Montreal or Toronto?
Updated: Apr 18
If you can visit the two most important cities in Canada. If not, check out this comparison between Montreal and Toronto and find out which one suits you better.
Besides Toronto, which is the most visited city in the country, Montreal also stands out as one of the main Canadian destinations. Of course, the ideal is that you can visit both cities without having to buy them, but when there is this need, talking about travel is willing to help you. It is important to make it clear that our goal is not to tell you which city is better, but to present the characteristics of each one so that you can understand which one best meets your expectations.
Montreal is the definition of charm. The second most populous city in Canada has a European feel to it, as Quebec's first official language is French. Between ancient and modern monuments, Montreal offers many options for sightseeing. There are activities to do all year round, from the warmest months to the freezing Canadian winter. Many tours you can do simply by walking, so the destination has that pleasant small-town feel.
The five main tourist attractions in Montreal are:
1. Place des Arts: an arts complex, home to the Museum of Contemporary Art; Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal, which is the city's premier ballet company; and several other museums, theatres and art galleries.
2. Old Montreal: an old neighbourhood considered by many locals and tourists to be the most charming in the city.
3. Notre Dame Cathedral: its ceiling has more than a thousand stars made of 24 carat gold. It is impressive! And because it is a major landmark of the city, the area around the cathedral has many restaurants, shops, hotels and other local monuments.
4. Olympic Complex: The main attractions are the "Leaning Tower", which is the biggest in the world in this format; the "Montreal Tower", which has an observatory of the city and a structure for a funicular; and the Biodôme, a museum that simulates four different biomes of America.
5. Botanical Garden: there are 75 hectares and over 22 thousand plant species, 10 exhibition greenhouses and 20 thematic gardens.
Toronto is Canada's largest city and financial centre. Vibrant and international, it is on a par with the other major metropolises of the world for offering excellent art, gastronomy and entertainment options. Whether in museums, restaurants or shops, it is in Toronto that tourists find the greatest novelties and trends in the market. While the city is grandiose in the sense that it offers everything you are looking for, it has the distinctive Canadian friendliness, which gives the welcoming feeling of a big city with a small town soul. If Toronto were a person, it would be that celebrity who has managed to keep success out of his head. Despite its imposing size, Toronto does not intimidate or saturate its visitors.
The five main tourist attractions in Toronto are:
1. CN Tower: at an incredible 553 metres high, this is the third-highest tower in the world and the most visited attraction in the city. The best way to enjoy the view of the city from a privileged angle.
2. Casa Loma: the castle with its impressive 98 rooms is the second most visited attraction in the city.
3. Royal Ontario Museum: the city's main museum, which tells the history of civilizations.
4. Distillery District: historical and modern district, where Gooderham and Worts used to be, which was once the largest distillery in the world.
5. Yonge-Dundas Square: the Canadian Times Square, where the city's main shops are located.
We compared prices and cost of living, restaurants, tourist and cultural attractions, nearby destinations and transportation, style, accommodation, among other things. Understand everything to choose Montreal or Toronto. Remember that these are personal opinions, based on my experiences. If you know the destinations well, you are invited to add your tips in the comments.
Best climate: Toronto
Winter is more intense in Montreal, where the lows reach -14ºC (6.8ºF) and feel like -40ºC (-40ºF), while in Toronto it doesn't get above -9ºC (15.8ºF). Summer in both cities is pleasant, although Montreal gets a little warmer. The chance of getting rain is also a little higher in Montreal. So, for having less exaggerated seasons, although it also snows a lot in winter, Toronto is more pleasant in this aspect.
Best prices: Montreal
The first thing I noticed in Montreal, is that practically everything there is cheaper than in Toronto. Even when it comes to tourism, mainly because hotels and restaurants are much cheaper. Even mineral water is cheaper in Montreal. According to cost of living websites, prices in Montreal are 20% to 30% lower than in Toronto, considering items such as restaurants, supermarkets, rent, clothes and electricity.
Best to eat: tie
That was a tough one. I compared the best places and the best food I tasted in each. It would be very unfair to declare a winner. In Toronto, I highlight Poutini's House and St Lawrence Market, where I had the unequalled Bacon Peamel sandwich. In Montreal, Schwartz's, with its smoked meat sandwich, is a major competitor.
Best Tourist Attractions: Toronto
Another tricky category. I'll sum it up like this: Toronto has more famous and commercial attractions that are easy to schedule and do for people of all ages. For example, the CN Tower, which is an expensive and cliché tourist spot, but worth a visit. Toronto Islands is the same thing, besides being a great tour to do with children. Montreal requires a little more effort, like the climb to Mount Royal and the long walks through the Old City. For those who like modern cities, Toronto is unbeatable. Montreal has more history.
Best to combine with other destinations: Montreal
Niagara Falls is just 128 km away from Toronto. It's even possible to drive there and back to one of North America's top tourist destinations. But there are no other major attractions close to the city. Montreal is about 200 km away from two other major Canadian cities: Ottawa, the capital of the country, and Quebec City, the capital of the French province, with its rich French architecture. Another advantage of Montreal, is that you can travel to New York. In winter, it is possible to ski near both, with a slight advantage for Montreal. But it is nothing compared to the best ski resorts in Canada, in the Vancouver area.
Best to shopping: Toronto
Toronto is the metropolis of fashion, trends and novelties, it is there that tourists find all the shops they can imagine, from fast fashion to designer labels. There are shops all over the city, but there are some specific places that concentrate several of them. Yonge-Dundas Square, for example, is known as the Canadian Times Square and has mass-market shops such as H&M, Forever 21, Nike and others. Yorkville is the centre of luxury, with shops of the biggest brands in the world.
In Montreal, of course there are shops and malls, and you can also do a lot of interesting shopping. However, it is impossible to compare Montreal with Toronto, which is the leading city in the country when it comes to shopping.
Best to stay in: Montreal
Besides having much cheaper hotels, the offer of accommodation is also more diverse in Montreal. While in Toronto it is recommended to stay around the tourist centre, completely charmless, in Montreal there are interesting neighbourhoods all over the island, such as the historic Old Town and the Quartier Latin.
Montreal is a much more stylish city.
It was founded by the French. The architecture is more beautiful, the people are better dressed, and the bars are cooler. If you take the focus off the tourist attractions, you can stay there for a long time. The counterculture atmosphere, the occupation of urban spaces and the young people's atmosphere is fascinating.
Toronto is focused on work.
A world’s metropolis, rich in museums, its film festival is one of the most important in North America. I summarize the capital of Ontario as the New York that worked out. It is worth doing a 3 to 5 days tour or an exchange. But the high prices and the hustle and bustle of everyday life can drive the most leisurely traveller away.
Both cities are fantastic and everyone should have the opportunity to visit them. However, Toronto and Montreal are very different and have expressive characteristics that can be essential when choosing which of the two will be your next destination. In general, it can be said that Toronto is more vibrant and Montreal is more classic. There is no city better than the other. The great truth is that they are different cities that complement each other, so it is worth planning a trip with multiple destinations.