If you’re planning a trip to Canada then you’ve probably already heard of Quebec City.
It’s one of Canada’s most popular tourist destinations and the capital city of Quebec.
You can also call it the french-speaking capital of Canada,with French as the official language for the province.
As one of the oldest settlements in North America, there are plenty of things to do in Quebec City.
It doesn’t matter the time of year – it’s amazing place to visit regardless of the season and weather.
So it’s your first time visiting Quebec City?
This post is going to cover everything you should know!
Let’s jump right into it.
Where to Stay in Quebec City for Tourists
There are plenty of options for accommodation in Quebec City for every budget.
Personally, I recommend booking an AirBnb apartment with a central location.
If you haven’t signed up already, head over to AirBnb and sign up for up to $45 off your first stay!
Alternatively, if you’re looking for a hotel or wondering where to stay in Quebec City without a car here are some options for you:
Quebec City Marriott Downtown – This is an elegant 4-star hotel with a central location in the old town of Quebec. Prices start at ~$130.
Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac – This is the iconic Quebec City hotel in a luxurious castle setting. The views from many of the rooms are incredible. This is the place to stay in town. Prices start at ~$200
Wondering where to stay in Quebec City on a budget?
Take a look at my review of the Chateau Bellevue.
This is where I stayed for 2 nights during my trip. It’s a great option if you’re looking for something reasonably priced with a great location.
How to Get Around in Quebec City
As one of the oldest cities in Canada, getting around Quebec City is easy without a car.
There is an extensive public transportation network.
The Quebec City bus network is easy to use and connects all of the popular tourist attractions.
Single tickets cost $3.50 (October 2018). There is a day pass available for $9 (October 2018).
Those of you traveling on the weekend will want to consider the unlimited weekend pass. This pass is good from Friday at 5:30 p.m. through to Sunday evening. The cost is $16 (October 2018).
Walking around the historic neighborhoods is the most practical form of transportation. Most of the main Quebec City attractions are all within walking distance of one another.
If you’re driving into Quebec City you’ll need to find parking.
Most hotels offer on-site parking starting at around $25 per 24-hour period. Alternatively, you can find public or private parking lots starting at around $10 per 24-hour period.
Street parking is available in Old Quebec and throughout the city centre. Metered parking downtown has a maximum time of 2 hours. Streets further from the centre have a maximum time of up to 5 hours.
Things to Do in Quebec City: Top Attractions and What to See
Originally, a small settlement was started by Samuel de Champlain right off of the banks of the St. Lawrence River at what today is called Place Royale.
Over time, as the settlement and surrounding buildings expanded, the city took on a new position at the top of the cliffs nearby where a defensive fort was built and where the rest of the city expanded from.
What started out as a fur-trading settlement quickly turned into the single most important administrative location in all of the New World and this made it a target for all of the hostile forces in the area.
Eventually, in mid-September 1759, a British general led an army force against the French and after a short, surprising one-sided battle on the Plains of Abraham the French lost control of the city and the British ruled thereafter.
Of course the French got it back and today Quebec City is an important commercial and cultural center in the heart of Quebec.
Despite a few hiccups along the way, such as the times when Quebec was looking to separate from the rest of the country, canada Wouldn’t be what it is today without Quebec and its capital city plays an integral role in the current and ongoing developments of the entire country.
Both Canadians and tourists alike love the city with its well-preserved Old Town, beautiful laneways, cobblestone streets, and rich history.
The historic district of old Quebec has made it onto the UNESCO World Heritage Site List and as one of the most popular tourist destinations in Canada it’s definitely somewhere you’re going to want to make the time to visit.
Now that I’ve rambled on for quite a bit let’s take a look at some of the best ways that you can occupy your time during your visit to the lovely Quebec capital.
Explore the Old Town (Quartier Petit-Champlain)
The old town of Quebec City is basically split up into two parts, the upper and lower areas, and it’s the lower area that’s much older and the most historic.
It’s known as the Quartier Petit-Champlain and it’s here where you can find some of the oldest buildings in the city as well as enjoy the charm of the previous capital of New France.
The narrow streets and low buildings really bring you back to a time when fur traders were hopping off their canoes and strolling through the narrow laneways trying to sell their wares and it’s not that much different today with all of the different souvenir shops and restaurants worth checking out.
I was lucky enough to be visiting this area during Christmas and all of the Christmas lights along with the decorations made it such a unique and memorable experience turning it into one of my favorite places to be during the holidays.
The area is known as one of the most beautiful street areas in all of North America and is also the oldest commercial district on the continent.
