Quebec City, the gorgeous, romantic and historic capital of Quebec, is more than 400 years old, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a charming place to visit no matter the time of year. Strolling through the only walled city north of Mexico is a little like stepping back in time, but while its rich history beckons, world-class museums, unmissable festivals and culinary delights are also part of the vibrant scene. These are some of our favorite must-visit sites in this French-inspired metropolis.
Stroll through Old Quebec
The best way to explore the cobblestone-clad city is on foot, so don’t forget to pack sturdy shoes. The Upper Town, built on the cliff, is home to churches, convents and military monuments like the Dauphine Redoubt and the Citadel. The Lower Town, along the river, gives another perspective of what a fortified French colonial city looked like. Everywhere you turn, you’ll find European-style cafés, shops, restaurants and historic sites to explore.
Visit Fairmont Le Château Frontenac
You can take a tour, have a drink, enjoy dinner or stay overnight at the stunning Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, which stands high above the city in the Upper Town, commanding stunning views of the St. Lawrence River. What you can’t do is ignore the landmark hotel, which has hosted such famous figures as Alfred Hitchcock and Queen Elizabeth.
It is said that the property is the most photographed hotel in the world. As you take in its beautiful architecture — both inside and out — it’s easy to believe.
Explore History at the Museum of Civilization (Musée de la Civilisation)
This excellent museum explores the history of human society in Quebec, with a range of fascinating permanent and rotating exhibits. A staple display, “People of Quebec…Then and Now,” details key moments in the region’s history, while temporary showcase “A World Inhabited by Animals” looks at four generations of a family of folk art sculptors.
Appreciate Local Art
The world’s largest collection of Quebec art can be found at the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, home to more than 40,000 works spanning from the 17th century to today. Highlights of the permanent collections include everything from religious sculptures dating to the early French colonial era to paintings by famous 20th-century artists like Jean Paul Lemieux. Temporary exhibits — such as the upcoming “Berthe Morisot, Woman Impressionist” over summer 2018 — prove memorable, too.
The Quartier Petit-Champlain is one of the oldest shopping districts in North America and the area to find local souvenirs, window-shop at swanky boutiques and enjoy restaurants, cafés and bars when you need to rest your feet. With its winding cobblestone streets, historic stone buildings and quaint independent shops, this artistic quarter will make you feel like you’ve turned the clock back a few decades — don’t forget to snap some quirky selfies while you’re here to remember the trip.
Celebrate at a Festival
From the wonderfully fun Quebec Winter Carnival to a slew of festivals throughout the summer months, this is a city that likes to celebrate no matter the time of year. One of Quebec’s largest tourist attractions, the now-famous Winter Carnival (January and February) includes an array of snow-filled activities, including night parades, snow slides, ice sculpture workshops, shows and ice skating, all featuring the event’s lovable snowman mascot, Bonhomme.
Come summertime, the city bursts to life during the 11-day Festival d’été de Québec, Canada’s largest outdoor music event. Usually beginning on the first Thursday of July, the festival hosts more than 300 local and international musical acts on 10 stages throughout downtown.
For something a little more historic, check out the New France Festival. This annual August event lets you experience life in 17th- and 18th-century Canada during the French colonial era with more than 400 shows and performances, including gourmet activities, storytelling and reenactments.
Take a Shortcut on the Funicular
Skip the stairs during your tour of the city’s historic district and take the easy way up. This glass-enclosed cliffside elevator allows you to avoid the steep 210-foot climb up stone steps from Old Quebec’s Basse-Ville (Lower Town) to Haute-Ville (Upper Town) next to the Château Frontenac. It also offers pretty spectacular views.
Head to Montmorency Falls Park (Parc de la Chute-Montmorency)
You might think Niagara Falls is high, but after a visit to Montmorency Falls Park, which is about nine miles from Quebec City, you might reconsider. Located along the St. Lawrence River, the 272-foot waterfall is almost 100 feet taller than its more famous counterpart. Go on a scenic hike through the park, or opt for an adrenaline-inducing double zip-line ride over the falls.
Connect with Local Artisans on Île d’Orléans
Located in the St. Lawrence River and accessed via a bridge, Île d’Orléans is a snapshot of what the region looked like in the 18th century with historic villages, farms, sugar shacks and houses around every turn. It was one of the first places the French settled and seems almost untouched by time. Take an afternoon to explore the wonderful surroundings and browse for local products and artisan wares, including cheese, wine and sugary-sweet maple syrup.
Play at Valcartier Vacation Village
Situated about 30 minutes outside of Quebec City, this enormous theme park/resort provides instant fun for the whole family — no matter which time of year you choose to visit. During the summer, you’ll find a treetop adventure course, whitewater rafting and a massive indoor/outdoor waterpark that comes complete with 50-foot-tall waterslides and a 4,000-square-foot wave pool.
In the winter, snow tubing through the park and a visit to North America’s only ice hotel, Hôtel de Glace, provide outrageous fun. Tour the structure or, if you’re feeling adventurous, even sleep in it overnight.