Set on the St Lawrence River, Montreal is a thriving city with a heavy French influence. Its exciting culinary scene is a big draw, serving up everything from buttery, flaky pastries to smoked meat sandwiches. But hard as it might be to tear yourself away from a plate of poutine, you shouldn’t miss the chance to explore outside the city limits, where you’ll find enigmatic archipelagos, powerful waterfalls and gothic cities.
Strikingly different to almost anywhere else in North America, Quebec often feels like a slice of France sandwiched in the heart of Canada. It’s the oldest French-speaking city on the continent, Quebec holds its European roots in strong esteem – while all residents are taught English in school, the majority primarily speak French. This, combined with the city’s architecture, cuisine and overall atmosphere, will transport you to continental Europe (in less than half the time).
The nation’s capital city has more going for it than simply governmental practices and gothic parliamentary buildings. Ottawa has a thriving cultural and culinary scene, with a number of museums that alone make a visit here worth it. While visiting during the (quite literally) freezing winter months may not seem appealing, this is when the city comes alive. Rather than letting the sub-zero temperatures force them into hibernation, residents celebrate the season and many even commute to work by skating down the frozen-over canal that runs through the center of the city.
Helping you gain insight into present-day life in Ottawa as well its history, this is an educational sightseeing trip that packs in a huge amount. Your bike tour will start with a ride along the magical Rideau Canal Western Pathway to one of Ottawa’s most-popular neighborhoods, the Glebe. Continuing along the canal, which connects Ottawa to the city of Kingston, you’ll visit Hog’s Back Falls, Carleton University, the Dominion Arboretum, Fletcher Wildlife Garden, the Central Experimental Farm and the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum. Along the way, your guide will keep you informed about each stop and its significance to the city.
In just under three hours you can drive from inner-city Montreal to the archipelago – and ultimate Canadian getaway – that is the Thousand Islands. Made up of 1,864 islands in total, there’s plenty to explore here. Culture buffs can enjoy two Unesco World Heritage sites, while outdoor enthusiasts can spend days hiking, cycling and boating around endless woodlands and waterways. Whichever you prefer, make sure you save some time to visit the area’s multitude of wineries and craft breweries.
Should you need a reminder of the sheer power of mother nature, Montmorency Falls will do the trick. With viewing options from all angles – above, below and from the side – you can get a 360-degree perspective of the falls. Should you want to take it a step further, there is a suspension bridge that allows the bold to teeter above the falls themselves, a truly awe-inspiring experience bound to give acrophobes wobbly knees. Winter only increases the magnificence of these falls: the spray freezes and creates a 30m (98ft) hill that’s popular with ice climbers and tobogganers.
This relaxing 16-mile (25.75-kilometer) bike ride allows you to visit Montmorency Falls and pack in some sightseeing at the same time. Starting in Old Quebec, you’ll pedal along the northern outskirts of the city, over the picturesque Saint-Charles River and along the Corridor du Littoral (a two-way bicycle-only lane). Stop at Domaine de Maizerets, a popular urban park with walking trails, wildlife and an arboretum, before continuing on along the St. Lawrence River to the falls. Once there, you’ll take a cable car to the top to admire them in all their glory.
This bucolic island on the St Lawrence River, lined with lush orchards and historic vineyards, is just a 15-minute drive from downtown Quebec. Once there, you’ll feel a million miles from the city. There’s a single main road running around the periphery of the island, making this a quaint getaway where you can spend the day strolling among verdant fields, picking wild fresh fruit as you go.