One of the oldest cities in Canada, Québec City is a city filled with old world charm, history, delicious food, cafés serving steaming cups of café au lait and delicious bowls of chocolat chaud (hot chocolate). In some ways being in Québec City can be deceiving; many forget they are still in Canada; thinking they should be paying in Euros instead of local currency.
Whether you have a day, a weekend, or a week, Québec City has you covered; and there is a good chance you won’t want to leave when the time comes.
This guide has been created to highlight some of the best things to see and do, where to enjoy fabulous cuisine (for all budgets), shopping destinations within the city, and where to lay your head at night for the best sleep possible after a full day of exploration and indulgence.
It’s time to explore Québec City. Are you ready?
Explore Québec City
Québec City is filled with historic sites, museums, shopping, and activities that are fun for solo travellers, couples, and families. Here are 10 ‘musts’ for anyone visiting Québec City.
- Aquarium du Québec [Ste-Foy] – Home to 10,000 marine animals, including: polar bears, walruses, and seals; Aquarium du Québec is a fun activity for anyone who is an animal-lover. The Aquarium is open everyday from 10am to 4pm in winter, and 9am to 5pm everyday from Jun 1st to Sep 1st. Adult admission is $17.50, Seniors $15.75, Children 3-17 $8.75.
- La Citadelle de Québec [Vieux Québec] – As the only fortified city in North America (north of Mexico), the citadel is worth a visit. While it’s possible to visit and take a tour during the day, consider doing the Night Tour, complete with a guide in a period costume. Cost is $20 for adults, $16 for 11-17yr olds, children under 11 are free.
- Food Tour [Vieux Québec & Saint-Jean-Baptiste] – This is the only food tour you should consider doing in Québec. This tour begins in Vieux Québec, then ventures into Saint-Jean-Baptiste, stopping to sample gourmet treats from some of Québec’s best restaurants like Le Patriarche, and Le Moine Échanson. Cost is $42.95 for adults.
- Morin Centre [Vieux Québec] – Housed in a 200 yr old building, the Morrin Centre was once an army barracks, than a prison, a college, and now a library -and the headquarters for the Literary and Historical Society of Québec. Visits to the library are free during business hours. The centre also offers guided tours of the prison (they’ve maintained a couple cells), college, and library, daily in summer in English and French. General admission is $8.75, Students (with ID) $6.50, Children 8 and under are free.
- Shop in Saint-Roch [Saint-Roch] – One of the new ‘hip’ neighbourhoods (an old neighbourhood that has been revitalized) in Québec, Saint-Roch is about a 15-20 min walk from Old Québec, and well worth the trip. Shop for vintage treasures at De Ja Vue, Le Knock-Out (records and lps), or one of the boutique shops (including John Fluevog shoes) on rue Saint-Joseph.
- Musée national des Beaux-arts du Québec [Montcalm] – Located along the Plains of Abraham, the MNBAQ has three pavilions (the 4th will open summer, 2016) and focuses on all aspects of contemporary Québec art, from the 1960s on. Another must visit in the city. The museum is open from Tues to Sun from 10am to 5pm, and on Wed from 10am to 9pm in winter. In summer (Jun 1st to Sep 2nd) the museum is open everyday from 10am to 6pm; except Wed when it is open 10am to 9pm. Adult admission (31+) is $18, Seniors $16, 18 to 31yr olds $10, 12 to 17yr olds $1, Children under 12 are free. *Wed from 5pm to 9pm admission is 50% off.
- Petit-Champlain is the oldest business district in North America, and was revitalized in the ‘60s along with Place Royale, and Vieux Port when the city decided to restore this area of Québec instead of tearing it down. Today Petit-Champlain and Place Royale are filled with tourist boutiques, local artisan shops, art galleries, and bistros.
- Ride the ferry between Québec and Lévis for drop-dead-gorgeous views of the Québec skyline. A one-way ticket on the ferry is $3.35 for 12- 64 yrs old, $3.05 for 65+, $2.30 children 5-11yrs old.
