Founded in the 17th century, Quebec City sits atop Cap Diamant, a UNESCO World Heritage site surrounded by fortified ramparts with the St. Lawrence River far below. Québec City is located roughly 160 miles northeast of Montreal, just above the Maine border. There are many easy—and affordable—ways to visit the historic gem of city for those who are planning their next trip to Canada.
To fully experience Quebec City, it's best to arrive by train for the fantastic views of the historic Old Town. From the Via Rail station in Lower Town, tourists are greeted with views of the Old City high up on a cliff. The old city is accessed by steep, twisty, narrow roadways or the apt-named "breakneck stairs" that have been around since the 1600s.
Visitors traveling by train from the US come into Montreal via Amtrak, then transfer to VIA Rail Canada trains going to Québec City. There is only Amtrak route that goes to Montreal: the Adirondack. It begins at New York City's Penn Station and travels through the Hudson Valley Wine Country before finishing at Montreal's Central Station. The journey takes 10 hours, leaving in the morning and arriving in the evening. Tickets cost between US$70 to US$100 depending on the fare class you purchase. There is also only one train leaving the stations each day, so take care not to miss it.
The Via Rail trains run four times a day from Montreal and offer a pleasant 3-hour trip east to Quebec City. For a truly memorable journey, spring for a first-class seat that includes a hot meal, wine, beer, spirits, and chocolate truffles. That's how to arrive in style.
For your Amtrak return to the U.S. from Montreal, plan on arriving at least 30 minutes before your scheduled departure time for border processing. Please make sure you allocate enough time for this step. If you miss the train, you'll have to wait a whole day for another one.
If you decide to drive from Montreal to Quebec City, there are two directions you can takel: Autoroute 20 or the more scenic Autoroute 40. Both take approximately 3 hours assuming that traffic cooperates. Quebec City is also about 500 miles (8 hours) from New York City and less than 400 miles (6 hours) from Boston.
Coming from New York or destinations south of the Big Apple, take Interstate 91 to the Canadian border. From Boston, the best route is to take I-93 and switch to I-91 in Vermont. After crossing the border, I-91 becomes Quebec Autoroute 55, to Sherbrooke. From Sherbrooke take Autoroute 55 to Autoroute 20. Once you cross the Pont Pierre-Laporte bridge, turn right onto Wilfrid-Laurier boulevard, which leads to the Château Frontenac.
If you're visiting Canada and need to rent a car, you're in luck. Many big-name car rental companies—such as Hertz, Avis, and Enterprise—all operate in Canada, making it easy for you to pick up a car and go. In fact, some compact cars can be rented for as low as $25 a day.
Air Canada, which flies from the U.S. via Montreal or Toronto, is the most popular airline. However, WestJet, Alaska, and United are also good options. United has many different flight routes while WestJet provides affordable airfare for budget travelers. All flights arrive at Québec City Jean Lesage International Airport (YQB), which is only a 20-minute cab ride into downtown.
The bus is the least expensive option and relatively easy to use, as long as you don't mind making extra stops along the way. Greyhound runs from New York and Boston to Montreal. From there, you can transfer to one of the hourly buses connecting to Québec City via Orléans Express. Similar to a car ride, the bus takes around three hours to drive from Montreal to Quebec City. The bus service also links Quebec City to most points throughout the province and the rest of Canada.
Note on Crossing the Border
If you're traveling to Quebec City from the United States you will have to go through the customs process. The process varies depending on your transportation method so be sure to research what documents you'll require. A passport will be more than enough, however U.S. citizens may be able to get by with a government issued driver's license