McGill-Kyodai students may wish to visit other places in Canada during their free time on the weekends. Please note that a weekend day trip to Ottawa is included in your program.
Travelling Outside of Montreal
Montreal is not Canada, and Canada is not Montreal. The city has lots to see but during your stay, maybe you should try to see some other cities in Canada. Many students take weekend trips to Ottawa, Québec City, or Toronto. At the Infotouriste Office (1001 Square Dorchester, metro Peel) you can get more information about these and other cities.
If you want to travel to other cities or places in Canada, you might see advertising for tour packages offered by small tour companies. Many of these tours are good, but some are bad. If the price is very cheap, BE CAREFUL. Some of these companies do not have licenses and sometimes they do not give you the services they advertise, and sometimes their buses are not safe. Get as much information as possible about the tour company before you buy a ticket. Ask your classmates about their experiences. Remember, if it seems too cheap, it probably is too cheap.
- Québec City
- Toronto and Niagara Falls
- Eastern Canada
- Visiting the United States
- Taking the Bus
- Air Travel
Canada’s capital is only two hours northwest of Montreal by train and two and a half hours by bus. There is a bus every hour to Ottawa. It is a very beautiful city. It is on the border of Quebec and Ontario on the Ottawa River.
What to See
The city is not too big, but there is a lot to see. It is probably best to go for at least two days. In the early summer, there is a Tulip Festival, and in February, they have a festival called Winterlude. You can go skating on the frozen Rideau Canal: the longest skating rink in the world. If you go early in the morning during the summer, you can see the changing of the guard on Parliament Hill. The weather is usually the same as in Montreal.
There is a very good tourist information office across from the Parliament Buildings. They give free maps and can answer all your questions about where everything is. Most things are open on the weekends and every day in the summer. Most museums are closed on Mondays during the fall and winter. To plan your trip to Ottawa check the Ottawa Tourist Website.
You should try go to the Parliament Buildings (Canada’s national government building). The buildings are very beautiful. You can get a free tour of the buildings to see where Canada’s government and Senate meet, you can see the beautiful library and go up to the top of the Peace Tower. During the summer months, go to visitor centre. They give you a ticket for a time for an English tour.
Also, you can go to the National Gallery of Canada. It has an excellent collection of Canadian and international paintings, sculpture and other art.
Another museum that is very interesting is the Canadian Museum of History. It is across the river, but it is very special. It is about Canadian history and culture.
There is a museum about coins and paper money at the Bank of Canada.
At the Canadian Museum of Nature, you can learn about Canada’s amazing natural history.
The Canadian War Museum tells the story of Canada’s army, navy and air force in history.
The Canadian Aviation Museum has a large collection of interesting airplanes from the last 100 years of flight in Canada.
The Royal Canadian Mint is where they make coins and money. You have to make a reservation for a tour, but it is very interesting if you like gold – they make and sell 99.999% gold coins and bars. They make pure silver and platinum coins too.
You can also go shopping or have lunch in the outdoor Byward Market area, east of the Parliament Buildings. There are many other museums and attractions in Ottawa check the Ottawa Tourist Website for more information.
Québec City is the capital of the province of Québec.
It takes about 2 1/2 to 3 hours east by VIA train or 3 hours by bus to go to Québec City. There are many buses every day.
Québec City is the capital of the province of Québec. The city celebrated its 400th birthday in 2008. It is very beautiful, historical and interesting. There are many nice restaurants and shops. It is nice to walk around and take pictures. It is usually cooler and windier in Québec than in Montreal. To plan your trip check the Québec City Tourist Website.
You can walk around the Old Town which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is one of the oldest cities in North America. There are many old buildings and churches. It is very beautiful. You can see the old walls and cannons (guns) defending the city.
There is the famous Fairmount Château Frontenac hotel to look at. It looks like a big castle and it is one of the original Canadian Pacific Railroad (CPR) hotels that were built in cities across Canada. The lobby is very beautiful.
The Citadelle is a military fort and the original home of the Royal 22nd Regiment and the summer home of the Governor General of Canada. You can take a tour with a group if you make a reservation.
There is also the Plains of Abraham park, which is where there was a famous battle between the French and English armies in 1759. England won, and France lost Québec.
There is the Québec National Assembly, which is where the government of Québec meets. Tours are free.
Every year in February, there is the famous Winter Carnaval. With the snowman Bonhomme, the night parade, the ice sculptures, the ice hotel, and the crazy boat races on the icy river, the Carnaval is a special celebration of winter and Québec culture.
Québec City has much more to see and do. Check the Québec City Tourist Website for more information.
