*Note: This is a suggested itinerary for summer, spring or fall, some of these suggestions may change (mainly day 2) for a winter weekend.
A weekend never seems like enough time anywhere, but like always, I want to prove to you that you can still see a great part of any place or city, even if you are left with limited days to do so.
Recently I spent a weekend in Quebec City. I flew in Friday late at night and flew out on Sunday evening. My time was quick in this beautiful city, which is always sad, but for someone who had never been to Quebec City before, I was excited to get to spend anytime here.
Day 1: Arrival & Walking Tour
Arrive in Quebec City and check into your hotel. Quebec City is filled with cute places to stay, especially in Old Quebec. I stayed at La Concourde, which is moderately priced (starting at around $114 CDN a night) and is located walking distance to mostly all major attractions. A notable hotel that Quebec City prides itself on is the Fairmount Le Château Frontenac. When you see this hotel for the first time, it won’t take time to realize why—it looks like a castle, but not surprisingly, rooms are outrageously priced and range from around $500 CDN a night. Some budget friendly options are HI-Quebec or Auberge de la Paix Quebec for hostel lovers and budget travellers.
Once checked in, head off to do a lot of walking of the city. Quebec City is easily accessible by foot, but if you’re lazy they also have a hop on, hop off bus like most major cities. My favourite part of the whole city is Old Quebec, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Old Quebec is a walled area of the city, and is the only remaining fortified city wall in North America. The winding roads, colourful shutters and doorways, and stone buildings, truly give this part of the city so much character. You can spend hours walking around these streets and just letting yourself get lost, but some must-see things in this area are:
Fresque des Québécois & Fresque du Petit-Champlain:
There are two very notable murals in Old Quebec and the Parliament Hill area. The first is Fresque des Québécois which can be found when visiting Place Royale—the square in which Samuel de Champlain founded his “abitation” in 1608. This mural recounts the story of Quebec City through gorgeous, lifelike paintings that include 15 historic figures and a dozen of Quebec’s famous writers and artists.
The second mural, which is smaller, is at the foot of Escalier Casse-Cou, and along one of the oldest streets in North America. The Fresque du Petit-Champlain depicts milestones in the history of Cap-Blanc (Quebec’s waterfront neighbourhood).
Fairmount Le Château Frontenac:
When visiting and seeing this beautiful hotel for the first time, it’s hard to believe that this luxury hotel was built solely to be a hotel back in the late 19th century and not built to be a castle at one point in its existence. This hotel looks like it’s straight out of a Disney movie and is often used as a key figure/image for Quebec City. You can view the hotel from many parts of the city, but walk to the terrace located on the waterside of the hotel to get a gorgeous view of the hotel from as close or as far as you please. You can also walk into the lobby to check out what it’s like inside!
Place Royale is a little square in Old Quebec is filled with history such as being the place of Samuel de Champlain’s fort, storehouse, trading post and home when he first arrived in 1608. It was the first French settlement in North America, and is home to the oldest stone church in North America, Notre-Dame-des-Victoires, which was built in 1688.
Stop for lunch at a cute pub in the old quarter, like L’Onclue Antoine, which is set in a stone cellar in one of the oldest surviving houses (1754) or opt for a more traditional meal at French restaurants like Aux Anciens Canadiens, which sits in the actual oldest house in Quebec (1675). If you want a budget friendly option, head to Chez Ashton for some poutine, a Canadian classic.
After lunch continue on to visit Parliament Hill, Plains of Abraham, and the Musée de la civilisation.
Parliament Hill houses of course the Parliament Building but also the Fontaine de Tourny, which is worth seeing by day and by night for two completely different experiences. The Parliament Building was built between 1877 and 1886 and was inspired by the Louvre Palace in Paris. On the outside of the building you’ll see several tributes to the men and women who marked the history of Quebec. The building has 26 bronze statues erected in total.
