Quebec City Travel Guide

Quebec City Travel Guide

Quebec City! As a licensed tour guide with over 10 years of experience, I'm thrilled to provide you with an in-depth travel guide to this charming city. Sit back and allow me to highlight the best attractions, restaurants, hotels, and hidden gems that Quebec has to offer.

Table
  1. About Quebec City
  2. Top Things to Do
    1. Old Quebec (Vieux-Quebec)
    2. Plains of Abraham
    3. Dufferin Terrace
    4. Citadelle of Quebec
    5. Montmorency Falls
    6. Musee National Des Beaux-Arts Du Quebec
  3. Best Neighborhoods to Stay
    1. Old Quebec (Vieux-Quebec)
    2. Saint-Roch
    3. Montcalm
    4. Sainte-Foy
  4. Getting Around
  5. Day Trip Ideas
  6. Best Restaurants in Quebec City
    1. Classic French
    2. Casual Bistros
    3. Trendy Food Halls
    4. Classic Quebecois
  7. Hotels
    1. Luxury Stays
    2. Boutique Finds
    3. Budget Stays
  8. When to Visit Quebec City
  9. Know Before You Go
  10. Top Souvenirs to Buy

About Quebec City

Quebec City is the capital of the Canadian province of Quebec. It has a population of over 500,000, making it the second largest city in Quebec. However, Quebec City retains a historic small-town charm and European flair.

Some key facts about Quebec City:

  • Founded in 1608, it is one of the oldest cities in North America
  • The major sections of the city are Upper Town (Haute-Ville) and Lower Town (Basse-Ville)
  • Its historic district is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • French is the primary language spoken
  • The currency is the Canadian dollar (CAD)
  • The city has cold, snowy winters and mild summers

Quebec City is renowned for its colonial architecture, winding cobblestone streets, and impressive fortifications. You'll feel as if you've been transported to a quaint European village when exploring areas like the Old City and Old Port.

Yet Quebec City also boasts modern amenities like fantastic restaurants, trendy cafes, and luxurious hotels. It's the perfect blend of old and new!

Top Things to Do

Quebec City offers endless possibilities for fun and adventure. Here are the top attractions and activities you won't want to miss:

Old Quebec (Vieux-Quebec)

This historic neighborhood deserves its own section. Strolling through Old Quebec is like taking a journey back in time. You'll find fascinating sights such as:

  • Chateau Frontenac - The most photographed hotel in the world. This imposing historic castle towers over the St. Lawrence River.
  • Terrasse Dufferin - A wide boardwalk with stunning views of the St. Lawrence River. Ideal for taking romantic evening strolls.
  • Early 1800s homes and shops - Cobblestone streets are lined with quaint boutiques and homes from the 19th century.
  • Rue du Petit-Champlain - A pedestrian street with artisan shops and lively restaurants. A favorite spot for souvenir shopping.
  • Notre Dame Basilica - An ornate Roman Catholic church with striking interior decor.

Plains of Abraham

This expansive urban park features sprawling lawns, walking paths, and monuments commemorating the famous 1759 battle that determined control of the city. Relax on the grass or have a picnic while soaking up history.

Dufferin Terrace

Overlooking the St. Lawrence River, this grand boardwalk promenade provides stunning views. In warmer months, buskers, street performers, and vendors line the walkway. A perfect perch to watch ships sail by and admire Montmorency Falls in the distance.

Citadelle of Quebec

This impressive star-shaped fort dates back to the early 1800s. Walk along the fortified stone walls and feel transported back to the colonial era. Be sure to watch the ceremonial changing of the guard daily during summer.

Montmorency Falls

Located just outside the city, these falls are 30 meters (98 feet) taller than Niagara Falls! You can view the impressive cascades from a cable car, on foot, or even zip line over top of them for an adrenaline rush.

Musee National Des Beaux-Arts Du Quebec

Canada's oldest museum dedicated to the visual arts has an impressive permanent collection with works from renowned Quebec artists as well as international masters like Picasso.

Best Neighborhoods to Stay

Quebec City has accommodations to fit every style and budget. Below are some of the top neighborhoods I recommend for first-time visitors:

Old Quebec (Vieux-Quebec)

Without a doubt, this is the most atmospheric area to stay to embrace Quebec City's old-world French character. Wake up surrounded by historic sights! Options range from quaint inns to luxurious hotels like the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac.

