Montreal is Quebec's most populous city, the financial center, and a thriving multicultural hub of activity. Quebec City, 169 miles (272 kilometers) up the Saint Lawrence River, is a unique and historic city. These two French Canadian cities are on most Quebec travel itineraries, so getting from one to the other in the most convenient and economical way is a question many visitors have.
Canada does not have high-speed trains, so whether you drive, bus, or take the train, it will take you about 3 hours to travel between Montreal and Quebec City. If you are traveling during the busy holiday season, the train may be faster than driving or taking the bus, because at least you won't get stuck in traffic.
If you're in a rush, it's a 45-minute flight between the cities, but you should also factor in how much time it will take you to get to and from the airport. If you hit an hour of traffic in either or both cities, the time you'll spend in transit is about equal to the other options. If saving money is your priority, the bus is the best choice. Ultimately, deciding which way to get from Montreal to Quebec City comes down to two factors: price and travel style.
How to Get From Montreal to Quebec City
- Train: 3 hours, 15 minutes, $30+
- Flight: 45 minutes, $106+
- Bus: 3 hours, 15 minutes, $20+
- Car: 3 hours, 158 miles (255 kilometers)
VIA Rail is Canada's national passenger railway and provides daily service between downtown Montreal and Quebec City. The train ride is not particularly scenic, but it is comfortable, reliable, and convenient. Depending on how many stops there are on your itinerary, the journey should only take between 3 and 4 hours.
VIA Rail offers five different ticket classes: Escape, Economy, Economy Plus, Business, and Business Plus. Escape fares are the cheapest because they are non-refundable, while Business and Business Plus fares are refundable and include complimentary meals, lounge access, and priority boarding. No matter which fare you choose, you will be able to access and use the train's complimentary Wi-Fi.
Air Canada, PAL Airlines, and regional airline PASCAN, all operate direct flights between Montreal and Quebec City. One-way flights typically start at $106 but can cost as much as $250, depending on how early you book. You're more likely to find lower fares if you book at least a month in advance.
The Montréal-Trudeau Airport is 11 miles (18 kilometers) from downtown Montreal, which is about a 30-minute drive or a 40-minute train ride from the Montreal Bus Terminal. The Québec City Jean Lesage International Airport is 9 miles (15 kilometers) from downtown Quebec City, which is about a 25-minute drive. Unlike Montreal, there's no train service from the airport so your only public transportation option is to take the bus, which will most likely require at least one transfer and will take you over an hour. Compared to other city airports, Quebec City's Airport is not too far out of the way and it's probably worth it to take a cab or ride-share to your hotel.
Orléans Express is the only bus company operating regular service between Montreal and Quebec City, with one or two stops in between. Buses leave about once an hour from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. and feature reclining seats, free Wi-Fi, an on-board bathroom, and electrical outlets. Accounting for traffic, you should expect the ride to take between 3 and 4 hours. For the best prices, Orléans Express recommends booking your ticket at least eight days in advance.
There are two main options for driving between Montreal and Quebec City, both of which take about three hours.
The slightly quicker way is along Highway 20 on the south shore of the Saint Lawrence River; however, this route is dull and lacking charm. One advantage of taking this route is the authentic poutine at Fromagerie Lemaire just outside of Drummondville. Being a cheese-making operation, the cheese curds are fresh and the french fries, of course, are fresh cut.
The north shore route along Highway 40 is slightly more scenic, as it runs closer to the river shore and has more small towns with pretty double-spired churches. Trois Rivieres, about halfway between Montreal and Quebec City, makes a pleasant stop on the north shore.
Be aware that driving in Quebec in winter can be challenging, especially for inexperienced drivers. Snow tires are mandatory for Quebecois' cars for a reason, so educate yourself on proper winter driving and make sure you're familiar with the rules of the road of driving in Canada.
With cobblestone streets, fortified walls, and castles, Quebec City is probably North America's most European city. The historic district has even been declared UNESCO World Heritage site and is the third oldest city on the continent.
The city's main tourist attractions are La Citadelle de Québec, the Parliament building, and Montmorency Falls, just outside of downtown. For the best view of the city skyline, head to Pierre-Dugua-De-Mons Terrace. There are also a number of museums worth visiting such as the Museum of Civilization, the Érico Chocolate Museum, and more.
A guided tour may be a good idea if you want to make the most of your trip and learn as much as you can. This Quebec City and Montmorency Falls daytrip from Montreal is a full-day sightseeing tour with a local licensed guide, highlighting Quebec City's top attractions.
Another option that allows more time in Quebec City is a two-day guided tour of Quebec City and Tadoussac, leaving from Montreal. Get a guided tour of historic Quebec City plus time to spend on your own. After the scenic drive to Tadoussac, hop on board a whale watching vessel, and keep an eye out for the belugas, minkes, and humpbacks that dwell in the St. Lawrence waters.