Toronto vs Montreal — which Canadian city is best for travellers

city skyline under full moon

Canada’s two largest eastern cities, Toronto and Montreal, offer distinct experiences for travelers. Toronto is known for its modern skyline and American influence, while Montreal boasts a rich history and European charm, particularly with its French roots. This article aims to compare these two vibrant cities across various aspects to help you decide which is best for your next travel adventure.

Key Takeaways

  • Toronto is modern and high-rise, often compared to American cities, while Montreal has a historic and cultural European feel.
  • Both cities are relatively comparable in travel costs, making them accessible for different travel styles and budgets.
  • Toronto offers great options for families, with attractions like Toronto Island Park and the Toronto Zoo.
  • Montreal appeals more to cultural travelers, with its rich history and vibrant modern scene.
  • Both cities have distinct seasonal attractions, with summer being a popular time to visit both destinations.

Cultural Attractions in Toronto vs Montreal

Museums and Galleries

Toronto boasts a wide array of museums and galleries, including the Royal Ontario Museum and the Art Gallery of Ontario. Montreal, on the other hand, is home to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the Pointe-à-Callière Museum. Both cities offer rich cultural experiences through their diverse collections and exhibitions.

Historic Sites

In Toronto, visitors can explore historic sites such as Casa Loma and Fort York. Montreal offers a more European feel with its Old Montreal district, featuring landmarks like Notre-Dame Basilica and the Old Port. Each city provides a unique glimpse into its historical background.

Performing Arts

Toronto's performing arts scene is vibrant, with venues like the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts and the Royal Alexandra Theatre. Montreal is equally impressive, known for its Place des Arts and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. Both cities host numerous festivals and events throughout the year, celebrating various art forms.

Whether you prefer the modern vibe of Toronto or the historic charm of Montreal, both cities have something special to offer in terms of cultural attractions.

Culinary Experiences in Toronto vs Montreal

Local Cuisine

Montreal, often referred to as the ‘capital of French Canada’, is renowned for its French cuisine and traditional Quebecois dishes. Must-try items include poutine, tartre au sucre, chien chaud, and feves au lard. Montreal is also famous for its bagels and smoked meat sandwiches, particularly at Schwartz's.

Toronto, on the other hand, offers a diverse culinary scene with a variety of international cuisines. From Peruvian to Ethiopian, the city’s food landscape is incredibly varied. The Harbourfront district is a popular spot, but for a unique dining experience, 360 The Restaurant atop the CN Tower is hard to beat.

Fine Dining

In terms of fine dining, both cities have their highlights. Montreal boasts several Michelin-starred restaurants and a strong emphasis on French culinary techniques. Toronto, with its cosmopolitan flair, offers a range of high-end dining options, including new additions like the Ritz-Carlton and Thompson hotels.

Food Markets

Food markets are a staple in both cities. Montreal’s Jean-Talon Market is a must-visit, offering a wide array of local produce and Quebecois specialties. Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market is equally impressive, known for its fresh seafood and multicultural food stalls.

Of the three cities, Montreal has the most unique and culturally based food items. Besides poutine, there is Montreal smoked meat, famously served at Schwartz's.

Outdoor Activities in Toronto vs Montreal

space needle with time lapse photography

Parks and Green Spaces

Toronto is great for eating and shopping, and probably better for families. Children are well catered for, especially in summer when ferries take visitors to Toronto Island Park with its beaches, cycle hire and snack bars. The Toronto Zoo boasts a two-acre water play area.

Montreal’s appeal is to the more cultural visitor, although the historic city is balanced by a thriving modern one. Montreal offers numerous parks and green spaces, such as Mount Royal Park, which provides stunning views of the city and a variety of outdoor activities.

Waterfront Activities

Toronto's waterfront is bustling with activities. Visitors can enjoy a stroll along the Harbourfront Centre, take a ferry to the Toronto Islands, or engage in water sports like kayaking and paddleboarding. The city's waterfront is a hub of activity, especially during the summer months.

Montreal's Old Port is equally vibrant, offering boat tours, river surfing, and even zip-lining. The Lachine Canal is a popular spot for kayaking and paddleboarding, providing a scenic route through the city.

