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Quebec City (French: Ville de Québec, or just Québec) is the capital of the Canadian province of Quebec. It sits at a commanding position on cliffs overlooking the St. Lawrence Seaway. Quebec City's Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of only two cities in North America (the other being Campeche in Mexico) with its original city walls. Quebec is a city of about 700,000 residents.
Quebec City is referred to as the National Capital in the province. Much of the business here is of the administrative and bureaucratic nature, which would normally make a city quite dull. Fortunately, the city has a remarkable history, as the fortress capital of New France since the 16th century. Although the town's day-to-day life leaves things a little yawny at times, the vibrant historical centre makes for an incredible visit.
Quebec was first settled by Europeans in 1608 in an "Habitation" led by Samuel de Champlain, and celebrated its 400th anniversary in 2008. The generally accepted dates of Champlain's arrival in the city, July 3rd and 4th, were marked with major celebrations. The area was also inhabited by Native peoples for many centuries before the arrival of the Europeans, and their ongoing presence has been notable since then.
When it was founded by the French to make a claim in the New World, the name Quebec referred to just the city. It is an Aboriginal word for "where the river narrows" as the St. Lawrence River dramatically closes in just east of the city. It rests on 65-m-high (200-foot) cliffs with stunning views of the surrounding Laurentian Mountains and the St. Lawrence River. Under French rule from 1608 to 1759, the major industries were the fur and lumber trades. The French lost the city and the whole colony of New France to the British in the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759. Much of the French nobility returned to France, and the British assumed rule over the remaining French population. The rulers of the colony allowed the French to retain their language and religion, leaving much of the culture intact. In the 1840s, there was an influx of Irish immigrants during the Potato Famine. Due to cholera and typhus outbreaks, ships were quarantined at Grosse Isle to the east of the city past l'Île d'Orléans. The bodies of those who perished on the journey and while in quarantine are buried there. The city remained under British rule until 1867 when Canada West (Quebec) and Canada East (Ontario) joined New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to form the Dominion of Canada.
French is the official language of the province of Quebec though in the tourist areas of Quebec City, English is widely spoken as a second language by almost all of the staff. It is also not unusual to find Spanish, German and Japanese spoken in many establishments in Vieux-Quebec. Outside of the tourist areas, some knowledge of French is advisable and perhaps necessary, depending on how rural the area is. While older locals struggle when attempting to sustain a discussion in English, most people under 35 should be able to speak conversational English. Less than a third of the overall population is bilingual French/English.
In French, both the city and the province are referred to as Québec. Context determines the difference. By convention, the province is referred to with masculine articles (le Québec, du Québec, or au Québec), and the city takes no article at all (de Québec, à Québec). Provincial road signs and other official signage refer to Quebec City as simply Québec.
Quebec City was named the 5th best city destination in North America and 10th in the world in 2010 by Condé Nast Traveler, and best Canadian city for culture, 4th best Canadian destination, and 7th most romantic city in the world in 2010 by TripAdvisor.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
Quebec has a humid continental climate, meaning there's considerable temperature variation over the year. Winters are cold with temperatures below -20°C certainly not unheard of (for a comparison to European destinations, the winter temperature range is comparable to Rovaniemi at the Arctic Circle while Quebec is at the same latitude as Central France!), with strong winds amplifying the cold temperature, and often also much snow.
Summer daytime temperatures are often just above +20°C, though it can get considerably hotter. Spring and fall tend to be rather short transition periods, and periods of warm weather far into the fall are common.
Orienting yourself in Quebec is fairly easy. Many sights of interest are in the Old Town (Vieux-Québec), which constitutes the walled city on top of the hill. Many surrounding neighbourhoods, either in Haute-Ville ("Upper Town") or in Basse-Ville ("Lower Town"), are of great interest: Saint-Roch, Saint-Jean-Baptiste, Montcalm, Vieux-Port and Limoilou. Haute-Ville and Basse-Ville are connected by many staircases, all of which are unique, such as the aptly-named Escalier Casse-Cou ("Breakneck Stairs") and the more easily climbable "Funiculaire".
The city spreads westward from the St. Lawrence River, for the most part extending from the old city. The true downtown core of Quebec City is just west of the old city. Across the river from Quebec City is the town of Lévis. Frequent ferry service connects the two sides of the river.
- 1 Jean Lesage International Airport (YQB IATA) (about 20 min from downtown Québec). It offers regular flights with Air Canada, Air Inuit, Air Transat, American, Canjet, Delta, Porter, Sunwing, United, and WestJet.
As of 2019, the RTC, the local public transportation system, operates two buses to/from the airport: bus route 76 runs between the airport and the gare de Sainte-Foy, while bus route 80 runs between the airport and Saint-Roch in Basse-Ville, to the west of the Old City. The buses run 7 days a week at 30-minute intervals, departing from the airport between roughly 05:00-23:00 (on the 76) and 06:00-23:30 (on the 80).
The taxi fare from Vieux-Québec to the airport is a flat fee of $34.25 to downtown. Uber is available in Québec.
Quebec is served by Via Rail with 3-5 daily departures from Ottawa (5:45 hours), with trains also stopping in Montréal (3 hr) en route. Tickets cost around $40-50 in second class, and start at $120 in business class. The main station is 2 Gare du Palais, located at 450 Rue de la Gare du Palais is an picturesque building, emulating the architectural style of the famed Chateau-Frontenac overlooking the station.
Via Rail also serves Quebec with its long distance Ocean train, running between Montréal and Halifax three times per week. This train stops only at the outlying 3 Gare de Sainte-Foy at 3255 Chemin de la Gare, about 8 km from the city centre and near the Quebec and Pierre Laporte bridges. Public transport is somewhat limited to this station, but bus #125 runs from Gare du Palais during weekdays. It is also possible to board all other trains from Quebec at this station.
The bus station, Terminus Gare du Palais at 450 rue de la Gare du Palais, is at the old port of Quebec, next to the train station in the same building. Intercar (from Montreal, 1/day, $57 with tax, 3hr 15min) and Orleans Express (more than 10/day, $57 with tax, 3-5 hr) offer services province-wide.
Another bus station is in Sainte-Foy, 3001 chemin des Quatre-Bourgeois, which is easily accessible by city transit.
