Vancouver Vs. Montreal: Which City Is Better for Living In?


Most people take pride in where they live. Whether it is the local culture or the relationships they have built there, there is a reason you feel tied to your city. If that reason disappears or a reason to leave emerges, you pack up your bags and head to a new destination. Lots of people leave where they grew up and head to a bigger city. If you’re in Canada, in particular, Vancouver and Montreal might be within your target range.

Is Vancouver or Montreal a better city for living in? It depends on what you’re looking for. Montreal has a lower cost of living on average, while Vancouver is on closer proximity to more nature and outdoor expeditions. 

Both cities are beautiful and have so much to offer, so the best place to live mostly depends on your personal preferences. In the remainder of this article, we will discuss 15 things worth considering about both cities before you decide. 

Comparing Vancouver vs. Montreal

Vancouver is known for its plethora of outdoor sporting opportunities and for being on the expensive side. Montreal is known for its partying nature during the summer and freezing cold temperatures during the winter. While there is much to be had in either city, these 15 factors put both into perspective.

  1. Temperature

Being the northernmost country on the North American Continent, all of Canada gets cold during the winter. However, the climate differs across the country. Vancouver is known to have a milder climate, being not that hot in the summer and not that cold in the winter. Temperatures are more extreme in Montreal, where the humidity can make summers hot and winters extremely cold. If you’re a lover of summer temperatures, Vancouver would be a better pick.

  1. Fitness Opportunities

If you love exercising outdoors, then Vancouver is the best city for you. The town is conveniently located to almost all kinds of nature, from the ocean and rivers to mountains and forest areas. In the winter, a ski resort is a thirty-minute drive from downtown. In the summer, mountain biking and beach sports opportunities are plentiful. If you’re into more everyday exercise like running, the city also has marathons every year as well as cycling races. 

Montreal also has access to excellent sports facilities, although these tend to be more organized sports with designated locations like ice hockey and soccer. Both places also offer fitness gyms, although a gym membership is more expensive in Vancouver than in Montreal.

  1. Festivals

Are you more of a party person? Montreal is known for having a lot of festivals all year round, but especially during the warmer months. Whether you’re more into the food party scene, the fun and adventure scene, or into more culturally enlightening entertainment, every weekend offers a reason to go out and party. It is hard not to have something to do in Montreal. Vancouver also has many festivals and events, but not as many as Montreal.

  1. Dining

If you have an adventurous palette, then Montreal might be the city for you. Known to have one of the most diverse cuisine offerings in North America, Montreal offers food ranging from high-class Parisian food to meals off a food truck. Montreal is host to several food festivals throughout the summer and fall, including hosting the largest gathering of food trucks in Canada once a week during those same months. 

Vancouver also has many food options but excels in providing the best Asian style cuisine in the country. With roughly forty-five percent of the city being of Asian descent, Vancouver has been rewarded with many vast and varied Asian dining experiences.

  1. Cost of Living

For the most part, Vancouver is a more expensive city to live in than Montreal; this extends to housing prices. Apartments both inside the city center and outside the city center can be almost fifty percent more expensive in Vancouver than in Montreal. 

While this price might seem like a steep difference, the difference becomes less apparent depending on your situation. There’s no way getting around the extra $500 if you’re a family looking for a place. If you’re single, however, then room sharing could be a way to keep the cost down and instead focus on finding the environment that would be best for you. 

It is important to note that if you’re also job hunting, Vancouver tends to have a twenty percent higher salary than Montreal.

Other Costs of Living

In other respects, Montreal is a cheaper place to live than in Vancouver. Clothing tends to be roughly ten percent less expensive in Montreal, and restaurants are usually around fifteen percent cheaper. Food can be up to thirty percent more affordable, and leisure activities, such as going to the movies, tend to be about five percent more affordable. 

