Québec and Montreal were part of the New France- colonized by the French in the 16th century. The French left an indelible influence on the culture and the architecture of these cities, one that can be experienced distinctly even now. With cobblestone streets, potted flowers adorning the facades of buildings, chateaus in the background, and people conversing in fluent French, you will be stepping back in time. Here is a city guide for an epic 5 days in Quebec and Montreal...

JOUR UN (1)

Spend the first two days in Montreal- Visit Parc du Mont-Royal and Parc Jean Drapeau area on day 1.

JOUR DEUX (2)

The second day in Montreal-Start with new Montreal and end your day at the old town.

JOUR TROIS (3)

Drive east of Montreal and explore picturesque vineyards and small towns. Stay overnight at Trois-Rivières.

JOUR QUATRE (4)

Drive to Quebec City and visit Parc de la Chute-Montmorency on the way. Spend a relaxing evening in the Terrasse Dufferin and upper old town.

JOUR CINQ (5)

Explore the old town of Quebec City.

DAY 1

JOUR UN

St-Josephs-Oratory-Quebec
St. Joseph’s Oratory

A mountain amid the city, kick off the Quebec adventures with a visit to Parc du Mont-Royal. This bucolic park has a rich historical and architectural heritage. Designed by Frederick Olmsted Green (of New York’s Central Park fame), the most iconic part of the park is Saint Joseph’s Oratory. Built originally as a small chapel in 1904, it eventually evolved to the present day basilica by 1967. The majestic framework of the oratory makes it one of Montreal’s most impressive architectures. Its distinctive dome topped with a cross is the third largest of its kind in the world. The terrace on the roof of the church offers an excellent bird’ s-eye view of the city. Paid parking is available on the premise.

Mount Royal has two scenic lookouts, the more prominent Kondiaronk Belvedere and Camillien-Houde. Both have ample parking and offer wide, incredible views of Montreal city. Start your tour by visiting Smith House, an elegant stone farmhouse that offers visitor information, a cute café, a gift shop and a permanent exhibition that chronicles the history of this iconic natural landmark of Montreal. A beautiful short hike will take you to Kondiaronk Belvedere and Mount Royal chalet. Kondiaronk offers a stunning view of downtown Montreal. The majestic Mount Royal Chalet behind the Belvedere houses a gift shop, visitor information kiosk, and rows of wooden recliners for travelers to sit, relax and enjoy the view of Montreal. On your way back to the parking area, take a short detour at the picturesque Beaver Lake. On the way out from Mount Royal, you will find Camillien-Houde Belvedere on your right. It does not offer the same breathtaking vista as Kondiaronk, but worth spending a few minutes.

Montreal-Biosphere-quebec
Montreal Biosphere

Plan to spend the rest of your day at Parc Jean Drapeau. Only 5 minutes from downtown Montreal, the park is composed of two islands, Saint Helen’s and the artificial island of Notre Dame. Both offer a plethora of tourist attractions. You can avail of the free shuttle buses that take can you to the casino, museum, amusement park, aquatic center, beach, or a formula one racing track spread across both islands. One of the iconic structures of the park is the environmental museum at the Montreal Biosphere. The exhibits at the museum aim at spreading awareness about current-day environmental issues such as climate change. There are some interesting sculptures on display along the trails, such as the Trois Disques (L’Homme). Strolling through the gardens of Parc Jean-Drapeau can be a therapeutic experience. 

DAY 2

JOUR DEUX

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Dorchester Square
Exploring-Dorchester-Square-in-montreal
Exploring Dorchester Square

Start your second day at Dorchester Square at the heart of downtown Montreal. It is an urban parkland surrounded by impressive skyscrapers. This area is a popular gathering point for both locals and tourists

gay-district-montreal
Shades of Gay

Next, take the metro to Aires Libres, the gay village of Montreal (Berri-UQAM is the closest metro station to Aires Libres). This area has recently become famous for an iconic art installation called “18 shades of gay”, which is made of 180,000 rainbow-colored resin balls. Designed by world-renowned architect Claude Cormier, it covers a vibrant 1 km long Sainte-Catherine Street. However, 2019 is the last year you will get to experience this magnificent installation

Montreal-Notre-Dame-Basilica-Exterior
Notre Dame Basilica Exterior
Inside-Notre-Dame-Basilica-montreal
Inside Notre Dame Basilica

