The Insider's Guide to Quebec City
Arts & Culture
If you’re looking for a European-like experience without the time, cost or jet-lag involved in flying to Europe, Québec City is the perfect destination. The Old Town (Vieux Ville) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the surrounding neighborhoods are wonderful. Yet QC is only a 2-hour flight or reasonable drive from New York. Perfect for a quick get-away but worthy of a longer stay. QC is walkable, but the e-bikes rentals are a fantastic way to explore. Nestled high above the St. Lawrence and St. Charles rivers, the bike’s motor boost is welcome on the uphills. Québec offers world-class museums, a happening arts and extensive festival scene, terrific shopping, gourmet cuisine and the Québecoise are crazy for outdoor activities. Just beyond the city limits is a wonderland of nature waiting for your adventure, be it hiking, biking, kayaking, skiing, or water sports. All the charm of Europe without any of the hassle. I just can’t get enough of Québec.
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Where to stay in Quebec City
Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac
Popular hilltop hotel with exceptional service, gorgeous guest rooms and a great bar.
$100 food / beverage credit.
Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.
Auberge Saint-Antoine Hotel
A beautiful historic chateau with modern and elegant rooms in the old part of Quebec City.
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Things to do in Quebec City
The Vieux Ville
The Vieux Ville is divided into an upper and lower town. Cobbled streets and 17th and 18th century buildings exude old-world character and French is spoken everywhere. At the edge of the promontory is the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac Hotel, built by the Canadian Pacific Railway Company at the end of the 19th century. It is high on our list of recommended places to stay. Just in front of the hotel is the expansive Dufferin Terrace, a boardwalk over the St. Lawrence with wonderful views. Perfect place to grab an ice cream made with Québec’s famous chocolate! The Old Town offers many historic vestiges and artifacts to explore. The Petit-Champlain is one of the prettiest streets and the shops are filled with interesting locally-made products and artwork.
While the Vieux Ville is charming and worth exploring, the surrounding neighborhoods are also wonderful. Upscale shops and outdoor cafes line the Avenue Cartier. Magnificent homes and lush gardens are found on Montcalm’s tree-lined streets. Braves Park is the perfect place to watch the sunset. St. Roch is Québec’s up and coming, trendy neighborhood with many vintage stores, microbreweries and coffee roasters. In the middle of the St. Lawrence River is the Île d’Orlêans.
Québec City is extremely safe, clean and well organized with great transportation (bikes, buses, and Uber), free public pools, many playing fields and a wonderful minor league baseball stadium. Catch a Capitales game in the Stade Canac, set in the pretty Victoria Park.
Head to the Ciel Bistro Bar on the top floor of the Hôtel le Concorde for breakfast and an overview of the entire city. Located on one of QC’s tallest buildings, the entire floor rotates 360 degrees, offering a spectacular panorama over the city and entire province. It’s a great way to get your bearings.
Explore the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec. While it is under expansion and renovation, it houses an unparalleled collection of Québecois art. The museum regularly hosts international exhibitions as well. It’s located in the Plains of Abraham - one of the world’s most prestigious and beautiful city parks. The Plains lie above the St. Lawrence River where in 1759, the British defeated the French. Today it is a place to picnic, jog, bike, hike on a nature trail, enjoy concerts and outdoor events and admire the beautiful scenery. Don’t miss the Joan of Arc Garden, filled with vibrant peonies, irises, hostas and mature elms. The Museum of the Plains of Abraham is a must-see for history buffs.
Throughout the city you will find wonderful, well-stocked outdoor sporting goods shops. The moment the sun comes out, the Québecoise load their kayaks and bikes onto their (very small) cars and, literally, head for the hills. They love hiking, biking, boating and skiing and these shops will prepare you well for all sports. There are fashionable clothing shops, interesting home goods and gourmet stores and boutiques specializing in local offerings such as beautiful leather goods, woolens, maple syrup and more.
A short distance outside of the city is the Île d’Orlêans, an agricultural island located in the middle of the St. Lawrence. Rent a bike and explore the little towns. Pick up some fresh berries and local cheese for your picnic lunch. Feeling adventurous? On the way back to QC, stop at the Parc de la Chute de Montmorency for a zip line ride across the Montmorency waterfalls - they are higher than Niagra! Or climb the Via Ferrata if you’re not afraid of heights.
For something heavenly but a bit more down to earth, visit the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-De-Beaupré, one of the oldest pilgrimage sites in North America. Explore the cathedral’s paintings, mosaics, stained-glass windows, and sculptures. Learn about the history of Nouvelle France and the role of Christianity in the history of Québec.
Spend a day at the Strom Nordic Spa! Just below the Plains of Abraham is a wonderful Nordic style spa where you can enjoy thermal baths, cold plunges, infinity pools overlooking the St. Lawrence, steam rooms and saunas. There is a gourmet restaurant on the premises and an outdoor bar perfect for relaxing over a cocktail. The spa is situated along the river in a lush, green setting and is the perfect place to recharge.
If you happen to be in QC at the end of June, the Fête National de Québec takes place on June 24th, which is also Saint John-Baptiste day. Expect a full program of free concerts, special exhibits, and events throughout the province.
Places to eat & drink in Quebec City
Québec City is truly a foodie destination and has an abundance of authentic bistros, new restaurants offering innovative cuisine based on locally sourced ingredients and a variety of Asian and ethnic options.
As in France, the bistros feature all varieties of moules-frites, duck confit, crêpes, cured meats and cheeses and fantastic wines. Sample the poutine - a serving of excellent french fries topped with melted cheese and gravy. Of course, the pastries are to die for - some of the best croissants and quiche you will find anywhere.
If you are feeling adventurous, head to Le Grand Marché du Québec a food destination with over a hundred regional producers and a variety of exceptional products and diverse activities. The market is a must-see for those interested in the local cuisine.
The Bistro St. Malo near the port in the Vieux Ville is a favorite with locals. Their mussels are fabulous and leave room for the tarte tatin dessert.
Grab a burger at Sam’s in the Château Frontenac and be sure to ask for a seat by the window.
For some creative cuisine, check out the warm and welcoming Restaurant Melba in the emerging Saint-Sauveur district. Share a variety of small plates enjoying refined dishes with a French flair.
Need to Know
Looking for more travel inspiration? Check out my guide, Pesaro & Urbino, Italy's Secret Gems.
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