After spending a few days in Montreal, we took the train up to Quebec City to continue our European style adventure right here in North America! We love public transportation and found the train ride to be comfortable and such an easy way to navigate between the two cities. Quebec City, with its charming old-world charm, cobblestone streets, and rich history, is a must-visit destination for anyone exploring Canada. This city, perched on the banks of the St. Lawrence River, is a treasure trove of culture, cuisine, and captivating sights. In this Quebec City Travel Guide, I’ll highlight what to see, where to eat, and where to stay for an unforgettable experience.
What to See:
Old Quebec (Vieux-Québec): A UNESCO World Heritage site, Old Quebec is the heart and soul of the city, and it’s probably the whole reason you’re here. Explore the historic walls, visit the iconic Château Frontenac (the most photographed hotel in the world!), and wander the charming streets of Quartier Petit-Champlain. Don’t forget to stroll along the Terrasse Dufferin for breathtaking views of the St. Lawrence River. Before arriving, I read many detailed travel guides about what to see in Quebec City, but it turns out you don’t need a detailed plan to explore the area. You just need a good pair of walking shoes and an adventurous spirit! We wandered through Old Quebec with no agenda and were delighted at every twist and turn (and hill! There are LOTS of inclines!) by the beautiful sights.
Montmorency Falls and Ile d’Orleans: Just a short drive from the city, Montmorency Falls is higher than Niagara Falls and offers an awe-inspiring natural spectacle. It’s the region’s second most-visited tourist site after Old Quebec. We rented a car in Quebec City – because we wanted to explore both Montmorency Falls and Ile d’Orleans – and drove the short distance to the falls. But you could easily get an Uber for the 15 minute drive. You can view the falls from various vantage points: take a cable car ride, walk across the suspension bridge, or even zip line for an adrenaline rush! After spending some time taking in the natural beauty, we hopped back in our rental car and drove the suspension bridge connecting the mainland to Ile d’Orleans, a near-by island known for its beautiful countryside, charming villages, and rich history. Located in the St. Lawrence River just a short drive from Quebec City, Île d’Orléans is often referred to as the “Garden of Quebec” for its agricultural traditions and fertile soil. The island supplies much of Quebec City with its products including: strawberries, apples, wine, iced cider, jams, cheeses and maple syrup. It’s home to beautiful farms, vineyards, roadside produce stands, small boutiques and art galleries. Rather than having a set plan, we decided to drive around and pull off the main road anywhere we wanted to stop. Many of the shops have samples of their product for you to try, but we quickly learned that most of them are closed in the fall and winter. So if visiting Île d’Orléans is at the top of your list, I definitely recommend coming in the late spring or summer! We did get to experience some of the local products though. Our favorite stops were Chocolaterie de l’Ile d’Orleans (a chocolate shop located in a house that was built in 1760) and Ferme Audet (a goat farm/cheese shop where we tried goat cheese ice cream!)
Place Royale: Considered the birthplace of French America, Place Royale is steeped in history. Its cobblestone streets, 17th-century architecture, and the Notre-Dame-des-Victoires church make it a charming and historically significant area to explore. This famous town plaza is the heart of historic Lower Town and has been an important social center since the city’s founding.
Parliament Building: This building, inspired by the Louvre Palace in Paris, was built in the late 1800s. It is Québec’s oldest historic site and the seat of Québec’s government. The building is located just outside the city walls and its main facade boasts 26 bronze statues in memory of key historical figures. It’s a fascinating place full of secrets and surprises. You can take a free guided tour of the Parliament, where the national assembly’s 125 members determine the fate of the province. The tour lasts 75 minutes and features the Assemblée nationale’s beautiful architecture and works of art.
The Funiculaire: This is a street elevator that connects the Historic District of Old Québec upper town and lower town. It’s best to ride it when you are down in the Petit Champlain area and take it to the upper town, so you don’t have to walk all the way up the hill or take A BUNCH of stairs. You can only pay for your ride with cash (Canadian or US), so make sure you have a little pocket money! It’s a quick ride, but the views are amazing. Also, you’re riding instead of walking up a steep incline and having a fun experience – win, win.
Take in the Views: Quebec City is a picturesque city with something spectacular to see at every turn. But our favorite spot for taking in the views was at Parc du Bastion-de-la-Reine. It’s the perfect spot to relax on a nice day and has a gorgeous view of the Fairmont Chateau du Frontenac and the Saint Lawrence River.