Quebec City is 2½-3 hours by car from Montreal on either Highway 40 or Highway 20 (north and south side of the St. Lawrence, respectively). Both routes are rather monotonous drives through endless forests dotted with farms. For a slower but more picturesque tour of Quebec's heartland, drive along the Chemin du Roy (Highway 138), which follows the north bank of the river instead.
A seasonal cruise operates during the summer months between Montreal and Quebec City. The one-way trip takes approximately 7 hours and is slow-going, but the views make it worthwhile.
Walking is a great way to get around the Old Town, as the compact layout makes distances short. You will see beautiful old buildings and little vistas around every corner. You will get exercise. Do be careful of uneven cobblestones and narrow streets, though.
Côte de la Montagne is a steep, winding street that connects Upper Town and Lower Town. If you get tired, use the Funiculaire to go between the upper and lower parts of the Old Town. $2 per person will get you from near the base of the Breakneck Stairs (l'Escalier Casse-Cou) back up to the front of the Chateau Frontenac. It is well worth it if you have small children or large packages.
Many intersections are set up with separate traffic signals and cycles for cars and for pedestrians. At one point in the cycle, all traffic lights turn red and all pedestrian signals turn white, meaning that you can cross the intersection in any direction. Yet when the traffic light is green and the pedestrian signal is red, you may find cars turning in front of you. Some intersections have a pedestrian button to activate the signals, and you will never get a pedestrian cycle unless you push that button.
The bicycle network of Quebec City has been growing slowly but steadily for the last decade. Although small compared to the extensive utilitarian network of Montreal, it now offers a few recreational bike paths called Corridors with complete bidirectional and segregated bike lanes beginning downtown and ending in the countryside, generally giving splendid views of the area on the way. Most of them are part of the Route Verte system of provincial bike paths.
Corridor des Cheminots is a peaceful trail that runs from the Old Port to Val-Bélair, which continues on to the Jacques-Cartier park area. It can be a challenge because of its long uphill slope, and is a breeze on the way back.
The eastern section of Corridor du Littoral leads to Chutes Montmorency. This one-hour route (2 hours both ways) runs along the St. Lawrence River, hidden by the Dufferin Expressway. By crossing under the expressway, you can make brief stops at the Baie de Beauport recreational park and the Battures de Beauport vista point for restrooms and views on the river. Keep some of your strength for the stairs up at Chutes Montmorency: the view is well worth it.
The western section of Corridor du Littoral leads to the Samuel-de-Champlain promenade. This time, no expressway stops you from having spectacular views on the river and you might even enjoy some nice contemporary architecture on the way. Restrooms and a cafe can be found at the end of the promenade. 1½ hour both ways.
The Parcours des Anses is in Lévis, across the river. Cross with the ferry for $3 (an experience in itself) and bike west on the south shore until you reach the Quebec Bridge and cross back on the north shore to connect with the Samuel-de-Champlain promenade and Corridor du Littoral. Crossing the Quebec Bridge is not for the faint of heart though, as it is the longest cantilever bridge in the world and the path is narrow. That said, this route is the most rewarding of all and will take you a whole afternoon to complete. Part of the route on low-traffic streets still lacks a proper bike path.
The city offers maps of its bicycle paths online They are open from April to October.
Driving in the Old Town can be tricky, since the cobblestone streets were designed for narrow 17th-century horse carts rather than 21st-century SUVs. One way streets abound throughout the Old Town, and parking is difficult to find. Be aware of parking signs and ask locals to ensure parking regulation is understood. Parking patrols are effective and unforgiving.
Outside of the Old Town, the use of a car is recommended. Right turns on red are allowed unless otherwise indicated.
During the months of November through April, snow will definitely affect driving conditions. Snow tires are required by provincial law between December 15 and March 15 for all vehicles plated in Quebec as some roads will lack snow removal, sand or salting. Vehicles plated in the US or in other provinces are not subject to this requirement.
If snowfall occurred recently, watch out for red flashing lights. It means snow removal is underway. Cars parked on the street will be fined and towed. Parking in an underground garage is advised.
By public transitEdit
The RTC (Réseau de transport de la Capitale), Quebec's public transportation system, is a system of buses and express shuttles that cover the whole city. Tickets cost $3.25 each, which will earn you the right to ride one direction with a transfer valid for two hours. You can get a pre-paid card loaded with up to 12 trips (in bunches of 2) from licensed stores. Daily passes (2 for 1 on weekends) and monthly passes are also sold at the same stores. Free for children below the age of 6. Drivers do not carry money and cannot change bills so do carry exact change - to buy your ticket you place the money in a cash drop box at the entry of the bus. Google Transit can be used to find the best itinerary.
Four of the bus lines are frequent-service lines called Metrobus. They are served by recognizable green and grey articulated buses. 800 and 801 start in Ste-Foy, head toward the Old Town, and end in Beauport and Charlesbourg respectively. 802 starts at Beauport to Belvedere, through Limoilou and Saint-Sauveur. 803 runs along Lebourgneuf blvd and connects with the Galeries de la Capitale terminus. They can run as often as one every three minutes during rush hour.
The STLévis, Lévis's public transit, operates within the south shore of Quebec. There is also a shuttle from St-Augustin to Quebec. These different transit companies all pass through Quebec City, which explains the different colours of buses around town.
The Quebec-Lévis ferry will give you the best view in town, including a picture-worthy view of the Château Frontenac from below, as it crosses between Quebec and its neighbor Lévis across the St. Lawrence River. It costs $8.50 one way for a car (including driver) and $3.60 for pedestrians and cyclists, and takes approx 15 minutes, all year round. There are departures every 20 minutes at peak hours, 30 minutes off peak.
Quebec City's main sight is the Old Town, the upper part of which is surrounded by a stone wall built by both French and British armies. It is now a tourist district with many small boutiques and hundreds of historical and photographic points of interest. Some of the buildings are original structures, while others are built in the same style and architecture as former buildings.
Together with Campeche, Quebec is the only city in North America with a completely preserved fortification system. The system of fortifications was built by the French and British between 1608 and 1871. It has a length of 4.6 km, four gates, a citadel and three Martello towers and almost entirely surrounds Haute-Ville.
