Québec City is one of the most enchanting places in Canada. Some would even describe it as straight out of a fairytale, what with its dreamy architecture, riverside views, and surrounding mountains. Here you’ll find a thriving gastronomic scene, an impressive collection of art museums and galleries, relaxing Nordic spas, fantastic nature-filled getaways, and more!
1. Take a walking tour through Old Québec
Upon arriving in Québec City, run, don’t walk to catch a tour of Old Québec, the historic center of the city. It is full of centuries-old buildings that will give you the feeling that you’ve been transported to 19th-century France. The neighborhood is a World Heritage Site featuring hundreds of years of history, so touring with a guide is the perfect way to soak in all the sights while learning about the city’s beginnings.
Sure, you can browse the area on your own, but starting off with a tour is a great way to get your bearings and make note of the places you want to spend more time at. This two-hour walking tour will take you to some of Old Québec’s most famous landmarks, including the pristine Notre Dame Basilica and even the Antique Dealers District at St. Paul Street.
2. Check out the Dufferin Terrace
You’ll likely find yourself at Dufferin Terrace while exploring Old Québec, and it’s worth spending some time here to check out the incredible views. The terrace was once the site of Fort Saint Louis, but nowadays it has one of the best views in town. From here you can see the St. Lawrence River and the Chateaux National Historic Site, among many other prominent landmarks.
3. Take a cable car ride in Parc de la Chute Montmorency…
Parc de la Chute Montmorency is a must-visit, as it’s the site of a 272-foot waterfall and is surrounded by nature. The park is only about 15 minutes from the city, but it remains secluded, and feels a world away from the hustle and bustle of Québec.
If you’re visiting during winter, don’t pass up a ride on the cable cars, on which you’ll float over the falls and be able to take in the rolling white hills of snow all around. The views are spectacular and definitely worth the extra cost. Another option for panoramic views is climbing the 487-step staircase, but only if you don’t mind the freezing winter temps.
4. …or zipline over the falls in the warmer months
Visiting Québec City in the summer? This is easily the best time to get your adrenaline pumping with a daring zipline ride over Montmorency Falls. It’s 1,000 feet long, promising a fulfilling ride with unforgettable views. Book your zipline adventure here.
5. Eat your way through the Île d’Orléans
It’s no secret that Québec has a booming culinary scene. From poutine to maple-flavored delicacies and mouthwatering French favorites like crepes and steak frites, Québec has enough options to make any traveling foodie happy.
Île d’Orléans is a small island on the St. Lawrence River known for having maintained its rural quality throughout the years. This is an especially ideal place to dive into Québec’s food scene, as you’ll find handmade products, locally made wine, and shops selling artisan blackcurrant sweets. Consider this Island of Orléans Taste Trail tour, which will bring you to some of the best spots.
6. Explore the city via bike trail
Québec City has over 200 kilometers of bike trails, making it a cyclist’s dream destination. Even if you aren’t super into cycling, renting a bike is a fun way to explore the city. Plus, most of the trails are flat and easy to navigate.
Consider taking a bike tour with a guide if you want to learn about the city as you cycle. If you’re not into the tour idea, you can easily rent a bike for the whole day and hit the trails on your own.
7. Pamper yourself with a Nordic spa experience
Nordic spas are quite popular in Québec. If you haven’t been to one yet, this is the perfect opportunity to spend a day pampering yourself! Offering whirlpool hot tubs, steamy saunas, and thermal and Nordic baths, Strøm Nordic Spa is one of the best in the city. It overlooks the St. Lawrence River, and specializes in thermotherapy, which is a wellness ritual that uses water therapeutically. Book your spa experience here.
8. Explore the art scene at Musée National des Beaux-arts du Québec
Art museums hold a special place in my heart, as I believe they allow us to get such an interesting glimpse into the soul of a new city. The Musée National des Beaux-arts du Québec is a must-stop for anyone who feels the same way, as it offers an impressive collection of art that dates back to the 17th century and stretches through time until present day. Exhibits range from Inuit sculptures to a historic exploration into Québec’s sanatoriums, to an exhibit on ephemeral artwork, blending art, history, and science beautifully.
