Best Things to do in Quebec City: Attractions, Food, Fun

Natural beauty, fabulous french food, and charming shops make for lots to do in lovely Quebec City.

Quebec City attractions including European-like cobblestone streets, charming boutiques, and french bistros sounded interesting. Flying from the Twin Cities, we knew we could be in a city where French is the first language in just a few hours and not have to worry about a long flight and jet lag, let alone the cost of a trip to France.

Our past trips to Canadian cities – Banff, Victoria, and Vancouver – were some of our favorites. Quebec City sounded promising.

Beautiful Quebec City Attractions

But, the tipping point that convinced us to pay a visit to Quebec City was the photographs we saw of the city. The imposing Chateau Frontenac Hotel towering over the wide Saint Lawrence River was impressive. Images of the walls and gates that surround the old town – Quebec City is the only walled city in North America outside of Mexico – suggested the interesting past of a city that dates back to 1608. We were hooked, and the serious planning began in earnest.

Saint Louis Gate image
Saint Louis Gate

Relative newcomers to the Airbnb game, we liked the idea of staying within the walls of the old town. From there, we’d be able to walk to just about everything we wanted to see and do. No car rental would be needed. A beautiful condo near Saint Louis Gate – part of the fortification walls that are some of the remaining ramparts of the walled city – was available for our July slot, and we signed up.

Our air travel plans took us to Toronto for a connecting flight to Quebec City. From the airport, Uber drivers were unavailable, so we took a cab to our Airbnb condo destination.

Airbnb Experience in Old Town

The condo was perfect both in terms of accommodations and location. Our condo owner made a list for us of their favorite places to eat, drink and visit in Quebec City, and by the end of our 5-day visit, I think we had taken advantage of all but one of his recommendations.

The best of his recommendations is a Quebec City treasure: Paillard’s Pastry Shop. There are four locations, and one happened to be just a couple of blocks from our condo. Breakfast for our group most days consisted of chocolate croissants (the best we’ve had anywhere!) eaten on our condo’s deck which was well-decorated with pots of colorful flowers.

Weather can play a role in the enjoyment level of any vacation, and in this case, we were particularly blessed. Every day was sunny with high temperatures hitting in the low 80’s. Cool breezes and cold drinks kept our spirits up as we walked a lot to see the sights – about 8 miles most days (if my Vivofit was correct). Here are some of our recommendations.

13 Quebec City Attractions Not To Miss

With the exception of a 15 minute Uber drive to Parc de la Chute-Montmorency, all of the attractions listed below are confined to a relatively small, walkable area.

1. Explore Old Quebec

Quebec City transforms into an older town full of history on the banks and near the harbor of the St. Lawrence River. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Walking down the streets of Old Quebec feels like Europe with its winding streets, cute shops, and vibrant aesthetic. In Vieux-Quebec, you can take a walking tour, shop for souvenirs, go on a walking tour, and more!

Lower Town Quebec City image
Lower Town – A charming part of Old Quebec. (Photo credits: MJ O’Halloran)

2. Visit Chateau Frontenac

Built in the 19th century, the Chateau Frontenac is a castle-inspired hotel. Now, it is a city emblem and a national historic site. It’s located on top of Cape Diamond with a view of the St. Lawrence River and Dufferin Terrace. There are guided tours available in the summer to learn more about the history and architect of the beautiful chateau.

Chateau Frontenac image
Chateau Frontenac Hotel – Built by the Canadian Pacific Railway Company to promote travel and tourism.

The best Quebec City attractions

3. Zipline across Montmorency Falls.

Parc de la Chute-Montmorency is a park located right outside downtown Quebec. The famous falls are 275 feet high, making it taller than Niagara Falls. At the park, there are a variety of activities including hiking paths from the Manor to the woods, taking pictures on the suspension bridge, taking the cable car, and even ziplining across the falls. The 300-meter double zipline costs just $26.00 for adults and $19.50 for children.

Ziplining Parc de la Chute-Montmorency image
The waterfalls are 99 feet higher than Niagara Falls.

4. Shop in the Quartier Petit-Champlain

Stroll down the oldest street in Quebec City from the 17th century. The quartier is filled with trendy boutiques, touristy shops, and great restaurants. It’s named after Samuel de Champlain who founded the city in 1608. Our Lady of Victory Church was built in 1688 and is the city’s oldest. The boat that transported French soldiers to New France in 1664, called Le Breze, hangs from the ceiling in the church.

