Old Quebec is a must-see if you're in Quebec City. Stepping foot into this historic area (and UNESCO World Heritage Site!) is like magically finding yourself in Europe even though you never left Canada. Even if you only have room in your itinerary for a day in Quebec City, you should spend some of it exploring Old Quebec. In this post, I've shared 10 things you can do in Old Quebec, and while it'll take a lot of walking, you can do all of these things in a day!
Visit the Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Québec
Although not as grandiose and eye-catching as Montreal's Notre Dame Basilica, the Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Québec is a National Historic Site of Canada due to its historical associations with New France. It's located on the site of where Samuel de Champlain (the founder of New France and Quebec City) built the city's first chapel.
For hours and mass times, click here.
Admire Château Frontenac
Although not all of us can afford the $500+ a night luxury of staying at the most photographed hotel in the world, we can still admire the beauty of this building! It's hard to miss Château Frontenac - you'll recognize it from miles away. It's also a designated National Historic Site of Canada. It was one of a series of grand railway hotels built by Canadian Pacific Railway to encourage people to travel on their railways.
Even though you might not have enough cash in your wallet for a night's stay, you can stop for drinks at the hotel's 1608 Wine & Cheese Bar!
Stroll Along Terrasse Dufferin
Terrasse Dufferin (or Dufferin Terrace) is a boardwalk that wraps around Château Frontenac, above the St. Lawrence River. On a beautiful day, it's a great place for a morning jog or a stroll with coffee in hand. There are many benches dotted along the terrace, overlooking the river so you can sit and admire the views. While you're walking the boardwalk, see if you can spot the toboggan run. Open from mid-December to mid-March, this slide pre-dates Château Frontenac having been built in 1884. Toboggan rides on this slide can take you to speeds of up to 70 km/hour!
Explore Petit Champlain
Petit Champlain is the oldest commercial district in North America. This picturesque street is home to a number of quaint shops and galleries, and in my opinion it's one of the most photogenic areas of Old Quebec. The buildings that line this narrow street is reminiscent of older French architecture, and easily makes you forget that you are still in North America.
Within Petit Champlain, you'll find the Breakneck Stairs which was constructed in 1635 making it the oldest set of stairs in Quebec City. It got its very graphic name thanks to the steepness of the staircase inferring that one misstep could give you a broken neck! If taking the stairs isn't for you, you can take the Old Quebec Funicular, which connects the Petit Champlain area which is in the Lower Town, with the Upper Town. This funicular has also had its fair share of history, with the original structure built in 1879! The Rue du Petit-Champlain mural which depicts the city's history can also be found here.
Get a Photo with the Fresque des Québécois Mural
The fresque des Québécois mural is an impressive mural covering 420 square metres. It pays tribute to a number of important figures to the area such as Samuel de Champlain (the founder of Quebec City), Alphonse Desjardins (the co-founder of today's Desjardins Group), and singer-songwriter Félix Leclerc
The fresque des Québécois mural can be found near Place-Royale on Côte de la Montagne.
People watch at Place Royale
After the French settled here in the 1600s, this small square was a hub of commercial activity, before it eventually fell into decline. A lot of work has been put into restoring and preserving the historical square so that today, you feel like you've stepped back into olden day France. The main building at this square is the Notre-Dame-des-Victoires, one of the oldest churches in North America. There is also a restaurant here with patio seating, if you'd like to sit out there and do some people watching!
Walk the Fortifications of Quebec
The Fortifications of Quebec is yet another National Historic Site of Canada. These walls are the remnants of Quebec City's military history, defending the city from its inception in the 1600s. The walls, spanning 4.6km, make Old Quebec the only walled city in North America, north of Mexico. You can walk all of it, or just parts of it. And if you're interested in learning more about the history of the military activities in Old Quebec, you can visit the Citadelle and the Royal 22nd Regiment Museum.
Relax at The Plains of Abraham
The Plains of Abraham was the site of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759, a battle between the French and British over New France. Today, it is an urban park with beautiful views of Château Frontenac and the St. Lawrence River. If you're tired after walking the walls, this is a great place to take a quick rest while taking in the view. If you're here in the winter, the Plains of Abraham and the surrounding park becomes a haven for those who love winter sports. You can snowshoe, cross-country ski, and skate here!
Dine in a Historic House
Aux Anciens Canadiens is a restaurant housed in a historical home, Maison Jacquet, built between 1675 and 1676. They serve up traditional Quebec cuisine, and if you stick to their prix fixe menu. You can get an appetizer, beer/wine, main, and dessert for upwards of $20!
If you're looking for Quebec cuisine with a more modern twist, I also tried pâté chinois (Chinese pie) at La Buche, and it was quite tasty!
Aux Anciens Canadiens is located at 34 Rue Saint Louis, Quebec.
Explore it all over again at night
As charming as Old Quebec is during the day, there's something about it after the sun has gone down and most of the people have retreated back to the homes/hotels. When all that's left is you, the cobbled streets, and the twinkling lights, it feels a lot more intimate and romantic.
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