9. Check out the Cuivres d’Art Albert Gilles Museum
As you walk around town, you’ll notice that many historic buildings have copper accents. Especially in churches, copper art is a prominent form of decoration here, and one of Québec City’s defining features. The Cuivres d’Art Albert Gilles Museum features copper artwork from the Gilles family, who are masters at the craft. Here you can see works from various members of the family throughout the ages, as well as modern copper artwork by the five women who are carrying on the tradition.
This tour of the Cuivres d’Art Albert Gilles museum allows you to dive into the unique history of copper artwork. It also includes a chance to make your own copper piece in the museum’s workshop.
10. Have afternoon tea at Fairmont le Château Frontenac
The Fairmont le Château Frontenac is arguably the most notable building in Québec City’s skyline, in case you haven’t noticed. While it sure is beautiful to take in from the outside at any angle, you can also admire its beauty from the inside as well.
You can visit the hotel and wander through the lobby, but the best way to experience it if you aren’t a guest is to take part in afternoon tea at the Place Dufferin restaurant. Afternoon tea happens every Saturday at 2pm; you should make a reservation in advance.
11. Take a sightseeing cruise
The St. Lawrence River is one of the city’s most prominent features, so it’s no surprise that taking a sightseeing cruise is one of the best things to do in Québec City. From the river, you can get spectacular views of Montmorency Falls, the Côte-de-Beaupré, the Laurentian Mountains, and the city’s stunning skyline. This tour has an entertaining guide, plus a sunset option, which is the ideal time to do the cruise.
12. Get a bird’s-eye view from a helicopter
There’s no comparison to seeing Québec City from a helicopter. Because the city doesn’t have very many tall buildings, this is an epic way to see all your favorite sites from a completely new angle, get panoramic views, and take some jaw-dropping photos. This tour from Get Your Guide has 15-, 30-, and 45-minute options, with the ability to select Montmorency Falls and Île d’Orléans to fly over.
13. Go shopping in the Petit-Champlain district
For a peek into Québec City’s genuine charm, head to the Petit-Champlain district for a stroll. Here you’ll find the most adorable cafés and restaurants, along with back-to-back boutiques selling everything from antiques to handmade clothing to artisan jam. You’ll also find some awesome art galleries and even a few small museums.
The narrow cobblestone streets, along with the abundance of historical buildings, are what give the neighborhood its whimsy. See for yourself, and pick up a souvenir along the way.
14. See Québec City’s origins at Place Royale
Speaking of charming places, Place Royale is another one that is sure to enchant you. Featuring quintessential French architecture, this small square is the first in the entire city, dating back to 1608, when Québec was founded by Samuel de Champlain. Areas like this often feel like a time machine, in the best way. You can even see the contrast between the 400-plus-year-old bricks on the original buildings and the newer construction behind them.
Here you’ll also find the oldest church in North America, the Notre Dame des Victoires Church, which gets quite crowded inside. Visit right when it opens at 8am for less foot traffic.
15. Go on a whale-watching day trip
Québec City is just a few hours away from a popular whale-watching spot, Baie-Ste-Catherine. Here you can take a boat out to see whales, seals, and other marine life year round. You can easily make this a day trip from the city; this tour offers round-trip transportation to take the pressure off getting there.
16. Head out into nature at Jacques-Cartier National Park
Another excellent day trip from Québec City, Jacques-Cartier National Park is just a 30-minute drive away. Here you’ll find one of the most scenic glacial valleys in the whole province, the Vallée de la Jacques-Cartier; the Jacques Cartier River is another highlight of the park. Spend a day or two hiking the many trails, canoeing along the river, or mountain-biking in the summer. There are also ample wintertime activities, such as fatbike riding, skiing, and ski-shoeing (which you can book here).
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If you’ve chosen this destination for your next adventure to Canada, you’re in for a treat. With centuries of history showcased beautifully in its oldest neighborhoods and nature at its doorstep, Québec City has a special charm.
Which of these things to do in Québec City are you most excited about?