Beautiful Québec City, located in the province of Quebec in Canada, is one of the most charming and alluring cities in North America.
Situated alongside the Lawrence River, north of Montréal and Toronto, Québec City is a magical place to visit. It’s packed with history and attractions, and is known for its impressive fortifications, vibrant culture scene and world-renowned cuisine.
You can easily spend a couple of days in Québec City and its surrounds, but this guide will cover how to spend one day in Québec City, and all the top things to do, see and eat!
History of Québec City
Not only is Québec City the cradle of the French language on the North American continent but it is also the provincial capital of Quebec. Some say that Québec City is as close to Europe you can get whilst in North America – and they’re right, but it’s also distinctly Quebecois too. It’s a unique blend of quaint cobblestone streets, awe-inspiring viewpoints from its dramatic cliff-top location, and charming stores and cafes. In fact, its stunning centre, Vieux Québec – or Old Quebec, has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Centre since 1985.
Québec City’s history actually dates back over 400 years. French explorer, Samuel de Champlain founded the city in the early 17th century (in 1608) but it ended up being besieged five times. In fact, it was once the capital of New France, but after 1760, a part of the new British colony.
Québec City remains the only city in Northern America to have preserved its fortifications, such as bastions, gates and ramparts. And all of which can easily be explored right in the city centre.
There’s plenty more history to delve into. And so for a more comprehensive guide to the history of this fascinating place, I suggest reading further here.
How to get to Québec City
Although there is an airport, and it does serve international flights, it’s very common to arrive by train or bus from Montréal. There is a direct flight from London Gatwick to Québec City on Air Transat airline, but it is often quite an expensive option. Or you can fly on Air Canada or British Airways from Heathrow and connect via Montréal or Toronto.
I opted to fly in to Montréal on British Airways. I then took the train which was a cost efficient way to arrive, and offered me the chance to enjoy a scenic train ride between the two cities.
Where to stay in Québec City
There’s a good variety of accommodation options in Québec City, but there’s an undisputed queen of hotels here, which is the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac.
Whilst my budget on this trip definitely did not stretch to covering a stay here, it is without doubt the place to stay in Québec City.
This historic hotel dates back to 1893 and has hosted guests such as Queen Elizabeth II and Celine Dion. It is iconic, not only in its history but also in its position. The hotel stands high above the city of Québec and can be seen from every location. The Fairmont truly looks like a magnificent Disney castle rising high above the city – it’s really quite mesmerising!
The Fairmont Le Château Frontenac
A queen room here starts from around £238 per night.
In terms of other places to stay, there’s a raft of other fairly affordable options in Québec City. Here’s my pick of the best covering each budget:
- Auberge du Tresor (around £75 per night)
- Auberge Saint-Pierre (also around £75 per night)
- Le Chateau de Pierre (around £87 per night)
- Hilton Quebec (around £116 per night)
- Hotel Port-Royal (around £126 per night)
- Hotel le Priori (around £131 per night)
Best places to eat and drink in Québec City
I had been provided quite a few suggestions of places to eat in Québec City and managed to visit quite a few in just one day.
A highly recommended breakfast spot was Maison La Smith. There’s a couple in Québec City, but my favourite one was the Rue Notre-Dame branch. My coffee and cake came with a beautiful view of the Halloween decorations in the charming square and a nice side of people watching.
Grand Allee is the best place in Québec City to go for nightlife. This tree-lined long street is packed with bars, pubs and restaurants, all decorated with hanging twinkling lights. Make sure to take in the stunning Victoria architecture in this area, once home to Québec City’s upper class families in the latter part of the 19th century.
If you fancy a special meal with stunning 360-degree views of Québec City, then make to visit Hotel Le Concorde Québec. On its 28th floor is the Ciel! bistro-bar, which offers incredible views and delicious food and drinks. Make sure to book ahead! Just nearby, still in the Grand Allee area is L’Atelier, which is the spot for great cocktails in Québec City.
For quick bites, Mary’s Popcorn and Chocolats Favoris are two must-visits and you’ll see a few branches around Québec City. Also, a Canadian treat I couldn’t get enough of was Beavertails, a fried dough pastry. It’s not unique to Québec City, but make sure to have one!