- Musée de Civilisation [Place Royale/Vieux Port] – located in Vieux Port, 85 Dalhousie Street, the Museum of Civilization has over 125,000 artefacts, exhibits on Québec, world exhibits like ‘Master of Olympus’ (until Mar 2015). The museum of open 10am to 5pm Tuesday to Sunday in winter, and 9am to 6pm everyday from Jun 23rd to Sep 1st. Adult admission is $15, Seniors $14, Students 18+ $10, Children 13-17 $1, Children under 13 are free.
- Visit Île d’Orleans – Have a car? Take a drive out to Île d’Orleans; just 17km from downtown. Buy fresh fruit, visit vineyards, take in the gorgeous scenery, and indulge in buttery croissants and homemade chocolates. If you don’t have a car, no worries you can book a tour for a short visit to the island, as well as a stop at Montmorency Falls.
Eating Out in Québec City
Venture off the tourist track and experience the best of Québec City’s food scene; from bistros serving farm-to-table style dishes to fine dining to the little restaurants that serve gooey poutine in the wee hours of the morning; we have you covered!
Vieux Québec [Old Québec]
Aux Anciens Canadiens – This fine dining restaurant is housed in one of the oldest houses in Québec and features a high-end Québécois menu.
Chez Boulay – located along rue Saint-Jean, Chez Boulay specializes in nordic boreal cuisine which features wild game like boar, bison, duck, and deer. As well as root vegetables, fresh plants, and berries.
Le Chic Shack – Across from Château Frontenac, Le Chic Shack serves some of the best gourmet poutine and burgers you will ever eat – an their homemade ice cream sandwiches are pretty good too.
Tournebroche – This new restaurant along rue Saint-Jean is the creation of Chef Stephane Roth and the owners of Le Patriarche. The bistro features rotisserie chicken and guinea fowl, delicious poutine, and a different crème brûlée for each day of the week. All with a gourmet flair.
Matto 71 – This Italian bistro by Rocco Cortina is a little slice of Italy in Vieux Port. The menu features delicious pizza, pasta, and the best meatballs in Québec City.
Panache – The signature restaurant at Auberge Saint-Antoine in Vieux Port (Old Port in lower town), Panache is the epitome of fine dining. Run by one of the youngest executive chefs in Québec, the food at Panache is fresh, exciting, innovative and utterly delicious.
J.A. Moisan – One of the oldest grocery stores in North America, J.A. Moisan has a lunch counter that serves small meals, salads, and sandwiches, all made fresh. It’s affordable, and delicious. And when you’re done you can shop for hard-to-find French ingredients for cooking at home.
Snack-Bar – Located on rue Saint-Jean, this restaurant is nothing like the others listed in this guide, but still worth including. Open 24 hours a day, Snack-Bar is the go-to destination for poutine and cheap late-night greasy eats like gourmet hot dogs and hamburgers.
Le Moine Échanson – Located in Saint-Jean-Baptiste, this small bistro is well known for its eclectic wine cellar and savoury cheese selection.
Picardie Cartier – This French café is a neighbourhood favourite. They serve sandwiches, tarts, and quiche, as well as pastries, desserts, cured meats, and cheese. A fabulous place for lunch, or a quick café and wi-fi break while exploring.
Sushi Taxi – One of the funkiest sushi restaurants you will ever eat in!
Le Cercle – This restaurant/bar/concert venue/underground music hotspot offers lunch, mid-afternoon, and dinner menus. The Grilled cheese and house-made pastrami sandwich is highly recommended.
Le Clocher Penché – This bistro features a $17 prix unique lunch menu which changes every two weeks. Prepared by Chef Mathieu Brisson, the ingredients are locally produced, the portions are generous, and the food is to-die-for. Dinner & brunch also available.
Nina Pizza Napolitaine – This pizzeria will transport you to Naples, Italy the moment you take your first bite. Owners Penelope and Lucie apprenticed with one of the best pizzaiolos, Chef Roberto Caporuscio.
Where to Sleep in Québec City
Québec City has plenty of sleeping options, from luxury hotels to cozy guesthouses, these are some of the best choices for those wishing to stay in the city.
Vieux Québec (Old Québec)
Au Petit Hotel – A small hidden gem in Vieux Québec, Au Petit Hotel is charming, and budget-friendly.
Le Clos Saint-Louis – located on rue Saint-Louis, this is one of the more romantic victorian era hotels in the city. Each room is different, so look through their website before booking.