A 20 minutes walk from Aires Libres will take you to the historic old town. Notre dame basilica, located at the place d’armes of the old town, is the jewel of Montreal’s heritage and regarded as a masterpiece of Gothic revival architecture. This 200 years old basilica has a gorgeous interior with stained glass, decorated wood, and stunning stonework. The original church at this site was built in 1682. To accommodate the expanding congregation, the old church was completely demolished in 1843 and built anew. It is open 7 days a week until 4 P.M. Tickets can be purchased at the gate by cash or credit card. They also offer a light show in the evening – “aura light show” for which tickets can be purchased online

From place d’armes stroll through Saint-Paul Street, one of the most picturesque boulevards in Montreal, to Place Jacques Cartier. With its cobblestone streets dating back to the 1600s, it will take you to the days of yore! Place Jacques Cartier is a car-free zone in the summer and is lined with fancy restaurants, street music, art kiosks, and bakery shops. Enjoy your time at this lively spot immersed in heritage! Place Jacques Cartier was also the entrance to the old port of Montreal. Take a quick reroute to Bonsecours Market on the Saint-Claude Street on your way to the port. Bonsecours Market is a 150 years old beautiful French-Canadian heritage building and is the oldest/ largest public market in Montreal. The port offers many activities – Montreal science center, St Lawrence River cruises, Montreal observation wheel or you can opt to just walk along the promenade, which ends at the clock tower. This 100-year-old tower is a memorial to the Canadian sailors who died in World War I. If you are willing to climb its 192 steps to the top, the tower provides spectacular views of the St. Lawrence River, Jacques Cartier Bridge, and the Montreal city. End your day with a lovely meal at old town restaurants. My recommendation is Crêperie Chez Suzette – one of the best Crepes I ever had!

DAY 3

JOUR TROIS

Fort-Chambly-National-Historic-Site
Fort Chambly National Historic Site

As you drive east of Montreal, you will find charming villages and endless vistas. An hour’s drive from Montreal is Fort Chambly National Historic Site. Situated at the foot of the Richelieu River rapids, this 200 year stone fortification is a picturesque site. It was built by the French to protect them from attacks by Iroquois, a Native American confederacy. For an entrance fee of $6, you get to explore the Fort and learn about the history of this fortification

Michel-Jodoin-Cidrerie
Michel Jodoin Cidrerie

15 minutes drive from Fort Chambly will take you to the cider route of Canada – the charming wine, maple, and apple country! Cider route has dozens of local cideries. Michel Jodoin cidrerie is one of the most prominent ones. Sip a glass of cider and enjoy some peaceful time in the adjacent gazebo. They also provide a free guided tour of the cellar and their cider-making process. This tour is only offered in French though. There are hiking trails behind the cideries offering breathtaking views of the orchards of Rougemont. 

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St Benedict’s Abbey
Inside-St-Benedicts-Abbey-montreal-quebec
Inside St Benedict’s Abbey

Driving further east on 245, you will reach St Benedict’s abbey. This serene Benedictine monastic community of some thirty monks is located on the spectacular shores of Lake Memphrémagog. Glorious views of surrounding mountains and the lake in the backdrop of the abbey will certainly make you feel at peace. This modern abbey has an impressive architecture incorporating natural geometric forms with multicolored bricks and granite in the hallways. An extensive variety of homemade products are available at the abbey gift store such as ciders, jelly, apple sauce, cheese, and butter. Guided tours of the abbey are available three times a day -10am, 1 P.M., and 3 P.M. 

An extensive variety of homemade products are available at the abbey gift store such as ciders, jelly, apple sauce, cheese, and butter. Guided tours of the abbey are available three times a day -10am, 1 P.M., and 3 P.M. 

If you have time, plan a visit to Parc de la Gorge de Coaticooka 40 minutes drive east of Lake Memphrémagog. This park is popular for one of the world’s longest suspension footbridge that spans the 164-foot deep gorge. Get back to the route to Quebec City and spend the night at Trois-Rivières.