Don’t forget to admire all of the different hand built stone buildings and try to pop into a few different shops to see if there’s something you’d love to bring back home for your friends and family.
Reaching the Quartier Petit-Champlain is very straightforward and if you’re trying to get there from the old town there are a series of stairs that you can walk down or you can just take the funicular for a small fee.
This small square is where Samuel de Champlain founded his original settlement all the way back in 1608.
It’s known as the cradle of French civilization in North America and it’s here you can find some of the oldest residential buildings in all of Canada.
The stone buildings lining the square were hand built over the last few hundred years from rock that was hewn right out of the nearby cliff face.
It might not look like much but there is definitely a European vibe with this small square which goes to show the inspiration that the people building it brought back from their homes in France.
Dominating one end is the Notre Dame des Victoires Church, which was built in 1688, and is the oldest stone church on the entire continent.
If you’re interested in learning more about Place Royale then I would recommend checking out the Musee de la Place Royale for a better look at how the square looked and the development of Quebec City throughout its history.
After exploring the lower part of the old town I recommend taking the stairs up or taking the funicular up to the upper part of the old town area.
Once you get to the top you’re bound to notice the Chateau Frontenac looming in front of you and this is one of the most iconic buildings in the world.
The hotel was built in 1894 by the Canadian Pacific Railway and over the years has turned into one of the most popular tourist sights in Quebec.
Not only that but hundreds of thousands of photos are taken of it every year and there are few buildings elsewhere that have ended up on Instagram more than the Chateau.
At the moment it’s owned by the Fairmont hotel chain and if you’re looking for a luxurious and ritzy place to stay in Quebec City then I would recommend checking it out.
On its position right on the Dufferin Promenade it’s possible to enjoy some incredible views of Quebec off in the distance and admire the St. Lawrence River as it slowly meanders by the city.
The location that the hotel is on was originally where the Fort St. Louis was positioned and you can even check out some of the ruins that still exist underneath the hotel.
The Citadelle of Quebec
The Citadelle, also known as La Citadelle, is a defensive structure that was built on top of the higher elevation area of the plateau that the city is located on.
Entirely surrounded by walls and bastions, the Citadelle takes on an uneven star shape and all of the rock that it was built from was taken from local quarries.
Interestingly enough it turns the city into the only city north of Mexico that’s still surrounded by defensive fortifications and it’s also the oldest military building in all of Canada.
These days it’s a popular tourist destination and one of the more interesting things to do in Quebec City, especially for those interested in military history.
More than 200,00 people visit the Citadelle every year and it has been designated a National Historic Site of Canada.
Construction of the Citadelle started in 1673 and today it’s mostly just used by the military and local government offices.
There are plenty of tours that you can take around the Citadelle and even as you’re walking through of the upper part of the old town you can see many remnants of the old defensive walls that make up part of the original defensive structure.
Right next to the Citadelle is the Plains of Abraham and this is another important historic area in the city that also happens to play an important role in the development of Quebec as a whole.
The Plains of Abraham
It might not look like much when you’re walking around but the Plains of Abraham is where the Battle of the Plains of Abraham took place in mid-September of 1759.
What happened on that date is that British soldiers climbed the steep cliff right behind the large field that make up the plains and surprised the French army in a battle that lasted just 30 minutes.
Unfortunately both of the generals on the French and British side died but the result was that Quebec City was left under control of the British and this allowed them to take control over all of Canada the next year.
The area that the plains take over is quite large with the park being more than two and a half kilometres long and nearly a kilometer wide.
There are quite a few walking trails throughout the area as well as a few different monuments that commemorate the battle and those that died in it.
During the summer it’s a wonderful place to visit where you can learn more about the history of Quebec City but during the winter it was covered in snow, and not really much going on.
Located just Southwest of the upper part of the old town is Parliament Hill and this is the current seat of Quebec provincial government.
The beautiful Parliament building was built in 1877 and its design is very reminiscent of the public buildings that you typically find in Paris and other large cities in France.
I would definitely recommend checking it out at night as it becomes so much more magnificent when it’s lit up and you can’t stand in awe at the fact that the National Assembly of Quebec has been meeting here for more than 100 years.
Right out front of the Parliament building is the popular and picturesque Fontaine de Tourney and surrounding the area are quite a few other imposing and architecturally interesting buildings worth checking out as well.
Carnaval de Quebec
Depending on the time of year you’re visiting you’re going to want to check out Quebec’s popular winter carnival – the Carnaval de Quebec.
