BLOGGER’S NOTE: This trip occurred in August 2020 at a time when COVID-19 case counts were low in both Ontario and Quebec. Physical distancing and mask wearing were followed at all times. Please use sound judgment when planning any travel during a pandemic and only follow my itinerary when it is safe. Let’s support local tourism and economies the responsible way. *This post is not sponsored in any way.*
My travel bucket list features so many amazing destinations — London, Paris (two cities I was actually booked to visit this spring), Sydney, Seattle and Chicago, to name a few spots — but I find we often overlook what’s closest to us. This summer, in an effort to safely get out, support local tourism and see more of Canada, I planned a five-day road trip with my parents stopping in our nation’s capital, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City. As our only getaway of 2020, we packed as much as we could into each day and I was definitely “car-lagged” once we made it back home, but it was all beyond worth it!
I’m excited to share our mini-Canadian road trip itinerary with you so you can get inspiration for future travel and learn more about Canada’s urban beauty. Enjoy the journey!
Day 1: Ottawa
I live in Toronto, so it made sense for us to go up to Ottawa for a night then continue on to Montreal and Quebec City. Hitting the road around 8AM, we arrived in Ottawa just in time for brunch and stopped in at the famous Zak’s Diner in ByWard Market. I cannot emphasize enough how delicious their French Toast Sandwich was… two fried eggs, bacon, ham and Swiss cheese held between French toast. Heaven in a breakfast dish! 😌
Later in the afternoon, we checked into our hotel, The Westin Ottawa, and got (slightly) unpacked and ready for an evening stroll through ByWard. With this being my third trip to Ottawa, I was already looking forward to dinner at one of my favourite restaurants, Luxe. They have something on the menu for everyone and make a mean vodka cranberry (a must for me!). I can also vouch for their crispy squid appetizer and Bistro Burger as an entrée. Don’t even get me started on their fries! 😍
We ended the day with photos by ByWard’s giant light-up Ottawa sign (think of the one in Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square!) and much-needed R&R for our morning in the city.
Day 2: Ottawa & Montreal
Thanks to the Westin‘s indoor path to the CF Rideau Centre, we were able to get an early start to a rainy day with breakfast at the hotel (I never say no to parfaits) and a quick walk to pick up a new sweatshirt from Roots. I had somehow severely underpacked for the chillier end-of-summer temperatures!
After a few photos at Parliament Hill (a tourist tradition!), we started the three-hour drive to our hotel in Montreal. I scored a great deal at the gorgeous Renaissance Montreal Downtown Hotel and, judging solely by the swing pictured in the lobby, I knew it was going to be such a fun stay! Fortunately, I wasn’t let down. COVID-19 safety protocols were strictly followed throughout the hotel and the rooms were so aesthetically pleasing. The cake pops left next to the bed were also a very sweet touch! 😉
Since we arrived late in the afternoon, I searched through Google reviews for a dinner destination and selected Bevo Bar + Pizzeria, a cute Italian spot on the edge of Old Montreal (Vieux-Port de Montréal). We enjoyed super yummy pasta dishes, followed by ice cream from a standalone Ben & Jerry’s shop in Place Jacques-Cartier. I had to — I didn’t even know until then that there were Ben & Jerry’s ice cream shops!
We hadn’t planned to go to the Old Port until the next day, but I’m so glad our first taste of it was at night. That’s when the city really comes alive and you can take in the lights and sights over the water. It’s absolutely beautiful!
Day 3: Montreal
For our Montreal breakfast, we walked from our hotel to a local mainstay, Universel Déjeuner + Grillades, which boasted one of the biggest menus—in both selection and physical size—I’ve ever seen. Seriously, they had it all—from pancakes to waffles and omelettes and eggs benedict, and that’s just scratching the surface. I ended up having the strawberry and banana waffle, which was absolutely a wise choice. So good! A side order of bacon was the perfect fuel to get me through a long day of city roaming (and a little downtown shopping, of course).
The day’s tourist stops included: Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral, shopping on Rue Sainte-Catherine O and Boulevard de Maisonneuve O, and Dorchester Square
As it got closer to dinner, we stopped at the hotel for a quick outfit change (#JustBloggerThings) and then Uber’ed back to the riverfront to (attempt to) get drinks at Marché des Éclusiers, a beautiful floral-themed, open-air market and bar. As cute as it is, the service just wasn’t there, so I couldn’t recommend it—but definitely stop by for a picture if you’re passing by. We trekked back through Old Montreal by foot, taking in stunning storefronts like Le Petit Dep, a charming local cafe and market (and a favourite of Schitt’s Creek star Dan Levy!). This area is so photogenic; I easily took 100 photos!
When we saw my absolute fave restaurant The Keg, we took it as fate and put our name down on the waitlist as we enjoyed the vibrant sounds of the local street artists. I also went up to Terrasse Perché, a tucked-away bar with the most picture-perfect views of the riverfront and Place Jacques-Cartier, for a quick drink and photo op. I’m fulfilling all my global rooftop bar dreams, one city at a time! 🍸
For our time in Quebec City, it was a no brainer to stay at the marvelous Fairmont Le Château Frontenac in the heart of the city. Here, you’re staying in a piece of history! I can’t say enough about how amazing this property was, from the personalized service to amenities (the top-of-the-line Le Labo lotions had my name on the bottle!) and my welcome gift of Insta-worthy, in-house-made macarons.
To keep things simple for dinner, and explore everything the hotel had to offer, we opted to dine at the Fairmont’s on-site Sam Bistro (Bistro Le Sam), which had a cozy, welcoming atmosphere and delicious fish and chips.
Day 5: Quebec City
Just like our full day in Montreal, this day required an early start and there was no better morning mood-booster to be had than a yummy omelette from aptly-named l’Omelette. I had discovered a rustic, funky spot, La Buche (their words, not mine!), on Instagram the night before, but they somehow had a two-hour wait!
The day’s tourist stops included: The boardwalk behind the Fairmont, all around the riverfront in Old Quebec (centered around Rue Sous le Fort and Rue du Petit Champlain), the Quebec City Mural (my Grade 8 class trip bus parked here!), Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church, Chez Ashton for poutine (I’ve had better, but it was a good afternoon treat!), the “entrance” to Old Quebec (St. John Gate) on Rue Saint-Jean, Place D’Youville, and the most festive spot of all, La Boutique de Noël de Québec (Quebec City’s year-round Christmas store)
On the recommendation of our Montreal Keg waitress, we spent our last night in Quebec City wining and dining at Parmesan, a quaint Italian restaurant (it’s always a yes to more pasta!) with a roaming accordion player. 🍝
Capping off the evening with a lively stroll illuminated by the downtown lights, this night was the perfect way to end such an amazing trip!