- 1 The Citadel (La Citadelle). This fortification at the juncture of the Old City wall and Grande Allée holds a changing of the guard ceremony mornings at 10:00 complete with traditional bearskin hats in the summer months, weather permitting. Still used as an active military base by the Royal 22e Régiment of the Canadian Army, which has long been known for the irony of being exclusively French-speaking despite having ceremonial uniforms that are clearly British in origin. Also serves as the official residence of the Governor-General of Canada when he/she visits Quebec City.
- 2 Porte Saint Louis (Rue St. Louis at Côte de la Citadelle). The oldest of the gates to the city, standing at the western end of the street with the same name. It was first built in 1693, then left to ruin, but was restored and strengthened after the War of 1812. It got its current outlook in 1880.
- 3 Porte Saint-Jean, rue Dauphine. Leading to the west, also this gate to the city has been rebuilt several times, the current version is from 1939-40.
- 4 Porte Kent, rue Dauphine. Leads to the west of the city, and was constructed as the last of the city gates in 1878-79, but is the only one that has retained its original shape.
- 5 Porte Prescott, rue Dauphine. Connects the upper and lower town, and first built in 1797 and named after Robert Prescott who was the general governor of Canada then. It was dismantled in 1871 and rebuilt in 1984 but the current version looks rather different from the original version. At the gate there are stairs to the top of the wall.
Religious and political buildingsEdit
- 6 Église Notre-Dame-des-Victoires. Next to Place Royal, this is considered the oldest stone church in North America. The first small church was built to celebrate a victory over the British in 1690, was finished in 1723 but ironically destroyed in a British attack on the city in 1759. Construction of the current church started soon after, and one of the builders was the master carpenter Jean Baillargé. It was declared a historical monument in 1929.
- 7 Palace of Justice (Palais de justice de Québec), 12, rue Saint-Louis. A neoclassical grand building next to Place d'Armes by Eugene-Etienne Tachet and finished in 1877. The current tenant in the building is the provincial ministry of finance.
- 8 Édifice Price. The official residence of the prime minister of Quebec is the only skyscraper within the city walls. It has 18 floors and was built during the 1930s.
- 9 Cathédrale de la Sainte-Trinité, 31 Rue des Jardins (Place d'Armes). This neoclassical cathedral is the seat of the Anglican diocese of Quebec. It was consecrated in 1804 as the first Anglican cathedral outside the British isles and is the third largest church in the city.
- 10 Basilique-cathédrale Notre-Dame de Québec, 16 Rue De Buade. This cathedral and historical monument with its assymetrical towers is the seat of the Catholic archdiocese of Quebec, and adjacent to the Séminaire de Québec. The church has been rebuilt several times, and the current house of worship finished in the 1920s is built in a mix of neobaroque and neoclassical style.
- 11 Séminaire de Québec, 1 Côte de la Fabrique. A Catholic seminar and historical monument, founded in 1663 by Saint François de Montmorency-Laval to educate missionaries for spreading the Christian faith in the New World. It is at the edge if Quartier Latin, the historical university quarter of the city.
- 12 Chapel of the Ursuline convent (Monastère des Ursulines de Québec), 12 Rue Donnacona. May-Sep Tu-Su 10AM-5PM, Oct-Apr Tu-Su 13-17. The monastery comprises a whole block in the old town, though only the chapel and the museum are open to visitors. It was founded in 1639 by the French nun Marie de l'Incarnacion (later canonized) as the first female Catholic order in the Americas. The chapel dates from 1730 and is with its wooden altar considered a masterpiece of Franco-Canadian woodwork. In the museum you can learn about the activities of the Ursuline order in Quebec throughout history, and on display there are things related to its curriculum such as embroidery and musical instruments. Also the museum, in a building from 1687, has beautiful details preserved since construction including wooden staircases and windows. $10.
- 13 Parliament Building (Hôtel du Parlement), 1045 Rue des Parlementaires, ☏ , toll-free: , ✉ email@example.com. The provincial legislature of Quebec, located in an impressive neoclassical-style building just outside the city walls. Tours are available in both French and English on non-sitting days, and proceedings (French only) may be watched from the public galleries when in session. You will need to show some photo ID (Canadian driver's licence or passport) and go through security screening to be allowed to enter. Unlike many other legislative buildings, the parliamentary restaurant is open to public. free.
- 14 Chateau Frontenac. Quebec City icon. Claimed to be the most photographed hotel in North America. Stay the night if you can (see Sleep) and pop in for a martini if you can't (see Drink).
- 15 Hôtel-Dieu. This is the oldest hospital in the Americas north of Mexico, and a national historic site. Founded in 1639 by the Augustines de la Miséricorde de Jésus, it was administered by them until 1962. Nowadays it's part of a network of university hospitals.
- 16 Maison Maillou, 17 Rue Saint Louis. Built in 1737, and named after its first owner, Jean-Baptiste Maillou, this well-preserved simple brick house is a good example of how Quebec looked in the 18th century.
- 17 Maison François-Jacquet-Dit-Langevin, 34-36 Rue Saint Louis. Another well-preserved house, from 1675, and extended in 1690.
- 18 57-63, rue Saint-Louis, 57-63 Rue Saint Louis. A national historic monument comprising houses from the 18th and 19th century.
- 19 Maison Michel-Cureux, 86 Rue Saint Louis. Two-storey house finished in 1729.
- 20 Morrin Centre, 44 Chaussée des Écossais. English-language culture centre in the southwestern corner of the old town. The building is a national historical site.
- 21 Observatoire de la Capitale (outside the Old City walls). One of the tallest buildings in Quebec, offering a panoramic view of the whole city. $10.
- 22 , 170, Rue Dalhousie, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Maritime museum, showcasing the naval history of the region in objects and photos. There are both a permanent and temporary exhibitions.
- 23 Musée de la civilisation (Museum of Civilization), 85 rue Dalhousie, ☏ . Tu-Su 10:00-17:00. Museum devoted to the world's peoples, with a well-done if still somewhat dull permanent exhibit on the history of Quebec. $13.
- 24 Musée national des Beaux-arts du Québec, 179 Grande Allée Ouest, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Mo closed, Tu 10 AM-5 PM, We 10 AM-9 PM, Th-Su 10 AM-5 PM. Located on the Battlefields park, the mission of this art museum is to promote and preserve Québec art of all periods and to ensure a place for international art through temporary exhibitions. You can also visit the old prison of Quebec City, which is now one of the two main pavilions of the museum. The annex was designed by renowned architectural firm OMA. adults $22, seniors $20, young adults (18-30 yrs) $12, teenagers (13-17 yrs) $7, children (12 yrs and younger) free.
