One of North America’s oldest settlements, Quebec City retains its old-world flavor with historical buildings, stone ramparts, and cobbled streets. Because of its manageable size, it's possible to see a lot in only one day. Here’s how.
Things to do in Quebec City
Welcome to Quebec City
Quebec City lies at the southern end of the province of Quebec in Canada, 156 miles (252 kilometers) to the northeast of Montreal—its busier, flashier cousin. Home to cobbled alleyways, classy bistros, 18th-century townhouses, and pretty squares, this UNESCO World Heritage–listed city boasts rich history, loads of character, and a proud French identity. Visitors short on time can see the main sights in a day or two, using a hop-on hop-off bus or a guided walking tour to hit all of the highlights with ease. But those able to linger can experience a true taste of colonial Canada—and this is a city best appreciated slowly. The Old Town stretches from the Cap Diamant cliffs to the banks of the St. Lawrence River, attracting visitors to top attractions including the Citadelle of Quebec, the Fortifications of Quebec National Historic Site, and Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church. The city comes into its own in summer, with a whole host of dazzling shows and festivals to entertain locals and visitors alike. And away from the city streets, whale-watching cruises take visitors into the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park, cycling tours spin along the banks of the St. Lawrence River, half-day excursions head to impressive Montmorency Falls, and walking trips lead into the beautiful Canyon Sainte-Anne—where cascading waterfalls and beautiful scenery await.
Top 10 attractions in Quebec City
Higher than the Niagara Falls, the impressive Montmorency Falls stand 83 meters (272 feet) tall. The falls form at the mouth of the Montmorency River, where it drops over a cliff into the St. Lawrence River. On summer nights, the plunging water is illuminated; during July and August, the falls are enhanced by a spectacular international fireworks competition. Montmorency Falls is surrounded by Parc de la Chute-Montmorency, where visitors can see the falls while having a picnic. If you want to get a close-up view of the falls, you can take the staircase, which takes you from top to bottom, or take a suspension bridge over the crest of the falls, which enables you to see both sides of the park as well as the thundering water....
Vieux Québec is the crown jewel of French Canada and if you're coming for the first time, look out - there's simply no other place like it in North America. Narrow cobbled streets are lined with 17th- and 18th-century houses and almost every step will bring you to another historical plaque, a leafy park with a battery of 18th-century canons, a grand 17th-century plaza, and other historical sites. In fact, wandering around Vieux Québec is like exploring an old European city. Vieux Quebec is compact and easily walkable. On a daytime stroll, you can browse the shops along Rue Ste-Jean, wander among the grassy knolls in the Plains of Abraham, climb to the top of the Citadel, walk the Fortifications, then follow the river boardwalk (the Promenade des Gouverneurs) down to the Victorian waterfront. From there you get the classic view of Quebec City’s most famous building, the Chateau Frontenac....
Locals bestow Place-Royale as the spiritual and historical heart of Vieux Quebec, for this spot is not only the birthplace of French Civilization in North America but also one of the continent’s oldest settlements. And that history resonates, as the site has the largest surviving ensemble of 17th and 18th century buildings in North America. One of the highlights here is the Centre d’Interpretation de Place-Royal, an interpretive center with illuminating exhibits on the individual people, houses, and challenges of setting up a town the shores of the St. Lawrence River. Walk past the center to see a trompe-l’oeil mural of people from the early city. Dominating the plaza is the oldest church in Quebec, Notre-Dame-des-Victoires. It’s worth taking a peek inside at the paintings, altar, and the large boat suspended from the ceiling. When not soaking up the history, duck in and out of the boutiques and restaurants that are sprinkled throughout the Place-Royal....
At the base of the Château Frontenac, Quebec City’s Terrasse Dufferin promenade looks out across the St Lawrence River from its clifftop perch atop Cap Diamant. Named after Lord Dufferin, who was Canada’s governor between 1872 and 1878, come in summertime when green and white-topped gazebos fill the 425-meter-long boardwalk and street performers entertain. Time your visit for the early evening, and you’ll also get to see the sun set over the Laurentian Mountains to the north. In winter, Dufferin Terrasse is especially popular for its Les Glissades de la Terrasse toboggan run, which wooshes people up to 60 mph down an 82-meter slide. Just underneath Terrasse Dufferin, by the statue of Samuel de Champlain, you can visit the archaeological site of Champlain’s second fort which dates back to 1620....