The few places where Montreal is more expensive than Vancouver are in utility costs, most likely because of heating during the winter, and transportation. Even though there is a disparity in cost of living, most of these costs become not important after you factor in the higher paycheck that Vancouver residents have on average. With that paycheck, the only costs that really make Vancouver more expensive are the cost of housing and the cost of childcare

  1. Language Barriers

Montreal is in the Quebec Province, which is an area in Canada that uses French as the predominant language. While most Canadians take French in school, Montreal natives are fluent. In fact, the city is a major producer of French-language television for the country. 

Even so, almost everyone also speaks English, so it is not necessary to speak French to live there. However, you might be more likely to feel left out of certain festivities and events that are given in French as well as conversations among Montreal natives.

  1. Location

Where Vancouver is located only a little bit above the northwestern U.S., Montreal is located right above the northeastern U.S. 

Located in British Columbia, the most prominent cities located near Vancouver are Victoria, Calgary, and Edmonton. Located in the Quebec Province, Montreal is close to Quebec City, Toronto, and Ottawa. 

Vancouver is right on the ocean, while Montreal is more landlocked. Both cities are easy to travel to and from and are located closer to other big cities with lots of attractions. It is also possible to drive back into the U.S. from both cities. Their locations explain the difference in weather and chosen leisure time activities, but do not affect much else.

  1. Opportunities for Children

Moving to a new area as a single person has a lot of considerations. There are even more when you are moving with children. Some things to consider are access to childcare if both parents are working and the school system your children will be in. 

The cost of full-day childcare for a child in preschool is a little less than twice as expensive in Vancouver than in Montreal. However, Vancouver has a lot more parks and natural attractions you can take children to.

Also, in the Quebec Province, in which Montreal is located, the educational system is slightly different from the rest of North America’s. Instead of going through twelfth grade, high school ends at eleventh grade, and students are usually expected to go to a pre-university technical school for two years before going to University. 

On another note, Montreal has both English-speaking elementary schools and French-speaking elementary schools, so it could be a good choice if you want your children to be bilingual.

  1. Higher Learning

The different cultures prevalent in the cities can be seen in their presence of higher education. While Vancouver does not have any Universities in the city proper, about five public universities are in the Vancouver area. The area also has six private universities and four publicly-funded college-level institutions.

On the other hand, Montreal has the highest number of post-secondary students on the North American Continent, with over twenty different post-secondary education institutions offering certifications ranging from trade school certificates to Post-doctorate degrees. Among these institutions are many French-language universities, where classes are conducted in French. With all these educational institutions, the city has 4.38 students per 100 people in the area. 

College Pick Considerations

Both cities have multiple colleges with world renown. What it really comes down to is what kind of life you want to lead during college. Vancouver is home to the University of British Columbia, which is considered one of the top forty universities in the world. Simon Fraser University, also located in the area, usually ranks in the top 200. These institutions support many international and English as a second language students, so going to school in this area could be suitable for a foreigner looking to find a community that resembles home.

Montreal would be a good pick for college if you are also looking to maintain a healthy social life. Montreal is home to McGill University, which ranked 24th in the world for universities in 2015. The city has an excellent public transit system, so you wouldn’t require a car. There is a large party scene, and you can expect to go out every night. Because of the emphasis on having a pleasant social life, being a single college student in the city is basically a promise for a fun college experience.

  1. Public Transit

Both cities have extensive public transit systems. Vancouver uses a public network called the Sky Train, which consists of 53 stations, with twenty of those stations being located within the city limits. Many of the city’s main tourist attractions are not connected to the line. That being said, the city has made a significant push to encourage people to use public transportation instead of their own private cars. One time use of the transit system is cheaper in Vancouver than in Montreal.

Montreal is considered to have a much better subway system that is always expanding. It consists of subways, buses, and commuter trains. The bus system has over two hundred daytime routes and just over twenty nighttime routes; it supports over one hundred passengers a day. Along with the robust network, Montreal also has lower public transit prices for regular riders.

