Montreal Canada... is it really like Europe, just without the long flight?

Okay Okay, so it's to the West... really to the west. But next year we want to take a driving vacation here in North America and find "Europe" right here on this side of the pond. Victoria Canada was so very English, is Montreal so very French? Let me know where we can find Europe right here in the States and Canada.

Posted by Robin
Victoria, Canada
18 posts

I would say that Quebec City feels more like Europe than Montreal (and more French than Victoria is English). We stayed in a garret apartment in a Mansard roofed stone house. L'isle d'Orleans outside Quebec City is so pretty and rural, with its apple orchards and cider, blackcurrant growers who sell liqueurs and old stone barns. It could be interesting for an American to learn of the very early history of Quebec in the many wonderful museums. It is difficult to speak French in Montreal: they hear an Anglo accent and respond in English. Quebec, the province, is more French outside the cities. I like the small towns North of Montreal in the Laurentian Mountains (or hills as we call them on the West Coast). If you are flexible, I suggest late September for the lovely Fall decorations in the villages and coloured leaves.
Bon vacances

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2155 posts

No need to leave the Midwest. Amana Colonies, IA: Old-time German communal society and home of Amana (as in your microwave) Cedar Rapids, IA: Crappy town (sorry) but somehow snagged a world-class Alphonse Mucha exhibition at the Nat'l. Czech and Slovak Museum (through end of 2012). St. Genevieve, MO: French Lots of other German & Scandinavian towns in the Upper Midwest Have never been there, but I recall watching a news story about Saint Pierre and Miquelon close to Newfoundland...actually a part of France...on the Euro and everything! Call me crazy, but I would almost prefer Toronto to anyplace in Europe. It doesn't feel European in any way, but it does feel like one of the best cities in the world. If you're going all the way to Quebec, you may as well see Toronto. You can park the car and take the train between Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Quebec City...just like in Europe...Oui, oui.

Posted by JB
Redding, CA, USA
1568 posts

I loved Montreal. If you go you must visit Nortre Dame Basilica.

Posted by Kira
Seattle, WA, USA
956 posts

It isn't "just" like Europe, but it has a VERY European flavor. Decidedly NOT just "American north." It's a very diverse city, and a uniquely Canadian way. Check out the quays at the old port, too.

Posted by Beatrix
1974 posts

It is "European" enough that a visit to the city brought on a major case of homesickness for me. About 4-5 years after I moved from Europe to Canada I spent a few days in Montreal for a conference. On my last day I had a few hours to myself to walk around. And out of nowhere I burst into tears because the architecture and the "feel" of the urban street life and its atmosphere made me feel more homesick than I had ever been before ... Granted, I had to end up in Calgary of all places which is probably the most American of all Canadian cities with absolutely no hint of the European heritage of its settlers. So Montreal definitely felt a bit like home to me. Wish I could go to Quebec City. Haven't been there, yet. But it is most definitely on my bucket list.

Posted by Janet
Colorado, USA
509 posts

Just recently, a famous Italian chef (sorry, I can't remember who) opined that New York is the most "European" American city.

Posted by Chantal
Mercier, Quebec, Canada
34 posts

Coming from Montreal and living there, I would agree with Robin, Quebec City is more European than Montreal. Old Montreal might remind you a little bit of Europe but not as much as Old Quebec City.

Posted by chun
Las Cruces
121 posts

I love Montreal. If you can't get to Paris for food, this is not a bad second choice. Wished we could have stayed longer. Went to seven of the twenty most popular listed in the Zagat guide. Great French, seafood, Chinese, fresh out of the wood oven baked bagels, deli food, chocolates. Plus, lots of interesting stuff to see and do. Stroll about Vieux-Montreal with historic buildings and museums. Buy picnic food and walk up Mont Royal. You can easily spend an entire day at the Jardin Botanique. Walk or bike along Lachine Canal. The Biodome was very interesting, educational and fun. There was more to do but we ran out of time. I used Rough Guide to Montreal and montreal. We walked a lot and used the subway which was easy to get around. If you can time getting there for the Montreal International Fireworks Competition, absolutely do it. It was like nothing we've ever seen. Not a 4th of July show. You buy tickets on-line, The fireworks are choreographed to music. Really amazing. A memorable experience. After the show, there were thousands of people politely waiting their turn to get on the bus and onto the subway. No pushing or shoving. No complaining about it's taking so long. We had a great time in Montreal. The people were very friendly. Yes, everyone can speak English, but you can speak French instead if you so desire. There were restaurants with French menus. The waiter offered to translate if needed. There was a food market where everyone spoke French to me.
Have fun.

