Planning a trip to Quebec City? We’ve put together a list of the best things to do in Quebec City that is sure to make your trip a memorable one.
Last Updated on May 18, 2022 by Pamela
Deciding what to do in Quebec City can be a challenge, mostly because there are so many ways to experience the city, its history, and culture. There is a big village mentality here, which can create deeply personal experiences and connections. Of course, it also depends on you and your state of mind when visiting Quebec City.
why visit quebec city?
Why visit Quebec City? Why not?! Founded in 1608 by Samuel de Champlain, the colony of New France was the result of a journey sponsored by King Henry IV of France. The second colony to be established (the first was short-lived, established by Jacques Cartier around 1542, where Cap-Rouge stands today), New France saw its fair share of challenges.
Battles with the indigenous and First Nations peoples, attempted invasions by the British, Scottish, and Americans. A famous 15-minute battle in 1759 changed the ownership of Quebec City from French to British. Land that didn’t want to be farmed. Officials taking advantage of their privilege.
Quebec is a city with over 410 years of history, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the most famous cities in Canada. Quebec City is overflowing with historic buildings and monuments, important religious sites, cultural experiences, and delicious food.
It is a big city which feels like a small village, a place where one can experience living history first hand.
the real question is, how can you not visit quebec city?
Established by explorer and cartographer Samuel de Champlain in 1608, Quebec City is Canada’s oldest city — and one of the most beautiful as well. In a city steeped in history, there are plenty of activities, shops, tours, and restaurants to discover, but which ones should you visit first? Here are the best things to do in Quebec City!
Standing majestically atop Cap Diamant, overlooking the Saint-Lawrence River, Fairmont Château Frontenac is the most iconic building in Quebec City; and an important part of the city’s history.
Designed by architect David Price, Château Frontenac is one of four chateau-style hotels built by the Canadian Pacific Railway company towards the end of the 18th century. In 1943, Château Frontenac was the site for a private meeting between Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and William Lyon Mackenzie King to discuss their strategy for WWII.
Take time to wander around the outside of the hotel, taking in the views from Dufferin Terrace. Stroll inside to admire the royal blue and gold décor. Treat yourself to a gourmet meal at Le Sam or nosh on fine Québec cheeses at 1608 wine & cheese bar. Take a guided tour of Château Frontenac to learn about its history.
A list of the best things to do in Quebec City is not complete without poutine, a must activity for everyone. You won’t get arrested if you don’t try poutine, but you will be denying yourself an incredible foodie experience.
Created in Québec in the late 1950s or early 1960s (there is some debate as to whether poutine was created in Warick or Drummondville). During your time in Québec City, it is imperative that you go to Chez Ashton to enjoy traditional poutine – among the best poutine in Québec City.
If you are contemplating taking a food tour during your time in Québec City (Number 7 on this list), we recommend the Historical Tasting Old Quebec Walking Tour which takes you on a tour through Old Québec and usually includes a poutine stop. The Old Quebec City Food Tour is also excellent!
Small in size, Quartier Petit-Champlain is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Québec City; cobbled streets are lined with shops selling everything from art to décor to clothing to specialty gourmet foods to maple syrup, a theatre, classic French restaurants, comfort food, and pubs.
Ride the funiculaire from Dufferin Terrace (just in front of Château Frontenac) down to Petit-Champlain for $4, or walk down Côte de la Montagne and walk down the breakneck staircase which was originally built in 1635 (change to a metal staircase in 1895).
We recommend treating yourself to something sweet at La Fudgerie or enjoying some comfort food at Le Casse-Cou. Stop by Lowell to shop for leathers made in Québec, pick up maple products from Le Petit Cabane à Sucre, wander around and enjoy the beauty and charm.
After wandering through Quartier Petit-Champlain, and perhaps Place Royale, walk to the docks and ride the ferry from Québec City to Lévis. The journey takes about 12 minutes and only costs $6.50 round-trip.
Stand out on the deck and take in the breathtaking view of Québec City’s skyline. The Québec-Lévis ferry runs from 6:00 am to 2:00 am, 365 days a year. If you’re looking for a beautiful vantage point to snap a postcard shot of Château Frontenac, ride the ferry in the morning, late afternoon, and at sunset. For a little romance, tuck a small bottle of something sparkling in one pocket and glasses in another and take a ride under the stars to admire the skyline as its reflection dances on the Saint-Lawrence River.
While Québec City is beautiful any time of year, we think summer and fall are the best seasons for capturing gorgeous shots of Québec City. And after a big snowstorm.
take a tour
Sure, you can explore Québec City on your own and have a fabulous time, but if you want to truly understand the city, the culture, and the history, we highly recommend taking a tour.
There are several tours available in Québec City, so we are going to share our favourites:
- Québec City Hop On Hop Off Tour
- Québec Lower Town Historical Bike Tour
- Small-Group Québec City Food Tour
- Walking Tour Through Quebec City’s History
- Free Walking Tour of Quebec City
- Quebec City Photo Tour
Take the Quebec- Levis ferry. It’s a fun thing to do for the whole family. Rest your legs (after walking around the old city), feel the breeze of the Saint-Lawrence River, take pictures of the Old City, walk around the Promenade on Quai Paquet. The kids can play at the splash pads and the adults can go have a beer at Le Corsaire.
You should visit the Saint-Roch area i f you want to get a local vibe, and get a bit off-the-beaten-path without going too far from Old Quebec. Music concerts, breweries, good food and even see a local baseball game!
Standing at a height of 272.3 ft (83 m), Montmorency Falls is about 98 feet (30 m) higher than Niagara Falls and just as impressive.
While you can admire Montmorency Falls from a distance, we highly recommend spending an hour, or three, enjoying the activities on offer at Parc de la Chute-Montmorency. Take bus #800 from Place d’Youville to Montmorency Falls (about an hour) and take a cable car to the top, from there you can do the double zip line across the falls, or walk around, snap photos, and walk back down via a wooden staircase. If you’re feeling adventurous, do a little rock climbing with a guide.
Other ways to enjoy Montmorency Falls include taking a bike tour from Québec City or participating in a half-day tour of Montmorency Falls and Saint-Anne-de-Beaupré.
If you’re looking for something a little different, consider hiring a tour guide for a private customized tour of the city. One of the best ways to learn about Quebec City while experiencing activities that suit your passions.
observatoire de la capitale
Located on the 31st floor of Édifice Marie-Guyart (Marie-Guyart building), Observatoire de la Capitale offers a spectacular 360º view of Québec City from roughly 757 ft (221 m). We love coming here on a beautiful day, no matter what time of year; our favourite times are autumn when all the trees are changing colour or after a heavy snowfall when the city is covered in a white fluffy blanket.
Wander through an interactive display on the history of Québec City on your own, or take a guided tour. After your interactive tour, enjoy spectacular views of the Saint-Lawrence River, Château Frontenac, the Plains of Abraham, Ile d’Orleans, the mountains, and more.
Before venturing over to Observatoire de la Capitale, be sure to check out their webcams to see if the view is clear.