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48 Hours in Quebec City – What to Do on Your First Trip

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If you’re spending 48 hours in Quebec City for the first time, one thing will be obvious upon arrival: it’s such a beautiful place that it’s hard to leave after so little time. It is, after all, one of the most interesting cities in North America. But if your time is limited, here are the places you must see during your short stay.

Is 2 days enough to visit Quebec City?

That’s a big question! The real answer is: it depends. Québec City is an absolutely fascinating city, whether for its cultural heritage, its proximity to the province’s great national parks, or its booming food scene. You can spend 24 hours or an entire week here and still come away wanting more. No pun intended!

But 48 hours in Quebec City, or about two full days, is enough to feel the pulse of this mythical city and visit its main attractions. Even in winter!

Day 1 – How to spend 48 hours in Quebec City

Of course, it’s impossible to visit Quebec City for the first time without spending some time in the magnificent Old Quebec. This area will take up most of your first day. If your visit coincides with the weekend, start with brunch at Comptoir Boréal Chez Boulay.

The first choice you’ll have to make is whether you want to go at it alone, or go on a paid or free Quebec City walking tour. For the latter, there are plenty of options available depending on your interests.

First stop – the most obvious, of course! Château Frontenac. Here you’ll understand the strategic value of this site during colonization, as well as the historical value of the city on a Canadian scale. For architecture buffs, you can even take a guided tour of the legendary hotel to learn its secrets.

If you’re having trouble navigating Quebec City’s streets (which are anything but perpendicular), a tour bus ride is a good idea. While you can hop on and off at various points, it’s also possible to just stay on board for the entire trip, so you can better plan your travels later.

Stroll the streets of Old Quebec and the Dufferin Terrace before stopping for a bite to eat at one of the many local restaurants.

In the afternoon, head down to Basse-Ville (lower town) to visit the Musée de la Civilisation. Especially if you’re visiting Quebec City with the kids, the museum has great facilities for younger visitors. Next, soak up the history at the magnificent Place Royale, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Then you’re just steps away from the charming cobblestone streets of the Petit-Champlain district, where you’ll discover all its charms and pretty boutiques.

Before ending the day, be sure to take a sunset ride across St. Lawrence River on the public ferry linking Québec to neighboring Lévis. If you’re lucky, the sky will light up and you’ll be treated to some truly exceptional panoramas over the whole area.

Once back in port, take the cable car (funiculaire) back up to Château Frontenac for an aperitif in one of the most iconic hotels and landmarks in Quebec City.

Day 2 – How to spend 48 hours in Quebec City

Start with pastries at Boîte à Pain or coffee with the locals at Café Olive.

Then head to Rue Saint-Jean to pick up some local produce at the legendary J.A. Moisan grocery store (founded in 1871) before heading to the famous Plains of Abraham and Citadelle de Québec for a picnic. You can easily spend another hour or two strolling through this magnificent park before heading a short distance away to the Fine Arts Museum. A must see for its architecture, location and exhibitions.

Next, head to the Observatoire de la Capitale for a bird’s eye view of the city and region. You’ll see the south shore of the St. Lawrence River, Île d’Orléans and, on a clear day, the Charlevoix Mountains on the horizon. This truly is one of the top things to do in Quebec City whatever the season!

If you need to relax your legs after two days of hiking, you may prefer to visit the Strom Nordic Spa, which also offers a magnificent, albeit very different, panorama overlooking St. Lawrence River. The spa is even a local favorite among the numerous winter activities.

If you have time during your 48-hour stay in Quebec City, you can visit the Morrin Centre and the Maison de la Littérature, two magnificent cultural buildings in Old Quebec.

Where to stay in Old Quebec? Monastère des Augustines

Où dormir à Québec - Where to stay in Quebec City - Monastère des Augustines - Chambre Classique - Room
Photo credits: Béatrice Bernard-Poulin

The Monastère des Augustines is steeped in rich history, being part of the Hôtel-Dieu de Québec monastery, the birthplace of the first hospital in North America. This wellness sanctuary offers a unique blend of history, culture, and wellness. It is a wellness retreat, providing a range of holistic health services including workshops and spa treatments. For those interested in history, the on-site museum is a must-visit.

This accommodation offers two types of rooms. The “Authentic” rooms, which maintain a monastic spirit, were former Augustinian cells with shared bathrooms. The “Contemporary” rooms, on the other hand, offer modern comforts.

The monastery’s central location makes it an excellent base for exploring the city. Its focus on wellness also makes it an oasis of tranquility amidst the bustling city, perfect for unwinding after a long day of sightseeing.

Where to eat in Quebec City: the best restaurants

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There’s something for every palate and every budget in Quebec City. Indeed, the nation’s capital has even experienced a gastronomic renaissance in recent years, with a number of renowned young chefs setting up shop and opening restaurants that are now well worth discovering.

In Quebec City you’ll find everything from comforting foods to fine dining, and everything in between.

Crédits photos: Jean-François Frenette, Gaëlle Le Royer/Destination Québec Cité

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