Posted by Karen
Colorado Springs
326 posts

I would definitely recommend Quebec City - it is old world Europe. When we were planning a trip to France, we went to Quebec City (and out in the countryside, which is even more French speaking, with very little English spoken) just to get a feel for how it is to be in a non-English speaking place. Montreal has it's old world feel and is nice to wander a bit, but it's also a really big city. We were in Toronto overnight a couple of years ago - and very much enjoyed exploring a bit. The idea of going to Toronto and taking the train is a good one, too - we really enjoyed a trip the other way - Toronto to Vancouver on The Canadian - really fun. Don't stay in Montreal, though - go further north to Quebec City.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2852 posts

I love Montreal. But every time I read that it's "Paris without the jet lag," I get angry. No one says Toronto is "London without the jet lag." Similarly, I remember a travel magazine headline: "Montreal-The New Paris." My response was that that is no more (or less) true than "Toronto-The New London". Montreal is a wonderful city, and is its own thing; it doesn't need artificial hype, or false comparisons to prop it up. True story: I was talking to someone from Paris, and saying that I loved Montreal (and Paris too). She responded that Montreal felt just like New York to her. I explained that was funny, because many New Yorkers say it reminds them of Paris, and she just sniffed. Well, that mixture of Paris and New York (and some of London too) is what makes Montreal special. It's definitely a New World, North American city, but it also has a definite and strong European flavor (even more than New York or San Francisco). To me, what makes Montreal unique is the extent of bilingualism. You will hear French and English intermingled all over downtown (there's less bilingualism in outer neighborhoods). Not only can just about everyone conduct their trade in both languages, but you will hear people switch back and forth, sometimes with astonishing rapidity and fluidity. While the single largest "ethnic" group in Montreal is people of French descent, there are huge immigrant communities that have put a definite stamp on the city - Greeks, Jews, Italians, Portuguese, Moroccans, Chinese... Quebec City, on the other hand, really does feel like Europe, complete with a wall around the old section.

Posted by Glenn
Grand Falls-Windsor, NL, Canada
307 posts

I'd go with Quebec City as opposed to Montreal, but both are definitely worth visiting if you want a different cultural experience than english Canada..
Michael, yes, the islands of St Pierre et Miquelon, located about 12 miles off the coast of southern Newfoundland, are absolutely European, complete with Euro and all. I've been there several times and I can assure you that once you step off the boat, or plane, you'll know you're in a part of France....having said that, it's so small, and there's so little to do, that a weekend visit is plenty...

Posted by John
Blue Bell, PA, USA
30 posts

my 2 cents, have been to Montreal and Toronto as part of the same trip a few years back. Old town Montreal was where we spent our 3 days and we definitely enjoyed it. great food and more than a bit of European feel.
Its not Europe but it is a cool city and an 8hr drive from my area so I don't have to fly. Toronto felt like any American city, but is on the way to Niagara falls, has the hockey hall of fame, and was worth visiting. We do plan to go back to Montreal and then on to Quebec City sometime.

Posted by Marilyn
1 posts

I am looking for a Rick Steve's-like guide to Quebec. One that will not steer us to all the Hilton Hotels, but to the family-owned places -- small hotels and restaurants -- that the locals frequent, so that I can truly immerse myself in the city and its culture. I loved my Rick Steve's trip to Italy, and went with a friend to Austria following Rick Steve's guidebook solely, and had a marvelous time. I'd like to have a similar experience in Quebec. Suggestions?

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
4766 posts

Check on Trip Advisor in the forums. The Destination Experts will steer you in the right direction with good suggestions.

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

And here I thought San Francisco was the most "European" American city. But I think that refers more to the lifestyle of the inhabitants than "feel" - although there are parts of Oakland and Northern California that can substitute easily for Southern France or Italy, between the landscape, food, and architectural styles.

Posted by bill
mississauga, ontario, canada
26 posts

If by very French you mean the stereotypical Gallic rudeness, then the Province of Quebec has it in spades.

Posted by Norma
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
3409 posts

bill, bill, bill .... such a mississaugian opinion.

Posted by Swan
Napa, CA
2858 posts

Maybe I'll visit Quebec City. Do they have bakeries as good as in France? That's the decider for me.

Posted by Norma
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
3409 posts

Bakeries as good as in France? Probably not. We have some excellent ones in Montreal but even the best and most expensive are not as good as what you will find in every neighbourhood in Paris.

Posted by Margaret
9 posts

I live in Vermont, about an hour and a half from Montreal. I've lived in Quebec province (just north of Quebec when I was younger and just north of Montreal later in life). Based on my experiences, I would say that Quebec City is more of what people think of as "European" in the photogenic tourist sense than Montreal. I think it's partly because Quebec City is the older looking city (the fortified walls, esp. if you come from the river, etc). I would also say that more people will start out by speaking to you in French rather than English (although they'll switch if they realize you're a tourist or that you can't understand them). I can't quote statistics but Montreal seems bigger. Many/most of its buildings are more modern. It has a lot of businesses that are English-language based and more people will start out by speaking English to you. In fact, although they're small, Montreal also has Little Italy and Little China sections and you might be able to experience something of those cultures. Both cities have wonderful French cuisine, including bakeries, and gorgeous historic sites. If you can, I would suggest visiting both. You won't regret it.