Québec City is a must visit considering its age, history and unique character. You will need 2 days and more to do it justice.
- The easiest way of getting there without the hassle of driving the three hours on the boring South Shore Highway 20 is the bus. Orleans Express Coach Lines offers hourly service to Québec City from downtown Montreal every day with some departures originating from the Montreal International Airport. This bus company is nothing like Greyhound or any tour bus company you may have experienced in your travels: its fleet of coaches, 2 ½ years old on average, offers comfortable roomy seating with personal airline-like tables and electric connections at every seats for personal computers, etc. The trip takes 3h15 min. from downtown Montreal ("Station Centrale" bus terminal) to downtown Québec City ("Gare du Palais" bus terminal). Its drivers are vey professional. In Québec City, you arrive at a state-of-the-art bus terminal located only a short uphill walk from the historic old town ('' Gare du Palais ', 418-525-3000). When you board the bus in Montreal, the driver will ask you if you're heading for Ste Foy or "centre-ville" (downtown, Old Town) so your luggage will be stored accordingly under the bus: if you're going to the Old Town, make sure you get off at the second stop ("Gare du Palais"), otherwise you will need to take a long and costly cab ride to reach the Old Town.
You may also take the train, if you'd like more personal space than a coach. The connections between Montreal and Quebec are much less frequent, compared to the bus. You may check timetable and fares at Via Rail's bilingual website; should you need to call them for infos, details here . Note that if you buy your tickets at least 5 days in advance (the sooner the better), you may get a sensible discount, if there are so-called SuperSaver discount seats left (economy seats in limited number). There are two train stations in Québec City: when arriving from Montreal, the train first stops at 'Sainte-Foy' , and after at 'Gare du Palais' . If you are going to a hotel near the bridges over the St-Laurent River, or near the big shopping centres on Boulevard Laurier, you stop in Ste-Foy. It is a very very small train station, in the middle of nowhere, and you must take a taxi from there. For ALL other destinations in town, you must stop at the 'Gare du Palais' train station. From there, you may walk uphill to either of the two youth hostels in the Old (Upper) Town (this will take you 15 to 30 minutes, depending on your load and fitness!), would it be the International one, or the independent Auberge de la Paix (taxi CAN$5 max) or hotels on Carré d'Youville, Grande-Allée, and so on — all within a short distance uphill.
- Location of the bus and train terminal Gare du Palais: here on the map.
If you arrive by bus, there are also two bus stations: 'Sainte-Foy' (not the same as the train, but in the same neighbourhood) and 'Gare du Palais' (same as the train station, within walking distance of the Old Town). There are buses and taxis readily available at Gare du Palais, less so in the Ste-Foy station.
- There is a third option, besides renting a car : car pooling.
- 1) Allo-Stop (bilingual site) is an agency which promotes the sharing of personal cars between the most popular destinations. There are six offices in the province, including one in Montreal and one in Quebec City. You get a membership card, valid for one year, and when you need to travel, whether it's between Montreal and Quebec City (certainly the most popular route) or other destinations in the province, you let them know which day you are interested in traveling. Once a car driver expresses his or her wishes to take passengers to the same destination, a match is done, and you get a ride at a fraction of the cost compared to any other mean of public transportation. The driver must drop you off at set locations upon arrival, or at any subway station if using that service to go to Montreal.
- 2) Amigo Express (French) or Kangaride (English) : Same idea as Allo-Stop. You enter where you want to go and when and you can search all the available options. There are many choices and especiailly between Quebec- Montreal, there are many rides in a day. Membership does cost for one year but you can also get 6 months free if a friend sends you an invitation or if you're a student. When making a reservation, you pay a reservation fee of 5$ + tax per booking and then pay the driver upfront for the cost of your ride. Usually it will cost between 15$ in the case from Québec to Montreal but even a 6 hour drive (Montreal to Toronto) usually only cost 30$. A great deal. They also provide customer service by phone 7 days a week, all year long.
- For those who prefer the cheapest way of getting to Quebec City, from Montreal, or to Montreal from Quebec City : you may hitch hike ( definitely not advisable in wintertime! ).
To Quebec City : Head to Longueuil subway station. When exiting, take the bus going to Boucherville. When you hop on the bus, tell the driver you want to go on the Hwy 20, and not to Boucherville (otherwise, you will pay for a full ticket). Ask him or her to drop you off as close as possible to the highway. You will have to walk up a very short distance to the access road, and then walk 5 to 10 minutes so you can get the traffic coming out of Longueuil as well as the traffic coming out of Montreal. Watch for ''Sico'' sign, it is a painting factory. This is your very best spot; you'll never wait more than 5 minutes to get a ride there.