- 25 Musée de l'Amérique francophone, 2 Côte de la Fabrique, ☏ . Mo closed, Tu-Su 10 AM-5 PM. Exhibitions related to the history of the French Empire, French immigrants and francophone culture in North America — not just in Quebec but also for example Louisiana. adults $10, young adults (18-30 yrs) $7, teenagers (12-17 yrs) $4, children (11 yrs and younger) free.
- 26 Choco-musée Erico, 634 Rue Saint-Jean. A small museum of chocolate, talks about the history and making of chocolate. Free admission.
- 27 Park d'Artillerie, 2 Rue d'Auteuil (at the western section of the city wall). 10AM-5PM. In the 18th century the site of fortifications, later a garrison and until 1964 a munitions factory, there are two buildings left in this National Historic Park. In the former brick foundry there's a museum exhibiting the history of the city, and in the former building of the arsenal there's a weapon exhibition. Another attraction in the park is a celtic cross commemorating the Irish famine and Irish immigration to North America.
- 28 Parc du Bois-de-Coulonge, 1215 Grande Allée, ☏ , fax: . Residence of past lieutenant-governors from 1870-1966 and spread over 24 hectares (59 acres), this garden features heritage buildings, wooded areas and gardens.
- 29 Plains of Abraham Battlefield Park (outside the Old City walls), ☏ . Site of the 1759 battle in which the British conquered Quebec, now used for public events, sports, and leisure activities.
Streets and squaresEdit
- 30 La Promenade Samuel-De Champlain, Boulevard Champlain. Pleasant walking path next to the St. Lawrence river, some 15 minutes by car to the southwest from Haute Ville. The path goes through greenery and past artworks.
- 31 Rue Saint-Louis. With roots in the 17th century, this is one of the oldest streets in Quebec, but there are few buildings left from that time. It's named after the gate of Saint-Louis, which the street connects to Place d'Armes. Albeit touristy, walking along it is still an interesting experience.
- 32 Place d'Armes. The main square of the old town, first mentioned in 1648, is surrounded on three sides by historical buildings such as the former Palace of Justice and Cathédrale de la Sainte-Trinité, and on the fourth side the city wall. As the name reveals, it was used for military parades and exercises. In the middle of the square there are benches, and a memorial to the Franciscan order.
- 33 Grande Allée. An impressive street southwest of Old town. It begins next to the city wall about at the level of Fontaine de Tourny, leads to the Parliament, and on past Place de la Francophonie and Place George-V. Then follows a range of streetside cafés all the way to Cours du Général de Montcalm. There ends the touristically interesting part of the street.
- 34 Place-Royale. The spot where Samuel de Champlain landed in 1608 and founded the first French settlement in North America, now converted into a postcard-pretty public square. Do not miss the huge mural covering the entire side of a nearby building; the figure with a hat standing at the base of the 'street' is Champlain.
- 35 Escalier Casse-Cou. A steep staircase between Côte de la Montagne and Rue du Petit Champlain. The name means "Breakneck Stairs", and comes from the fact that historically cattle was marched this way and often the poor animals tripped over and broke their necks.
- 36 Notre-Dame-des-Anges. An tiny independent parish municipality, administered by the monastic congregation of the Augustinians of the Mercy of Jesus and surrounded by Quebec City. The municipality includes a monastery, museum, the General Hospital of Quebec and its cemetery. All of the buildings have been classed as a historic site.
- 37 Quartier Petit Champlain. North America's oldest shopping quarter, in 17th-18th century buildings along Rue Petit Champlain, at the southern end of Basse Ville. Can get pretty busy during the day, so if you're not there for shopping (the selection tends to be rather touristy too), but rather to see the houses, go early in the morning or late in the evening. There's a huge mural on House 102 presenting the history of the quarter.
- 38 Vieux-Port. The oldest port in Canada, and secondmost important in the province and on the Saint Lawrence river is an attraction in its own right. It's easily accessible on foot from the old town, and has a market hall where you can buy local food products.
- Horse-drawn carriages. A one-hour tour of the Old City.
- From Basse-Ville (Rue des Traversiers), you can take a small car ferry to Lévis. The crossing takes 10 minutes and there are departures every 20 minutes. Pedestrians pay $3,15 (children 5–11 yrs $2,35, senior citizens $3,15, car and driver $8,25; as of summer 2015). In Lévis, close to the harbor on Rue Saint-Laurent there are some cafés and restaurants, and Avenue Bégin (a 10 minutes uphill walk away) is the gastronomical main street of the town. Closer by, on Rue William Trembley, there's the Terrasse de Lévis which offers a gorgeous view of the river.
- AML Cruises on the St-Lawrence river. Offers three-hour cruises leaving from the docks nearby the ferry. One of the cruises leaves as the sun is setting and comes back when the sun is down for a stunning view of Quebec city by night.
- Québec is a great city for going out to dance traditional and nuevo-Argentinian Tango. You can find out about classes, practicas, milongas and events at the local association Tango Quebec or at L'Avenue Tango.
Sports and walksEdit
- 1 Promenade des Gouverneurs. Scenic walk starting at the top of the Funiculare, continuing along the wall over looking the old city. The many staircases lead to overlooks offering scenic views of the St. Lawrence. The walk ends at the gazebo on the Plains of Abraham. At the southern end there's free parking with space for 50 cars.
- 2 Dufferin Terrace (Terrasse Dufferin). Boardwalk along (east of) the Chateau Frontenac. Offers a grand view of the St. Lawrence River, running from the statue of Champlain/the top of the Funiculare to the bottom steps of the Governors' Walk, with covered gazebos protruding out for even better views of Lower Town along the way.
- Ice slide at Terrasse Dufferin. During the winter you can slide down an ice slide on a toboggan, quite fast and great view. Buy the tickets from the café at the end of the slide. $2.50 per person.
- Patinoire de la place d'Youville. Ice skating rink in the middle of Old Quebec. Skating is free to those with their own skates, and rentals are available for $7.50 to those who need them. Rink is small but the location can't be beat.