Winter Sports

Both Toronto and Montreal are popular destinations to visit in the winter with plenty of activities. The weather in Toronto can be very cold. Montreal can be very cold during winter. Montreal is much colder than Toronto in the winter. The daily temperature in Montreal averages around -10°C (14°F) in January, and Toronto fluctuates around -4°C (25°F).

In Toronto, winter sports enthusiasts can enjoy ice skating at Nathan Phillips Square or skiing and snowboarding at nearby resorts like Blue Mountain. Montreal offers a more extensive range of winter activities, including ice skating at Parc La Fontaine, cross-country skiing on Mount Royal, and the famous Igloofest, an outdoor electronic music festival held in the heart of winter.

Cost of Travel: Toronto vs Montreal

When comparing the travel costs between Montreal and Toronto, we can see that Montreal is more expensive. However, the two cities are actually relatively comparable in price, as the difference is somewhat minimal. Generally, this means that you could travel with generally the same travel style and level of luxury in each place. Since both cities are in North America, it's no surprise that their costs are relatively close, as many destinations here have somewhat similar travel prices overall.

Accommodation Prices

The average daily cost (per person) in Montreal is $209, while the average daily cost in Toronto is $203. These costs include accommodation (assuming double occupancy, so the traveler is sharing the room), food, transportation, and entertainment. While every person is different, these costs are an average of past travelers in each destination.

Dining Costs

Dining costs in both cities are relatively similar, with a slight edge towards higher prices in Montreal. Whether you're enjoying local cuisine or fine dining, expect to spend a comparable amount in both cities.

Transportation Expenses

Transportation expenses can vary, but on average, they are quite similar in both cities. For example, a two-week economy car rental from Vancouver to Toronto costs around $1736, which ends up being around $124 per day. Public transit systems in both cities are efficient and affordable, making it easy to get around without breaking the bank.

Overall, the cost of travel in both Toronto and Montreal is quite comparable, making either city a viable option for travelers looking to explore Canada without worrying too much about budget differences.

Best Time to Visit: Toronto vs Montreal

Summer Highlights

Both Toronto and Montreal experience a temperate climate with four distinct seasons. Summer is a popular time to visit both cities, with temperatures averaging around 21°C (70°F) in July. This season attracts plenty of travelers, offering numerous outdoor activities and festivals.

Winter Attractions

Winter in Toronto and Montreal is equally appealing, though it can be quite cold. Montreal tends to be colder than Toronto, with average January temperatures around -10°C (14°F) compared to Toronto's -4°C (25°F). Both cities offer a range of winter activities, from ice skating to winter festivals.

Seasonal Festivals

  • Toronto: Hosts events like the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in September and the Winterlicious food festival in January.
  • Montreal: Known for the Montreal Jazz Festival in June/July and the Igloofest, an outdoor electronic music festival, in January/February.
Whether you prefer the warm, bustling summer or the cold, festive winter, both Toronto and Montreal offer unique experiences year-round.

Nightlife and Entertainment in Toronto vs Montreal

city view during nighttime

Bars and Clubs

Montreal is a very trendy and vibrant city with an active nightlife and countless activities to enjoy. The city is known for its eclectic mix of bars and clubs, ranging from sophisticated cocktail lounges to energetic dance clubs. Toronto, on the other hand, offers a diverse nightlife scene that caters to a wide range of tastes, from upscale bars to underground clubs. Both cities are often listed among the Canadian cities with the best nightlife & entertainment.

Live Music Venues

In Montreal, live music is a staple of the nightlife scene. The city boasts numerous venues that host a variety of genres, from jazz to indie rock. Toronto also has a thriving live music scene, with iconic venues like Massey Hall and the Horseshoe Tavern. Whether you're into big concerts or intimate gigs, both cities offer plenty of options.

Theater and Cinema

When it comes to theater and cinema, Toronto is home to the famous Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), which attracts celebrities and film enthusiasts from around the world. Montreal, with its rich cultural heritage, offers a variety of theatrical performances and film festivals, including the Montreal World Film Festival. Both cities provide ample opportunities for those looking to enjoy a night out at the theater or cinema.

