Best Frenemies: Québec City vs. Montréal

A spired cathedral stands out above a neighborhood with two-story row houses.

Montréal in 1852 from the McCord Archives at the T. C. Doane Museum, courtesy of Phillipe Du Berger, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Québec City and Montréal have a long, friendly rivalry. Québec was the site of the first European settlement in the province, and for centuries the two cities were competing trading posts. Even as Montréal’s population grew, Québec continued to be the center of economic and political power. Then in the 19th century, the tides changed and Montréal supplanted Québec as the province’s economic center. Its location at the crossroads between Europe and North America turned it into one of the most cosmopolitan cities on the continent, and business boomed.

For the time being, the cities are on relatively equal footing, but that hasn’t changed the way they view each other.In the 20th century, Montréal hosted Expo 67 and the 1976 Olympics, solidifying its prominence on the world stage. Then in the 1990s, Québec City’s NHL franchise, the beloved Québec Nordiques, was moved to Denver and the city spiraled into emotional depression, a state it’s still recovering from. All seemed lost for the province’s capital city, until preparations began for its 400th anniversary in 2008.

Suddenly Québec City was changing, old working-class neighborhoods were being revitalized, the waterfront got a needed face-lift, and, perhaps most important, the mayor vowed to bring the NHL back to the city—an election promise that will be hard to make good on.

For the time being, the cities are on relatively equal footing, but that hasn’t changed the way they view each other. Québec City still sees Montréal as a city of two solitudes, where the citizens feel like strangers in their own town, while Montréalers chide those in Québec for being from a “village” and having an inferiority complex. As with all healthy rivalries, it’s this push and pull between the two cities that propels them forward.

Excerpted from the Third Edition of Moon Montréal & Québec City.

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