Fountaine de Tourny was originally installed in Bordeaux, France in 1857 but was removed in 1960 and department store owner, Peter Simons (you can visit Simons department store in Old Quebec), stumbled across the fountain at a flea market in Paris and gifted it to the City of Quebec for its 400th anniversary.
Next, if you’re interested, make a stop at the Musée de la civilisation, located in Old Quebec and known to host some interesting and fabulous exhibits. Since I’m not a museum person, I didn’t check it out, but if you have the time, go spend a couple hours there. The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 5pm and cost $16 CDN for adults (children, student, and senior discounts available).
After spending some time roaming around the museum, head to the Plains of Abraham, the spot of many historic milestones over the years and now home to many cultural events throughout the year. This park includes 130 hectares of meadow and grassy knolls in the heart of the city and walking distance from all major attractions. This park is the site of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759 and was used for grazing, housing, and industry until 1908 when it was ceded to Quebec City.
Time for dinner! If you’re looking for a unique experience, visit the Ciel! Bistro Bar located on the top floor of La Concourde Hotel, a revolving restaurant that will slowly turn as you enjoy your meal and the view of the city. Meals here are a bit more expensive (starters start at $10 CDN, main meals start at $18 CDN). If you’re on a budget, head out for some crepes instead at Casse-Crepe Breton or Le Billig, or St. Patrick’s Pub (photographed above) for some typical pub food. La Bûche is also a great option for a traditional maple/sugar shack dessert.
Day 2: A Day Outdoors
Quebec City has so much to offer in terms of outdoor activities in close proximity. It’s hard to fit all the great outdoor areas and activities into one day, so I suggest you pick either Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier or Parc de la Chute-Montmorency.
Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier is located a 35-minute drive from Quebec City or you can take public transit which runs 3 round trips daily (information on getting there can be found here). There are literally endless things to do in this park—from inner tubing, fishing, biking, canoeing, rafting, hiking, and camping. You can find the list of activities, prices, and tools to help plan your visit here, or you can just show up and hike on the many paths without much of a plan! There are also several accommodation options within the park from campsites to cottages that range in prices.
Parc de la Chute-Montmorency is a bit closer to Quebec City, only an 18-minute drive or about 1 hour on public transportation (information here). What makes this park stand out is the waterfall that is 83 meters high (30 meters higher than Niagara Falls). At this park you can hike, bike, zip line or try out one of three via ferrata circuits. The zip line is new and will bring you right across the cove of the falls, or if you’re looking to be more adventurous, you can try out a via ferrata circuit where you will hike on a rock wall while tied into a safety tether (more information here). I didn’t do this but the people on my press trip that did said this was not for beginner climbers.
Tip: Bring a picnic for lunch!
Spend a good chunk of your day at either of the above two options, and then if you’re looking to spoil yourself a little bit, and it’s in your budget, I highly recommend the Siberia Spa. This spa is located an 18 minute drive from either of the parks mentioned above and is a peaceful oasis. Even if you don’t want to get a spa treatment done like a massage, for $42 CDN (full day) or $29 CDN (evening) you can enjoy the outdoor spa. The outdoor spa is based on the Scandinavian ritual of alternating hot and cold with rest stations. They have several hot and cold pools, waterfalls, steam baths and saunas, and some amazing rest stations that are right by the river. This was honestly one of the most relaxing experiences I’ve ever had.
After your full day outdoors, head back into town to get freshened up and head for dinner. I suggest dinner at Bello, an Italian restaurant with French influence or Toast!
Your time in Quebec City has now come to an end, and even though this is a jam-packed itinerary, you’ll leave feeling like you saw a lot of the city (I hope)!
*Note: Some photos in this post were taken from the Quebec City media centre. Photo credits to:Luc-Antoine Couturier & Jean-Guy Lavoie.
Have you been to Quebec City and have recommendations? Leave a comment!
Disclaimer: I visited Quebec City with the help of the Quebec Tourism Board. I only recommend things that I enjoyed, and think other travellers would also enjoy. All opinions in this piece are my own and 110% honest.