- Dog sled (Chiens de traîneaux). Usually available on smaller scale during winter events like Carnaval. Different providers give you the opportunity for half-day ride for about $60-90.
- Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing on Plains of Abraham. Treat yourself to nature in the city and ski free of charge in one of the most accessible, enchanting sites there is, as you enjoy a breathtaking view of the St. Lawrence River.
- Winter Carnival. City-wide, first two weeks of February and spanning 3 weekends. A truly spectacular event, the Winter Carnival is a hundred-year-old tradition in Quebec City. Each year, a giant ice palace is built in the Place Jacques-Cartier as the headquarters of the festivities, but there's activities all during the week. The International Ice Sculpture Competition sees teams from around the world build monumental sculptures. There are 3 parades during the event in different quarters of the city, and other winter-defying competitions including a canoe race across the St. Lawrence and a group snow bath. The festival's mascot, Bonhomme Carnaval, a sashed snowman, is the city's most famous logo. $12 (2010) will get you a rubber snowman to attach to your parka for entrance into the festivities on the Plains of Abraham.
- La Fête Nationale (Saint-Jean-Baptiste celebration). Every year, June 24. Without a doubt the biggest party of the year in the entire province. Join over 200,000 Québécois of all ages on Plaine d'Abraham while they celebrate Quebec's National Day throughout the night. Various Québécois musical performances, bonfire, fireworks, and a lot of drinking.
- 3 Festival d'été. Beginning to mid-July, a lot of cheap music shows (you buy a button for $45 and it gives you access to all the shows, for the 11 days of the festival) in and around the Old Town, with international and local artists (for example in 2004, The Nits, Wyclef Jean, Bérurier Noir in 2010, Iron maiden, The Black Eyed Peas, Santana, Rush, Arcade and Rammstein).
- Edwin-Bélanger Bandstand. A musical experience in the open. Jazz, blues, worldbeat. June to August. Thursday to Sunday. In summer.
- Festival of New France. First weekend in August.
Quebec City's Old Town, especially Basse-Ville, is riddled with shops for tourists. When taking a closer look at souvenirs and crafts for sale in such shops, the fine print all too often reads "Made in China", even if they are marketed as "typically Quebecois". Watch for leather goods and various handmade crafts made by Canada's First Nations peoples.
Quebec is also known for local food products such as cheese, microbrewery beer, cider and maple products including syrup. Maple syrup is available in smaller glass bottles in tourist shops at a premium price, and in bigger plastic bottles in supermarkets — the stuff is as delicious but at a lower price.
- 1 Marché du Vieux-Port, 160 Quai Saint-André. Daily 08:00-20:00. Farmers' market just north of Basse-Ville, offering cheap and tasty local produce.
- 2 Place Laurier, Place de la Cité, Place Ste-Foy, 2700 boulevard Laurier (in the Ste-Foy district, to the west of the downtown). Three large shopping malls next to each other. Place Laurier is the largest shopping mall in eastern Canada, the others are Place de la Cité and Place Ste-Foy.
- 3 Galeries de la Capitale, 5401, boulevard des Galeries (in the Lebourgneuf neighbourhood of Les Rivieres borough), ☏ . Large shopping mall towards the north of the city which boasts 280 stores and 35 restaurants. Also has an IMAX theatre and an indoor amusement park which includes a Ferris wheel, a roller coaster and a skating rink for hockey games.
- 4 La Vie Sportive, 600 rue Bouvier, ☏ , toll-free: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 09:30-17:30. Technical clothing and sport equipment store.
- 5 IGA Extra, 5555 Boulevard des Gradins. Big supermarket in the north of the city.
- 6 Galeries Chagnon, 1200 Boulevard Alphonse-Desjardins, Lévis. Mall in Lévis with about 100 stores, including a Raynaud-Bray bookstore.
All restaurants in the Old City post menus out front in French and English. Look for the table d'hote specials for a full-course fixed price meal. On the cheaper (but very satisfying) side, have a traditional tourtière québecoise (meat pie), or a poutine (fries, gravy, and cheese curds).
The café culture is very much a part of Quebec City as in most of Europe. It should be very easy to find a quaint cafe around Marché Champlain, and around the Chateau Frontenac. Food is fairly expensive in Quebec, and even a simpler café or bar may be costly.
Most Quebec City delicatessens and markets offer a large variety of Quebec cheese from farms in the surrounding countryside. Specialties of the region include brie or camembert style cheeses made with raw milk (lait cru), which endows the cheese with superior flavours and textures not usually found in North American cheeses of the same type.
- 1 Casse-Crêpe Breton, 1136 rue Saint-Jean, ☏ . 08:00-18:00. Inexpensive crepes, starting at about $5. There is usually a long line to enter because the restaurant is rather small. Come early.
- 2 Cafe-Boulangerie Paillard, 1097 rue Saint-Jean, ☏ . 07:30-19:00. Good selection of Viennese pastries and gelato. Locals line up to buy inexpensive soups, sandwiches, and pizza.
- 3 Moine Échanson, 585 rue Saint-Jean (outside the Old City walls, about 4 blocks west of the St-Jean Gate), ☏ . Outside the purlieu of the mechanized tourist cafeterias of the Old Town, this warm restaurant produces high-quality food and drink in small, manageable doses. They have a short but provocative nightly menu, and the food is produced by hand with the loving attention of chefs who care about their craft. Great cellar of organic wines that will surprise you with their depth. $15.
- 4 Cochon Dingue, 46 blvd Champlain (Basse-Ville). Touristy, but in a good way — the "Crazy Pig" is cavernous but usually packed, with hefty portions from a frequently-changing menu. Lunch specials are good value at $10-15, including starter and coffee. Four other locations around the city.
- 5 Au Petit Coin Breton, 1029, rue Saint-Jean (two blocks east of Ponte Saint-Jean), ☏ . June 24 to Labour Day 08:30-23:00, Labour Day to June 23 Su-Th 08:30-21:00 F-Sa 08:30-22:00. Primarily a creperie with both savoury and sweet crepes, with other Breton-style dishes on the menu. The ambiance is "theme park" Breton (they're in a tourist area, after all), the food is tasty, the waitresses are attentive without being overbearing, and the prices are... not unreasonable, considering they are in a tourist area.
