Traveling in Quebec City + Montreal: 12 Tips
We’re back from our trip to Quebec City and Montreal. Wow, what a time! We unintentionally picked an amazing summer to travel too, what with it being Canada 150 (although I don’t agree with saying Canada is only 150 years old, but that’s a whole other thing), Montreal 375 (again, Montreal existed prior to 1642 but I digress) and the 35th anniversary of Just for Laughs.
I’d always wanted to see Just for Laughs and we were lucky enough to get tickets to three fantastic comedy events. I’m a huge history nerd so we packed in quite a few museums too. I’ll give you the highlights:
The Old Quebec district of Quebec City is a historical architecture fan’s dream come true. And it’s not just about the beautiful Cheateau Frontenac, although it does seem to rule the skyline. A lot of buildings in Old Quebec are made of stone and date back from times past. The hotel we stayed at, for instance, dates from 1870.
If you don’t speak French, traveling in Quebec City can feel a little intimidating. But it’s possible to get by with a few French phrases.
I recommend having these at the ready:
- Bonjour (hello)
- Merci (thank you)
- S’il vous plaît (please)
- Je ne pas parle francais (I do not speak French)
- Parlez-vous anglais (Do you speak English?)
The Google Translate app is super useful.
Be aware that if you start your communication with “Bonjour,” you will be spoken to in French. I learned this the hard way. I usually would go with “Bonjour” followed quickly by what I needed to say in English, followed with “Merci” when I was finished.
Even if you’re exhausted from driving or walking, take the time to trudge up the hill of the Citadelle. The view from up there is incredible.
Pedestrians rule the road in Old Quebec. Driving around there was a bit daunting as there are tourists everywhere and they don’t really follow normal road rules. Be wary of that.
And then we were off to Montreal! We stayed at L’Appartement Hôtel which was reasonably priced, was basically in the perfect location for everywhere we planned to see, had a heated pool on the top floor and had a small kitchen in the room. Perfection!
When trip planning, print off a map of the city you’re going to and then mark the items you want to see on the map with a dot or a label. Find a hotel in the middle of those dots. It makes it easier for walking to most locations.
Tip 6-12 – What to see in Montreal…
If you’re into bones, fossils and gems: see the Redpath Museum. It’s a small-ish museum located on the stunning McGill University campus.
If art is your jam: see the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. This place is big, so schedule in lots of time if you want to see all of it. Revolution, its current exhibit on 1960s culture, was my absolute favorite part of the whole trip.
If you want to learn more about Montreal’s history: visit Pointe-à-Callière / Montréal Archaeology and History Complex. This place is great. You can see artifacts archeologists have found from the early days of Montreal as well as some truly impressive dioramas showing the city’s growth.
Another museum for history geeks is the McCord Museum. They currently have two exhibits that I fell in love with: one on early magicians and one showcasing fashion from the Montreal Expo in 1967. Fabulous!
If you’re into plants and flowers: you have to visit the Botanical Garden at Espace pour la vie. It is MASSIVE. The Chinese garden is unfortunately closed at the moment due to renovations but the bonsai trees in the Japanese garden were really impressive. But make sure to schedule in a lot of time if you want to see everything here.
If you’re into bugs and animals: make sure to visit the Biodome and the Insectarium, also at Espace pour la vie. I fell in love with the puffins at the Biodome and even tried some ice cream topped with chocolate-covered termites. (They weren’t bad!)
If you’re into comedy: go see at least one show at Just for Laughs, the massive comedy festival that runs in Montreal every summer. But get there early! We were almost late to the Rick Mercer Gala because we couldn’t find the damn entrance to the venue. But don’t just go to the galas/big shows. The two shows we saw in smaller venues were Jen Kirkman and Mike Birbiglia and they were both so amazing.
Have you been to Montreal or Quebec City? What are your favorite things to see there? Do you have any tips for first-time travelers going to Montreal or Quebec City? Leave a comment!
Jillianne Hamilton is the author of Molly Miranda: Thief for Hire, its two action/comedy sequels, and The Lazy Historian's Guide to the Wives of Henry VIII. She is also a graphic designer, a hoarder of podcasts and a history enthusiast. Learn more.