Quebec City is one of my favourite places, not just in Canada but worldwide. It’s lovely cobblestone streets, soaring peaks and deep valleys, thick city walls, and the rushing St. Lawrence River all add to the majestic, yet quaint, ambiance that draws nearly 5 million tourists each year. Having now visited in both summer and winter, I must say that winter is my favourite season given the reduced number of tourists and magical ambiance provided by the twinkling holiday lights. However, Quebec City is known to be bitterly cold in the winter, regularly dropping to bone-chilling temperatures in the mid -30’s Celsius. Summer on the other hand, offers moderate temperatures with occasional spurts of rain, so you can enjoy many more of the activities available. I’ve included a few suggestions to help you make the most of your Quebec City visit, during any season!
The touristy stuff
Yes, Quebec City is very very touristy! There are souvenir stores on every corner plus all the usual tours, and then some. So what? Be cheesy and have a little fun! Try a horse and carriage ride around Old Town ($90 for 45 minutes); an open air bus tour ($36 for approx 1.5-2 hours if you don’t hop on & off); a boat cruise on the St. Lawrence River which might even include whale watching, dinner, dancing or fireworks (ranging from $35 to approx $150); or my personal favourite, a walking tour that includes both food sampling and history ($44 for 2.5 hours).
Taking it all in
Even with the abundance of tourists and things to do in Quebec City, the small scale of the place makes it easy to take everything in and pace yourself over a long weekend visit. I loved starting with a run each morning through the Plains of Abraham (try your hand at the hundreds of steps leading down to Lower Town – I don’t recommend up!) or along the city wall. Leisurely sitting at a cafe with a glass of wine or coffee also make for a great way to see the world go by (and a must for colder months). I highly recommend you do not miss Petit Champlain Street in Lower Town – it is one of my favourite streets anywhere. Be surprised by the hidden art sculptures nestled in alleys across town or have a laugh of the many street performers (don’t forget to leave them a few bucks). For a breather, try the serene Joan of Arc Garden adjacent to the Plains of Abraham or be awed by the St. Lawrence River.
Quebec City is known for its food for very good reason – deliciously rich French inspired cuisine with local ingredients – so save your appetite and some money to splurge on great meals. Chez Boulay is own of my personal favourites, but if you are feeling ritzy, you can also try the original fine dining establishment from the same chef – Saint Amour (you won’t be disappointed – try the scallops!). For breakfast or to help you push through the day, Paillard is a bakery/cafe that you simply cannot miss (great prices too). It’s worth noting that all the high end restaurants generally offer lunch at vastly reduced prices, so this is a great option to try some outstanding meals without breaking the bank.
Where to sleep
While on the expensive side, Le Chateau Frontenac cannot be beat for location and ambiance. It is, after all, one of the most photographed hotels in the world and the central figure always looming over Quebec City. Splurge and stay here if you can. There are also plenty of B&B’s scattered in both upper and lower Old Town that are more reasonably priced. Auberge du Tresor, for example, has an excellent location and can be booked for around $130/night (depending on season of course).
Have you visited Quebec City? Any favourite dining spots or recommendations?