Best Things To Do in Quebec City
If you're mesmerized by towering fortresses and lavish castles, you'll be more than satisfied just wandering the ancient cobblestone streets of Old Québec. This UNESCO World Heritage site is the only walled city north of Mexico. Inside its fortifications, charming cafes and antique shops rub elbows with historic attractions like the Citadel and the Notre-Dame Basilica. When history starts to repeat itself and all the sights start to blend together, take in a breath of fresh air at Battlefields Park or Montmorency Falls. You can also combine history and nature with a walk along the scenic Terrasse Dufferin, where your stroll will be supplemented with fantastic city views.
Updated March 12, 2018
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Clustered around the city's harbor on the banks of the St. Lawrence River are the quaint stone buildings and narrow, winding streets of Old Québec. This historic neighborhood (and UNESCO World Heritage site) houses some of the city's most notable attractions, including the Citadel, the Quartier Petit-Champlain and the Notre-Dame Basilica. Just make sure you give yourself plenty of time here: You'll find it difficult to resist popping into one of Old Québec's artisan shops or stopping to warm up with an aromatic cup of coffee at one of the many charming cafes.
Many Québec City visitors cite the neighborhood's atmosphere as the primary draw, with many saying it feels just like being in Europe thanks to its cobblestone streets, stunning architecture and friendly locals.
- #2View all Photos#2 in Quebec City0.6 miles to city centerParks and Gardens, Recreation, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND0.6 miles to city centerParks and Gardens, Recreation, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Anyone with an interest in colonial history should set aside some time to explore Battlefields Park. Sometimes referred to as the Plains of Abraham, this 267-acre strip of land just west of Old Québec witnessed the sealing of Canada's fate. The Battle of Québec (the pivotal moment of the French and Indian War when the French were forced to cede Canada to Great Britain) took place here.
Today, Battlefields Park is the perfect place to enjoy some fresh air. While you're sure to see a few historical elements (like the occasional ornamental cannon), make sure to pay specific attention to the manicured gardens – don't miss the stunning Joan of Arc Garden – and the riverfront vistas. Recent visitors said this is a great park to lounge and read a book, have a picnic or go for a walk.
- #3View all Photos#3 in Quebec City6.8 miles to city center6.8 miles to city centerHiking, Natural Wonders, Parks and GardensTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Sitting about 9 miles northeast of Old Québec along the St. Lawrence River, Montmorency Falls Park attracts nature lovers and sightseers alike with its 272-foot waterfall. In case you can't imagine that, Montmorency Falls is one-and-a-half times taller than Niagara Falls. Although warmer summertime temperatures make a Montmorency visit much more comfortable, many travelers recommend stopping by in the winter to take in the natural beauty without the crowds.
There are a variety of activities at the park, including hiking trails, three playgrounds, two bike paths and a double zip line. From the top of the cliff, the zip line allows two people to simultaneously cross the cove of the falls (nearly 1,000 feet) to the La Baronne viewpoint. In the winter, snowshoeing and ice climbing are popular activities here.
- #4View all Photos#4 in Quebec City1 mile to city centerShopping, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND1 mile to city centerShopping, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Even shopaholics can't escape this town's devotion to history. Sitting on the southeast edge of Old Québec, the Quartier Petit-Champlain is the oldest shopping district in North America and a great place to pick up souvenirs. Here, boutique shops and cozy cafes spill out of restored houses. And a fun fact: One of the neighborhood's houses belonged to Louis Jolliet, the French Canadian explorer credited with discovering the Mississippi River. To avoid the crowds, recent travelers recommend going either early in the day or in the evening.
Make sure you save some time to climb the famous Escalier Casse-Cou (Breakneck Steps), or at least ride the funicular to the top to enjoy fantastic views of Old Québec.
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To the unknowing eye, this small section in Old Québec may just seem like a pretty place to shop or to grab a cup of coffee. But it is so much more than that: Place-Royale is widely considered to be the birthplace of the French colony and the French-American community. During the 17th and 18th centuries, this area of Old Québec acted as the French colony's center of business and industry, supporting a thriving marketplace and housing many wealthy merchants. While exploring this quaint area, you'll come across several notable tributes to its French Colonial past, including a striking bust of Louis XIV (one of France's most famous kings), the Église Notre-Dame-des-Victoires, the oldest stone church in North America, as well as the Fresque des Québécois, which illustrates 400 years of the city's history. Recent visitors call the area charming and unique and recommend spending time wandering around to take in the sights.
You'll find Place-Royale just north of the Museum of Civilization along Rue Dalhousie. You can visit day or night free of charge, but keep in mind that many of the shops and cafes – as well as the Église Notre-Dame-des-Victoires – operate on their own hours. For more information, check out the Québec City Tourism website.
