How to Spend a Weekend in Quebec City Like a Quebecois

The city has the air of a historic European town, but a weekend here reveals its fresh, unique edge.

How to Spend a Weekend in Quebec City Like a Quebecois

This vibrant city has a variety of historic places and natural spaces that make it special.

Photo by Lopolo/Shutterstock

Bonjour Quebec City, the capital of the lively province of Quebec, and one of the few French-speaking Canadian territories. For the tourist visiting the province, the namesake city is a must-see, offering a little taste of Europe, with the Quebecois’ affable personality.

Spend a weekend here and you’ll find historical walls, cobbled pedestrian streets lined with boutiques, and scenic spaces with rustic charm. Of course, no trip is complete without some great food, and Quebec City’s burgeoning restaurant scene provides plenty of it.

Here’s a local guide on what to do and see in Quebec City.

Where to stay in Quebec City

The grandeur of the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac is hard to miss.

The grandeur of the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac is hard to miss.

Photo by Kit Leong/Shutterstock

A classic: Fairmont Le Château Frontenac

Book now: Fairmont Le Château Frontenac

A getaway in Quebec City without visiting one of the most photographed hotels in the world, the mythic and historic Château Frontenac, would be a sin. Indeed, “Le Château” is not just a hotel, it’s a symbol of Quebec, built in 1893 by the Canadian Pacific Railway with a châteauesque architectural style that would later serve as a template for other Canadian grand railway hotels erected in the late 19th to early 20th century.

Perched on top of the Old Town, overlooking the river and offering centuries of history, this former Canadian Pacific property finished renovations in 2014 from top to bottom and welcomes guests with an “haute société” touch.

A local: Hotel Le Germain Québec

Book now: Hotel Le Germain Québec

Family-owned and operated, Germain Hotels offer boutique hotels and prices that will never break the bank. Their first property, Le Germain Québec, is all about comfortable rooms, a complimentary breakfast buffet, an ideal location in Old Quebec, and a spacious and art-inspired lounge area to unwind after a long day of walking up and down the streets of this hilly town.

Where to eat and drink in Quebec City

Battuto is well-loved by both critics and customers.

Battuto is well-loved by both critics and customers.

Courtesy of Battuto

Over the past five years, many restaurants from the city have been making Canada’s Best New Restaurants list. The recognition reflects the rise of chef-driven establishments opening in the capital—so you can forget everything you thought you knew about what Canadians eat.

Celebrate the chefs and ingredients behind delicious dishes

Alentours, which opened in May, is an intimate farm-to-table restaurant serving fresh ingredients and local food and wine in a five-course tasting menu that changes with the seasons. Sustainability is a priority to Alentours’ team, considering that all ingredients are sourced less than 100 miles from its kitchen, and the goal is to have fun and showcase the best of Quebec products. Prepare to dig into dishes that range from confit pork belly covered with a sea buckthorn and ginger sauce to potato chips with roasted carrot hummus.

Celebrity chef Laurent Godbout closed his long-time beloved Montreal table, L’Épicier, in 2019, and surprised everyone by choosing Quebec City to open his next establishment. Fiorella is a fresh pasta establishment, with Italian-inspired dishes—like gemelli and mushrooms with veal jus and tubetti with roasted pancetta covered in rosée sauce—inside the first food hall in the capital: District Gourmet, itself an innovative concept of chef-driven kiosks and “mini restaurants.” At Fiorella, the kitchen staff serves you the dishes they cooked for you while discussing wine pairing, led by the master, chef Godbout himself.

Snag a spot somewhere special

If you’re up for a challenge, try booking a table at Battuto. Serving Italian specialties in its tiny space of only 24 seats, Battuto is doing things the right way; inspired by the Italian tradition where everything is fresh, handmade, simple, and flavor-oriented. Pasta offerings like their ravioli verde and cavatelli pack a lot of flavor in a small restaurant, but it isn’t a place you can just walk into—reservations can only be made on the last Saturday of the month for the following month, and spots fill up quickly.

Things to do in Quebec City

Walk through La Promenade du Petit Champlain for a taste of provincial charm.

Walk through La Promenade du Petit Champlain for a taste of provincial charm.

Courtesy of Québec-Cité

Quebec offers a taste of Europe in the Old Town, historic attractions that can’t be found anywhere else in North America, and so much more.

Visit Quebec City’s cornerstone points of interest

Fun fact: Quebec City is the continent’s only remaining fortified city north of Mexico. Therefore, the Fortifications of Québec National Historic Site is a must-see if you end up in the area. Built under the French and English regimes to protect the city, the imposing walls exemplify the development of defensive systems in use from the 17th to the 19th centuries. The ramparts, which were part of Old Quebec’s 1985 UNESCO World Heritage site designation, surround the city for over three miles.

One of the finest museums in the city is the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, which has become the living memory of art and artists of the province of Quebec. In all, the national museum collection preserves vestiges of the activities of some 3,000 artists and craftspeople—the largest and most complete art collection in the province.

Seek out scenic spaces

The 98-acre park of Les Plaines d’Abraham is to Quebec City what Central Park is to New York: a city park of outstanding value that serves as the lungs of the city. During summer, the park hosts large live concerts (Celine Dion, U2, Snoop Dogg, and Madonna have performed there recently) and celebrates major holidays like Festival d'été de Québec and Saint-Jean Baptiste, but it’s also a place to enjoy a nice stroll and lay in the sun.

Just outside the city, you’ll find the oh-so-cute Ile d’Orléans, a 75-square-mile island with rustic charm that seems to be stuck in time. Among the farmers’ markets, local shops, vineyards, and orchards, do not miss a picnic at the Vignoble Sainte-Pétronille vineyard, where a food truck serves summer delicacies to accompany your winetasting, and finish with a cassis ice cream at Cassis Mona & Filles, a family-owned cassis field where you can enjoy the spacious outdoor patio.

One of the most appealing streets in Quebec City is “La Promenade du Petit Champlain,” which crosses the neighborhood of the same name, a cobbled pedestrian street hidden behind the city’s fortifications. There you will find boutiques, restaurants, and landmark sites like la Place Royale and its Hollywood-famous church, the Notre-Dame-des-Victoires (it’s appeared in numerous films, such as Catch Me if You Can).

What better place to soak in your visit to Quebec City than the Ström Spa?

What better place to soak in your visit to Quebec City than the Ström Spa?

Courtesy of Ström Spa

Relax in true Quebecois fashion

For decades, Quebec City didn’t have a proper Quebecois-style spa, where the locals enjoy a climate shock when it’s below zero outside. The wait was well worth it: Since Ström Spa Vieux-Québec opened in 2018, the city can claim it has one of the most gorgeous spas in the province. Relax in the lazy river, the infinity hot pool that overlooks the water, and a zero-gravity salted bath in a spectacular setting.

>>Next: The Perfect Weekend Getaway to Calgary

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