To Montreal : cross the Laporte bridge (1 mile) to the south bank. Keep your right. Don't ever start hitching here, in the exit! ! Walk through the exit for the Hwy 20 west (the Montreal direction) until you face a waterfall (the waterfall is on the 20 east side). You will see a little bridge: this is your very best sport. Right there, you get the outcoming traffic from Quebec City, but also from all the east of the province as well; it is a safe place for a car to stop, and you are in a location where drivers could see you far enough in advance. If the weather deteriorates, you may find shelter under the overpass nearby.
TO CROSS THE ST-LAURENT RIVER (upon arrival or departure) :
- By car, bicycle or on foot using a bridge : the Pont de Québec is the oldest bridge, and is the longest cantilever-type (self-suspended) in the world; its design is similar to the Firth of Forth Bridge in Edinburgh. It is still considered as an engineering masterpiece , although it fell twice when being erected at the beginning of the 20th century, killing 87 workers in total. It leads to Hwy 132 on the south shore. If driving in bad weather conditions in wintertime, this is the safest of the two bridges, and year long it also is the least busy one at rush hours. The Laporte Bridge leads to Hwy #20 on the south shore. Before crossing the bridges, don't hesitate to stop at the Tourist Information Bureau located on highway 20 East in Lévis (Saint-Nicolas).
If you are arriving from the south and are heading to Québec City, the Laporte Bridge (which doubles as Highway 73) is the easiest to navigate through. If your intention is to drive to the airport , arriving from the south shore: keep driving on the center or the left lane and follow signs for HWY 540 (locally known as "Duplessis"). If you are heading for Ste-Foy, follow the signs for "Henri IV" (or Hwy 73 Nord) and eventually exit at Boul. Laurier. You may drive through Boul. Laurier and further east to reach Old Québec, but a more scenic drive will require you to stay in the right lane of the Laporte bridge, and exit RIGHT at the end of the crossing . Follow the direction ''Boul. Champlain''. Boul. Champlain is a very pleasant drive, as it follows the river and provides a more than scenic view. The pic from the above link 'engineering masterpiece' was taken from this boulevard. You may either turn left and drive up Côte Gilmour (Gilmour Hill - closed in wintertime), 8 km from the exit of the bridge, and reach the Plaines d'Abraham (Battlefield Park), pass by the National Fine Arts Museum (Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec), and keep driving constantly to your right every time you have a decision to take until you reach Old Québec 5 km farther; OR: keep driving on Boul. Champlain until you pass the ferry, and only then turn left and proceed to go uphill towards the Château Frontenac, Grande-Allée, etc. ( Old Town). A multiservice Tourist Information Bureau is located right in front of the Château Frontenac at 12, rue Sainte-Anne. You can also take advantage of free advices on the area by calling 1-877-783-1608.
If you are leaving Québec and cross the Laporte bridge, the HWY nr 20 east will be on your left hand side, while the HWY nr 20 west, leading to Montreal, will be on your right hand side, as the HWY 73 south, leading to Beauce area and the States.
You may also cross the Pont de Québec
the service is provided by the south shore bus service only, Réseau Trans-Sud
, whose buses look different
from the ones from Québec City. You may catch one of their buses at different locations, one of the closest stops to the bridge is at Laurier Québec
(a major shopping mall), next to the entrance of La Baie
(Hudson's Bay Co.) store.
- By car, bicycle or on foot, using the ferry : The ferry crosses the river every 20 minutes at rush hour, every half-hour in the daytime, every hour in the evening. It costs CAN 3,10$ per adult foot passenger per crossing, and you may buy a monthly pass for CAN$27,50. More details on the Québec-Lévis ferry service's in this somewhat bilingual website: Société des Traversiers du Québec - schedule here - all fares here. In the former rail station where people exit, in Lévis, a smal local tourist office operates during summertime, at ground level. There is an ATM machine at the foot of the staircase. When exiting the ferry on the south shore, the access to a very easy flat 15 km long cycle/walking path lies within a few meters. The path, called Parcours des Anses , is a linear park, using the space formerly occupied by railway tracks. Magnificent views of Québec City from it. Pedestrians, bicycle drivers, roller skaters and wheelchairs are welcome. Access is free of charge.