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Québec City's Citadel (La Citadelle, in French) is the largest British-built fortress in North America; it took 30 years to construct. This military site has been active since 1850 when it housed British troops and the Canadian artillery. Today, the Citadel is occupied by the only Francophone infantry contingent of the Regular Canadian Armed Forces – the Royal 22e Régiment – who have called this structure home since 1920.
You can learn more about the Canadian Armed Forces at the on-site museum, which contains a notable collection of military artifacts. And if you visit around 10 a.m. between the end of June and the first Monday of September, you can witness the traditional Changing of the Guard ceremony.
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Overlooking Old Québec from its perch just below the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, Terrasse Dufferin offers spectacular views of the St. Lawrence River. Formerly a military fortification, this public park still houses historic cannons. The atmosphere has changed drastically since Terrasse Dufferin's original construction in 1879; today – especially if you visit during the summer – you're bound to run into street performers and artists as you stroll along. Previous visitors also recommended spending some time here during the winter, when there's an ice toboggan to ride.
To learn about the history of Terrasse Dufferin (and the rest of the fortifications of this Québec National Historic Site), consider tagging along on a guided tour. Tours are offered every day from mid-May to mid-October for around CA$5 (about $4). Tour times vary depending on the day and the language in which the tour is offered.
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Sitting about 22 miles northeast of central Québec City, this stunning religious site in the small town of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré was first constructed in 1658; the current structure was built in the 1920s following a fire. The basilica honors Saint Anne, the patron saint of Québec. Pilgrims travel across the globe to pay their respects to Saint Anne and to benefit from her miraculous healing powers. Legend has it that one of the basilica's original builders began his work on crutches, and was able to walk without them upon the construction's completion. Many visitors commemorate this miracle by leaving a crutch at the front door.
While the outside of the basilica is a sight to behold, the inside is also breathtaking. The central vault is completely covered in mosaics, while 240 stained-glass windows drench the basilica with color. Recent visitors said this gorgeous church is a must-see landmark, and some recommend taking the time to sit and gaze up at the beautiful ceiling.
- #9View all Photos#9 in Quebec City0.7 miles to city centerMuseums, Sightseeing, ToursTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND0.7 miles to city centerMuseums, Sightseeing, ToursTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
This fascinating historic site in Old Québec has worn many hats throughout its history. It was a military prison in the 18th century; a civilian prison from the early to mid-19th century and the city's first English-language college in the late 19th century. The Literary and Historical Society of Québec has also called this site home since the late 1800s. The Morrin Centre has played a crucial role in the development of several historical foundations, including the National Archives of Canada and the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. Today, the Morrin Centre acts primarily as an English-language library, granting English speakers access to books in a primarily francophone city.
But the Morrin Centre offers visitors much more than literary stimulation. Guided, 45-minute tours take travelers through the facility's history; you'll be able to explore the old jail cells and the Victorian library, which contains artifacts dating back to the 16th century. Recent visitors said the tour is absolutely worth it, as the guides are very informative and engaging.
- #10View all Photos#10 in Quebec City1 mile to city centerChurches/Religious Sites, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND1 mile to city centerChurches/Religious Sites, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Although the church itself has been rebuilt several times, the Notre-Dame de Québec Basilica has stood on the same spot in the heart of Old Québec since 1647, making it one of the oldest cathedrals in North America. The exterior may seem a bit dull (especially compared to the Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré Basilica just northeast of town), but the bold neo-Baroque interior is breathtaking. Notre-Dame de Québec is gilded in shimmering gold leaf, historical religious paintings and treasures that date back to the French-colonial period. And if you don't mind adding a little spook to your visit, tour the crypt. This part of the facility is the resting place of more than 900 people, including archbishops, cardinals and governors.
Many recent travelers recommended visiting Notre-Dame during Mass, while others recommend tagging along on a guided tour of the basilica and the crypt; visitors said that the volunteer tour guides are like fountains of information.
- #11View all Photos#11 in Quebec City1.2 miles to city centerMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND1.2 miles to city centerMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Overlooking the port from its seat in Old Québec – just a short walk from Place-Royale – the Museum of Civilization explores the history of human society in Québec and uses interactive exhibits to draw a connection between the past and the present. While you will find expected art and artifact collections, you'll also come across exciting specialized exhibits devoted to a variety of topics, such as life in the city throughout different generations and Québec's culinary heritage.
Many recent visitors praised the museum's architecture and atmosphere, and noted that the exhibits are informative and suitable for families, though some remark that the museum is on the smaller side.
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