Oh, La Belle Province… J’adore! (OK, that’s about enough of my grade-school French.) I’ve visited Quebec so many times over the years — starting with my grade 7/8 class trip and road trips to party in Hull with girlfriends as soon as we turned 18 to a recent visit to Quebec City with Chevrolet to drive the new Blazer and many ski trips to Tremblant with my family. So I figured it was about time to put together a Quebec road trip itinerary to inspire you to drive from the Outaouais region and then Montreal to Quebec City (or the reverse).
I’ve been asked about the best season to explore Quebec and the truth is that you can find something to do in any season there. Quebec truly embraces whatever Mother Nature throws at it year-round and there’s an attraction or activity perfectly suited for the weather you encounter on your trip.
Even if you’re Canadian, travelling to Quebec often feels like you’ve gone to another country. The language, customs, food, architecture — it all feels just a little more European than the rest of our beautiful country. But don’t fret — if you only speak English, you shouldn’t have too much trouble communicating (especially in Montreal).
Although you can easily fly to Quebec’s major hubs, I suggest driving — even if that means renting a vehicle — because it’s a pretty big province and the best way to find both the major landmarks and hidden gems alike is with four wheels.
There’s obviously a lot more to Quebec than just the regions I’ve included in this Quebec road trip itinerary, but since I’ve only scratched the surface myself, this is where we’ll start. As I experience more of my neighbouring province, I’ll be sure to create new stops here as well.
Quebec road trip map
I hope you find this Quebec road trip map helpful (because, boy, it took a long time to create). You’ll see there are three different “layers” to it: things to do, food & drink and accommodations. These represent my favourite hot spots and off-the-beaten-path finds from Outaouais and Montreal to Quebec City and Charlevoix (and a little place in between called Montebello).
You can click on the map to take you to Google Maps — here, you can then select one, two or all of the layers to see all of the location pins; zoom in and out; get driving directions between points; and even get to the attraction’s or restaurant’s websites.
Anything pinned in the map is also mentioned later in this post in more detail, so this should serve as a handy reference.
Outaouais road trip ideas
First up on my Quebec road trip itinerary: the Outaouais region. Sure, it sounds like Ottawa and it even looks like Ottawa, and — heck — people even commute from here to work in Ottawa. But make no mistake — you’re still in Quebec.
Outaouais is on the north side of the Ottawa River, just opposite Ottawa, connected by the Royal Alexandra Interprovincial Bridge. It includes the city of Gatineau (where the infamous Hull nightclubs used to beckon us when we were still underage in Ontario), the Pontiac region and Maniwaki.
Considered Ottawa’s “twin city,” Outaouais is a great starting point for your Quebec road trip.
Planning to cross the bridge into Ontario and explore Ottawa while you’re in the neighbourhood? One of our favourite hotels is there! Read my Andaz Ottawa review.
Where to stay in Outaouais
The Hilton Lac Leamy is quite possibly the nicest Hilton in which I’ve ever stayed. We even met a gentleman one night at dinner who stays in Hiltons for work 200+ nights per year and he says it’s in his top five around the world. Now that’s an endorsement!
The rooms are spacious and beautifully appointed, the lobby is stunning and the onsite restaurant is outstanding (there’s even a half-price wine night). There’s a gorgeous outdoor pool, too; find a view from the top — it’s shaped like a fish! And the hotel connects to the casino so you don’t have to walk outside if it’s cold. Watch for the illuminated fountains out front, too.
I loved the view from my room,the bed and bedding was extremely comfortable, and the shower was big enough for a party.
What to do in Outaouais
This is a must, but keep in mind that the park is HUGE, so depending on how much of it you want to see, you may need to allot a half or even full day just to the park. I recommend starting at the Visitor Centre (which I’ve pegged on that map up above) to get your bearings and ask staff any questions.
There are some taxidermied animals on display (a cute, educational display — not a terrifying one that your kids will never be able to unsee), and you’ll be glad to hear that all of the animals were found deceased and not killed simply to be stuffed.
Within Gatineau Park, you can explore Pink Lake in the warmer months (spoiler alert: it’s not actually pink) or head over to Camp Fortune during the winter for some skiing or boarding. Pink Lake has a 2.5 km hiking trail around its perimeter or you can just head to the Pink Lake Lookout if you’d rather not so the hike. When the sun hits the lake just right, it lights up the water and makes it look so turquoise you might mistake it for Moraine Lake out west. (Well, like, except for the missing mountains and all.)