Whether you prefer the trendy vibes of Montreal or the diverse offerings of Toronto, both cities promise an unforgettable nightlife experience.

Shopping in Toronto vs Montreal

Toronto is home to some of the most luxurious shopping centers in Canada. The Yorkdale Shopping Centre and the Eaton Centre are prime destinations for high-end fashion and designer brands. Montreal, on the other hand, offers a more European flair with its upscale boutiques along Rue Sainte-Catherine and in the historic Old Montreal district.

For those who prefer unique finds, both cities have a vibrant local boutique scene. In Toronto, Queen Street West is a must-visit for trendy and independent shops. Montreal's Mile End and Plateau neighborhoods are equally charming, offering a mix of vintage stores, artisanal goods, and contemporary fashion.

When it comes to markets, Toronto's St. Lawrence Market is a very nice place to visit, offering everything from fresh produce to handmade crafts. Montreal's Jean-Talon Market is equally impressive, known for its local produce and gourmet food items. Both markets are perfect for picking up unique souvenirs and experiencing the local culture.

Whether you're looking for high-end fashion or unique local finds, both Toronto and Montreal offer a diverse shopping experience that caters to all tastes and budgets.

Family-Friendly Activities in Toronto vs Montreal

Zoos and Aquariums

Toronto is home to the renowned Toronto Zoo, which features a two-acre water play area perfect for children during the summer months. The zoo offers a wide variety of animal exhibits and interactive experiences that cater to families. In contrast, Montreal boasts the Biodome, a unique attraction that houses four distinct ecosystems under one roof, ranging from polar to tropical rainforest. This makes it an educational and exciting destination for families.

Amusement Parks

Toronto Island Park is a family favorite, especially in the summer when ferries transport visitors to its beaches, cycle hire stations, and snack bars. The park offers a range of activities that are perfect for a day out with the family. Meanwhile, Montreal offers La Ronde, a large amusement park with numerous rides and attractions that cater to both young children and thrill-seekers alike.

Educational Attractions

For educational family outings, Toronto offers the Ontario Science Centre, which features interactive exhibits and live demonstrations that engage children and adults alike. Montreal's Montreal Science Centre is another excellent option, offering a variety of exhibits focused on science and technology. Both cities provide ample opportunities for families to learn and have fun together.

Accessibility and Transportation in Toronto vs Montreal

Public Transit Systems

Toronto boasts an extensive public transit system, including subways, buses, and streetcars, managed by the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC). Montreal's public transit, operated by the Société de transport de Montréal (STM), features a comprehensive network of buses and a metro system. Both cities offer reliable and efficient public transit options for travelers, making it easy to navigate without a car.

Bike-Friendly Routes

Montreal is renowned for its bike-friendly infrastructure, with numerous dedicated bike lanes and the popular BIXI bike-sharing program. Toronto is also making strides in becoming more bike-friendly, with expanding bike lanes and the Bike Share Toronto program. Cyclists in both cities can enjoy scenic routes and convenient access to key areas.

Airport Connectivity

Toronto's Pearson International Airport is one of the busiest in North America, offering numerous international and domestic flights. Montreal's Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport also provides extensive connectivity, though it is slightly smaller in scale. Both airports are well-connected to their respective city centers via public transit and shuttle services.

When comparing the travel costs between Montreal and Toronto, we can see that Montreal is more expensive. However, the two cities are actually relatively comparable in price, as the difference is somewhat minimal.

Language and Cultural Differences: Toronto vs Montreal

man in dress suit outfit walking in front of building

Bilingualism in Montreal

Montreal is renowned for its bilingualism, with both French and English widely spoken. This unique blend of languages adds to the city's European charm and makes it a fascinating destination for travellers interested in experiencing a mix of cultures. Visitors will find that most signs, menus, and public information are available in both languages, making navigation relatively easy.

Multicultural Toronto

Toronto is one of the most multicultural cities in the world, with a diverse population that includes significant South Asian and East Asian communities. This multiculturalism is reflected in the city's festivals, neighborhoods, and culinary scene, offering travellers a rich tapestry of experiences. The city's diversity is a testament to its welcoming nature and its ability to integrate various cultures seamlessly.

