Quebec City is one of the most popular destinations in Canada, and the best one according to Condé Nast. I can only concur – even though I am a Montrealer at heart, I do have a soft spot for the capital city, and its oozing old-world charm.
For a city that is quite small in size, it has an overwhelming amount of things to do and places to go, regardless of the season. But to navigate through Quebec’s streets, you’ll need a small geography lesson: there are two levels to the city, the lower and upper city. The upper city is where you’ll find the most popular sights of Old-Quebec, as well as the more modern areas outside the old city walls. The lower city is full of quaint restaurants, cobblestone alleys and museums, and is just as interesting. To travel from one level to another, you can either take the funicular (if you’re not scared of heights!) or you can pump up your cardio in the quirky escaliers casse-cou (neck-breaking stairs).
What to do in the Upper City
The most popular attraction, understandably, is the grand Château Frontenac, a super chic hotel that used to be the home of the General Governor, her majesty’s representative in Canada. You can go on an indoor tour and I strongly recommend it, as it’s a splendid building and filled with art-deco masterpieces. I love it! Or you can opt to hang out on the Terrasse Dufferin and admire the views on the lower city, and the St Lawrence River.
The impressive Citadel is also well worth a detour, including the popular Plaines d’Abraham, where the Battle of Abraham was fought in 1759 between the English and the French (obviously, the English won). A nice way to learn more about Canada’s history and the influence of both countries on it! And while you’re there, why not stay for the Changing of the Guard?
I recommend a stroll on the beautiful St-Jean street, and its famous gates to the Old City, which still stand today. There are tons of restaurants and pubs over there, so you are guaranteed a good time!
My personal favorite thing to do in the Upper City, however, has nothing to do with history – or very little. I love to explore the newly rejuvenated neighborhood of St-Roch, which, historically, was always a very poor and let-down area. A few years ago, Quebec City decided to stop this cycle and modernize everything, building metal buildings, opening hipster coffeeshops, quirky artist stores and gastro pubs. A welcome change of scene after spending a day in Old Quebec!
What to do in the Lower City
When you get to the lower city (and managed not to break your neck in the stairs), the best activity is to simply stroll through the four-century old streets of Petit-Champlain, and marvel at the sheer beauty of it. Try not to get trapped in the many tourist shops, though! There are several dining options down there, and even though it’s much more expensive than in the upper city, to me, the atmosphere makes up for the hefty bill.
Make sure to visit the beautiful Place Royale, considered to be the oldest French settlement in America, including the Notre-Dame-de-la-Victoire church. If you are interested to learn more about Canadian and Quebec history, I strongly suggest you visit the Civilisation Museum and the French America Museum, both very informative!
Accommodation-wise, there are several options for you to choose from, on both levels of the city. You can opt for a über modern green hotel like Pur Hotel, in the refreshing St-Roch neighborhood, or a charming B&B within the city walls, or a fancy-schmancy hotel room at the famous Delta. There’s something for everyone!
Spending a weekend in Quebec in a great way to learn more about the roots of Canadian history, and the agitated nationalist movements ever since Quebec was won over by the British army. The city really is becoming a super trendy place, despite its old-world feel, and you should definitely experience it for yourself.
Have you ever spent a weekend in Quebec City? What are your recommendations, what’s your favorite thing to do?