People, I know my spas. I’ve been to LOTS of them in my time on earth. And this one is probably my favourite to date. It’s set in nature with a variety of water therapy treatments and has different areas to experience the true Nordic circuit (hot-cold-relax), but where it shines is with three dedicated zones for various levels of quiet — and not so quiet.
There’s a no-talking area for total silence, a whisper-only area where you’re welcome to speak in hushed volumes and then — my personal favourite — the social area where not only talking at any decibel is a approved, but you can also hit the bar and take your bevvies into the hot tubs!
You need a solid three to four hours if you want to make it to every area and experience what each has to offer without feeling rushed. Don’t forget to link your credit card to your wristband when you check in so you can enjoy the bar or onsite restaurants.
Here are the highlights:
- The AUFGUSS ritual — quite possibly one of the most interesting, actively meditative experiences of my life. Do NOT miss this! It only happens once an hour (on the hour) in one location in the spa, and it fills up, so arrive early. Free with your access to the spa, the Aufgussier uses a series of carefully choreographed towel movements set to music (we had three dynamic Beyoncé tunes), which circulates hot air around the Finlandia sauna that’s created in part by melting essential oil-infused snowballs. Yes, actual snowballs. It’s a one-of-a-kind sensory delight and each Aufgussier uses different music, choreography and essential oils thereby producing a different experience each time. Pro Tip: If you LOVE the heat, the second and third rows of seating are for you. I sat in the middle and by the end it was getting too hot for me, so I would personally sit on the bottom row the next time. Gratefully, the ritual takes place in a dry sauna that’s right beside one of the coldest plunge pools and icy-cold waterfalls at the spa — head there immediately upon exiting! Then go find a sweet spot to relax and process the experience
- KÄLLA — one of only two Dead Sea-style salt water flotation pools in the world, this is an add-on to your water circuit package, and I only recommend spending the extra $45 if you plan to be at the spa for at least three hours because you’ll want to revisit it a couple of times to really get its fully benefit, in my opinion. The first time I went in was just after my first hot-cold cycle and I just couldn’t seem to get totally comfortable — even with the available pillows, my neck was stiff. After the next cycle, however, I tried again and I think the key was being more relaxed, because the second time around I felt completely weightless and drifted off to sleep. While floating. Very cool! I wish I’d had time for a third round to really make that $45 worthwhile, and next time I’ll be carving out a solid five hours for my Nordik visit
- VAPORO sauna — two steam rooms with two different scents: eucalyptus and orange. While I normally love a eucalyptus steamer, the orange was my favourite between the two
- Suspended buckets (a summer experience only) — located at the Maa and Tuli sauna exits, you’ll find two suspended buckets filled with cold water. Stand under them and pull on the cord for an invigorating cold cycle
- The Panorama area — after the hot-cold thermal shock, a rest period of about 20 minutes slows adrenaline secretion to make way for delicious endorphins. I liked the social areas for this most, but there are some nice spots with Muskoka chairs huddled around fires in the quieter zones, too
- TELLURA — I also fell asleep in here! It’s basically your perfect nap room, with heated stone beds made of quartz. If they’re full, climb up to the top bunks and wait it out
(To say I’m excited about the new Nordik in Whitby that’s opening soon is an understatement since I’ll get to have all of this just 20 minutes from home!)
Casino Lac Leamy
I’m not much of a gambler, but I do love walking a casino floor. All of the lights and palpable excitement is a people-watcher’s dream. This casino is bright and inviting with plenty of space to move around and get your game on.
There are live dealers, digital-only spaces and of course row upon row of slot machines. There’s even a club somewhere in there that I didn’t get to — just be aware of its very strict dress code.
Where to eat & drink in Outaouais
I only spent 24 hours in the Outaouais region but I managed to scarf down some fantastic food in that time:
- Arôme (Hilton Lac Leamy) — an incredible steakhouse with 70-day aged beef on the menu
- Le Cellier — with some of the most gorgeous tartars I’ve had anywhere
- Biscotti & Cie — an adorable bistro-style eatery nestled into Chelsea at the edge of Gatineau Park. Have the pizza!