HI Québec (Auberge internationale de Québec) – one of two hostels located in Vieux Québec, this HI has several rooms, a large communal dining area, kitchen, laundry, and free wi-fi.
Hôtel Manoir Victoria – a boutique hotel on Côte du Palais, Hôtel Manoir Victoria is a contemporary hotel with insanely comfortable beds, a pool, spa, and is home to Chez Boulay.
Auberge Saint-Antoine – One of the best luxury hotels in Québec, Auberge Saint-Antoine is unique in that artefacts (from 16th, 17th, and 18th century) which were unearthed during construction have been incorporated into the design of the hotel. When not lounging in your room, head down to Café-bar Artefact for cocktails, Panache for dinner, or a treatment at the spa.
Le Germain Dominion – The Germain family have hotels in Québec, Montréal, Toronto, and Calgary. The Dominion being the first, and grandest, is another top luxury choice in Vieux Port. *Everything is Québec/Canada made.
Château des Tourelles – A short walk from Ave Cartier, this 19th century hotel has 10 rooms, a private terrace with stunning views of the city, and a friendly atmosphere.
J.A. Moisan – aside from being a small bistro and grocery, J.A. Moisan also offers four beautifully decorated rooms. This auberge is very popular, so plan ahead and book early!
Auberge L’Autre Jardin – This 28 room hotel believes in sustainability and fair trade. Rooms are comfy, and a healthy breakfast is served each morning.
Hôtel Royal William – This contemporary boutique hotel is close to rue Saint-Joseph, which means trendy shopping, delicious bistros, and funky cafés are all at your fingertips.
Petit Hôtel Café Krieghoff B&B – located along the charming Avenue Cartier, this bed and breakfast has 7 rooms, a popular café, and is close to Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec, and the Plains of Abraham.
While staying close to Vieux Québec is preferable for many, if you have a car or do not mind taking public transportation, staying in Ste-Foy or Sillery is budget-friendly option (plus, that is where the shopping malls are located).
ALT Hotel – This boutique hotel is the budget-friendly brand owned and operated by the Germain family. The beds are insanely comfy, the rooms are colour, and the hotel is across the street from Laurier Mall – which offers a shuttle service to the Aquarium for only $5.
Hôtel Quartier – another budget-friendly boutique hotel, Hôtel Quartier has cozy contemporary rooms, an indoor pool, and free parking!
Hôtel Sépia – a beautifully decorated contemporary hotel, Hôtel Sépia has 81 rooms, and is close to the highway, and in a fairly quiet area. In summer the hotel has an outdoor pool, and provides a FREE shuttle service to Old Québec.
For the most part Québec City is a walking city, however there are times when taking the bus or a taxi comes in handy – especially when venturing into some of Québec’s charming neighbourhoods like Limoilou, Ste-Foy, and Sillery.
Walking up Côte de la Montagne is slow going as this is one of the steepest hills leading from Lower Town to Upper Town (Old Québec), it’s great exercise, but if you want to give your legs a break, head over to the Funiculaire in Petit-Champlain and ride up to the boardwalk in front of Château Frontenac.
The Funiculaire operates from 7:30am to 11:00pm and costs $2.25 CAD per person (exact change is recommended).
Taking the bus (RTC) in Québec is fairly easy and recommended if you’re staying near the old city and want to explore some of the neighbourhoods further out, and equally if you’re planning to stay in Ste-Foy or Sillery and want to venture into the old city.
RTC has several fare options:
- Regular fare $3.25 (one-way)
- 2-day Pass $13
- 1-day Pass $8
Bus passes can be bought in several locations throughout the city [ Find out where to buy your RTC pass].
As a pass holder you also receive a couple of discounts in the city (by showing your OPUS card)
- 10% of non-alcoholic beverages at Café In in Saint-Roch.
- 20% off regular price adult tickets at Théâtre Périscope (two ticket limit)
- 10% off tickets at Palais Montcalm (exclusively to regular price tickets to concerts presented by Société du Palais Montcalm)
To find out more information on RTC bus schedules and routes, download the RTC Mobile app for FREE!