- 6 Bachir, 54, Boulevard René-Levesque Ouest (near Grande-Allée). Very popular Lebanese restaurant with fast service. A must-try is the shish taouk (marineed chicken barecued on a skewer). Hauptgerichte $8–18.
- 7 La Galette Libanaise, 641, Grande-Allée Est. Lebanese fast-food restaurant specializing in stuffed flatbreads. Big servings and many fresh fillings at low prices.
- 8 Cafés du Soleil, 143, Rue Saint Paul. A nice little café in the northern part of Basse-Ville mostly overlooked by tourists.
- Chez Ashton. Local fast-food chain with about 20 restaurants in and around the city. Loved by the locals for their cheap but delicious poutines. They also have burgers, hot dogs and assiettes (plates) with burgers, roastbeef and salad.
- 9 L'Entrecôte Saint-Jean, 1080 Rue Saint-Jean, ☏ . M 11:30–22:00; Tu-W 11:30–22:30; Th-Sa 11:30–23:00; Su 17:00-22:00. French steakhouse restaurant. Serves a Quebec wine by the glass. Mains $15-30.
- 10 Le Petit Coin Latin, 8 1/2 rue Sainte-Ursule, ☏ . Local cuisine in a quiet but pleasant atmosphere, nice made-in-Quebec music, friendly staff. Serves good quality breakfast for $6.25 starting at 08:00. Serves good raclette (Swiss cheese dish). Also worth trying is tourtière, a pastry filled with caribou meat and served with berries, mashed potato and salad.
- 11 Les Frères de la Côte, 1190 rue Saint-Jean, ☏ . Daily 11:30-22:00. Filled with more locals than tourists, this small eatery serves up a good selection of main dishes including salmon steak, horse steak and blood sausage. Other choices include pastas, pizzas, burgers and like bowls Mains $17-29, 3-courses $32.
- 12 Ciel! Bistro-Bar tournant (formerly named L'Astral), 1225 Cours du Général-De Montcalm (just outside of the city walls on Grande Allée Est, which runs alongside the Parliament Building), ☏ , fax: . At the top of the Concorde Hotel, this revolving restaurant offers unrivalled 360° views over the city and French cuisine. Also known for its Sunday brunch.
- 13 Chez Boulay Bistro Boreal, 1110, Rue Saint-Jean. Popular but loud restaurant with French cuisine. three course lunch menu $16–20.
- 14 Le Saint-Amour, 48 Rue Sainte-Ursule. One of the best mid-range restaurants serving French cuisine. The elegant dining hall is an attraction in itself with plenty of plants and big chandeliers. three course lunch menu plus coffee or tea $18–44.
- 15 Un Thé au Sahara, 7 rue Sainte-Ursule. Small restaurant with good Moroccan food, somewhat of the main tourist trail. The restaurant has no alcohol license, though guests are allowed to bring their own bottle of wine.
- 16 Le Lapin Sauté, 52 Rue du Petit Champlain, Ville de Québec, QC G1K 4H4, ☏ . M-F 11AM-10PM, Sa-So 9AM-10PM. Specializing in rabbit and duck dishes. mains from $15.
- 17 Le Cari, 5000, 3e avenue ouest (Charlesbourg). Asian restaurant with good vegetarian dishes and desserts. Nice ambiance and good service; so even if it can be a bit hard to find it's worth the detour.
- 18 Le Continental, 26 rue Saint-Louis (one block west of the Chateau Frontenac), ☏ . Warm, cozy environment. Fantastic food--shrimp scampi that melts in your mouth, filet mignon cooked at table side, and other delectable dishes. Expensive but well worth it.
- 19 Le Saint-Amour, 48 rue Sainte-Ursule, ☏ . M-F 11:30-13:30pm; daily 17:30-22:00. Foie gras is the chef's specialty, and he does an admirable job with game, in dishes such as grilled caribou steak with wild-berry and peppercorn sauce. Dishes are plated beautifully – indeed, seeing the food presentation is half the fun of dining here. Celebrities like Sir Paul McCartney, Sting, Alicia Keys, and John Hallyday have all sat at one of the white-clothed tables here. The à-la-carte menu changes seasonally and dishes rely heavily on local ingredients. It is also regarded as one of the most romantic restaurants in Québec. It offers a long wine list. Awards include Maitres Cuisiniers de France, La médaille d’Officier de l’Ordre du Mérite Agricole de France en 2016, the Governor General's Award in celebration of the nation’s table 2010, and le Prix Renaud-Cyr 2012. 3 courses $72, mains $42-52.
- 20 Aux Anciens Canadiens, 34 rue Saint-Louis, ☏ . Specializes in Quebecois cooking, including dishes that feature caribou, buffalo, or wapiti. The table d'hote (the local term for prix-fixe), served until 17:45, is quite a good deal at $22.95. Reservations recommended. The food, while good, is often heavy and some appetizers are as large as main courses. Taking home left-overs is not allowed.
- 21 Ristorante Michelangelo, 3111, chemin Saint-Louis. Upscale Italian restaurant with nice ambiance, attentive service, a big wine cellar and all the normal Italian dishes on their menu from scaloppine to risotto and pizzas. They can also customize a dish just for your party.
- 22 iX pour Bistro, 1104 18e Rue (north of the old town), ☏ . W-Su 5:30PM-10PM. New American and fusion cuisine. Just 20 seats, hence prior reservation by phone is required.
- 23 Chez Rioux & Pettigrew, 160 Rue Saint-Paul (north of the old town). Quebecian cuisine and different menus for brunch, lunch and dinner. One specialty is the fish of the day, changing daily depending on what the fishers have caught. mains around $30.
- 24 Restaurant Légende, 255, Rue Saint-Paul. One of the best upscale-restaurants in the city. Innovative Canadian cuisine, lots of seafood. two-course lunch menu $20–24..
- 26 Restaurant Louis Hébert, 668 Grande-Allée Est. Upscale restaurant serving French cuisine. The place is also a hotel. two course lunch menu with tea or coffee $16-21.
There is a place for nearly every visitor, from the wild nightlife to the cozy corner. Drinking age is 18 though enforcement is hazy.