Mont-Tremblant road trip ideas
Unless you’re new to my blog, you know we’re mad for Tremblant and I never miss an opportunity to encourage people to visit. And what would a Quebec road trip be without a trip to my family’s Happy Place?!
We’ve gone to Tremblant in all but one season, and there’s more to do in the area than we’ve ever been able to fit into our many stays. (And just when you think you’ve done it all, they go and create something new.) Returning again and again is always a treat.
Where to stay in Mont-Tremblant
I haven’t stayed everywhere in and around Tremblant yet but I’ve stayed at many over the years that have become favourites…
In the pedestrian village:
- Fairmont Tremblant — situated at the end of the 6 km Nansen green run and adjacent to one of the bunny hills that becomes the tubing park at night in the winter months, this property is a resort unto itself. It also has a ski valet included for guests and the best collection of restaurants at the mountain. There are also three awesome outdoor pools that are open all year (bring a toque for the coldest days!)
- Holiday Inn Express & Suites Tremblant — the best value accommodations in the village and the nicest Holiday Inn you’ll ever see (with breakfast included, no less). Each room has at least a basic kitchenette and the suites have full kitchens
- Le Westin Resort & Spa — beautiful multi-room suites ideal for big families who can save a boatload of money by using gourmet in-suite kitchens. Le Westin also has a fabulous outdoor heated pool, which is lit up beautifully at night
- Residence Inn by Marriott — great location, a fantastic selection of rooms that can work for any-size family and a pretty decent free breakfast for every guest
- Ermitage du Lac — condo-style accommodations with free breakfast that despite its good lower village location feels removed from the hustle and bustle
Outside of the village & on the free resort shuttle route:
- Les Manoirs — gorgeous two-floor chalets set up high into tree-lined surroundings (I prefer this location for summer months as there are steep stone stairs taking you up to your door, which get icy and can be difficult to manage in winter with bags and equipment). These are incredible for girlfriend getaways because there are lots of bedrooms, a full kitchen, living room, dining room and multiple bathrooms
- Tremblant Les Eaux — easier to manage in the winter with the absence of front steps but a slightly farther walk to the shuttle stop, these chalets are well laid out and have everything you need for a comfortable stay
Outside of the village:
- Altitude chalets — built right into the side of the mountain, these ski-in/out chalets are gorgeous and feature great layouts, loads of space, luxe common spaces designed for entertaining and a communal hot tub for each set of room blocks. The biggest downside is that although the walk down the driveway is easy, the walk back up at the end of the day (especially for little kids who can’t yet manage the challenging blue ski-in trail) is pretty tough and the resort shuttle doesn’t service this area for some reason
- Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham Mont-Tremblant — this is a great little property just minutes from the resort and it has a waterpark! You’ll find a really good free breakfast here, too
- Chateau Beauvallon — hands down, our favourite off-resort lodging. There’s a great little indoor pool, an outdoor hot tub, a really good free breakfast and a free on-demand resort shuttle with door to door service
What to do in Mont-Tremblant
It’s all about four-season indoor and outdoor fun at Tremblant! And you may hear people talk about Tremblant and Mont-Tremblant as two different things — and they sort of are. Tremblant usually refers to the resort itself where the mountain and pedestrian village are located, while Mont-Tremblant is the town itself (which can even be called Old Tremblant by some). The former is a good 10-15 minute drive from the latter.
Things to do indoors at Tremblant (the resort):
- Studio Créatif — painting pottery is a great way to while away a few hours if it’s rainy or otherwise miserable outside; just leave yourself 24 hours to ensure there’s time to fire and pick up your masterpiece
- Mission Laser — laser tag. So much fun!
- Mission Liberté — escape rooms! We have only tried one but it was a blast and an excellent family activity that forced us to work together as a team to try and solve all the riddles
- T-Bar — another good rainy-day activity: making T-shirts (or rather printing on pre-made Ts)
- Casino Mont-Tremblant — if you’ve got money burning a hole in your pocket…or just want to see some action after dark
- Bar Café D’Epoque — one of the hot spots in Tremblant for drinking and dancing (once named one of the best après spots in the world)
Things to do outdoors at Tremblant (the resort):
Here are just a few of my favourite things to do at Tremblant, most of which can be booked directly through the Adventure Centre at Tremblant…
- The panoramic gondola ride — whether you go up in the warmer or cooler months doesn’t matter. Whether you ski or board or neither doesn’t matter. You have to go up to the summit and experience Tremblant’s gondola; the views from the top are breathtaking!
