Quebec City

The cultural core of Quebec City is the Old Town, which stretches from Haute-Ville on the St. Lawrence River to Basse-Ville, the site of the first French settlement in the 17th century; it’s home to fine museums, architectural marvels, and the tidy, beautiful warrens that lend the city so much of its charm. Neighborhoods like St.-Jean-Baptiste and Montcalm feature spectacular restaurants, and historic attractions and festivals around the city—including the famed Winter Carnival, a glitzy showcase of provincial and national culture—thrill visitors year-round.

QUEBEC CITY QUEBEC CANADA 08 23 20: Musee du Fort presents an original and unique sound and light show on the military history of Quebec City & Samuel de Champlain statue as "The Father of New France

Photo By Meunierd/Shutterstock

Overview

Can’t miss things to do in Quebec City

Quebec City’s iconic cultural highlights rival those you’ll find in other Canadian destinations, and benefit visitors by way of their close proximity to one another. The beautiful Old Town stands as the only walled city north of Mexico, and encircles the famed Château Frontenac, the atmospheric Dufferin Terrace boardwalk, and the stunning Parliament Building, all of which are close to bespoke clothiers, boutiques, and restaurants. More curious sights, like the Morrin Centre—a cultural center and library housed in a 200-year-old building that used to be a prison—the fortified citadel, and the Plains of Abraham battlefield attach more cultural cachet to this picturesque city.

Best of Winter

The Quebec Winter Carnival is legendary for good reason, but the city and the surrounding countryside offer plenty of other thrilling winter adventures. The icy Hôtel de Glace is a great place for for a hot tipple, while igloo, yurt, and shaputuan excursions into wild Quebec are easy to arrange. Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are ever popular—more than 1,000 miles of trails link regions like Camp Mercier and Mont Sainte Anne—and the city sits near the best alpine runs east of the Rocky Mountains: Sainte Anne features Canada’s largest vertical drop; Le Massif de Charlevoix is home to more than 100 acres of off-piste skiing; and Stoneham Mountain Resort has an Olympic-level half-pipe and the country’s biggest night ski zone.

Food and drink to try in Quebec City

Before you dive into Québécois cuisine, you need to know a few things. In Quebec City, and throughout the province, entrée refers to the appetizer, while the main course is known as the plat principal. The menu du jour is the menu of the day, bon appétit means just what you think it does, and à la vôtre is a simple form of cheers. Now you’re ready to experience the city’s upmarket bistros, outdoor cafés, and quirky culinary outposts. Traditional Québécois fare—which began with the winter staples of the fur-traders and was later inspired by the cuisine of Native Canadians, the French, and the Irish—is heavy on bacon, maple syrup, and meat pies, and ranges from hearty snacks to elegant specialties.

Culture in Quebec City

Quebec City is as wonderfully varied and multi-ethnic as all large Canadian cities, but is also bolstered by its tremendously rich Native Canadian and Francophone heritage. The fortified former capital of New France, the city lording over the St. Lawrence was inhabited by aboriginal peoples long before the French arrived in 1608. The British seized control in 1759, kicking off major migrations of Europeans, who continue to influence local culture. In recent decades, large communities of Haitian, Indian, German, Japanese and other groups have made their own mark on the city; historical, cultural, and artistic remnants, relics, and artifacts abound, and contribute to the city’s glorious air of différence.

Practical Information

Summer days in Quebec City are long and hot and draw visitors by the thousand, while winter, especially during carnival time, can be even busier. Residents of the United States do not require a visa to vacation in Canada. Jean-Lesage International Airport, 20 minutes from downtown, has regular services to and from Montreal, Toronto, New York, Chicago, and even Paris. Taxi fares from the airport to downtown begin at around 30 U.S. dollars; there are no shuttles or public transport options. Quebec City, especially the Old Town, is one of Canada’s most walkable cities, so you won’t need a car. French is the common tongue, though most people in the service industry speak English as well.

Read Before You Go
Resources to help plan your trip
Québec’s hotels range from repurposed historic buildings in the Old Port to country retreats and grand dame properties overlooking the St. Lawrence. Unique amenities (like fireplaces, restaurants helmed by notable chefs, complimentary cars) are also de riguer.
Exceedingly fresh seafood, produce gathered from local farms, and delicious charcuterie. We think a picnic is the perfect idea—and don’t forget a bottle of cider.
The stunning views of the region reward travelers who decide to get away from the city. Explore the wildlife, waterfalls, and forests, and breathe the freshest air.
Meander the cobblestone alleyways and streets of this beautiful town.
Québec City has restaurants catering to every price point, and our recommendation is that you try them all—from the white-linen special occasion options to creperies and funky burger and poutine joints.
Understanding Quebec means exploring La Vieille Capitale. Quebec City is one of Canada’s premiere cultural enclaves, where the best in art, cuisine, and the outdoors come together in one unique French Canadian package. La Vieille Capitale is synonymous with all that makes Canada authentic; Quebec City glistens during the Quebec Winter Carnival – the perfect time to explore an ice hotel – and shines in the summer, when the streets of La Vieille Capitale buzz with energy.
A weekend getaway guide to Quebec City filled with local-approved recommendations for first-timers. What are the main sights? Where should you eat? What are Quebec City’s best kept secrets? Use this easy-to-follow guide to Montreal’s stunning little sister to plan your trip.
Chefs are using technology, interactivity, and storytelling to create multisensory culinary experiences around the world.
Alongside fresh berries, homemade jams, maple syrup, wine, and cheeses, Québec’s Île d’Orléans serves up a side of nature and history.
AFAR chose a destination at random—by literally spinning a globe—and sent Jennifer Kahn on a spontaneous journey to Québec City.
If eating huge plates of pork, deciphering local slang, and snowshoeing through the woods of Québec can’t bring two siblings together, what can?
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