Unfortunately since I arrived in mid-December I wasn’t able to visit this Festival but if you’re there during late January and early February then you’re going to want to head out to the Plains of Abraham and check out the different activities and events that are going on.
There are quite a lot of things going on such as the traditional dog sled races and even canoe races right on the river.
There is ice skating available as well as plenty of different games that are fun for the whole family and if you’re lucky you might even catch a parade or a live music festival at night.
A wide variety of vendors are out in full force at the winter carnival and make sure to dress warm as at this time of year it can get quite cold in Quebec City.
Musee de la Civilisation
The Musee de la Civilisation is one of the most popular museums in Quebec City and if you’re looking to learn more about the history of the city as well as how the culture developed then it’s worth visiting.
Not only will you be able to learn more about the capital but there are exhibits at the Museum that go into great detail about the establishments of French America and how the city came to play such an important role in the development of Canada.
Keep it in mind that there are actually three different buildings that the museum is composed of and you’re going to have to do some walking if you want to check them all out.
The main building it is located right near the Old Port, there’s another one that’s right on Place Royale, and you can find the third building at the hilltop seminary right by the Chateau Frontenac.
Personally, I’m not a big fan of museums but if history and culture is something that you’re interested in then I would definitely recommend visiting the Musee de la Civilisation.
Right outside of the city walls is the Grande Allée and this is basically the backbone of the city.
This district is located right near Parliament Hill and it’s here that you’ll find a wide range of different restaurants, small shops, bars, and other interesting venues that you can check out if you’re looking to take a break from the old town and historic parts of the city.
Parts of the street are lined with impressive and picturesque buildings from the 19th century where it was once an area that only the city’s upper class would frequent.
There are plenty of other Quebec City attractions worth checking out in this area such as the Battlefields Park, the Drill Hall, and the Musee National des Beaux-Arts.
If you’re only in the city for just one or two days then you might not have time to explore this area but otherwise you might want to meander over and see what it is that you can find.
The Quebec City to Levis Ferry
Just a few steps away from the historic lower part of the Old Town you’ll be able to find a ferry that crosses over the St. Lawrence River to a small town on the other side called Levis.
This is basically a suburb where many locals live and then choose to commute by ferry into the main area of the city and if you’re looking for the best view of the Château Frontenac as well as Quebec City itself then it’s definitely a ferry ride you’re going to want to take.
The view is amazing at night and during the day and I think it’s about an hour round trip if you do it all at once without getting off.
Observatoire de la Capitale
Another place where you’ll be able to take advantage of the best view of Quebec City is from the top of the Marie-Guyart Building.
It’s here where you’re able to enter the Observatoire la Capitale and this viewing platform offers a 360 degree view of the city down below from 31 floors up.
There is a small entrance fee and I would argue that the views from up here are incredible, especially on a clear day when you can see for kilometers off to the surrounding Quebec countryside.
There are also a few interactive exhibits that display how much the city has grown over the past few hundred years.
Should you happen to visit the observatory you might spot a small island right in the middle of the St. Lawrence – this is the Ile d’Orleans and if you have the time to go on a quick day trip then I would definitely recommend checking out the island for an even further look at Quebec culture and history.
Just 5 kilometers away from the city is the Île d’Orléans, a small island right in the middle of the St. Lawrence River.
The island itself is just 9 kilometers wide and if you’re driving it’s possible to drive around the whole thing in less than 45 minutes.
Across Île d’Orléans are more than 1500 historic homes and plenty of interesting and unique small shops to check out along with a variety of different villages such as Ste-Famille, which is the oldest European settlement in the area.
I’m not sure if it’s possible to reach the island on public transportation and if you’re planning on driving you’re going to want to be careful during the winter as many of the roads aren’t accessible and they don’t plow the roads very often either.
The Pont de Quebec Bridge
Running right across the St. Lawrence where it happens to narrow a little bit is the Pont de Quebec Bridge.
It’s very likely that you’re going to cross this iron frame bridge if you’re driving from Toronto and if you get the chance of pulling off to the side once you get off to admire its size as well as some cool photos of it.
One of the reasons that it’s famous is because by the time it was completed in 1917 more than 80 of the workers died that were building it.
Right beside this iron bridge you’ll find the Pierre Laporte Bridge, another interesting man-made structure that spans the entire river.
This one is quite interesting because when it was built in 1970 it was the longest suspension bridge in all of Canada and it spanned more than a kilometer in length over the river itself.
Where to Stay in Quebec City
Even with so many different things to do in Quebec City, you still need somewhere to stay!
I stayed at the Chateau Belluevue and I definitely recommend it if you’re looking for somewhere cozy that has a great location!