- Tonga Lumina — a unique summertime experience that takes you up a chair lift with a Bluetooth-enabled amulet around your neck that allows you to become part of this interactive installation artform. Ideal for kids 5+ who are comfortable in the dark and can manage a 1.5 km walk
- Parc Plage (the beach) — we love Tremblant’s private beach, with lots of watersports options and an onsite burger joint
- Helicopter ride — this runs year-round, weather permitting, and is such a brilliant way to see Tremblant with a bird’s-eye view
- Lac Tremblant boat cruise — a lovely and informative cruise around the lake where you can see the waterfront McMansions belonging to the likes of Mario Lemieux and other high-profile folks
- Skiing & snowboarding — we learned to ski at Tremblant and just love how “homey” it feels. It’s contained enough that you’ll never feel lost on the mountain but offers a lot of diverse terrain for every level
- Tubing — the tubing is so much fun to do after dinner on nice winter nights
- Snowshoeing — you can straight-up snowshoe through any number of trails marked on the mountain or, better still, try the snowshoe & fondue tour at sunset on select winter nights
- Alpine touring — there’s a festival every February for people who want to learn how to “earn their turns” and test out skinning with intro courses led by experts who will help you figure out how to use faux “skins” on downhill skis with special bindings to go UP the mountain before you get to come back down
- Expedition Wolf dogsledding or horse-sledding — while I strongly recommend dogsledding with your kids, I’d leave the horse-sledding to adrenaline-junky adults only
- D-Tour — eBikes are fun any time of year, but the winter eBike tour is so much fun that I gladly give up half a day of skiing to do it (and I love my ski time)
If you’re visiting Quebec in the winter, you’ll want to bring lots of warm clothes and plenty of layers (especially if you’re planning on doing outdoor activities) because it gets very cold! Here’s my essential ski gear guide to help you out.
Things to do in Mont-Tremblant (the town):
- Scandinave Spa — a recent renovation has made dramatic improvements to this Nordic-style spa and it’s an amazing place to visit during a romantic trip to Tremblant. I recommend an evening visit — there are lots of blankets and heated areas to really settle into the night. Note that this is a primarily silent experience and there are professional “shushers” wandering around ensuring that the noise levels are very low
- Look for deer! They’re everywhere in Mont-Tremblant!
- Ice skate on Lac Mercier — it’s free to skate on this frozen lake, which often has a loop carved out for skaters and a small, makeshift hockey rink in the middle. Rent skates at Max Ski Service if you don’t bring your own
- Domaine Saint-Bernard — ask my kids what one of their favourite memories is of Mont-Tremblant and they’ll tell you it’s feeding the birds at Domaine St-Bernard this past winter. Pick up free bird food at the welcome lodge and descend into the forest following the hiking/snowshoeing trails. Go slowly and when you see some of the little chickadees, stop and put some seeds in the palms of your hands or even on your head. They’ll swoop in for a snack over and over again!
- Slip on Tube, Snow Adventures Laurentides — some of the fastest, steepest tubing EVER!
Where to eat & drink in Mont-Tremblant
We’ve had the pleasure of eating at every restaurant in the Tremblant Village. Here’s my complete Tremblant restaurant guide. My biggest must-tries would be:
- The traditional raclette dinner at La Savoie (wear stretchy pants)
- Sunday brunch at the Fairmont
- Pulled pork poutine or the nacho stack at Le Shack
- The seafood tower at Altitude in the casino
- Chicken pot pie in The Grand Manitou
- Bison tartare at Le Q.G.
- Baileys coffee at Le Refuge (you have to find it first! Take a free Info Ski Guide mountain tour and request a stop here)
- Cast-iron cookie dessert at Ya’ooo Pizza Bar (the pizza, too, but this cookie)
In town, head to Resto-pub au coin, MAD Grill and Vieux Four.