Other activities to enjoy in Quebec City: Browse the many art galleries and antique shops, check out the historic Plains of Abraham, visit the Museum of Civilization, walk the city walls, take in the Basilica Cathedral Notre-Dame de Québec.
Where to Eat:
L’Antiquaire Buffet: This tiny neighborhood restaurant with a friendly family-style atmosphere serves authentic, traditional Québec cuisine. Hearty home cooking and generous portions have made this diner-style eatery in the heart of the antiques district, a Lower Town institution. It’s a good place to sample traditional Québécois dishes such as pea soup and cipaille (a deep-dish layered pie using poultry, meat, or seafood), and the homemade and delicious sugar pie, crepes, and other desserts. In summer, there is a small sidewalk terrace where you can sit and watch the shoppers stroll by.
La Buche: This popular sugar shack offers authentic Quebecois cuisine in a warm and cozy atmosphere. If you’re looking for comforting, home-cooked dishes like Sheppard’s pie, pork stew, smoked maple salmon, and delicious sugar pie, then La Buche is the place to go. It’s open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and located in the heart of Old Quebec, only walking distance from all main tourist attractions. Make sure you try the maple taffy on snow!
Chez Muffy: Chez Muffy was located in our hotel, Auberge Saint-Antoine, so we enjoyed a delicious breakfast there each morning. Located in a historic 18th-century maritime warehouse, Chez Muffy offers farm-to-table dining at its finest. We enjoyed the fresh, locally sourced ingredients in a picturesque setting. The original stone walls, wooden beams, cozy fireplace and breathtaking view of the St. Lawrence River created a warm, relaxing atmosphere. I had an Indian inspired dish that was so good I keep thinking about it and wishing I had the skills to recreate it!
Pizza No 900: I mentioned this place in my Montreal Travel Guide – it was so good we had to find a location in Quebec City! Pizza might seem like an odd choice for this list, but I read that Pizza 900 was the best in the area, so we had to try it. It’s true Neapolitan pizza and even has AVPN certification (Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana), an international distinction granted exclusively to restaurants that follow the rules and traditions of classic Neapolitan pizza from Italy. This was some of the BEST pizza we’ve ever had!
Le Maison Smith: The best café in Quebec City! There are several locations throughout the city, but our favorite was the Notre Dame location. It sits on the edge of the old old town square and founding site of Quebec City. They have an outdoor patio where you can sit back and admire the beautiful architecture while sipping on a maple latte and enjoying the people watching.
No trip to Quebec is complete without trying poutine and maple taffy on snow: Poutine is a dish of french fries and cheese curds topped with a brown gravy that emerged in Quebec in the 1950s! So, when in Quebec, you must try it! This area also produces the most maple syrup in the world – about 70%. So you have to try the area’s famous maple taffy sticks on snow. The maple syrup is poured on snow (or ice) then rolled onto a stick like a lollipop. It’s the sugar high you never knew you needed!
Where to Stay:
I did a lot of research about the best hotels in Quebec City and landed on the Auberge Saint-Antoine, a boutique hotel that combines contemporary design with artifacts from its historic surroundings. This unique and stylish property turned out to be one of our favorite parts about our time in Quebec City.
Nestled within the heart of Quebec City’s historic Old Port district, the Auberge Saint-Antoine seamlessly blends history with modernity, offering a unique and immersive experience that captivated us from the moment we walked through its doors. We’ve stayed in a lot of beautiful hotels over the years, and this one ranks near the top of our list! Just steps from many of this historic city’s tourist destinations, Auberge Saint-Antoine is not merely a hotel; it’s a living testament to the rich history of Quebec City. The property is built upon layers of the city’s past, with artifacts dating back centuries that were unearthed during its construction. We enjoyed the displays of these historical treasures throughout the hotel, making the property feel like so much more than a place to stay. It felt a bit like staying in a historical museum!
The accommodations were a perfect blend of sophistication and comfort. Each room is meticulously designed, featuring contemporary, luxurious amenities (high-speed internet access, Bose sound systems, and heated bathroom floors) alongside carefully preserved elements that pay homage to the hotel’s heritage. From cozy rooms with a view of the St. Lawrence River to spacious suites with elegant furnishings, the hotel offers a range of options to suit the preferences of every guest. We stayed in a beautiful suite that was perfect for our family!
If you find yourself looking for a European adventure but don’t have the time or budget to cross the pond, I highly recommend heading up to Montreal and Quebec City for a European-style family adventure without leaving North America!