Welcome to Quebec City, capital of the Canadian province Quebec, and its second most-populous city (after Montreal). This is a city that simultaneously blends cultural pride and historical roots—as one of the oldest European settlements in North America—with an intense contemporary vibe, a Francophone city known best for its festivals, unique landmarks (such as its ice hotels), architecture, and cuisine.
Landmarks and Attractions in Quebec City
Quebec City’s aura is one of rich history and stylish architecture, a culture molded by military, political, and religious legacy, with stamps of the past embodied everywhere in old buildings, ramparts, and churches. You’ll find these best at Old Quebec, divided into an Upper Town and Lower Town. At the Upper Town, stroll around military fortifications like the star-shaped La Citadelle, home of the Royal 22e Regiment and Museum (catch the Changing of the Guard), and the museum Artillery Park. Take pictures, a tour, or a cocktail at the Chateau Frontenac, and enjoy views from Dufferin Terrace (a summer stage for performers and artists, and the lip of a gigantic ice slide in winter). Walk along or take a hot air balloon trip above the St. Lawrence River, the historic Plains of Abraham, and the Musee National des Beaux-arts du Quebec. Be sure to also visit the spectacular Notre-Dame de Quebec Basilica Cathedral (tombs and artwork included).
Make your way down the Breakneck Steps to the Lower Town and the gorgeous cobble-stoned Quartier du Petit Champlain, brimming with eclectic art galleries. Take a trip to the mid-1700s in the picturesque plaza Place Royal (the birthplace of French America) and the popular Musee de la Civilazation.
Nightlife and Family Fun in Quebec City
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Quebec City is the only remaining fortified city in North America, so enjoy a tour along its scenic 5km city wall. From July-September you can join in the Quebec Touristic Golf along some of the loveliest sights in Old Quebec. Enjoy the 24-hectacre Le Parc du Boid-de-Boulonge, or drive to the Parc de la Chute-Montmorency and its 83m waterfall (with summer suspension bridges and winter ice climbing courses). Be sure to walk along the Canyon Ste-Anne on three suspension bridges (kids will delight in its Great Color Adventure in autumn)—or take the fast route with the zip-line that flings you above the waterfall of this 1.2-billion-year-old gorge! Better yet, try herbitism: the climbing of tree canopies along suspension bridges, balance beams, metal cable paths, and more.
Enjoy a cultural night with opera, musicals, or theatre at the Grand Theatre de Quebec, or classical concerts at the churches. Enjoy performances at the open-air Agora during the Summer Festival. Drink up at lively pubs like the funky Le Pub Universitaire, the restaurant-nightclub Boudoir Lounge, the quiet Bar Le Sacrilege with its gorgeous courtyard, or the dim cozy Pub St-Alexandre with great live music. Try out the clubbing scene at the Chez Dagobert or the Chez Maurice. In Old Quebec, you’ll find “obits a chansons” (usually Celtic-tinged Quebecois folk music) hotel lounges, and alternative bars.
Off the Beaten Path in Quebec City
Veer from the typical clubbing nightlife experience and enter La Fourmi Atomik, a club known for its cool array of spotlight visual art. Take a cruise over the St-Laurent river for some spectacular dawn pictures. Savor excellent gelato ice-cream at the dairy bar on the south shore or at Les Chocolats Favoris. Journey 25 miles out of the city for one of the most intriguing North American experiences: enjoy vodka, go dog-sledding, admire ice sculptures, and rest in polar sleeping bags or deer pelts at the Ice Hotel, its breathtakingly intricate architecture sculpted anew each winter.
Shopping and Restaurants in Quebec City
Live the true Quebec City shopping experience by a trip to the Petit Champlain, North America’s oldest shopping district and the centre of Quebec City’s more than 400-year-old history. Here you’ll find Quebec City’s shopping mecca, dozens of delicious bistros, and even reenactments of history.
Home to many ambitious young chefs and restaurateurs, Quebec City offers numerous bistros and jazzy fusion eateries like Le Charles Baillairge (at the Clarendon Hotel), as well as classy retreats such as the Restaurant La Traite and Le Manoir Montmorency. Be sure to visit the open-fronted shops of Le Petit-Cartier, a food-mall of delicious desserts, treats, and fresh picnic fare. Don’t forget to stop by Chez Marie if it’s in your path, a fantastic little bakery housed in an adorable stone homestead sure to warm your heart and your belly.
Photos provided by: Luciano, Peter Dutton