The oldest Christian parish north of Mexico, the Basilique-Cathédrale Notre-Dame-De-Québec has suffered everything from fires to battle damage to reconstruction and restoration. The opulent cathedral you see today is richly decorated with impressive works of art including stained glass windows. Most of the Neo-classic facade of the Basilique-Cathédrale Notre-Dame-De-Québec is from the reconstruction completed in 1771, though parts of the basilica date from the original construction, including the bell tower and portions of the wall. The neo-baroque interior is appropriately grandiose with neo-baroque, filled with ecclesiastical treasures, paintings, and a chancel lamp (a gift of Louis XIV), illuminated by the flickering light of votive candles. Below is a crypt, where some 900 people are buried including governors of New France, archbishops and cardinals....
At the foot of Cap Diamant in the historic Lower Town (Basse-Ville) of Quebec City, the Petit-Champlain quartier is one of the oldest spots in the city and said to be home to the oldest commercial street in North America; Rue du Petit-Champlain. In the beginning of Quebec’s history, Petit-Champlain was little more than portside village made up of just a few homes and fur trading posts. Today, after a huge urban restoration project, the quartier is bursting with sidewalk cafes, galleries, restaurants, and boutiques hidden down narrow cobblestone streets. The area is also well-known as an artists’ enclave, and nearly fifty of its stores are run by a local artists’ co-op. On the side of 102 Rue du Petit-Champlain, look out for a huge trompe-l'œil. Designed by Murale Création, the famous mural shows different stages of Quebec’s history, from the bombardments to the landslides to the people who set down their roots here by the shores of St Lawrence....
Quebec City resonates with history, and nowhere is it most evident than in the beautifully-preserved Fortifications of Quebec. These restored 17th-century walls, built atop of plunging cliff, tower over the St. Lawrence River. As the only remaining walled city in North America, Quebec City is now recognized as an UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a must-see on a visit to the city. The Fortifications of Quebec encircle Upper Town, from the Citadel of Quebec through Parc L’Esplanade and Artillery Park National Historic Site, then down toward Quebec City Old Port (Vieux-Port). You can walk the 2.9-mi/4.6-km circuit on top of them, where you can take in sweeping view of the city and St. Lawrence River. The fortifications' Interpretive Centre has a small but interesting exhibit on the history of the walls as well as an old gunpowder building from 1815....
When Quebecois want to soak up the sun or enjoy a family picnic, they head to the Plains of Abraham, contained within Battlefields Park. Within the park’s sprawling 267 acres/108 hectares are grassy knolls, fountains, monuments, trees, and lush sunken gardens all for residents and visitors to enjoy. Like other sites in Vieux Quebec, the Plains of Abraham is a looking glass into the city’s history. But though it was the site of many clashes for supremacy between the French and British Empires, the park you see today is what Central Park and Hyde Park are to New York and London. Spend an afternoon wandering its walking trails, checking out its historical monuments, and marveling at its landscaping. Throughout the year, the Plains of Abraham is the site of many outdoor concerts and events....
Looking out across the St Lawrence River from its clifftop location on Cap Diamant, Quebec City’s Upper Town (Haute-Ville) is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site Vieux Quebec. Famous for its French and British-built fortifications, many of Upper Town’s perfectly preserved buildings date back to 19th century, and some even go as far back as the 1600s. The jewel in Upper Town’s crown has to be the iconic Château Frontenac hotel. Built by the Canadian Pacific Railway company in 1893 as a way of enticing railway passengers to Quebec City, today the chateau is a National Historic Site of Canada that’s said to be one of the world’s most photographed hotels. If you’re not staying overnight, you can always enjoy a drink at one of hotel bars which look out to the Laurentian Mountains in the distance. Stuffed with boutiques, restaurants and hotels, Upper Town’s narrow cobblestone streets are where most visitors spend the majority of their time while in Quebec City....
The Citadel of Quebec, a massive star-shaped fort, towers above the St Lawrence River on Cape Diamond (Cap Diamant), the rock bluff along the water. Though the Citadel never actually was in a battle, it continues to house about 200 members of the Royal 22e Régiment, the only fully French speaking battalion in the Canadian Forces. Thus, the Citadel is North America's largest fortified group of buildings still occupied by troops. Upon visiting The Citadel of Quebec, you will get the the low-down on the spectacular architecture as well as see exhibits on military life from colonial times to today. The changing of the guard takes place daily at 10am in summer. The beating of the retreat, with soldiers banging on their drums at shift's end, happens every Friday at 7pm from July 6 until early September....
Top activities in Quebec City
Frequently Asked Questions
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What are the top activities in Quebec City?
Top activities in Quebec City include:
Discover the top things to do in Quebec City.
- Quebec City Guided Sightseeing Cruise
- Montmorency Falls Bike Tour in Quebec
- Evening Gourmet Tour 5 Course Dinner - History and Food in Old Quebec City
- Parc de la Chute-Montmorency Admission with Cable Car
- Ice Hotel and City Tour in Quebec City
Discover the top things to do in Quebec City.
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