OK, this is a little bit of a detour… But if you can spare an extra day on your Quebec road trip between Tremblant and Montreal, please dip down to stay at the Fairmont Montebello — the world’s biggest log cabin! It’s more like a log mansion and features a spectacular multi-sided fireplace and several onsite amenities and activities for four-season fun — with or without the family.
Be sure to request a renovated room and eat dinner at Aux Chantignoles while you’re there (I strongly recommend that two people share the sunflower homemade bread, heirloom tomatoes, braised short ribs, ribeye with bordelaise sauce, lava cake and pecan tart).
If you’re in the area during warmer weather, take a drive over to Kenauk Nature Resort. There’s a new climbing tower that will challenge even the most skilled climbers and reward those who make it to the top with incredible lake views, or explore one of the reserve’s many lakes by canoe or kayak. You can stay in a cabin here, too, if you have even more time to spare — just be forewarned that there’s no Wi-Fi!
Montreal road trip ideas
Next on my Quebec road trip itinerary is Montreal.
Quebec’s biggest city has everything: arts and culture, history, great restaurants, incredible architecture, fun attractions and lodging suitable for everyone and every budget. On an island made up of a collection of Burroughs, Montreal gets its name from its crown centrepiece: Mount Royal. It’s so cherished that nothing is allowed to be built in the city that would dwarf Mount Royal’s peak.
You can do Montreal in as little as two days or easily spend a full week here seeing the highlights and digging down deeper into all this city has to offer.
Where to stay in Montreal
I’ve stayed at two hotels in Montreal: Hotel Bonaventure and the InterContinental Montreal. (As an adult, that is. You don’t want to know what I stayed in when I was visiting in my early 20s.) Both have underground access to Métro stations and both have plenty of restaurants and attractions within easy walking distance.
Pro tip: Grab a Métro (subway) map at just about any local hotel or stations themselves and, depending on which way you want to travel, simply head toward the last stop noted at either end of your line. Kids 12 and under ride for free on Fridays after 4 p.m. and all weekend long.
Hotel Bonaventure is enormous and a short walk across the street from the VIA Rail terminal if you happen to do any part of your Quebec travel by train. It’s the more budget-friendly of the two hotels, and more centrally located, but the rooms aren’t nearly as inspiring as the InterContinental’s. Bonaventure has a lovely heated outdoor pool, though, that’s open year-round and it looks like a barrel-style Finnish sauna is being added very soon.
Both properties would work well for families, but I prefer a one-bedroom suite whenever possible so we can put the kids to bed and then hang out on our own without doing a complete lights-out, and I can only speak to the suites at the InterContinental (which we loved).
An added bonus of Hotel Bonaventure is its proximity to a year-round indoor skating rink at Atrium Le 1000, which also houses a number of fast-food and fast-casual restaurants — all of which are going to be easier on your wallet than the restaurant in the hotel, which offers good food but small portions considering the prices.
If you have Club Lounge access at Hotel Bonaventure, take advantage of the free breakfast, which is better than continental but not quite as bountiful as the buffet in the main restaurant. You’ll also be able to grab bottled water, coffee and tea all day in the Club Lounge with your key card.
Thinking about staying in Old Montreal while you visit? My InterContinental Montreal review may convince you.
What to do in Montreal
If you can’t find something fun to do in Montreal, something’s wrong. With you. Because Montreal — still fresh off its 375th birthday celebrations — is teeming with endless activities whether you bring your kids, fly solo or head out with your partner or girlfriends. And you’ll have no trouble navigating this Anglo-friendly city since just about everyone speaks English.