DAY 4

JOUR QUATRE

Manoir-Montmorency-quebec
Manoir Montmorency

Before crossing the St. Lawrence River to Quebec City, stop by at Terrace of Lévis. King George VI and Queen Elizabeth inaugurated this riverside park in 1939. Terrace of Lévis offering fantastic views of the old Quebec city across the St. Lawrence River from its upper elevated terrace. You can also enjoy a Ferris wheel ride at the lower terrace of the park or choose to stroll along with the river soaking in the sun with a scoop of delicious Chocolats Favoris ice cream sold by a food truck in the park.

quebec-in-the-Fall
Fall Color in the Orchard
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Hiking Trails in Parc de la Chute-Montmorency

A 45-minute drive will have you cross the river and take you to Parc de la Chute-Montmorency, one of the most striking natural wonders in Québec City. Montgomery Falls Park, as this place is colloquially called, features a stunning 83-meter high waterfall. The park also houses a 200-year-old villa, Manoir Montmorency, one of the first non-French architectural buildings in Canada. The villa has a restaurant, a boutique and, an interpretation center. Embark on the panoramic route from the Manoir’s terrace, walking on the boardwalk along the cliff towards the suspension bridge. This suspension bridge gives a breathtaking view of the waterfall and will take you to a beautiful orchard on the other end. The route ends in the panoramic staircase of 500 stairs that will take you to the bottom of the falls. There are several lookout points along the staircase to view the cascading waters descending into the St. Lawrence River. There are a variety of other activities at the park, including hiking trails, bike paths, cable cars, and a double zip line.

Next, head towards the old town of Quebec City, a perfect place for a splendid evening. The old town has an upper and lower level. The upper level has the iconic Château Frontenac and Terrasse Dufferin. A funicular connects the upper level to the lower level and Quartier Petit Champlain with its charming cafes and shops. Château Frontenac is the most iconic landmark of Quebec City. Opened in 1893, this Chateau is now a National historic site of Canada. Terrasse Dufferin, the wooden terrace below the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, is the perfect spot to enjoy the magnificent view of Saint Lawrence River. Beautiful fountains, flowers, and melodious musical notes played by the local artists lend a unique romantic feel to the upper old town.  

Parking is difficult to find, so make sure to book a hotel that offers parking so you can explore the town on foot.

DAY 5

JOUR CINQ

St-Lawrence-River-boardwalk
Boardwalk along the St. Lawrence River

Plan to spend the last day exploring the beautiful old town of Quebec City. Quebec City is bound by fortifications dating back to the 17th century. Fortifications of Quebec City consist of 4 gates, 3 Martello towers, the Citadel (La Citadelle), and the barricade encircling the Old Town. La Citadelle, which was originally built between 1820-1850, is an active military installation and is a popular tourist spot and houses some of the oldest military buildings of Canada. Exhibits and tours are available in the citadel if you want to know more about the history of this place. Located just outside of the fortification is the Parliament building. Built in the 1880s, this historic site of Canada is a functional Parliament. Both free self-guided and paid guided tours are available, you can also attend a Parliamentary committee siting if you want to watch democracy in action. The building looks spectacular at night when Fontaine de Tourny, a beautiful fountain in front of the building lights up.

Another interesting place to visit in old town Quebec is the Battlefield park. Green meadows, grassy cliffs, and endless vistas decked with flowers, this oasis of greenery in the heart of the city has a rich history and a great place to relax. Plains of Abraham and the Joan of Arc garden are two major attractions not to be missed in the park. The Plains of Abraham Museum houses the park’s information and reception center. It was the site of the Battle of Québec in 1759, where Montcalm’s French forces and Wolfe’s British troops fought for the control of the town, with the British ultimately winning the control. This park was created in 1908 to mark the 300th anniversary of the founding of Québec. 

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Walking along the St. Lawrence River

A boardwalk next to the St Lawrence river connects the citadel area to Terrasse Dufferin. This is a popular spot among locals joggers and tourists alike. From the terrace, climb downstairs to Quartier Petit Champlain. Rue du Petit-Champlain, one of the oldest commercial neighborhoods and often called the “postcard-perfect street” in North America, is truly a one-of-a-kind town with murals painted on the side of the houses, narrow, cobbled streets, local bistros and baskets brimming with flowers. There are also some interesting art installations spread across the area making for a rich, fulfilling experience of Quebec’s history, art, and food scene. 

Saint-Jean is another quaint place to visit in Québec City. With its boutique shops, cozy cafes, churches, and historic buildings, this place has something for everyone and a perfect place to say au revoir to Quebec’s rich culture and architectural heritage.