feast.
Day 2: Musee d’art Contemporain / Biodome, Hudson’s Bay, Train to Quebec City
This is a great day to spend time exploring the rest of Montreal. As it was a rainy day for me, I decided to stick to indoor activities. However, just because these are indoor places, it doesn’t mean they aren’t as fun!
Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal
A really cool gallery, this museum features Québec visual works, some cutting-edge international art, and a sculpture garden. It’s a relatively small museum, but comes with really insightful and thought provoking exhibits. As it doesn’t take too much time to explore, definitely consider paying it a quick visit.
Located within a 5 minute walk from the contemporary art museum is Hudson’s Bay, an iconic Canadian department store. It’s a great place to do some shopping indoors, and be sure to check out the signature Hudson’s Bay blankets – you may have seen those blankets with white with red, indigo, green and yellow stripes – these colors were popular when the blankets were first produced in 1779, and are sometimes known as Queen Anne’s colors, as they were favored during her reign.
Montreal Underground City
This is a large, urban underground network completely sheltered from the outside. It connects the shopping mall with subways, buildings and food courts, and is perfect for days with tough weather.
The Montreal Biodome
If you are feeling a different vibe, check out the Biodome, a former Olympics velodrome turned science museum. It houses replicas of 4 ecosystems and many related species of animals and plants, and is a very kid-friendly place. Next to the Biodome is the Montreal Botanical Garden that’s also worth visiting (if weather permits).
Train to Quebec City
In the late afternoon, head to the Via Rail station for the scenic train ride to Quebec City. The trains are operated very efficiently, so sit back and relax as you pull into Quebec City in the evening.
Day 3: Place Royale, Château Frontenac, La Citadelle de Québec, Other
Quebec City is a very walkable city where you can explore lots of historical monuments, take a nice stroll along the St Lawrence river, and just enjoy the beautiful streets in the summer time. Below are some places I recommend along the route:
A former English prison built in 1808, this building actually has impressive architecture and features a historical English library. It is currently a heritage and cultural site with the library still present.
Next, walk to this Art Deco style building. It was the oldest skyscraper in Quebec City, built in the 1930s by the Price brothers, and features a magnificent façade. It’s particularly impressive when lit up at night, but definitely pay it a quick visit as you pass by.
Afterwards, continue towards the river and stop at Place Royale, a picturesque cobblestoned square that’s just beautiful to wander in. This is also where Quebec City was founded in 1608, which makes it a symbolic location. While here, explore the Quebec City Mural, the Umbrella Alley, and the numerous galleries & local businesses while taking in the French colonial character of the streets.
Rue Du Petit Champlain
Leading from Place Royale is this iconic, lively and beautiful neighborhood. It really is a must-see with its bistros, florals, music, and liveliness at every turn. I found a nice bench and sat here for a very long time while journaling and just simply enjoying the atmosphere. A musician was playing the accordion in the background as a small crowd gathered – it was just so nice and relaxing. From this street, you can also turn the corners and walk along Rue du Marché-Champlain to get close to the St. Lawrence River for a nice view.
About a 10 minute walk away next is perhaps the most well known attraction in Quebec City, the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac. Built in 1893, this was the most expensive hotel in Quebec City, designed in a Châteauesque style, featuring steep roofs, circular towers, and ornate embellishment with a gothic touch. It’s been featured in many movies and TV shows throughout history, with its grandeur captivating many. The scenery all around it is also absolutely beautiful, so I recommend exploring both the inside and outside grounds. This is a popular attraction so definitely be prepared to see some crowds.
Rue Saint Louis/St. Louis Gate
After taking in the grandeur of Château Frontenac, walk along the beautiful Rue Saint Louis and make your way towards St. Louis Gate. This is a beautiful and well-preserved gateway for you to pass through and it leads you to a path uphill where you can get a really nice view of the city.
La Citadelle de Québec
After the gateway, there is a road called Côte de la Citadelle which branches off and leads to the entrance of La Citadelle de Québec. The largest British fortress in North America, this is a really cool fort and military complex with over 300 years of history. It also has breathtaking views of the city and the St. Lawrence River. The site offers frequent and guided English tours that last about an hour. It tells stories of the first occupants, the British troops, then followed by fascinating stories of the Royal Canadian Artillery. The site remains an active garrison and since 1920 is home to the Royal 22e Régiment. If you want to catch something cool, changing of the guards takes place daily at 10 a.m. in the summer time. Overall, I recommend the tour so you can get the full experience.
Going back to the St. Louis gateway, walk a bit further and the grand Parliament Building will come into view. This Second Empire-style building is home to Quebec’s National Assembly, and offers guided tours if you are interested in seeing the inside. It’s an incredible work of architecture inside and out.
From here, you can continue on to the Plains of Abraham. It is a lot of walking for the day, however, so unless you are full of energy, I suggest stopping here for the day and save the plains for the next day.
Day 4: Rue Saint-Jean, Plains of Abraham, Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec
This is a lovely street filled with shops and restaurants for you to grab some coffee and take a nice morning walk before starting the day’s adventures.
Plains of Abraham
About a 20 minute walk from Rue Saint-Jean is the famous Plains of Abraham, the historical site of Battle of the Plains of Abraham, which took place in 1759 and was a pivotal battle that lasted very briefly (some say one hour and some even say 15 minutes), resulting in the French ceding the territory over to Great Britain. There is a museum on site for you to learn all about that interesting part of history. You can also easily lose track of time just walking further and exploring the grounds, which has scenic views all around. Be ready to easily spend several hours here!
Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec
If you are not tired yet, another 10 minutes walk away is this amazing art museum hosting works made specifically in Quebec or by Quebecois artists. It comprises of several buildings, where a new, contemporary style building is attached to an old mansion, creating a really cool mix of design elements. It’s a highly rated museum with an impressive contemporary art collection – you can easily spend a few hours here too, and I definitely recommend stopping by.
I wrapped up my trip afterward, though there are lots of other sites to explore with any spare time you have. Quebec City is all around just a beautiful place to wander and have a good time in.
When I did this trip, I was traveling solo. It was such a unique experience being alone – sometimes it’s lonely and sometimes it’s stressful. But the best part is being able to be 100% present with myself and the scenery, and for that reason, this trip left such an impression on me. If you are planning on going solo, I definitely recommend a trip like this (not to mention I also felt very safe the entire trip as these are both very safe cities). Either way, I hope you enjoy this relaxing summer time trip with yourself, your pet, your friends, your loved ones or your family.