Things to do in Montreal with kids
- Museum of Fine Arts — I found the new Mummy Exhibit fascinating and even if your kid isn’t interested in learning about the technology the British Museum used to uncover its findings that are shared throughout this detailed exhibit, they’ll undoubtedly love getting up close to real-life mummies and tombs
- Swimming at Parc Olympique (Montreal Olympic Park) — pack your swimsuits and flip flops and find out when the public swimming hours are so you can swim in a real Olympic pool, dive from greater heights than you probably have at your community pool and maybe even stay to watch diving practise for hopeful Olympians
- Biodome — the Space for Life Museum and Planetarium are my kids’ favourites of the four different facilities that make up the Biodome’s ecosystem
Adventure in Montreal
- Spade & Palacio pink bike tours — the most fun you’ll have on two wheels! Get to know Montreal on bike with a professional guide leading the way. You can take a pre-determined route or bigger groups can even customize their own tour. We spent three hours cruising through different neighbourhoods, rolling into back alleys and exploring Jean-Talon Market where we stopped for a bite. This is in my top three for guided tours I’ve done around the world
- The Montreal Tower — go all the way up, enjoy the view, come back down. It’s that simple but it’s a fun thing to do if you’re in the area
- KSF — in nicer weather, hit up this waterfront company who can get you out on the St. Lawrence River one way or another (we did a standup paddleboard 101 workshop with some SUP yoga, but if you’ve got decent SUP skills, opt to ride the current instead). There’s a perpetual natural wave near the shoreline, too, making it the perfect place to learn how to surf
Romance in Montreal
- La Grande Roux — an enclosed ferris-type wheel, similar to The London Eye but on a smaller scale
- Lachine Canal — a tranquil spot for a hand-in-hand wander by the water
- Mont-Royal (a.k.a. Mount Royal) — great for families, too, Mt-Royal’s footprint is very big and there are several entry and exit points. If you’re looking for an awesome place for a run, this is it
- Le Petit Navire — this boat tour along the waterfront is information-heavy and probably wouldn’t be that interesting for most kids. Oh, and they have wine glass slots onboard to protect your vino!
- Bota Bota spa — built in part on a permanently docked boat, it’s hard to believe when you step aboard that you’re in the middle of a big city because you’re instantly transported to zen; the social side of the spa where talking is permitted feels like a private pool party
And while it doesn’t fit just right in any of the above categories, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Saint-Louis Square in Plateau Mont-Royal. It’s Montreal’s version of San Francisco’s Painted Ladies, featuring gorgeous Victorian row houses painted vibrantly — creating a beautiful, artsy look and not a gaudy one. They’re just so darn pretty and worth seeing in person, regardless of your Montreal itinerary.
Where to eat & drink in Montreal
In what can be called both an experience and one of the best places to eat in Montreal, I’m going to kick this off with Jean-Talon Market. I enjoyed it so much that I made a special trip out of my way to return a second time, eat some more goodies and buy some products to take home with me.
Part farmers’ market, part food hall, Jean-Talon has been going since 1933. It’s in the heart of Montreal’s Little Italy and open all year, with kiosks swelling to maximum occupancy in the warmer months.
Come hungry and visit these stalls:
- Havre aux glaces (area 2) — it’s just the best gelato ever (try the cassis and coconut flavours)
- Fromagerie La Moutonnière (area 2) — cheese, cheese and more cheese (and if you don’t eat cheese at many places along your Quebec road trip, never speak to me again)
- La Boite Aux Huîtres (area 2) — spectacular fresh oysters with two different homemade mignonettes
- Les Filles Fatoush (area 3) — buy the pomegranate molasses to take home (OMG! So good!) and nosh on traditional Syrian dishes while supporting women refugees. Buy a bunch of mezze (small dishes) and some baked pita chips and set up your makeshift lunch at a nearby picnic table in the market square. I still dream of the Mouhamara dip!
- There was also a little kiosk selling canned foie gras that does free sampling so you can decide what to buy and another kiosk with a Carolina Reaper-infused maple butter — both of which I brought home and am still enjoying like crazy weeks later
Some great Montreal restaurants to consider:
- Schwartz’s — first of all, don’t go to Montreal and not try authentic Montreal smoked meat. Just don’t. It’s nothing like the deli meat that often goes by the same name in grocery stores, so get that idea out of your head. Instead, think thick, juicy cuts of meat that will awaken the carnivore within you. This is Canada’s oldest deli and there WILL be a line outside, but it moves fast and is worth camping out overnight if you have to (that’s a joke; you don’t need to do this). Inside, there’s communal seating and no-nonsense service. Your server is also your meat-cooker and can help guide your menu choices. Pro Tips:
- two people can easily share a small platter
- order your meat “medium fatty” (trust me on this one)
- if you get the fries, you should also get the hot peppers; cut them into bits and mix them with ketchup for a zinger of a dip
- the pickles are half-sours and SUPER BIG
- Candide — you might have a tough time finding this restaurant because it’s actually in a church! It’s purely a tasting menu and you’ll enjoy creativity and beautifully presented dishes that change on a monthly basis. The cocktails were nothing special but the food game was strong
- Les Enfants Terribles — on the 44th floor of Place Ville Marie, this is the highest restaurant in Montreal. Book your table in advance and cross your fingers for a clear night so you can watch the sun set during dinner. There’s also an observation deck above the restaurant but it closes at 6 p.m. Must-tries here include the foie gras mousse, burrata, ribs and octopus. The pudding chômeur is a Quebec dessert staple, but get the mini version unless you still have a big appetite after dinner or are sharing. My strawberry shortcake was a WOWer!