Saint-Roch

For a trendy, modern vibe head to this up-and-coming neighborhood. It has boutique hotels, hipster cafes, vibrant street art and a lively nightlife scene. Great for younger travelers.

Montcalm

Adjacent to the Old City, this centrally located area features excellent B&Bs and boutique hotels at lower nightly rates compared to Old Quebec. You're still just a walk away from top attractions.

Sainte-Foy

For more budget-friendly chain hotels like Holiday Inn Express, Ibis, and Best Western, Sainte-Foy is a good option. This neighborhood is a bit further from main tourist sites but easily accessible by bus or rideshare.

Getting Around

Quebec City is very walkable, especially areas like Old Quebec and Downtown. But the city also has convenient public transportation options:

  • Bus - An affordable and extensive bus system serves the metro area. Fares are $3.50 per ride or $9.00 for an unlimited day pass. Exact change is required.
  • Taxi - Metered taxis are widely available downtown and outside major hotels, restaurants and attractions. Average fare is $8-10 for trips within main tourist zones.
  • Rideshare - Uber and Lyft operate in Quebec City. I'd recommend this for trips between outer neighborhoods and to/from the airport.
  • Bicycle - During summer and early fall, a great way to cover ground. Bixi is the bike share program with stations around the city.

Day Trip Ideas

If you have extra time, venture outside Quebec City to explore more of the surrounding province:

  • Montmorency Falls - See the famous waterfalls and zip line overtop them in a harness! Just 10 miles from Quebec City.
  • Ile d’Orleans - Drive 30 minutes from Quebec City to explore this idyllic island with farms, markets, and panoramic views along the Saint Lawrence River.
  • Wendake Indigenous Village - Experience the First Nations culture at this reconstructed 18th century Huron village just 15 minutes from downtown.
  • Canyon Ste-Anne - A series of awe-inspiring waterfalls and suspended bridges located 45 minutes from the city. Great hiking trails.

Best Restaurants in Quebec City

Quebec City's dining scene is exploding with cool bistros, cozy cafes, and trendy food halls to enjoy everything from traditional Quebecois fare to cuisine from around the globe. Here are top picks to satisfy any palate:

Classic French

  • Chez Muffy - Relished for its intimate atmosphere, with French staples like duck confit and crème brûlée.
  • Panache - Set inside the historic Auberge Saint-Antoine hotel, serving romantic 6-course tasting menus.
  • L'Orygine - High-end dishes made with locally sourced ingredients. Try the Quebec lamb and huckleberry crumble.

Casual Bistros

  • Nina Pizza - Creative gourmet pizzas like Peking Duck and pear pecan in a lively spot.
  • Paillard - Simple, fresh sandwiches, salads, soups, and cheese/charcuterie boards at this local chain.
  • Cochon Dingue - Crave-worthy brunch and coffee at this always bustling cafe.

Trendy Food Halls

  • Le Centrl - 20 different vendors like sushi bars, doughnut shops and juice bars under one roof downtown.
  • Laithai - Thai, Indian, tacos, poutine and other global eats in a cool converted church. Live music on weekends!

Classic Quebecois

  • Aux Anciens Canadiens - Famous for Quebecois specialties like tourtiere (meat pie), pea soup, and maple desserts.
  • Chez Boulay - Upscale bistro putting a modern twist on French Canadian classics.
  • La Buvette Scott - Cozy tavern since the 1940s. Get poutine, sugar pie, and a local brew.
RestaurantCuisinePrice
Chez MuffyFrench$$$
PanacheFrench$$$
L'OrygineFrench$$$
Nina PizzaPizza$$
PaillardCafe$
Cochon DingueCafe/Brunch$$
Le CentrlFood Hall$-$$
LaithaiFood Hall$-$$
Aux Anciens CanadiensQuebecois$$
Chez BoulayQuebecois$$$
La Buvette ScottQuebecois$$

Hotels

With charming inns, modern high-rises, and everything in between, Quebec City has lodging options to match your travel style and budget. Here are my top recommendations across price points and neighborhoods:

Luxury Stays

  • Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac - This grand castle hotel defines luxury right in Old Quebec. High tea in the lobby is a must! Starts at $350/night.
  • Hotel Le Germain - Sophisticated rooms with Nespresso machines in a great location. Rooftop pool and terrace. Starts at $280/night.
  • Hotel 71 - Ultra-modern with a spa and rooftop lounge. Next to Place Royale. Starts at $250/night.

