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Free Things To Do in Quebec City
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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 centerFree, Parks and Gardens, RecreationTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND0.6 miles to city centerFree, Parks and Gardens, RecreationTYPE2 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.
- #4View all Photos#4 in Quebec City1 mile to city centerFree, Neighborhood/Area, ShoppingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND1 mile to city centerFree, Neighborhood/Area, ShoppingTYPE1 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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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.
- #10View all Photos#10 in Quebec City1 mile to city centerFree, Churches/Religious SitesTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND1 mile to city centerFree, Churches/Religious SitesTYPE1 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.
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