- Canal Lounge — just beyond the Atwater Market along the Lachine Canal, warmer weather will see the Canal Lounge open for business. It’s a bar on a boat, decorated in hundreds and hundreds of bright flowers. I enjoyed my coffee-based cocktail that came in a crazy monkey mug
- LOV — if you’re into plant-based eating, this restaurant chain around Montreal is 100 per cent vegan and had some nice dishes (the kimchi fries were my favourite dish on the menu and if the mushroom soup is a special the day you visit, go for it!)
For the very best breakfasts in Montreal, hit these up:
- Régine Café — still one of my favourite breakfasts of life! Arrive before it opens to get in line and know that even an hour-long wait (or more…) is worth every second because it will reward you with one flavour sensation after another
- L’Avenue — massive, delicious portions for small prices and a frenetic environment that’s better than a jolt of caffeine to get your day started. Make sure you visit the washroom with the black lighting!
- Le Cartet — a nice selection of breakfast dishes done right. Order the freshly baked “RÔTIES DE PAIN AUX BANANES À LA NOIX DE COCO” (coconut banana bread), which comes with a side of plain Greek yogurt that’s surprisingly perfect spread on top of each slice
Where to find the best bagels in Montreal:
Look, this can become a heated debate among the locals and when we asked for suggestions, two bagel shops emerged time and again: St-Viateur and Fairmount Bagel. So we had a bagel-off, trying each plain, with cream cheese and with salmon spread. (This was a serious competition.)
While both were excellent, St-Viateur was the resounding favourite among our group — we preferred its denser and sweeter dough to the slightly fluffier Fairmount bagels.
At the end of the day, you can’t go wrong, but lest ye judge a Montreal bagel by the ones offered in your hotel breakfast. To that, I say “NON!” Go get one fresh from a local bagelry. Eat it while it’s warm for the best experience, or slice them in half and freeze at home in the plastic sleeve that will come with your order.
Pro Tip: Cafe Felice is just around the corner from St-Viateur and for the price of a coffee will let you sit down to enjoy your fresh bagels. They’ll even hand you plates and knives if you ask nicely.
First Fridays in Montreal:
From early June through early October each year, Parc Olympic’s grounds turn into a food truck frenzy of Olympic proportion. First Fridays is one of Canada’s largest street food festivals, on the first Friday of the month, featuring more than 40 food trucks spread across the Sun Life Esplanade. It’s foodie heaven!
You can try every kind of poutine imaginable, including foie gras poutine, lobster poutine and — yes — original poutine. Of course, all of them are made with Quebec cheese curds (the freshest, squeakist ones!).
Bring cash and an appetite.
Indulge in a few sweet treats in Montreal:
- Mamie Clafoutis — while I was told this place had the best croissants, they were sold out by the time we arrived so I could only try the chocolate-filled version and I honestly wasn’t that impressed. But I did order an almond flour-based pistachio sweet bread slice of some sort that was so divine that it’s a good thing I don’t live within easy driving distance of this bakery
- Felix & Norton — Montreal’s famous cookies! We can only get them at home in the frozen food aisle and they’re still delish, so I was excited to try a fresh one and it didn’t disappoint
- Point G — the best macarons in the city, comparable to Ladurée-quality macarons from Paris
Quebec City & Charlevoix road trip ideas
And my final Quebec road trip stops in this post are beautiful Quebec City and the Charlevoix region. An area that’s definitely deserving of a “Europe in Canada” moniker.
The Montreal to Quebec City drive is about three hours but stay the course! Quebec City is a leg you can’t miss in this itinerary, and Charlevoix is only a touch farther east and definitely worth the drive.