Boutique Finds

  • Hôtel Le Clos Saint-Louis - Intimate Victorian-era property with a quaint courtyard. Fireplaces in rooms. Starts at $175/night.
  • Hôtel du Vieux Quebec - Bold, contemporary design inside a historic building. Great Old City location. Starts at $120/night.
  • Hôtel Manoir Victoria - Polished hotel with a pool/fitness center and fun on-site pub. Starts at $150/night.

Budget Stays

  • HI Quebec City Hostel - Well-run hostel with private and dorm-style rooms from just $28/night
  • Le Priori Hotel - Trendy, affordable rooms starting at $65/night in the artsy Saint-Roch neighborhood.
  • Hotel Chateau Bellevue - Basic but comfortable rooms just outside the Old City from $80/night. Rooftop terrace.
HotelNeighborhoodAverage Nightly Cost
Fairmont Le Chateau FrontenacOld Quebec$350
Hotel Le GermainOld Quebec$280
Hotel 71Old Quebec$250
Hôtel Le Clos Saint-LouisOld Quebec$175
Hôtel du Vieux QuebecOld Quebec$120
Hôtel Manoir VictoriaOld Quebec$150
HI Quebec City HostelOld Quebec$28
Le Priori HotelSaint-Roch$65
Hotel Chateau BellevueOutside Old City$80

When to Visit Quebec City

Quebec City offers plenty of activities and festivals year-round. Here's a breakdown of the seasons:

  • Spring (May-June) - Temperatures rise to the 60s. Cherry blossoms bloom and outdoor patios open. Great time for walking tours.
  • Summer (July-August) - High season with temperatures in the 70s. Summer festivals happen and sites open longer hours.
  • Fall (September-October) - Cooler weather in the 50s/60s and foliage turns. Fewer crowds but still lots open.
  • Winter (November-April) - Dark, cold winters with temperatures below freezing. Light displays and snow activities like skiing.

Peak tourist season is June-August when the weather is ideal, but hotel prices and crowds are highest. For thinner crowds and lower prices, May, September-October are pleasant times to visit. Woolen layers and snow boots will keep you comfortable and exploring even in the winter!

Know Before You Go

A few tips to make the most of your time in Quebec City:

  • The Province of Quebec is predominantly French speaking. Brush up on basic French phrases out of respect.
  • Walking is the best way to explore areas like Old Quebec. Bring comfortable walking shoes. Steep hills and uneven cobblestones are common.
  • Tipping is expected - 15% for meals, $2 per drink at bars, and 10% for taxis.
  • Try poutine (french fries topped with gravy and cheese curds) and maple taffy (maple syrup cooled on snow)!
  • Dress in layers. Quebec City weather fluctuates, even in summer. The Old City can be chilly due to winds off the river.

Top Souvenirs to Buy

Looking for the perfect mementos from your Quebec City getaway? Here are my top picks for locally made gifts and souvenirs:

  • Maple syrup - The province produces over 70% of the world's maple syrup. Pick up a tin or maple candy/taffy.
  • Fur hats - Warm tuques and fur-trimmed hats are plentiful in Quebec.
  • Canadian goose down jackets - Get a super warm puffer jacket to brave Canadian winters in style.
  • Quebec knitwear - Choose mittens, scarves or sweaters with beautiful patterns made locally from wool, alpaca and more.
  • Indigenous art/carvings - Support First Nations artists by purchasing authentic handicrafts and moccasins.
  • Artisan ceramics - Handcrafted mugs, bowls and dishes often in white with blue pattern detailing.

I hope this guide provides helpful tips and highlights the many incredible things to see and do in Quebec City! Let me know if you need any other local travel advice. From culinary finds to outdoor adventures, I'm happy to share more insider recommendations to make your trip memorable.

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