  1. Overall Culture

The two city’s cultures are vastly different from each other. In Vancouver, there is a heavy Asian influence on the culture; Vancouver is home to Canada’s largest Chinatown, with people of Chinese descent making up over a quarter of the population. 

Because of its location, Vancouver also tends to have a lot more of a relaxed vibe. The older community and access to nature promotes a more tranquil environment where people tend to take time to enjoy the outdoors. The city definitely promotes a health-conscious culture.

On the other hand, Montreal is more of a party city. With the younger population being the average and so many students per population size, there is a very vibrant nightlife with lots of clubbing and socializing. There are also multiple festivals going on year-round. Being a social hub, there is also a pull towards the arts, so artists could find this city to be a good fit. It’s also an excellent city for those who are single and ready to mingle.

  1. Population Density

While both cities have a lot of people, the population density of Vancouver is higher than Montreal’s. In Vancouver, there are roughly 5,250 people per square kilometer, even though just over 630,000 people are living in the actual city. Of those 630,000 people, over 45 percent of them are of Asian descent, and 47 percent are of European origin, leaving the other eight percent to be a mixture of other minorities. The median age of the population is almost forty-two years old, suggesting a community of more families.

In Montreal, the population is 1.7 million people, but it only has a population density of around 2,200 people per square kilometer, so it is not as crowded as Vancouver. The population consists of roughly 66 percent of people of European descent and approximately 34 percent minorities, with the most prevalent minority being black people, or those of African descent, at roughly ten percent. The median age for the population is just under thirty-seven years old.

  1. Safety

The safety of the area you are moving to is of critical importance. In Vancouver, the government puts roughly twenty percent of the city’s budget into the police force. Vancouver has the ninth highest rate of crime in Canada out of thirty-five recorded cities. This number is five places lower than when the poll was taken in the mid-2000s. The town has a violent crime severity index just under 73.

For the most part, violent crimes have been on the decline in Montreal over the last decade. The only area in crimes that have seen an increase in sex crimes and fraud crimes. Montreal has a violent crime severity index of just over 73. The two cities, despite the difference in population, have roughly the same amount of occurring crimes. 

  1. Sustainability

An ever-growing concern in the last twenty years or so is trying to make cities sustainable. Vancouver is well situated to take on the task. Falling water found within the nearby mountains provides the municipality with 93 percent of its electricity, without using any fossil fuels. The local government has also passed numerous legislations to help promote cutting back on fossil fuel usage and reducing waste as well as promoting green businesses. 

Montreal has also been making moves to a greener city. In 2018, the local government banned the use of plastic bags in the town. 97 percent of the city’s electricity is produced from renewable resources, and the town runs extensive recycling programs. Both cities are working for a more environmentally friendly community.

  1. Local Economies

The location of these two cities has resulted in vastly different economies. While one of Canada’s largest industrial centers, Vancouver gets a lot of business due to its position as a port city. Not only does the city engage in a lot of trade for the country, but its location next to the mountains also results in its contribution to the mining and forest product industries. In more recent years, the city has become a hub for the entertainment and technology industries.

Montreal is home to the second-largest economy in Canada. The city contributes a lot to the technology and manufacturing industries. Montreal also has added a lot to the service sector in terms of higher education and research-oriented jobs. The city is known as the railroad hub of Canada and has a significant stake in the transportation industry. The entertainment industry and several international agency headquarters have also made homes in the city.

Conclusion

Both Vancouver and Montreal are great cities to live in, but the two most significant factors in making your decision on where to go would be money and culture. If you are tight on cash, Montreal might be a better pick. However, if you are interested in living in one of the cities long-term, it might be better to consider the local culture. 

Either way, both cities have plenty to offer, and you are sure to find happiness no matter where you end up. 

Related Content

Thais R

I moved to Canada in 2016. This was the best decision that I ever made. I created this website to share what I’ve learned with anyone who’s thinking of moving or travelling to Canada.

Recent Posts