Top sights to see in Québec City
Vieux Québec – or Old Québec is a must visit, whether you have just one day in Québec City or a whole week. The Petit-Champlain neighbourhood nestled within Old Québec is in fact, one of the oldest shopping streets in North America. Packed with the most charming houses, stores and cafes, you can easily spend hours wondering around this area.
Place Royale, also in the heart of Old Québec is the site of the first French Settlement in North America. This area is packed with history. In fact, the Place Royale is the location Samuel de Champlain built some of his first buildings, including a fort, a storehouse, trading post, and a place to live, after his arrival in 1608.
One of the best ways to understand the fascinating history of Old Québec is to join a guided tour, such as this one here. Or if you’re visiting in the winter months, why not join a fat-biking activity around the city?
Nearby, either via a steep staircase or the funicular is another absolute must-visit attraction, the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac. As mentioned in the ‘where to stay’ section – it’s the best place to stay in Québec, but well worth stopping by as a day visitor too. Why not book this affordable guided tour of this historic hotel here?
From the front of the hotel, make sure to also stroll along the Dufferin Terrace, and take the wooden staircase up towards the Plains of Abraham park. You can also find the famous chute here where locals go tubing in the winter! You can find out more on this awesome attraction here at Toboggan Slide Au 1884 and if you’re visiting Québec City in the winter months, it’s a must do!
Why not book your entry ticket in advance? Buying it in advance saves you queueing. This attraction offer here gives you three rides and a delicious hot chocolate for warming up with afterwards!
The best places to go shopping in Québec City are the Saint Roch and Montcalm neighbourhoods. You could be slightly pushed to visit both of these with just one day in Québec City, but if shopping is your thing, it’s definitely worth making a beeline to either or both of these neighbourhoods.
Lastly, Québec City is definitely not short on brilliant museums and galleries. Make sure to visit the National Museum of Beaux-Arts, as well as the Museum of Civilisation – both brilliant for kids. There’s also the Québec Aquarium, with over 10,000 sea creatures.
Dufferin Terrace, a wide, wooden boardwalk wrapping around the front of the Château Frontenac
Attractions and sights to see near Québec City
If you’re planning to explore more of the surrounding area, then one of the most popular things to do near Québec City is to visit Montmorency Falls. This is a stunning 83-metre waterfall. The falls are best viewed from the cable car or the incredible suspension bridge that stretches across the falls.
In the winter months, you can explore this area by ice climbing and in the summer months, from the top of the Via Ferrata or zipline. It’s the perfect outdoor adventure destination – and only 15 minutes or so from Québec City
Other awe-inspiring natural attractions nearby include the Jacques Cartier National Park. This is a beautiful glacial valley with activities on offer including fat-biking, snowshoeing, backcountry skiing and summer time hiking. Why not book this awesome snoeshowing excursion in Jacques Cartier here?
For a guaranteed good time, make sure to visit the Valcartier Holiday Village. This is an epic activity centre/theme park with a unique ice hotel that opens in the winter months. One of the best activities is this epic snowtubing adventure, which you can book here.
Portneuf is another nearby area, and home to the ancient Chemin du Roy. This route which was once the first full carriage road in Canada. It runs alongside the St Lawrence river and is dotted with charming villages and brilliant spots for outdoor exploration, whether summer or winter.
Lastly, make sure to visit the treasure island of Île d’Orléans which is just a 15 minute ferry from Québec City. This city island offers a charming array of farms, art galleries, fruit picking and artisan stores.
If you’re spending longer than one day in Quebec City, then why not do this Montmorency Falls and Île d’Orléans half day tour here?
Best Things to Do in Québec City
So, there’s my complete guide to all of the best things to do in Québec City, Canada. I really hope this blog post has helped in your research and planning for your trip to Québec City, and how to best spend one day in the city. If you’re looking for a more detailed blog post on nearby Montréal, make sure to check out my guide here.
As always, let me know if you have any questions.
If you’re also planning a New England and Canada Fall cruise, then make sure to check out my detailed blog post on my experience.
Disclaimer: This guide has no involvement from the local tourism board or a hotel.
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