Toronto and Niagara Falls
Canada’s largest city is 5 or 6 hours away by car, and Niagara Falls is further still.
Canada’s largest city is between four and six hours west of Montreal by train; five or six hours by car and seven or eight hours bus. There are seven or eight buses to Toronto every day. Flying to Pearson International Airport or the downtown City Airport takes about one hour. It is a big, exciting multicultural city with lots to see and do. It is next to Lake Ontario, one of the five huge Great Lakes between Canada and the USA. It is also near Niagara Falls, you can include Niagara Falls in a weekend trip to Toronto. Toronto is usually warmer in summer and winter than Montreal.
The CN Tower was the world’s tallest free-standing structure from 1976 to 2007. It is 553 metres tall. You can take a fast elevator up to an observation deck at 342 metres. There is a glass floor you can walk on and look down. On a clear day you can see over 100 kilometres away.
Toronto also has many interesting art galleries and museums. The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) has an excellent collection of Canadian and international art. The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) has ancient things from many cultures such as Egypt and China and also natural history displays of dinosaurs and interesting rocks.
Toronto is also the most important city in Canada for English theatre, movies and television. You can see live shows in many theatres. Check this website to find out about shows that are playing now.
Queen’s Park is the name of the Parliament Buildings of Government of Ontario. You can go on a free tour.
If you are interested in watching professional sports, Toronto has a baseball team: the Blue Jays. For NBA basketball, there are the Raptors. For NHL Hockey, there are the Maple Leafs. For Major League Soccer, there is the Toronto FC. To plan your trip to Toronto: Toronto Tourist Website
World famous Niagara Falls is truly amazing and very beautiful. It is about 90 minutes by bus from Toronto (6 or seven hours from Montreal plus waiting to change buses). The train from Toronto to Niagara Falls is about two hours (Again 6 to 8 hours from Montreal, plus changing trains).
Niagara Falls is a famous place for honeymoons. At Niagara Falls, you can take a boat in the river below the falls, you can walk through a tunnel to see behind the falls, you can even take a helicopter ride above the falls. If you can, stay to see the special light show at night.
The town of Niagara Falls has lots of things to do for tourists, including amusement parks, a casino, and an aquarium with whales.
The Niagara region is in southern Ontario where the weather is warmer than in Montreal. In the Niagara region, they grow grapes and make wines, including ice wine.
For more details to plan your trip: Niagara Falls Tourist Website
East of Quebec is Atlantic Canada – New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and tiny Prince Edward Island. These old provinces are very beautiful and have a distinct, unique culture of their own.
Halifax, Nova Scotia
Halifax is a small but very interesting city in Nova Scotia, on the east coast of Canada. Founded in 1749, it has many historical places, several universities, a Canadian Navy base, and a very different culture of its own. This is where the famous Halifax Explosion happened in 1917.
Halifax is far from Montreal – over 900 km to drive or take a bus. The VIA train goes overnight and takes almost 24 hours. Flying from Montreal is about 2½ hours.
Nova Scotia is one of Canada’s oldest provinces, and it is a beautiful place to visit.
Prince Edward Island (PEI)
Anne of Green Gables is a famous Canadian book about a young girl with red hair named Anne Shirley.
The story takes place on this beautiful island province is 1,200 km by road (15 hours driving) from Montreal. You can take a bus, or a train (16 hours to Moncton, New Brunswick, then bus to PEI), or you can fly to Halifax, NS, or to Moncton, NB, then to Charlottetown on Air Canada in about three hours.
PEI has many bed and breakfast hotels (B and Bs), beaches, and beautiful countryside.
To plan your trip to Prince Edward Island: PEI Tourist Website
Peggy’s Cove image courtesy Aconagua, Wikimedia Commons
Green Gables image courtesy Skeezix1000, Wikimedia Commons
Visiting the United States
Montreal is not far from eastern American cities. But don’t forget that if you needed a visa or an eTa to visit Canada, you probably need one to visit the United States. The ESTA is for US visitors from visa waiver countries – see the ESTA website – If you require a tourist visa, you need to make an appointment at the U.S. Consulate here in Montreal. Please note – it can take more than a week to get an appointment, so plan your trip ahead!
New York City
If you have the time and money, and you can get a visa for the United States, why not visit New York City while you are studying here? “The Big Apple” is an exciting and interesting city with many famous things to see. Including a long stop at the border crossing, it takes about 8 hours by bus from Montreal, and about 10 hours by Amtrak train. Flying from Montreal to La Guardia airport in New York takes about 90 minutes. New York is usually warmer than Montreal. Check to make sure you can get a visa for the United States before you plan your trip.