While walking around the city, or taking the bus is quite easy, sometimes taking a taxi is preferable – and faster! Taxi fares in Québec start at $3.45, and charge $1.70 per kilometre driven. If you want to know how much the fare will be ahead of time, there is an app called Taxi Fare Finder which is free to download and fairly accurate.
Taxi Coop Québec • 418.525.5191
Taxi Coop Sainte-Foy • 418.653.7777
Taxi Laurier • 418.651.2727
Québec is a relatively easy city to travel to, no matter what your budget may be.
Jean-Lesage International Airport is located roughly 16 km from downtown, and is a transportation hub for flights throughout Canada, as well as direct flights to a few select destinations in the United States, as well as Paris.Direct flights are available to/from Toronto, Ottawa, Montréal, Gaspé, Sept-ˆIles, Îles-de-la-Madeleine, and Wabush. Reservation line: 1.888.247.2262 Flight Info: 1.888.422.7533 Direct flights are available to/from Montréal, Schefferville, Sept-Îles, Kuujjuaq, Kangirsuk, Quaqtaq, Kangiqsujuaq, and Salluit. Reservation Line: 1.800.361.2965 Seasonal flights from/to Paris, Fort Lauderdale, and Orlando. Reservation line: 1.866.391.6654 Flight Info: 1.877.872.6728 Direct flights are available to/from JFK (New York City). Reservation line: 1.800.872.6728 Direct flights are available to/from Toronto, and non-direct flights from Boston, Chicago, Halifax, Newark, Ottawa, Sault Ste Marie, St. John’s (Newfoundland), Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Timmins, Washington, and Windsor. Resveration line: 1.888.619.8622 Direct flights are available to/from Montréal, Toronto, and Wabush (Newfoundland). Reservation line: 1.800.563.2800 Direct flights are available to/from Chicago, and Newark. Reservation line: 1.800.864.8331 Flight Info: 1.800.824.6200 Direct flights are available to/from Philadelphia. Reservation line: 1.800.428.4322 Direct flights are available to/from Toronto, as well as seasonal flights to/from Cancun, and Fort Lauderdale. Reservation line: 1.877.956.6982
Travelling by bus to Québec City is relatively easy, and fairly affordable. – everyone gets a 20% discount when booking a return ticket. Orléans Express is the main bus company serving Montréal to Québec City, Centre-du-Québec, Maurice, Bas St-Laurent, and Gaspesie.
Discounts: students and seniors (60+), receive a 15% discount, children 5-12 receive a 40% discount on regular priced one-way fares. Children under 5 are free. If you’re planning to spend a few months in Québec and wish to make trips between Québec and Montréal, a pass with 5 return tickets costs around $356 CAD. You can buy your tickets online, or by visiting the main bus terminal: Gare du Palais Bus Terminal, 320, rue Abraham-Martin, Québec, 418.525.3000. Travelling by bus from outside the province of Québec to Québec City will require a transfer in Montréal.
While Greyhound is an option, there are more comfortable alternatives like MegaBus, which has comfortable buses with wi-fi from Toronto to Montréal for $44 (6h, 30m). *MegaBus has a free app that you can download for booking tickets and checking schedules.
Intercar is a bus company that serves areas north of Québec City, as well as the Côte-Nord region. Popular routes are Baie Saint-Paul (1h, 5m), Chicoutimi (2h, 30m), Jonquière (3h), Sept-Îles (11h, 40m), and Tadoussac (3h, 25m), all of which have daily departures.Tickets can be purchased at Gare du Palais Bus Terminal.
Renting or driving your own car to Québec City opens up even more possibilities in terms of day trips, and exploring more of the regional highlights like Wendake, and Charlevoix.
Most rental companies will allow cross-border trips, which is handy if you’re travelling to Canada from the USA. The following rental companies can be found in Québec City:
100 Boulevard René Lévesque Est
1110 Boulevard Wilfrid-Hamel
44 Côte du Palais
Parking can be found throughout the city, with many streets in Old Québec offering paid parking ($2.50 per 2 hours) which operates Mon-Sat 9:00am to 9:00pm, Sun 10:00am to 9:00am. Parking outside of these hours is free!
*Most metres only accept change, not credit cards.
Alternatively, if you do not wish to park on the street and feed a metre every couple hours there are parking lots throughout the city.