Local Etiquette

Understanding local etiquette can enhance your travel experience in both cities. In Montreal, it's polite to greet people in French, even if you switch to English afterward. In Toronto, a simple "hello" suffices, but being aware of the city's multicultural fabric can help you navigate social interactions more smoothly.

Whether you're drawn to the European flair of Montreal or the multicultural vibrancy of Toronto, both cities offer unique cultural experiences that cater to a wide range of interests.

Sports and Recreation in Toronto vs Montreal

Major Sports Teams

Toronto and Montreal are home to some of Canada's most iconic sports teams. Toronto boasts the Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL), Toronto Raptors (NBA), and Toronto Blue Jays (MLB). Montreal, on the other hand, is famous for the Montreal Canadiens (NHL), one of the oldest and most successful hockey teams in the world. Both cities offer a vibrant sports culture that attracts fans from all over the country.

Recreational Facilities

When it comes to recreational facilities, both cities have a lot to offer. Toronto features numerous parks, gyms, and community centers, while Montreal is known for its extensive network of bike paths and outdoor fitness areas. Whether you're into swimming, tennis, or just a casual jog, you'll find plenty of options in both cities.

Annual Sporting Events

Both Toronto and Montreal host a variety of annual sporting events that draw large crowds. Toronto is known for the Toronto International Marathon and the Rogers Cup tennis tournament. Montreal hosts the Montreal Grand Prix, a Formula 1 race that is a major highlight of the city's sporting calendar. These events not only provide entertainment but also contribute to the local economy.


Choosing between Toronto and Montreal for your next travel destination ultimately depends on your personal preferences and travel style. Toronto, with its modern skyline, diverse culinary scene, and family-friendly attractions, offers a vibrant urban experience that leans towards the contemporary and cosmopolitan. On the other hand, Montreal's rich history, cultural depth, and European charm provide a unique blend of the old and new, making it a haven for cultural enthusiasts. Both cities offer a range of experiences and are relatively comparable in terms of travel costs, so you can enjoy a similar level of luxury and comfort in either destination. Whether you prefer the bustling streets of Toronto or the historic charm of Montreal, both cities promise memorable experiences for travelers.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which city is cheaper to visit, Toronto or Montreal?

While Montreal is generally more expensive, the difference in travel costs between the two cities is minimal. Both cities offer comparable prices for a similar travel style and level of luxury.

When is the best time to visit Toronto or Montreal?

Both cities experience four distinct seasons. Summer, in July, and winter, in January, are popular times to visit. Summer attracts more travelers to both cities, while Montreal's winter appeal includes its underground shopping.

What are the main cultural differences between Toronto and Montreal?

Toronto is modern and multicultural, while Montreal leans towards a historic and cultural vibe with its French roots. Toronto looks more to America, whereas Montreal has a European influence.

Which city is better for families, Toronto or Montreal?

Toronto is generally better for families, offering attractions like Toronto Island Park and the Toronto Zoo. Montreal appeals more to cultural visitors but also has family-friendly activities.

What are the major outdoor activities in Toronto and Montreal?

Toronto offers parks, waterfront activities, and family-friendly spots like Toronto Island Park. Montreal provides parks, winter sports, and a mix of historic and modern outdoor experiences.

How do the culinary experiences in Toronto compare to those in Montreal?

Both cities offer diverse culinary experiences. Toronto is known for its multicultural cuisine and fine dining, while Montreal is famous for its local cuisine and vibrant food markets.

Is public transportation better in Toronto or Montreal?

Both cities have efficient public transit systems. Toronto's TTC includes subways, buses, and streetcars, while Montreal's STM offers a comprehensive metro and bus network.

What are the nightlife and entertainment options in Toronto and Montreal?

Toronto boasts a vibrant nightlife with numerous bars, clubs, and live music venues. Montreal is known for its cultural events, theater, and a lively bar scene, especially in the summer.

Curtis Duggan

Curtis Duggan

Curtis is a serial tech entrepreneur, content creator and the host of the Remotely Serious podcast on the future of remote work and digital nomadism.


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