Last Updated on May 7, 2021 by Pamela
Spending 24-hours in Quebec City can be a bit of a challenge, there are so many things to see and do, eat, and buy!!
Starting in Old Quebec City is always a good idea. It is, after all, one of the oldest cities in North America, a European-style oasis in Eastern Canada.
On a short stopover (VIA Rail, road trip, cruise, etc.), it can be hard to decide on which things to do in Quebec City.
Should you take a walking tour or wander through Old Quebec City on your own? Do you want to learn more about Quebec City history and culture? Perhaps you want to eat your way through Old Quebec City or do some shopping.
Don’t worry, whatever your goal may be, we are here to help!
Take a Guided Tour
One of the best things to do in Quebec City when you have a short amount of time is to take a tour. Most guided tours in Old Quebec City are 2 to 3-hours in length, which should give you at least an hour or two for eating and possibly shopping as well.
Try a lower town historical bike tour (2.5 hrs), learn about Quebec City history with a walking tour of upper and lower towns (2 hrs) or a 3-hour FREE walking tour which starts at the Parliament building. Treat yourself to a scrumptious walking food tour of Old Quebec City.
Another option is to hire a private tour guide. Marie-Pierre offers a fabulous photography tour of Old Quebec City. Steeve is easily one of the best tour guides in Quebec City, and the perfect choice for creating an unforgettable personalized tour.
Explore Using the Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour
When you have 24-hours in Quebec City, one of the best ways to get a basic overview of a city is to take the Hop On Hop Off Quebec City bus tour. Sure, it’s a tad cheesy, but it’s also fun!
On a warm day, opt to ride up top and enjoy some sunshine as you learn about the history of Quebec City, visiting the old streets, Parliament, the Plains of Abraham, as well as some local neighbourhoods.
The bus runs from 9am to 4:30pm each day, and there is a pick-up point near Spag&tini, as well as Musée de la Civilization, both of which are a short walk from the Quebec City cruise port. The bus makes 14 stops throughout the city, and the loop takes about 2 hours if you opt to stay on the entire time.
Stops: Place d’Armes, Quartier Saint-Roch, Musée de la Civilization, Place-Royale, Vieux-Port, Centre des Congrès, Observatoire de la Capitale, Manège Militaire, Plains d’Abraham, Musée nationale des beaux-arts du Québec, Avenue Cartier, Quartier Saint-Jean-Baptiste, Place d’Youville, and Citadelle de Québec.
Visit Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec (MNBAQ)
Craving some art and culture? A visit to Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec (MNBAQ) in the neighbourhood of Montcalm, Quebec is one of our favourite things to do in Quebec City. Admire art by Quebec artists of all genres, as well as international exhibits. Grab a coffee and a light snack in the old jail, which also houses Quebec artist exhibits, then wander through the rest of the museum.
The Pierre Lassonde Pavillion is a bright and airy modern contemporary structure that houses the museum’s contemporary art collection, as well as temporary exhibits. If you’re feeling peckish, enjoy some tapas at Tempera Québécor, or venture to Avenue Cartier and try Petits Creux for incredible Corsican cuisine (Yum!).
On a sunny day, venture outside for a self-guided art walk of the various sculptures on the museum grounds. An online guide is available here.
Shop Along Rue du Petit-Champlain
One of the oldest shopping streets in North America, rue du Petit-Champlain is at the top of almost every list of things to do in Quebec City. This narrow shopping street oozes with European charm, no matter when you visit Quebec City.
Most of the boutiques in Petit-Champlain are locally owned and operated, making it an ideal spot for finding unique souvenirs of your time in Old Quebec City. Shop for Quebec terroir (artisanal gourmet food products), clothing made by local designers, incredibly comfy shoes and more! Oh, and a quick photo-op at the Breakneck Steps can also be fun.
Saunter along Dufferin Terrace & Enjoy a Chocolate-Covered Ice Cream
A boardwalk in front of Fairmont Château Frontenac, Dufferin Terrace is a lovely spot to relax and admire the beauty of Château Frontenac. In summer, street performers can be seen near the Monument of Samuel de Champlain (the founder of New France in 1608) and the boardwalk is filled with people admiring the view of the Saint-Lawrence River.
From the Quebec City cruise port, take the funiculaire on rue du Petit-Champlain ($3.75 CAD one-way) up to Dufferin Terrace, or walk up the breakneck stairs (beside the funiculaire) and then up Côte de la Montagne to rue du Fort, turn left and walk towards Château Frontenac.
Take a Postcard Shot of Old Quebec City from Terrasse Pierre-Dugua-de-mons
If you walk past Au 1884 on Dufferin Terrace you’ll spot a wooden staircase on the right, which leads to Terrasse Pierre-Dugua-de-mons. While the view from the terrace itself is quite pretty, the top of the hill is one of the best photo spots in Quebec City.
On a warm day, this is one of the best places to eat in Quebec City. After all, this is one of the most romantic cities in Canada, and with this view, Terrasse Pierre-Dugua-de-mons is a perfect spot for a romantic picnic!
[Check out this post for the best épiceries and comptoirs in Old Quebec City for picnic goodies.]
Go On a Quebec City Parliament Tour & Have Lunch
One of the Hop On Hop Off Quebec City bus tour stops, the Parliament building is a popular spot rain or shine. Wander the grounds to admire sculptures depicting important political and historical figures, then venture inside for a FREE Quebec City Parliament tour.
The tour is offered in both French and English and guides you through the history of the government of Quebec. Visit the national assembly, walk the grand staircase and take in the beauty of the stained glass windows. After your tour, consider visiting the restaurant for lunch.
The parliament buildings are quite close to the ramparts and fortifications of Quebec. Consider walking back through Old Quebec City, wandering some of the more quiet streets, stopping in cafes, and admiring the architecture and atmosphere of the city.
Looking for more ideas? Check out this post on the top things to do in summer!
Are you planning to explore in Quebec City, or somewhere else in the province of Quebec? Great! Firstly, thank you for choosing to support the local economies in Quebec, especially those areas which rely heavily on tourism dollars. Similar to other destinations across Canada, and around the world, tourism is almost non-existent and many businesses are having to close their doors. So thank you for helping the businesses which are still open as they struggle to make through the year.
Now to the nitty gritty stuff. There are a few things to remember when travelling in Quebec during COVID-19.
- Masks are now mandatory for all indoor public spaces. This came into effect on July 18, 2020, and will be ongoing until the government deems it safe to stop wearing them. Travelling with your own masks, whether reusable or disposable, is recommended as not all businesses will provide them for you. If you do not wear a mask, you will likely be asked to leave and return with one on.
- Do not table surf. Back before the pandemic, we could switch tables or seats easily if we didn’t like them. That is not the case now. Find a place to sit and stay there. Changing seats and tables at restaurants and bars means the staff has to sanitize every time you move and it creates a lot of extra work.
- Bring sanitizing wipes, if possible. While I’d like to say that every cafe, restaurant, and bar sanitize tables and chairs when a customer leaves, they do not. I’ve seen it numerous times. Bringing sanitizer wipes and giving your table and chair a quick wipe down is always a good idea.
- Social distancing is still important. Most businesses will have signs and markings on the floor to help customers remain socially distant. When you’re outside, it can sometimes be difficult. If you’re in a crowded area, consider wearing your mask to cut down on the risk of exposure.