One of my last stops on my epic North American trip was Quebec City. I was starting to feel a little homesick so it seemed like a good idea to go somewhere with more of a “European” vibe. I decided to stay for a few weeks, working at a really cute B&B. It was also a nice opportunity to brush up on my high school French.
Quebec City is nothing like the western part of Canada. This is where the colonists first settled, so everything is much older. Quebec is also French speaking and lots of people don’t speak English, which really surprised me. The architecture, the culture, the people: Quebec feels like a completely different country.
Quebec should definitely be part of your visit to Canada, if only to see a totally different side of the country.
Although Quebec City is the capital of Quebec province, it’s much smaller than I expected. You can easily see the highlights in a couple of days, making it a perfect weekend destination. It is also a good base to explore more of the province, which has a lot to offer. It has beautiful architecture, lots of shops and restaurants, great museums, gorgeous nature and delicious food: everything you need for a lovely little trip.
Here are my favorite things to do in Quebec City.
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Discover Old Quebec
Of course the main thing to do in Quebec City is to explore Old Quebec. Although Old should be taken with a grain of salt. The oldest settlement here dates from 1608, which to most Europeans is pretty young. Old Quebec is not very big, but pedestrian friendly. So strolling around this part of Quebec is the perfect day activity.
Be sure to hit all the main landmarks of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, starting at Chateau Frontenac. This is not an actual castle, just a massive Fairmont hotel that looks like a castle. It’s very pretty and imposing nonetheless. The boardwalk in front of the chateau offers a lovely view of the river and Lévis.
Visit the Notre Dame Cathedral (not to be confused with the one in Paris), the Parliament building and the city walls. But the best part about Old Quebec is strolling around the cute little streets like the one pictured above.
This Quebec City Walking Tour is the perfect way to explore the city
Stroll around Petit Champlain
Below Old Quebec, right beneath the Chateau Frontenac, lies Petit Champlain. This part of Quebec City looks like the Disney version of Medieval France, plastic and polished, but still very cute. It’s a fun area with lots of shops, bars and restaurants. There are also tons of art galleries and antique shops to browse in Petit Champlain.
Visit the Civilization Museum
The Musée de la Civilisation (Museum of Civilization) also lies in Petit Champlain. It’s a beautiful modern museum great for both adults and kids. Their permanent exhibition is on the history of Quebec and very informative. The temporary exhibitions range from natural history to conceptual art and are usually pretty interactive. The museum also has a great rooftop garden!
Like all museums in Quebec, admission is cheaper for visitors under 30 y/o.
Climb up to the Citadel
One of the best views in Quebec City is to be had from the Citadel and the Plains of Abraham. The first fort was built to defend Quebec City against the British. But of course, in the end, the British did manage to pry Nouvelle France away from the French. They then fortified the structure to ward off the Americans, making it supposedly impenetrable.
Nowadays, the Citadel contains the oldest military building in Canada and is still a functioning military base, so the inside can only be visited as part of a guided tour. But you are free to walk around on the barricades and walls, which offer a 360 view of the city.
Take the ferry to Lévis
However good the view is from the Citadel, it can only be beat by the view from the ferry. The port is right by Petit Champlain and I highly recommend taking the 15-minute ferry across the river to Lévis. The ferry is cheap (around 7.50 dollar for a round trip) and gives you a great view of both Quebec City, the landscape and Lévis.
Or go for a wine tasting on Île d’Orleans
Lévis itself is a charming little town with some beautiful buildings and cute shops. It’s a great place to base yourself if you want slightly cheaper accommodation, but still be close to the city. I recommend the lovely Auberge de la Visitation.
Quebec City feels more European than North American and gives you a look at a very different side of Canada. It has a rich history and culture, so well worth a visit!
These are my favorite things to do in Quebec City, but what are yours? I’d love to hear your hidden gems and must-see’s in the comments.
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