If you’ve never been to Europe, you will feel instantly transported into history. If you love a European vibe, you’ll feel right at home in Quebec’s capital city. Dating back to ’08 — make that 1608! — its colonial stone buildings inside fortified city walls seem fit for royalty and you’ll even find narrow, cobbled streets that are reminiscent of yesteryear.
There are fewer perfectly bilingual speakers here as in Outaouais, Montreal or Tremblant, but patience with a side of hand gestures and a genuine smile should help earn you English menus and at least someone who can help you with directions. Remember that a “bonjour” here and “merci” there will go a long way.
Where to stay in Quebec City & Charlevoix
Auberge Saint-Antoine Relais & Châteaux
Although I didn’t have the opportunity to personally stay here overnight and I normally don’t make recommendations based on speculation, this is a rare exception. Because I trust the Relais & Châteaux designation so much after having stayed at The Post Hotel.
I loved the boutique hotel atmosphere at Auberge, had an incredibly memorable lunch and also spoke with another writer who’d stayed here the previous year for an anniversary trip with her partner (and raved) about it. All things considered, I know I’d want to return and stay here!
Hôtel & Spa Le Germain Charlevoix
Although this Le Germain isn’t typical of what you may expect if you’d stayed at any of its other properties, I think that’s part of what makes it interesting. It’s spread out in different buildings, set in the idyllic landscape that makes up the Charlevoix region.
The rooms are interesting and functional, with a welcome pad of heated flooring near the shower and vanity. The basic rooms are anything but, and though they’re small, space is used wisely. Wooden beams add to the cozy, rustic decor that complement’s Le Germain’s boutique opulence perfectly.
What to do in Quebec City & Charlevoix
- Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré — an ornate basilica in a town called La Côte-de-Beaupré Regional County Municipality, 35 kilometers north-east of Quebec City. Come inside and look for the dozens of crutches and other walking aids that have reportedly been left there after people were miraculously cured of their ailments onsite
- Montmorency Falls — these can be tricky to find, but you’ll be rewarded with brilliant views of the St Lawrence if you make your way to the bridge above the Falls
- Baie-Saint-Paul — a beautiful area for true road-tripping (just drive around and explore!)
- Isle-aux-Coudres — the FREE ferry to this little island in Charlevoix runs from very early to very late several times a day, and we really enjoyed driving the perimeter and making random stops (there’s a windmill, lovely bakeries and a great coffee shop I’ve listed below)
- Get to the top of Le Massif — before it becomes a Club Med resort in December 2021, drive to the top of the mountain, even if you go in summer or don’t ski. We didn’t have the best views the day we were there but the fog sure made the ride an adventurous one! I’m excited to ski here and give you more info about the mountain and conditions, which I hear are so good
Where to eat & drink in Quebec City & Charlevoix
It’s no secret: Quebec has great food.
But I think my overall favourite collection of restaurants is in the Quebec City and Charlevoix areas. From farm-to-table perfection and blow-your-mind bakeries to artisinal coffee shops and works-of-art tasting menus, if you’re going to splurge on foodie experiences, do it here.
- Chez Muffy (Quebec City) — a Relais & Chateau restaurant will never disappoint
- Les Labours (in the Le Germain hotel) — this is the place to try Quebec’s legacy dessert: the traditional pouding chômeur
- Faux Bergers (Baie-Saint-Paul) — book your tasting menu experience well in advance (like up to a year) and be prepared for your eyes, nose and mouth to work in harmony to take in the beautifully presented courses that look like something that walked right out of nature. As of summer 2019, the tasting menu was only $60 per person (an absolute steal)
- Boulangerie Bouchard (Isle-aux-Coudres) — come for classic pets-de-soeur, which translates literally to “a nun’s fart”
- La Fabrique de l’Isle (Isle-aux-Coudres) — perfectly roasted coffee and a cute little shop, too
Phew! I hope this inspires you to create your own Quebec road trip and explore one of the most beautiful provinces in Canada.
DISLAIMER: This guide is made up of a series of hosted visits across Quebec during the past few years, along with several experiences and meals we discovered (and paid for!) on our own. As always, all opinions and suggestions are my own.