Quebec City sits on the mighty St Lawrence River in the predominately French-speaking province of Quebec, Canada. It’s a beautiful city, and is known best for the walled, UNESCO world heritage area in the centre of the city called “Old Quebec”, and the majestic Château Frontenac Hotel that towers over the city as it’s icon. The cobbled streets of Old Quebec remind many of Europe, and people travel from all over to experience Quebec City in the winter season for the Quebec Winter Carnival.
Although made extra magical by the blanket of snow that covers it in the winter months, Quebec City is a wonderful city to visit any time of the year. There is great shopping, delicious restaurants, and lots to see and do! We left Toronto in early Autumn on a two-week road trip out to the East Coast of Canada, and there was no question that Quebec City was going to be the first stop on our adventure!
where to stay
There are a variety of options in Quebec City for hotels, apartment rentals, bed & breakfasts and hostels. The most famous hotel of course is the Chateau Frontenac. However, a stay in this majestic hotel doesn’t fit everyone’s budget! After a little bit of research, I came across a Quebec City bed and breakfast that fit our budget, and offered us a wonderful, authentic Quebec experience. The B&B is called Auberge J.A. Moisan, and I can’t say enough wonderful things about it! It’s located about 15 minutes outside of Old Quebec (walking), but the area is very lively, full of visitors and locals alike, and boasts a ton of great restaurants!
Auberge J.A. Moisan has four beautiful, classically-designed guest rooms, and the owners, Clement and Nathalie, are an absolute delight. They helped with bags, parking, gave us the ultimate tips for what to see and do in Quebec City, and most importantly, they cooked the most delicious and elaborate three-course breakfasts of my life. Their breakfasts could rival most any restaurant! The food, and service, was impeccable, and the bed and breakfast itself was spotless and had plush, fluffy bedding. If you’re planning a visit to Quebec City, you must stay at the Auberge J.A. Moisan. It’s bursting with character! You will definitely not regret your time here, and your stomach will seriously thank you.
Fun Fact! Clement and Nathalie also own a small grocery located below the bed & breakfast, where they sell lovely items and incredible fresh French baguettes, cheeses and meats. It’s a great place to pick up items for a picnic lunch!
what to see and do
Discover Old Quebec: There are two primary areas of Old Quebec; Upper Town (Haute-Ville) and Lower Town (Base-Ville). Upper Town hosts the famous Château Frontenac Hotel, as well as the main-stream shopping and dining locations. Surrounded by the ramparts, Upper Town is also where you can find the Citadel of Quebec City (La Citadelle de Quebec); A military fortress than can still be visited, and toured, today! If Upper Town makes you feel like you’re in Europe as your stroll along, then visiting Lower Town will only further immerse you. Lower Town was my favourite area to explore! It’s full of great restaurants, wonderful art galleries and other small shops. It’s a delightful area to discover! The cobblestone streets and old, stone buildings make you feel like you’re in a different country entirely!
Take a tour of La Citadelle de Quebec: Visit the Citadel in Quebec City to beef up on your Canadian military history, watch a changing of the guard ceremony, and take in incredible views of the city, and the St Lawrence River.
The Citadel is a National Historic Site, and is open daily (excluding Christmas and New Year’s Day) from 9am – 5pm (May-Oct) and from 10am – 4pm (Nov-Apr). I highly recommend walking through the museum and it’s exhibits, and taking a guided tour of the site. Admission is $16 per adult, $13 per senior (65 and over), $13 per student and $6 per youth (7-17).
Tip – you can’t freely walk around the citadel site, and the guided tours run every hour. Upon your arrival, go straight to the tour departure area and take the tour first, afterwards, you can explore the museum for as long as you wish. We didn’t realize this, and explored the museum first. When we were ready to take a tour, we realized it had just left, and we had to wait 45 minutes for the next one. Moral of the story – tour first, museum second.
Walk the ramparts: The wall surrounding Old Quebec is lovely, with many gates and towers. For a 365 degree view of the city, stroll along the ramparts and enjoy the sights of the buildings and people below. There are also great picnic locations and photo opportunities along this expansive walkway system as well.
Roam across the Plains of Abraham: Now a beautiful park and heritage site, the Plains of Abraham was once a vast expanse of open land, and because of t’s position by the St Lawrence River, it was the location of many clashes between the French and British Empires. The plains were the scene of the 1759 Conquest, which entirely changed the fate of North America. Today, many outdoor enthusiasts use the park to run through, and history buffs can walk through the park at a leisurely pace, taking in the information displayed on signage throughout. The Plains of Abraham is also a great place for a leisurely French-themed picnic.
Walk along the Terrasse Dufferin: The Terresse Dufferin is a beautiful elevated expansive terrace directly in front of the Château Frontenac Hotel, and offers panoramic views of Old Quebec and the St. Lawrence River. In the winter season, adrenaline junkies line up at Les Glissades de la Terrasse to experience the rush of zooming downhill from 270 feet in a toboggan speeding up to 60 miles per hour! In the warmer months, you will find entertainers and artists along the terrace, creating a fun and relaxed atmosphere. There is also a walkway from the Terresse Dufferin into the Plains of Abraham.
where & what to eat
We only had two nights in Quebec City. The first night we enjoyed a leisurely, French dinner at Bistro Sous le Fort. Our second night we enjoyed a sunset picnic on the Plains of Abraham with Quebec cheese and fresh baguette that we purchased from the grocery below our B&B. There are other restaurants that came highly recommended that we didn’t have a chance to experience. Among them are Panache ($$$), Le Lapin Saute ($$, if you like or want to try rabbit this place is for you!), and Aux Anciens Canadiens ($$$).
There are a couple key staple items that you must try when visiting Quebec City:
Classic Poutine – This delicious concoction is considered by many as the unofficial national dish of Canada. To do it properly, you need fresh cut french fries, squeaky Quebec cheese curds, and delicious slowly simmered gravy. You take the fresh, hot fries, cover them with cheese curds, and pour the delicious smooth gravy all over them. After that, dive in with a fork, and watch in awe and delight as the heat from the fries and gravy melts the cheese so it becomes gooey and stringy. A true Canadian poutine is substantial, and delicious. Pure indulgence. Many restaurants will sell this dish, we tried it at Le Chic Shack and La Buche. Both offered great poutine, but the dish at La Buche came in a huge pot with delicious slow-roasted beef on top – thank goodness there were two of us! It was delicious!
Quebec Cheese – The province of Quebec produces a wide variety of cheeses. Find a traditional brasserie or bistro, order an elaborate cheese plate featuring a variety of different local cheese and tuck in. If you’re looking for cheese on the go, check out a local grocery or specialty cheese shop, stock up cheese and a fresh baguette, and head to the park to enjoy it.
tips during your wanderings
- Quebec City is very hilly – comfortable walking shoes are a must for trekking through the Plains and up and down between Upper Town and Lower Town.
- The Plains of Abraham would be a great location for a morning run. If you’re looking for a wonderful place to work off the poutine you devoured the day before – this would be the place!
- Explore the side streets – that is where you’ll find the hidden gems, the restaurants the locals frequent, and in Lower Town, the beautiful art shops and galleries.
Quebec City is a great place to visit on a long weekend. Whether you’re visiting Canada from afar, or you’re within driving distance and are looking for a beautiful place to get away, Quebec City is a great option! It feels like another world entirely!
*all photographs & opinions are my own