Québec City has been a train destination since the late 19th century – Canadian Pacific Rail is responsible for building the Château Frontenac, which now considered the ‘symbol of Québec City’. These days passengers can travel to Québec with VIA Rail. Passengers with VIA Rail can travel daily to/from Québec to destinations like Montréal, Ottawa, and Toronto. VIA Rail also has three trains a week to Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Halifax, and Jonquière.If you’re travelling from the United States, you can book a train ticket with Amtrak from New York to Montréal for around $70 USD (10h, 51m), Boston to Montréal for around $140 USD (15h, 31m includes a transfer in New York).
Many cafés, restaurants, and hotels have wi-fi in Québec, which is fantastic. In fact this is probably one of the more wi-fi friendly cities in Canada.
Finding free wi-fi in Québec City is really easy thanks to ZAP Québec (circa 2006), a non profit organization that has almost 200 hotspots through the city of Québec. Using the ZAP wi-fi is easy, simply turn on your wi-fi and look for a ZAP hotspot, login, and enjoy your free wi-fi. Once connected you’ll have 1GB of data usage. If you go over your usage you won’t be able to use that hotspot again for a week, so you’ll need to find another hotspot.
ZAP hotspots can be found in a selection of hotels, hostels, restaurants, museums, attractions, and bibliothéques (libraries).
Blog Posts about Québec City
Are you looking for some blog posts to read about Québec City? I’ve written several blog posts about living in, and exploring, Québec City; including a couple on where to find the best chocolat chaud (hot chocolate) – and there may be a reference about Québec City being like a comfy boyfriend, and Montréal being a sexy lover. Ha!
It’s kinky, right? I mean, who would have sex in a cup? Is that even logistically possible?! Well if the ‘sex’ we’re referring to is in fact chocolat chaud (hot chocolate), then yes. In a metaphorical way.
It sounds ridiculous, I know. How on earth can chocolat chaud be sex in a cup?! In my opinion, the same way Québec City can be my super sexy French boyfriend, and Montréal can be my smoking hot French lover. Trust me when I say that I don’t wax poetic about every cup of chocolat chaud that I drink. In fact, I am a bit of a chocolat chaud snob.
There is something almost magical about Québec City. Maybe it’s the European feel of the old city that makes me feel as though I’m overseas instead of in Canada. Or perhaps it’s the charm of the French guys, and the friendliness of the people who call Québec City home. Or maybe it’s both of those things.
As a new resident of Québec and a girl who tends to be slightly accident prone (especially in winter), I feel that I am probably one of the best people to write a post on surviving winter in Québec. Granted, winter is not anywhere close to being over, but I have learned a few things already and I feel the need to pass then along because Québec is the one province EVERYONE need to experience in winter at least once in their life.
In a city like Québec it is not difficult to find chocolat chaud (hot chocolate). Every café and restaurant makes chocolat chaud, but that doesn’t mean that they all sell excellent chocolat chaud. On the contrary, there are only a handful that sell authentic, delicious, chocolat chaud.
In today’s society it is so easy to walk around with blinders on. We look ahead or look down and watch where we’re walking, but we rarely look up or around us to see exactly where is it we are walking! There is so much to discover and learn when we make an effort to look up and around, and when we are not afraid to deviate from our path.
The Morrin Centre, located between rue Sainte-Anne and rue Dauphine in Vieux Québec (upper town), is one of those buildings we walk passed without a second thought, or a second look for that matter. Which is unfortunate as this is one of the more interesting buildings in this area of Québec City.
Canada is going through a food revolution, with talented young chefs popping up who are pushing past the boundaries of conventional food, and creating dishes that are fresh, unique in flavour, texture, and composition. It’s an exciting time for chefs, and food-lovers. And I’m lucky enough to live in a city that has several chefs with this foodosophy (yes, I just made up that word, and I’m keeping it!). Chefs like Mathieu Brisson from Le Clocher Penché.
Photographing Québec City’s Château Frontenac
A château designed by Bruce Price as part of a series of luxury château style hotels (Banff Springs Hotel, Château Lake Louise) by the Canadian Pacific Railway company, Château Frontenac stands tall on a cape overlooking the St. Lawrence River, and is one of the most photographed landmarks in the world.
The question is, where are the best places to capture postcard pretty shots of Château Frontenac?