Quality wine and liquor can only be purchased at SAQ shops, most of which are open Su-W until 18:00, and F Sa 08:00-21:00 on weekends; the smaller SAQ Express outlets are open daily from 11:00 to 22:00, but the selection is restricted to the SAQ's most popular items. Beer and a small selection of lower-quality wine are also sold at convenience stores (dépanneurs) and grocery stores (not what you would usually bring to a dinner party but sometimes drinkable-—it has been imported in bulk and bottled and sometimes blended in Quebec and known as "piquette" by the locals). All retail alcohol sales stop at 23:00 and bars and clubs stop serving at 03:00.
There is only one SAQ within the walls of the old city, a SAQ "Sélection" inside the Château Frontenac. It has high-end wines and liquors, a small selection of other liquors and no beer. A SAQ "Classique" with better (though still small) selection is just outside of the walls on Rue St-Jean on the south side of the street.
During the frigid Carnaval, a local specialty known as caribou is available to warm you up (did you know that those canes they sell are hollow?). Though the mixture varies with what is available, it tends to be port or red wine with a hodge-podge of liquors, normally vodka, brandy and perhaps even some sherry.
The Grande Allée has most of the city's clubs & youth-oriented bars and spots:
- 1 Le Dagobert, 600 Grande-Alle Est, ☏ . One of Québec's biggest clubs and over 25 years old, with shows by local and international musicians. With its heart-stopping techno and enormous outdoor disco ball, you cannot miss it. Crowd tends to be young. One of the few venues that consistently asks for identification for age verification. Free admission.
- 2 L'Ozone, 570 Grande-Allée Est, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Offers great music and atmosphere. ~$5/pint.
- 3 Les Voutes de Napoléon, 680 Grande Allée Est, ☏ . Great chansonnier bar in the vaults of a restaurant. Live music everyday. Gets packed on weekend especially Saturday night. Festive atmosphere.
La Rue St. Jean, beyond the city walls on the west end, is where travellers will find the best pubs in Québec, and some smaller dance clubs:
- 4 St Patrick, 1200 rue Saint-Jean, ☏ . An excellent bar with multiple indoor levels, in addition to its outdoor terrace at the heart of Old Québec. It serves typical bar food, but come for the live music, of the folk and Irish variety, that fills the atmosphere multiple nights a week. Try the draft cider, at about ~$9/pint.
- 5 Pub St. Alexandre, 1087 Rue St.-Jean, ☏ . Another great bar/restaurant that specializes in imports, but charges a price for them. A 16-oz Belgian import can be $9-12.
- 6 Casablanca, 1169 Rue Saint-Jean, ☏ . A small, upstairs, tucked-away club that plays heavy rosta-beats and has room to dance. It's a good place to bring your own party, with a unique ambiance.
- 7 Sacrilege, 47 Rue Saint-Jean, ☏ . Darkly-lit beer bar with an open air patio. Ideal for a relaxed atmosphere with good friends.
- 8 Ninkasi, 811 rue Saint-Jean, ☏ . The best place to have a large choice of Quebecois beers and see a variety of shows.
- 9 L'Oncle Antoine, 29 Rue St. Pierre, ☏ . In the touristy part of town, it's one of the city's oldest bars. Cozy atmosphere with great selection of local brews. Also offers an open air patio.
Spread throughout Old Québec are many upscale bars and jazz clubs. Search out the hotels, as they typically have the best venues for jazz and music at night.
- 10 Bar Château Frontenac, 1 rue des Carrières (in Chateau Frontenac Hotel). Famous for their perfectly mixed and generously sized martinis, available in numerous versions including half-a-dozen named after famous visitors ranging from Winston Churchill to René Lévesque. Try to score a window seat for great views across the St. Lawrence. The ice wine martini is a great treat. $13/16 for a martini with house/premium vodka.
- 11 Pub Nelligans, 789 Cote Ste Genevieve, ☏ . A real Irish-owned pub in the heart of the St.Jean Baptiste neighbourhood. Famous for its year-round Tuesday night traditional musique jams. A great place to meet people with a friendly ambiance and surroundings, no better place to go and have a great pint of Guinness at $6.75.
- 1 Auberge Internationale de Quebec (HI-Quebec City), 19 rue Saint-Ursule (near St-Dauphine), ☏ . Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 11:00. Student and family friendly hostel. Offers many types of bedrooms/suites. Some rooms offer ceiling fans while others do not, so ask first. Huge kitchen and dining area with cookware and utensils for common use. Offers laundry, game/pool room, Internet (including free WiFi but only common room and around), lockers and other services including a cafe which offers breakfasts for $6 (or free with private and four bed dorms). On the northwestern edge of Haute-Ville. Online bookings offered. $34/night for a bed in a dorm. Offers HI member discounts.
- 2 Auberge de Jeunesse de la Paix, 31 rue Couillard (Old Quebec near Cathedral), ☏ . 60 beds. Breakfast, kitchen included. Very clean. $26.
- 3 Résidences - Université Laval, Campus - Pavillon Alphonse-Marie Parent (2 miles from downtown, lots of buses). Linen & cookware not included; kitchen, TV, etc. Reservation form on the web site. Lowest price in town for long stays. $11 per night if you stay 4 weeks & more. Price goes up for shorter stays (roughly $30/day for a week; $44/day for a day).
- 4 Hotel Auberge Michel Doyon, 1215 chemin Sainte-Foy, ☏ , toll-free: . Check-in: 16:00, check-out: 11:00. Free breakfast and free parking. Friendly and clean. 44 rooms. From $43.25/person (Double Occupancy).
- 5 Relais Charles-Alexandre, 1 Grande-Allée Est, ☏ . Squeaky-clean small hotel in a new building built to look like an old one. Rooms are small, but equipped with en-suite bathrooms, and a tasty breakfast made to order is included. Children are not allowed. Rooms from $89/119 low/high season.
- 6 L'Hôtel du Vieux-Québec, 1190, rue Saint-Jean, toll-free: . Family-owned carbon-neutral hotel. They have been awarded 5 Green Keys from the Hotel Association of Canada’s Green Leaf Eco-Rating Program. Starting at $96 to $216 during low season and from $146 to $266 during high season.
- 7 Hotel des Coutellier, 253, rue St-Paul, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Old Port inn.
- 8 La Maison Sainte-Ursule, 40, rue Ste-Ursule, ☏ . A small hotel in the old town.
- 9 Hôtel Château Laurier, 1220 Place George-V Ouest (next to the Quebec parliament buildings), toll-free: . $144-259 high season, $99-209 low season.