The Empire State Building is one of the most famous skyscrapers in the world. It was finished in 1931, and you can ride to the 86th floor at 320 metres to get one of the most spectacular views on Earth. Try going up at night for a special view.
The Statue of Liberty is the symbol of freedom and democracy in the United States. In the busy summer season, if you want to climb up to the base of the statue, you must make a reservation for a special ticket at least a week in advance. You can take a boat to Liberty Island any day, but you will probably have to wait in line at one of the most popular tourist places in the world.
Central Park is a famous large park in the middle of Manhattan. You can walk or take a carriage ride through the park at any time of the year.
Times Square is a famous intersection where there are many bright electric lights and signs. On New Year’s Eve thousands of New Yorkers gather at Times Square at midnight to celebrate.
The United Nations Headquarters is a popular place for tourists to visit.
There are hundreds of museums and art galleries in New York, which is one of the most important cities for art in the world. Some famous museums are the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), the Guggenheim, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Broadway is a famous street in New York where there are many theatres that show musical theatre. To find out about the shows in New York now, check this website. For shopping, try Fifth Avenue, or the world’s largest department store: Macy’s.
Another interesting and historic American city is Boston. It is about the same size as Montreal. It is a little closer than New York, but there is no direct train, and the bus is about 10 hours including waiting at the border. If you rent a car, it is only about 6 hours to drive. Flying is about 90 minutes. Check to make sure you can get a visa for the United States before you plan your trip.
Washington D.C. is the capital of the United States, and it has many famous things to see: the White House, the Capitol, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. There are also many museums.
It is a long way to drive, so if you want to visit, it is best to fly from Montreal. There are daily non-stop flights which take about 2 hours, but you might find something cheaper with one stop through Toronto or another American city.
The bus is the cheapest way to travel between cities in Canada.
The bus is the cheapest way to travel to cities like Ottawa, Québec City or Toronto. All the buses from Montreal leave from the bus station [Gare d’autocars de Montréal] which is near metro Berri-UQAM at 1717 Berri Street, at the corner of Berri and Ontario East. To get schedules of most buses to places in Canada or the USA, go to the Greyhound Canada website and put in the city and the date you want to travel. For Québec City or other places in Québec, go to the Orleans Express website.
In Canada, there are no reservations for bus seats. It is “first-come, first-serve” which means you just have to buy a ticket and get in line to get a seat. For a long bus trip, you should bring a snack and something to drink, since there isn’t anything available for sale on the bus. It is also a good idea to bring an iPod or other mp3 player or a book. Large inter-city buses usually have bathrooms in the back. There is no smoking or alcohol allowed on buses.
Megabus is a bus company that offers cheap trips to Toronto, but they don’t leave from the bus station. They go from 997 St-Antoine West (Metro Bonaventure on the orange line)
Image of bus station courtesy Jeangagnon, Wikimedia Commons
Image of Megabus courtesy Canadian Press/Coach Canada, Wikimedia Commons
Taking the Train
There are passenger trains in Canada to travel between cities. The national passenger railway company is called Via Rail.
Trains are usually a little faster and more comfortable than buses, but they are a little more expensive. However, Canada’s national passenger train company, Via Rail, often has a youth discount if you book in advance and show ID (you have to be under 26 years old). On long weekends and at holiday time, the trains are popular, so you should reserve your tickets in advance. Trains leave from Central Station [Gare Centrale] which is at 895 De La Gauchetière St. West, under the Queen Elizabeth Hotel, near metro Bonaventure. The station is connected to the Underground City – you can even walk there underground from our building!
You can take Via trains to Toronto, Niagara Falls, Québec City, and many other Canadian cities. You can buy food and drinks on the trains, but you can also bring your own. Trains going long distances have restaurant cars and you can pay extra to have a place to sleep. There is no smoking on trains.
To go to the United States by train, you can take Amtrak trains from Montreal.
Image of Via train courtesy Balcer, Wikimedia Commons
Montreal’s airport (code YUL) is Pierre Elliot Trudeau International Airport.
An easy way to get to and from the airport is the special STM 747 bus. This bus runs 24 hours a day. It starts a the bus station at Berri-UQAM station, goes through downtown along Réné-Lévesque Boulevard and makes a final stop at Lionel-Groulx station (orange and green) before going directly to the airport. The best thing about this bus is the fare – if you have a monthly or weekly OPUS card, you can take the 747 bus. If you don’t have the pass, you have to pay $10 (the same as a day pass)
You can check flight status at the airport website.
Montreal is an important hub for Air Canada. There any many direct flights to Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and the United States, but most flights from Asia connect to Montreal through Toronto or Vancouver.
Air Canada image courtesy Hussain Addallah, Wikimedia Commons