Le Breze Ship Model in church image
Our Lady of Victory Church in Quebec City – Yes, that’s a model of a ship hanging from the Church’s ceiling.

5. Indulge as a Foodie as you take part in a Food Tour

Take part in a food tour and embrace your inner foodie! The Quebec food tour stops at 7 different venues, sampling food from a chocolate museum to a wine bar and bistro. You can experience the rich culture of Quebec through food – what could be better? The tour is 2.5 hours long from Old Quebec City to the Saint-Jean-Baptiste district and is filled with history about the city and sites.

Food tour guide in Quebec City image
Our food tour guide knew a lot about local specialties and about the city’s rich history.

Top Quebec City attractions

6. Admire Art Collections at Les Musees

The Musee de la civilization is the most visited museum in Quebec. It captures the culture and contemporary issues. Permanent exhibitions focus on Quebec’s Aboriginals. Another great museum is the Musee national des beaux-arts du Quebec (MNBAQ). MNBAQ has over 38,000 pieces from the 1700s to today.

7. Awe in the Beauty of the Notre Dame de Quebec Basilica

The Notre Dame de Quebec Basilica has been in Old Quebec since 1647. Inside the church is breathtaking with intricate designs and paintings.

Notre Dame de Quebec Basilica image
Notre Dame de Quebec Basilica in Quebec City.

8. Battlefields Park

In 1759, the crucial battle between the French and British occurred at the plains of Abraham. Today in Battlefields Park, you stroll through the Plains of Abraham and the Jeanne d’Arc gardens.

9. Enjoy stories in the Morrin Cultural Centre

The Morrin Cultural Centre was the first city’s jail and now holds a victorian library. This centre also hosts events like concerts and festivals.

Quebec City attractions not to miss

10. Bike along the St. Lawrence River

The St. Lawrence waterfront bike path is one of the past. The path is 13.5 miles all along the river. The views of Lac Saint-Louis and Lachine Rapids are amazing. And Quebec City has many bike rental places: Cyclo Services, Location Echo Sports, and the Roy-O Bicycles.

Quebec City Attractions image
The Saint Lawrence River makes for beautiful views throughout the city.

11. Eat out Quebec City is a Hub for Amazing Restaurants.

Eat delicious food while listening to up and coming music at Le Cercle. Or eat poutine – the locals’ favorite – at Casse-Croute Chez Gaston. Plus, it’s open until 4 am on the weekend, perfect for a late-night snack!

Chez Jules in Quebec City image
Chez Jules in Upper Town

Some of our favorite foods that we tried in Quebec City.

Quebec City’s Must-Try Food List

  • Paillard’s Pastry Shop chocolate croissants. Magnifique!
  • Poutine at Chic Shack. Beef stew, cheese curds, and potatoes.
  • Frozen maple syrup on a stick.
frozen maple syrup making image
Rolling partially frozen maple syrup on a stick. Yum!
  • Mac n’ Cheese with maple Canadian bacon at BEClub Bistro.
  • Shepherd’s Pie at La Buche.
Shepherd's pie and pea soup at La Buche image
Shepherd’s pie and pea soup at La Buche

12. Take a trip to the Ile d’Orleans

This island is 15 minutes away from Quebec City (by car). It is full of character with farms, orchards, and ancestral houses. At this island, you can relax at a vineyard or a strawberry field.

13. Have a Drink at the Bars on Grande Allee

For nightlife, Grand Allee is the place to be. It’s full of great bars, nightclubs, and restaurants.

Quebec City Attractions Summary

Every night, street entertainment could be found in abundance. Generally, one set of entertainers at one spot spoke in French, another group at a different location spoke in English, and the third could be either/or both. The quality of the entertainers was very good.

Quebec City is very safe. Per Frommers, Quebec City is considered extremely safe and “far safer than U.S. and European counterparts of similar size.” We also found it to be very affordable at reasonable prices for restaurants and shopping.

Overall, lots of thumbs up from our traveling group. Great food, lots of sites to see, and just overall a pleasant place to be. We had ample opportunity to practice our French skills honed in Jr. High School, but nearly everyone also speaks English, which made things easy. If you get a chance to visit Quebec City, jump at it! You’ll have a great time.

–Written by Sara and Mike O’Halloran

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