- 10 Hotel Maison du Fort, 21, ave Ste-Geneviève, ☏ , toll-free: , fax: . Check-out: 12:00. Close to the Citadel. Free wireless internet. Tea, coffee, and muffins included. $129-189.
- 11 Hotel Manoir d'Auteuil, 49, rue d'Auteuil (just inside the walls near Porte St. Louis), ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 11:00. Friendly, bilingual staff in an 1835-vintage building. In the Old City, near the National Assembly building. High-speed wireless internet. Breakfast included; served 08:00-10:30. $119-299/night, a bit less in low season.
- 12 Hotel Chateau Bellevue, 16, rue de la Porte (near Dufferin Terrace), ☏ , toll-free: (Canada and USA), fax: . Wine machine on premises. Free wireless Internet.
- 13 À La Découverte, 1112, rue de Saint-Vallier Est, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Bed and breakfast inside the Old Quebec City historic district, near old port, St-Paul Street, bus/train station. Owners speak English and français. $145.
- 14 Best Western Plus City Centre/Centre-Ville, 330 rue de la Couronne (railway station 1 km). Check-in: 15:30, check-out: 12:00. Functional, clean hotel in the modern business district, offering better value for money than is readily available in the Old Town. About 1 km walk from the old town gates, with a free public lift covering most of the height difference. Frequent buses to Place d’Youville also available. Rate includes wireless Internet access.
- 15 Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, 1 rue des Carrieres, ☏ . One of Canadian Pacific Railway's grand old hotels, this castle-like building dominates the Quebec skyline and claims, with some justification, to be the most photographed hotel in North America. The location next to the funicular connecting Haute-Ville and Basse-Ville is as convenient as it gets, but expect tour groups marching through the lobby at five-minute intervals. From $300, but offers CAA/AAA discounts.
- 16 Immeubles Charlevoix, 179, Saint-Paul, toll-free: , ✉ email@example.com. Short term and long term rentals. Condos, apartments or houses. From $180.
- 17 Loews Le Concorde Hotel, 1225 Cours Du General De Montcalm, ☏ . $200-300.
- 18 Hilton Québec, 1100, René-Lévesque Blvd. East, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 12:00. From $200, but offers CAA/AAA discounts.
- 19 Hotel Le Germain, 126 Saint-Pierre Street, ☏ , toll-free: . Stylish boutique luxury hotel owned and operated by Groupe Germain, Canada's only boutique hoteliers.
The level of violent crime and homicides in Quebec is far lower than almost all other large cities in Canada or the USA.
For twenty months, between November 1, 2006 and July 14, 2008, the city of Québec reported no homicide on its territory.
During the day, you should have no fear about travelling around the city, but at night, there might be the usual drunk bar patrons and those who prey on people unfamiliar with where they are. Take the usual precautions to protect yourself and you should be fine. However, the city is very safe for solitary female travellers.
The organization ZAP Québec provides free wireless Internet in cafes and other locations throughout the city, but the service can fail to connect with some smartphones from time to time. As with any place, don't rely on their services for crucial tasks.
- Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, Basilica of Saint Anne de Beaupré, an enormous church which is reputed to have healing powers similar to those of Lourdes.
- Île d'Orléans - Beautiful biking or driving excursions. Many pick-your-own strawberry farms. Visit a sugar shack (cabane à sucre). The maple season typically runs from March to April.
- 39 Montmorency Falls (Take Route 440 east out of Québec City. Watch for the exit to the falls and the parking lot. By public transport, take bus 800 direction 'Beauport' up to stop 'Royale/Chalifour'. (~1h from old city)). At 83 m, it stands 30 m taller than Niagara Falls. Fireworks competition in the summer. Nice spot to visit if you are driving outside the city.
- 4 Mont-Sainte-Anne (about 40 km NE of Quebec City). Ski and snow during the cold season. Camping, biking and hiking at summertime.
- 5 Station touristique Stoneham (about 30 km N of Quebec City). Ski and snow during the winter and an animated summer camp from June to August every summer.
Saint-Gabriel-de-Valcartier (pop 2,933) is a small village approximately 25 km (16 mi) north of Quebec City. It's best known for its Canadian Forces base, which houses a few battalions of the Royal 22nd Regiment (les «vingt-deux» or "van-doos").
- 6 Villages Vacances Valcartier (about 25 km NW of Quebec City). Water park and go-carts open during the summer season. Tubing and ice skating offered in the winter.
- 20 Hôtel de Glace, Valcartier Vacation Village, 1860 boulevard Valcartier, Valcartier, ☏ , toll-free: , fax: . An elaborate 44-room hotel rebuilt every year out of ice. Its huge snow vaults, crystalline ice sculptures and dazzling décor are not inexpensive (at $950/night, double occupancy) but they go quickly; this ephemeral multi-million dollar work of art exists only from early January until late March. Themes and design vary annually; tours are available and the site may be booked as a wedding venue.
- Trans-Canada Highway – To the east, Atlantic Canada, to the west, most of the rest of populated Canada.
- Windsor-Quebec corridor – Along the river and seafronts between Quebec City and Windsor you can find many big cities and other interesting destinations.
|Routes through Quebec City|
|Montreal ← Lévis ←||W E||→ END|
|Montréal ← Trois-Rivières ←||W E||→ END|
|Chicoutimi-Jonquière via ←||N S||→ Lévis → Saint-Georges → Augusta via|
|Montréal ← Trois-Rivières ←||W E||→ Château-Richer → Sept-Îles|
|Saguenay ← Jct N ←||N S||→ Lévis → Jct → END|
|Routes through Lévis|
|Montreal ← Drummondville ←||W E||→ Montmagny → Rimouski|
|Montreal ← Drummondville ←||W E||→ Quebec City → END|
|Montréal ← Drummondville ←||W E||→ Montmagny → Rivière-du-Loup|
|Chicoutimi-Jonquière via ← Quebec City ←||N S||→ Saint-Georges → Augusta via|
|Longueuil ← Sorel-Tracy ← Jct S N ←||W E||→ Montmagny → Rivière-du-Loup|
|END ←||N S||→ Saint-Georges → becomes → Augusta|
|Saguenay ← Quebec City ←||N S||→ Jct → ENDS at|