Despite the old age ‘which is better’ debate between Montreal vs Toronto, both are great Canadian cities that have a lot to offer, and both are very different at the same time.
Toronto is a buzzing business hub of Canada, while Montreal has a charming, laid-back French vibe. Montreal is more affordable and historical, but Toronto is more multicultural and has more job opportunities.
Toronto is English speaking, while Montreal is mostly home to French Canadians.
Before moving to a new city, it’s a good idea to do your research and weigh up all the pros and cons of living in Montreal vs Toronto to make an informed decision.
I know it can be confusing, as I’ve been in a similar situation before moving to Canada and choosing the right place to live for me. So let’s dive into more details. Shall we?
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Living in Montreal vs Toronto
Montreal is the main city of Quebec province, while Toronto is the main city of Ontario. Both provinces are in Eastern Canada.
The significant difference between Montreal and Toronto is the language and culture. In Montreal, French is pretty much a necessity especially when it comes to finding employment.
You’ll most likely feel like an outsider if you can’t understand and interact in French. Therefore, if you’re considering moving to Quebec, language is a big factor.
You might be asking…Can you live in Montreal without speaking French at all? The answer is yes. Suppose your life, work and education revolve around English, and you live in English neighborhoods.
Then you won’t have to struggle with French all that much except for government services. That said, if you don’t speak French, you’ll be missing out. To experience the fullness of Montreal, it’s ideal if you’re bilingual and speak both English and French.
The European feel and French heritage are what makes Montreal a unique place in North America.
There are entire neighborhoods that are predominantly French-speaking. For many, the language barrier might be a deal breaker regardless of all the other benefits Montreal provides.
Some other things to weigh up: Toronto has much better health care, services, job opportunities, and wages.
On the other hand, living costs, including real estate and rent, plus the lifestyle and food scene, are better in Montreal.
Montreal vs Toronto Population
Toronto is one of the most multicultural cities in North America. More than 55% of the population of the Greater Toronto area wasn’t born in Canada, making Toronto a very diverse and cosmopolitan place to live.
In my opinion, diversity and inclusion are what makes Canada special. If you’re an expat like me, you might find it easier to blend in and integrate into Toronto.
Montreal’s population is approximately 1.7 million. If we include a larger metropolitan area, it’s over 4 mil. (2022), making it the second largest city in Canada after Toronto.
Toronto’s population is 2.7 million, and with a great area, it comes to 6.9 million (2022), making it the biggest and most populous city in Canada.
Montreal vs Toronto Size
Montreal – 431.5 square km Toronto – 630.2 square km
Montreal vs Toronto Weather
Canada has a reputation for harsh winters, and neither Montreal nor Toronto is an exception to this rule. Winters in both cities are pretty cold.
Montreal gets more snow and is slightly colder. However, Toronto is windier. Then there is freezing rain which is more common in Quebec than in Ontario.
Freezing rain makes icy roads and driving much more difficult in Montreal. So when it comes to weather, Toronto wins here.
On a positive note, Montreal is a much better city to live in if you want to ski or snowboard. Within half an hour to 90 minutes of the city, you’ll find dozens of ski hills to enjoy at affordable rates.
The most popular ones are Mount Tremblant, Mount Blanc, Le Massif, Mont Saint-Sauveur and Mont Orford.
If you want to ski near Toronto, it’ll take almost 2h drive to reach 2 or 3 ski hills, which are average in quality and quite expensive.
Summers in Toronto city can be pretty hot and humid, with temperatures in the 20s or 30s degrees Celcius and plenty of sunshine. Toronto winter temperatures often drop below freezing.
But the good news is because of its location beside Lake Ontario; the winters are considered shorter and slightly milder compared to many other parts of Canada.
Between January to March, you can expect an average temperature of -8C and the most snowfall.
Summers in Montreal are more moderate compared to Toronto, as there is less humidity and smog.
Summer temperatures average around 27C. In winter, you’ll need to brace yourself for an average of -12C from January to March.
February is the snowiest month in Montreal, with cars on sidewalks regularly getting snowed in overnight.
You might be interested: How to work a ski season in Canada
Montreal vs Toronto Cost of Living
To live in Toronto is pretty expensive. You’re looking at spending roughly CA$3500 a month as a single person including rent.
Quebec has one of the highest taxes in North America. Both income tax and sales tax are higher in Quebec compared to Ontario.
But on the other hand, rent and real estate are much cheaper in Montreal vs Toronto. Overall, the cost of living is slightly lower in Montreal.
You’re looking at spending around CA$2800 a month as a single person, including rent.
If you have a family with kids, I’d say Montreal and its suburbs might be a more affordable choice, as daycare is much cheaper here.
You can find a full breakdown of living costs and a comparison between Montreal and Toronto on Numbeo.
Montreal vs. Toronto Housing
Toronto is one of the most expensive cities in the world when it comes to the cost of living.
