The Best Things to See and Do in Quebec City

Loaded with history and culture; Quebec City is a magical wonderland in the winter and a breathtaking landscape in the summertime. Whether you are coming to experience the enchanting twinkling lights and holiday season or you are coming to explore one of the world’s most walkable cities; Quebec City will not disappoint. The rural countryside of New France awaits you in the villages that line the Saint-Lawrence and the Parc National de la Jacques-Cartier beckons you with her call of breathtaking scenery. Spend a night or two in luxury at the newly renovated Fairmont Le Château Frontenac overlooking the powerful Saint-Lawrence River and the historic walled old city. Discover the true meaning behind the Citadelle and its star shaped layout and tour the parliament buildings with an informative guide. Bask in the sun on the wooden boardwalk and dine on the dish that Canadians have come to love. Quebec City is full of opportunity, history and promise and here are ten great things to get you started in this city.

10. Eat Poutine

Visiting Quebec without eating poutine is almost equivalent to visiting Italy and not having pizza or pasta; it is simply a must do. Quebec City is the perfect place to find a traditional poutine. For those reading this wondering what we are talking about let’s take a moment and break down what poutine actually is. Picture a heaping pile of crispy french fries topped by a handful of cheddar cheese curds, and a chicken or veal based brown sauce (gravy). Poutine was born in Quebec City and remains a staple of things to eat while you are visiting.

Chez Ashton in Quebec City is the local’s favourite poutine spot. Although a fast food chain with over 26 locations now, Ashton’s still sources all its products locally and makes every order fresh. Potatoes from nearby farms, cheese that has never been refrigerated and secret sauces made in-house are all combined to make the perfect poutine. Owner Ashton Leblond is said to have imported the idea of making poutine back when it was invented and let his customers try it for free. The rest is truly history. If you can find time to dine on this iconic Quebecois staple, we promise you won’t be disappointed.

Quebec Poutine

9. Terrasse Dufferin

Located just below the infamous Chateau Frontenac (mentioned earlier) is Terrasse Dufferin; an incredible terrace that overlooks the Saint-Lawrence River. This wide wooden boardwalk was built in 1879 and offers visitors the perfect opportunity to take in the sites, stroll or people watch. In the wintertime the adrenaline seeking locals and visitors line up at Les Glissades de la Terrasse to speed downhill in a toboggan from 270 feet high, reaching up to 60mph. Folks that don’t want to partake in this activity can often be found watching with a warm coffee in hand.

Summertime brings musicians, entertainers and artists to the boardwalk and with plenty of benches along the way visitors will find themselves relaxing in the cool breeze alongside them. Joggers like to take over the boardwalk in the mornings and the many steps provide great exercise. Photo opportunities are endless on the terrace as the varying levels of heights provide views unlike anywhere else in the city. There are no restaurants or vendors on the terrace making for a peaceful romantic place for any local or visitor to the city.

Sylvie Bouchard / Shutterstock.com
Sylvie Bouchard / Shutterstock.com

8. Tour the Hotel du Parlement

Located high atop a hill in Quebec City sits the meeting place of Quebec’s National Assembly; the Hotel du Parlement. Visitors flock to this site to stare at the dazzling French architecture which was completed in 1886. The exterior of the building houses 23 bronze statues of significant provincial historical figures and a gorgeous fountain completes the property. Free tours are offered all year round and you must show I.D to attend.

The tours will take visitors into the National Assembly Chamber, the Legislative Council Chamber and the Speakers’ Gallery and the knowledgeable guides are both informative and entertaining. Prepare to be educated on both the Quebec and Canadian Government. The stained glass windows and gorgeous paintings seem at home in the stunning building. During the winter the building is decked out in lights and a giant Christmas tree that is tastefully decorated. In the summer the gardens bloom, the sculptures gleam and the fountain flows at full force. Both inside and out the Hotel du Parlement is not just a beautiful stop but an educational one as well.

Hotel du Parlement Quebec

7. Spend a night at the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac

Located inside the walls of Old Quebec lies the most famous of landmarks in the historic district and offers visitors a chance to spend a night in luxury. With breathtaking views of the Saint-Lawrence and the old city, guests of the Fairmont will feel more like they are in historic Europe than Canada. With its multi-million dollar renovation the hotel promises exceptional hospitality and elegant luxury. This is truly a hotel to treat yourself and is located just a stone’s throw away from many of the best things to see and do in the city.

Enjoy delicious cuisine prepared from locally sourced products created by exceptional chefs in restaurants that overlook the beautiful river. Take a dive into the pool at the exclusive health club or book a massage at the newly added spa. Relax in a gorgeously decorated room with the finest furnishings and graceful touches. This historic hotel is breathtakingly beautiful from the lobby to the rooms to the dining areas to the outdoor spaces. If you are a visitor during the holiday season prepare yourself for twinkling lights, stunning decorations and many visits from Saint-Nick.  A hotel where you can feel like a king or queen awaits you in Quebec City at the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac.

Fairmont Le Château Frontenac Quebec

6. Parc de la Chute-Montmorency

Located between the rivers and the cliffs this natural wonder is one of the hottest spots to visit in Quebec City. Towering 83 meters high Montmorency Falls is one of the provinces most spectacular sights and dominates the landscape for miles. Accessible year round this park can be explored by foot or cable car and its beauty is impressive both in the winter and the summer. Wintertime brings a freeze to the falls and creates a stunning sugarloaf; a frozen cone of ice at the base of the falls. Ice climbers can often been seen climbing up the frozen falls.

