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Our Guide to Old Quebec Essential Sights

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Quebec City, a historic jewel perched on the heights of the Saint Lawrence River, is a true journey back in time. Its European charm and romantic atmosphere have captivated visitors for four centuries. Its historic centre, Old Quebec, is the only fortified city in North America north of Mexico and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, making it a must-see. Strolling through its cobbled streets, admiring its majestic ramparts and being enchanted by its colonial architecture is like taking a trip where every corner tells a story. In addition to its rich heritage, Quebec invites you to savour the delights of the burgeoning Quebecois cuisine and discover unique attractions that will enrich your stay.

From the Plains of Abraham to the iconic Place-Royale and Château Frontenac, here are some places to discover or rediscover Old Quebec and its surroundings.

Where to stay in Quebec

There are many alluring places to stay in Old Quebec, but one in particular offers a unique, zen and historic experience. The Monastère des Augustines was once reserved for the sisters of this congregation, but now welcomes visitors in modern or authentic rooms.

The modern rooms are tastefully decorated and have en-suite bathrooms, while the authentic rooms, with their heritage character, recall the experience of the former inhabitants.

The Monastère des Augustines also offers a museum and services to promote “holistic health” (yoga, massage therapy, nutritionist, etc.), a concept that was central to the nuns’ teachings when they arrived in Canada.

Best things to do in Vieux Quebec and its historic district

What is the prettiest street in old Québec City? Rue du Cul-de-Sac in the Petit-Champlain district!

A stroll through the Petit-Champlain district is a delightful experience. This picturesque neighbourhood with its cobblestone streets and historic buildings takes you back in time. Every boutique, café and art gallery invites you to explore and discover unique treasures.

Note that in recent months, an installation of colourful umbrellas has added to the charm of the Rue du Cul-de-Sac, creating a magical atmosphere that is so quintessentially Old Québec.

Explore Place Royale

Place-Royale, the historic heart of Old Quebec, is the birthplace of French civilisation in North America. Founded by Samuel de Champlain in 1608, this picturesque square is surrounded by stone houses and cobblestone streets reminiscent of small European squares. Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church, one of the oldest stone churches in North America, and several museums and craft shops add to the experience. It’s a must-see for a taste of Quebec’s rich history and authentic charm.

Take the Quebec-Levis ferry, one of the best things to do in Old Quebec at night

At the end of the day, don’t miss a ride on the Quebec-Levis ferry, which offers stunning views of Château Frontenac. This short trip on the Saint Lawrence River offers a unique perspective of the city and its fortifications. It’s an excellent opportunity to take spectacular photographs, especially at sunset when the golden light illuminates the rooftops of the old city.

Visit Château Frontenac and book an Old Quebec guided tour

Even if you’re not staying at Château Frontenac, a visit is a must. From the surrounding Dufferin Terrace, you can admire its architectural prowess and strategic location. That’s also where the infamous escalier casse-cou (breakneck stairs, literally) pave the way to Petit-Champlain below—opt for the funicular if you’d rather avoid the workout.

Inside, there are art shops, bistros and restaurants worth visiting. Whether it’s a 5 à 7 (happy hour) or a gourmet meal (reservation recommended), you’ll be delighted by the quality of the food and the atmosphere, which is reminiscent of another era. The Château also offers costumed tours that immerse you in Canadian history.

Picnic on the Plains of Abraham

Why not take advantage of the beauty and grandeur of the Plains of Abraham to organise a picnic? This vast green space, steeped in history, is the perfect place to relax and enjoy nature in the heart of the city. With its flower gardens and panoramic views of the river, from Cap Diamant to Queen’s Bastion Park, the Plains of Abraham’s enchanting setting is a staple of Quebec City tradition and will leave a lasting impression. It’s also the site of the city’s largest festival, the Festival d’été de Québec. The perfect opportunity to discover regional artists and some of the biggest names in francophone music.

Enjoy the view from the Observatoire de la Capitale

Take the opportunity to visit the nearby Observatoire de la Capitale, which offers a magnificent view of the surrounding area. Located on the 31st floor of the Marie-Guyart building, this observatory offers a 360-degree view of Old Québec and its cobblestone streets. On a clear day, you can see as far as the Laurentians, Île d’Orléans, the Montmorency Falls, the Charlevoix valleys and the vast plains south of the river. The interactive exhibition also allows you to discover the history and geography of the city in a fun and educational way.

What to see in the old part of Quebec City: visit the Citadelle de Québec

The Citadelle de Québec, an imposing fortress overlooking the St. Lawrence River, is a historical and architectural treasure. Built in the early 19th century, it is the largest British fortress in North America and is still an active military base. Explore the bastions, ramparts and museums that tell the story of Canada’s military history. Don’t miss the summer Changing of the Guard, a fascinating display of regimental traditions.

Walk the ramparts of Quebec City

The ramparts of Quebec, which connect the Porte Saint-Jean to the Porte Saint-Louis, offer a unique elevated pedestrian walk. These 17th-century fortifications surround Old Québec from Place D’Youville to the National Assembly and its Parliament Hill. It’s a must-do to better understand Quebec’s history, especially with children!

Explore Old Quebec’s museums

things to do in quebec city - quoi faire à Québec - art museums
Photo credit: Bonjour Québec/Gaelle Le Royer

There are a number of museums in Old Quebec to visit when the weather is rainy, whether you’re into arts, culture, history or litterature.

  • The Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec houses an impressive collection of Quebec art from colonial times to the present. There are also world-class temporary exhibitions.
  • The Musée de la civilisation offers interactive and varied exhibitions that explore Quebec and world history and culture.
  • The Morrin Centre, a former prison turned library and anglophone cultural centre, is also worth a visit for its fascinating history and Victorian charm.

What to do in Quebec City in winter

This itinerary is dedicated to visiting Old Quebec in summer, spring and autumn. To discover the capital under the snow, check out this Quebec in Winter itinerary, which brings together the best sports activities, nature excursions and major events. And a few tips on how not to let the cold get in the way…

Where to eat in Old Quebec

Rooted in its boreal identity, Quebec’s new cuisine is a veritable ode to nature and the region’s riches. This contemporary cuisine is characterised by the use of local products and Québec terroir that capture the essence of Quebec’s vast forests, rivers and land. The history of Quebec is told through its gastronomy!

A number of top chefs play a key role in this culinary revolution. They combine tradition and innovation to create dishes that are as much works of art as they are culinary delights.

  • If you are on a budget, discover the Comptoir Boréal at Chez Boulay, or head to Chez Boulay for a more affordable lunch menu.
  • Want “fast food” but quality? Try Chic Shack, a burger and milkshake restaurant run by the co-owners of the famous Auberge Saint-Antoine.
  • If you want to discover Quebec cuisine with a unique twist, visit La Bûche. The smoked salmon is absolutely delicious and you can end your meal with maple taffy, whatever the season!
  • If you’re a gelato lover, there are two great places side by side in Saint-Jean-Baptiste: Érico and Tutto Gelato. It’s up to you to decide which you prefer!

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