Real estate has become a bit absurd and quite unattainable for most people, especially if you have a family and want to buy a detached house.
Detached housing in Toronto costs about CA$1.5 million (2023). On the other hand, Montreal has much more affordable housing.
The average price of a detached house in Montreal is CA$550 000 (2023). The average rent for one bedroom apartment in Montreal costs around CA$1500 (2023), while in Toronto, it’s CA$2400 (2023).
Montreal vs Toronto Jobs
The job market, career opportunities and startup opportunities in Toronto exceed those from any other city in Canada.
Toronto is also one of the business hubs of all North America, rivaling some major American cities.
The average salary in Toronto is higher than in Montreal, but so is the cost of living.
As an expat it might be easier to land a job in Toronto as many jobs in Monreal will require you to be bilingual.
Job-wise, there are plenty of opportunities in financial services, technology, creative and service industry in Montreal.
Toronto is a hot spot for the tech industry, as well as healthcare and education jobs. The only downside is the high competition.
How easy or difficult it is to find a job also highly depends on how much your specific field is in demand.
Because let’s face it, if there is a shortage of qualified workers in Canada, they’ll happily hire you even without Canadian work experience. As long as you’re skilled or willing to learn and have a good work ethic.
Montreal vs Toronto lifestyle
There is a fun saying about Montreal vs Toronto. “Montrealers work to live, and Torontonians live to work.”
I think this saying encapsulates the essence of these two popular cities very well.
People in Toronto are more focused on work and career, while people in Montreal care more about the simple pleasures of life. Toronto is more fast-paced, kind of like New York City.
Montreal is the perfect combination between European sophistication and American know-how and innovation. It’s more laid-back.
Old Montreal is one of the most charming places in North America, with cobblestone streets full of galleries, restaurants and boutiques.
There is nothing quite like Vieux-Montréal (Old Montreal) in Toronto. So when it comes to charm, Montreal gets extra points.
Regarding food quality and variety vs. price in both cities, it’s similar to comparing Paris and London.
Montreal wins this battle. It’s safe to say that there is no shortage of fun activities in both cities, but no one can rival Montreal in the number of international festivals (jazz and comedy are the big ones).
It is also home to Cirque du Soleil and Grand Prix. Plus, everything is within walking distance if you are downtown, while Toronto’s cultural venues are spread out over a vast area.
So overall, I’d say that the lifestyle in Montreal is better than in Toronto. What Toronto may lack in charm and lifestyle, it makes up for in urban vibe, opportunity and tolerance.
Montreal Food Scene
If you’re a foodie, it’s hard to find a better city in Canada to explore than Montreal. From classic Quebecois dishes like poutine and smoked meat to innovative new restaurants popping up all the time, there is something for every palate in this vibrant food scene.
Not to mention Montreal bagels and brunches, which are legendary. Everyone seems to love them.
Montreal also has many great food markets, such as Jean-Talon Market, Saint-Anne Market and Atwater Market, where you can sample some of the best local produce and artisanal products.
And, of course, Montreal’s vibrant cafe culture is delightful to experience.
Popular Festivals in Montreal
Montreal is home to many popular festivals throughout the year, including the Montreal International Jazz Festival, Just for Laughs Comedy Festival, and Fantasia Film Festival.
The Montreal International Jazz Festival is one of the largest jazz festivals in the world and features performances by some of the biggest names in jazz music. It takes place every summer for two weeks.
Popular Tourist Attractions in Montreal
From the busy streets of downtown to the quaint villages in the surrounding area and hiking trails, there is always something to do in Montreal.
If you’re planning to visit Montreal or live here, these are some places that you shouldn’t miss out on:
- Old Port Montreal – Old Montreal is one of the most charming areas in the city, with cobbled streets lined with historic buildings and plenty of cafes and restaurants.
- Mount Royal Park – Mount Royal Park offers stunning views of the city and is a popular spot for picnics, hiking, and biking.
- Notre-Dame Basilica – The Notre-Dame Basilica is one of the most iconic landmarks in Montreal, known for its beautiful architecture and intricate stained glass windows.
- Saint Joseph’s Oratory – Saint Joseph’s Oratory is an impressive religious site that attracts thousands of visitors annually. It is one of the largest sanctuaries in the world and has been designated as a National Historic Site of Canada.
- Square Saint-Louis – iconic square with Victorian-style row house that are super photogenic
- St. Lawrence River Cruises
Museums and galleries in Montreal
- McCord Museum
- Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre
- Montreal Biosphere
Toronto Food Scene
For an iconic food experience in Toronto, visit the St. Lawrence food market with over 100 food stalls. Here you can sample some of the best local ingredients, as well as a variety of cuisines.
If you’re looking for something more upscale, Toronto also has world-class restaurants serving every type of cuisine imaginable.
In fact, Toronto has one of the most diverse food scenes in the world. Fine dining on the picturesque Humber River is one of the favorite activities among locals.