On the other hand summertime brings plenty of lush green grass, breathtaking flora and suspended footbridges to cross. Trails run throughout the park and range from 0.5km to 3km long. For the visitor wanting some extra exercise there are 487 stairs to be climbed from the bottom to the top of the park. A cable car ride will also transport visitors up and down the park. The estate house contains a small museum and eatery or choose to pack a picnic and enjoy the tables available to use. Visitors will spend the day exploring the numerous trails and magnificent views; no matter what season they may visit.

Montmorency Falls Quebec

5. Take a daytrip to Parc National de la Jacques-Cartier

Located just a short drive north of Quebec City is the breathtaking Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier. With its vast mountainous plateau that is cut by beautiful glacial valleys; this park is one of the most magnificent natural wonders in the province. The Jacques Cartier River along with the populous forests creates a landscape so stunning you won’t believe you are only 30 minutes outside the city. The opportunities for activities are endless here whether you are visiting in the summer or winter.

Wintertime brings snowshoers and Nordic skiers to the park with miles of trails and lookout points. In the summertime inner tubing down the river is one of the most popular activities as is canoeing or kayaking. Over 30km of mountain biking trails are also available for the enthused cyclists. Keep your eyes peeled all year round for sightings of moose, beavers and plenty of different bird species. Pack a picnic, hop into the car and discover the stunning Parc National de la Jacques-Cartier.

Parc National de la Jacques-Cartier Quebec

4. Stroll down Grande Allee

Located just outside the city’s walls is one of the highlights of Quebec City. Grande Allee is comprised of outstanding restaurants, sidewalk cafes, a hopping nightlife and plenty of breathtaking architecture, gardens and fountains. In the summertime it becomes one of the best places in Quebec City for people watching or to have a bite to eat on one of the beautiful terraces. During the winter carnival the street becomes lined with ice sculptures and ice bars.

A lot of the historic buildings have been carefully restored and have added to Grande Allee’s charm and sometimes expensive price tag. Restaurants tend to be a little pricier here than in other parts of the city but the possibilities for choice are endless. Clubs and bars in the area remain open well past normal closing time and this is the place to be for the hippest and most unique nightlife. Stop by one of the theme evenings where the party rolls on all night long. Whether you are looking for a romantic meal, a pint of beer overlooking the city or an all night party; you can find it here on Grande Allee.

Songquan Deng / Shutterstock.com
Songquan Deng / Shutterstock.com

3. Explore Île d’Orléans

Located just a short drive outside Quebec City is the Île d’Orléans (island); the birthplace of New France and the largest historical district of Quebec. Driving across the bridge visitors will step back in time and discover the rural and charming villages that line the Saint-Lawrence River. Century old homes, historic churches and beautiful surrounding countryside make this a top destination. In the summer is when the beauty is at its best with lush orchard trees teaming with pears and apples, fields jam-packed with strawberries and raspberries and road-side stands selling everything from maple syrup to fruits and vegetables.

There are five villages that are worth stopping in and exploring. In Saint-Laurent visitors should stop by the economuseum; an old blacksmith shop that invites you to learn about the craft of this skill and displays numerous pieces of work. Saint-Jean is the center of preserved houses, some dating back to 1825 and was home to Saint-Lawrence River pilots and navigators.  Saint-François, Sainte-Famille, Saint-Pierre all offer different and unique experience from pick-your-own farms to an observation tower. Spend the day driving this beautiful island and discover the rural traditions of Quebec.

Île d’Orléans Quebec

2. Museum of Civilization

In the heart of the historic district of Quebec City lies the most popular museum; the Musée de la Civilisation. What makes this museum so unique and wildly popular is the focus on interaction and participation by visitors. This modern yet comfortable museum offers a look at over 400 years of history of Quebec and its people. The hands-on exhibits will keep both older children and adults entertained along with its variety of exhibits and collections.

Guided tours are included in the price of admission and at $10 per adult this is truly a steal. Tours run anywhere from 20 minutes to 45 minutes and the experienced guide will take you through Quebec’s history or on a journey about one of the current exhibits. Visitors are encouraged to take more than one guided tour. Families with children will enjoy the few youth zones throughout the museum and parents can watch the kids dress up in the costume workshop or try their hand at science experiments. Prepare to spend a few hours exploring this mid-size museum and learn not only about the history of Quebec City but the entire province.

Musée de la Civilisation Quebec
Photo by: Musée de la Civilisation Quebec

1. Tour the Citadelle

Over 300 years of history await visitors at the Citadelle National Historic Site; an active military installation and home to the monarch of Canada and the Governor General of Canada. This star-shaped fort was built from 1820-1850 and was meant to secure the strategic heights of Cap Diamant (the highest natural point in the area) against the Americans and became the largest British fort in North America. Guided tours of the historic fortress and self-guided tours of the museum are available all year round.

Knowledgeable guides will answer such questions as to why the fortress is star shaped, what is was designed to do and anything else you may wonder. Night tours are also available in the summer and fall and visitors will have a chance to explore the fortress by lantern. In the summer make sure to be there at the changing of the guard when this colorful military tradition takes places on a daily basis. A monumental piece of Quebec City’s history; the Citadelle National Historic Site should be at the top of your list of things to see in Quebec City.

Citadelle Quebec

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