Popular Festivals in Toronto
Toronto city hosts multiple festivals including:
- Toronto International Film Festival
- Nuit Blanche
These events attract visitors from all over the world and feature some of Canada’s best-performing artists, filmmakers, and more.
Popular Tourist Attractions in Toronto
Toronto boasts many art galleries and museums.
- Museum of Illusions
- Royal Ontario Museum
- Bata Shoe Museum
- Art Gallery of Ontario
- Ontario Science Center
- Hockey Hall
There are also many parks and green spaces to enjoy for nature lovers. Some of the city’s most popular parks are
- High Park
- Trinity Bellwoods Park
For shopaholics, there is Eaton Centre and Yorkdale Mall. Other popular Toronto attractions are:
- CN Tower
- Niagara Falls
- Casa Loma
- Kensington Market
- Distillery District
- Lawrence Market
Montreal vs Toronto Universities
Both Montreal and Toronto have world-class universities. McGill and the University of Montreal in Montreal, Toronto has the University of Toronto, York University, and Ryerson University.
Montreal has many universities, so the culture here is shaped by student life in many ways. For example, the le Plateau area is known as a young, student-friendly neighborhood with streets full of picturesque townhouses.
Tuition fees in Toronto are generally higher than in Montreal.
However, compared to other US cities is still a lot cheaper.
Side note: Keep in mind the tuition fees easily double or even triple if you’re an international student.
Montreal vs Toronto Safety
Montreal nor Toronto aren’t especially dangerous. Overall, All Canadian cities are pretty safe compared to the United States or other major cities worldwide. As in any big city, you should always be cautious and avoid certain areas at night. However, violent crime is relatively rare in both Montreal and Toronto. The murder rate per 100 000 inhabitants in Montreal in 2021 was 1.1, while in Toronto, it was 1.81. According to Crime Severity Index, Montreal is safer than Toronto with a slightly lower crime rate.
Montreal vs Toronto Public Transit & Transport
If you travel internationally, Toronto Airport is far more convenient, with direct connections to almost every major city in the world. There are much fewer direct flight options out of Montreal.
On the other hand, traffic jams in Toronto can be an absolute nightmare, so Montreal is much better in that sense.
In Toronto, the public transit system consists of the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) within the main Toronto area and the Go Train for more suburban areas. A monthly pass will cost you CA$156, and a single ride CA$3.25.
In Montreal, the public transit system is referred to as STM. A monthly pass costs CA$ 97, and a single ride is CA$ 3.75.
Toronto’s main pro in terms of the public transportation system is frequent service. In rush hours, trains run every three minutes.
In Montreal, it’s every 5–6 min. 10-minute intervals for Toronto buses are standard. In Montreal, it’s closer to 20 min.
The Metro in Montreal is entirely underground, so there are no weather delays that are common for Toronto Subway and Scarborough, RT, during winter.
Both Toronto and Montreal are world-class cities with wonderful opportunities and popular tourist destinations. It’s more a matter of circumstance and absolutely a matter of language.
I read some funny comparisons online, so I thought I’d include them.
“Toronto is like the brother who went to business school and did well. Montreal is like the younger brother who went to art school and went out every night with his buddies.”
In other words, Toronto is all about ambition, and Montreal is all about enjoying life. The choice is yours to make.
Montreal may be the better choice for you if you’re looking for a more affordable place to live in Canada.
But if you value diversity and inclusion, Toronto is the place to be. I hope this comparison guide for Montreal vs Toronto makes it easier for you to choose between these two big cities.
Is Montreal more expensive than Toronto?
Living in Montreal is more economical than in Toronto, especially when it comes to rent. Dining and groceries are also more expensive in Toronto. However, gas is generally cheaper in Ontario than in Quebec province.
How much bigger is Toronto than Montreal?
Canada’s largest city is Toronto, Ontario. According to Statista, in 2022, over 6.6 million people were living in the Toronto metropolitan area, while in Montréal, Quebec, about 4.4 million inhabitants, making it the second largest city. Montreal has a size of 431.5 km2 and Toronto 630.2 km2.
Why do people love Montreal?
Montreal has a great combination of French and Canadian culture, making it a unique city to live in. It’s also home to some of the world’s best festivals throughout the year. Montreal is known for its vibrant art scene, delicious cuisine, and lively nightlife, all of which make it one of the most sought-after cities to live for newcomers in Canada.
Is Montreal more walkable than Toronto?
Montreal is often seen as one of the most European cities in Canada after Quebec City and its downtown walkability reflects that. According to Walk Score, Montreal rates at 65.4 out of 100, which is the second best in Canada after Vancouver, while Toronto has a slightly lower score at 61.
Is Montreal or Toronto more multicultural?
Although Toronto is typically recognized as Canada’s most diverse city, Montreal is rapidly becoming a highly cosmopolitan location with over one-third of its population being born outside of the country.