10 Best Things to Do in Old Québec

A couple walk on the Pierre-Dugua-De Mons terrace near Avenue Saint-Denis, looking at the Château Frontenac.
Jeff Frenette Photography

There’s a marvel just past every street corner in the birthplace of French North America. Slip on some comfortable shoes and follow your own path through its 400 years of history. The Old City is an awe‑inspiring journey through a collection of architectural treasures unlike anything outside Europe. In fact, all this monumental beauty has a place on UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites. Just one more reason to come and experience Québec City for yourself, guided by friendly, welcoming locals. Here are the top 10 attractions you don’t want to miss:

  • 1 Château Frontenac

    See the world’s most photographed hotel in person

    Rising up from a clifftop, the iconic Château Frontenac has been the crown jewel of the Old City for over 125 years now. Getting your picture taken in front of it is obviously a must. Step inside to get a better look at the Château’s remarkable architectural style. 

    Tour the Château Frontenac

    Enter one of the most emblematic hotels in Canada. Take a guided tour through the hotel’s corridors and public spaces, learning about its famous guests and the historic meetings between global political leaders. Admire the blend of old world and art deco architectural details, the beautifully hand-carved beams and painted ceilings. Take time to enjoy the quiet nooks on the second floor and stare up at the shimmering chandeliers towards Le Champlain and 1608 Wine Bar.

    Eat in One of the Château’s Restaurants 

    You can partake of a little nourishment at its restaurants, Le Champlain and Le Sam. There’s also Bar 1608 whose mixologists and fantastic view of the St. Lawrence River are sure to make an impression. Sunday Brunch at Le Champlain offers a cornucopia of culinary delights including Québec cheeses, buttery croissants, fruits and delicious meats. Sip mimosas or champagne and soak up the old world elegance of the dining room.

    Stay in One of the Château’s Rooms 

    Soak up the history and beauty of the hotel during your stay. Rooms have an art deco feel to them, with cozy beds that beg to be laid in all day. 

  • 2 Terrasse Dufferin (Dufferin Terrace)

    Take a turn on a hotspot with an amazing view

    This long wooden sidewalk located next to the Château Frontenac, affords a stunning vistas.  At the far end, you can climb a few more steps to Promenade des Gouverneurs or to the Pierre-Dugua-De Mons Terrace for a breathtaking panorama of the Château, the city, the river, Île d’Orléans, and the surrounding mountains.

    Have an Ice Cream Cone While Enjoying the View

    On a hot summer day, there is nothing quite like stopping at Au 1884 on Dufferin Terrace for an ice cream cone. While a vanilla or chocolate soft serve is always good, opt for a chocolate-dipped ice cream, made with chocolate, and take your summer treat to the next level as you saunter down Dufferin Terrace. A delightful break as you explore the only fortified city north of Mexico.

  • 3 Petit-Champlain

    Fall in love with Canada’s prettiest pedestrian street

    If the European charm of this ravishing, exclusively pedestrian street doesn’t enchant you, the shopkeepers will. Petit-Champlain is simply gorgeous. Wander into one-of-a-kind boutiques and meet some of Québec City’s artists and artisans. Slow down and check out the architectural details. You’ll see why everyone loves Petit-Champlain. 

    Shop at Local Artisans

    One of the oldest shopping streets in North America, the boutiques of Petit-Champlain offer beautiful products created by local artisans. Shop for clothing made by local designers, Indigenous sculptures and handicrafts, jewellery, Québec terroir and more. One of the best streets for finding Québec-made souvenirs.

  • 4 Place Royale

    Explore the place where Québec City was founded

    This is the spot where, in 1608, Samuel de Champlain built what became the first permanent French settlement in North America. Its European charm is set off by the exquisite Notre-Dame-des Victoires Church, one of the continent’s oldest stone church.

    Take Pictures of the Historic Buildings

    Place Royale is dripping with European charm with its cobblestone streets and buildings dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries. Snap endless photos of the square and pose for photos on rue Saint-Pierre and des Pains Bénits. In winter, when the Christmas tree is erected and everything is covered in snow, this little neighbourhood is pure magic.

    Visit Notre-Dame des Victoires Church

    One of the oldest stone churches in North America, Notre-Dame des Victoires stands on the spot where Champlain’s trading post once stood. This small church is truly the heart of Place-Royale. 

  • 5 Basilique-cathédrale de Notre-Dame de Québec

    Take a quiet moment by the only Holy Door outside Europe

    Take a moment to sit back and drink in the majesty that surrounds you in the mother church of the continent’s first Catholic parish north of Mexico. It’s also the site of the first and only Holy Door in the Americas. The neoclassical façade, asymmetrical towers, stained glass, and three Casavant organs are some of the marvels of this genuine architectural masterpiece.

  • 6 Québec City's Walls

    Travel Back in Time along North America’s only walled city north of Mexico

    You might be asking yourself: “Why is Québec City Walled?” In fact, the escarpment of Cap Diamant provided the colony of New France with a natural defence system on the west side. A decision was made to build fortification walls on the other sides to provide a better protection. From these walls, the colonists could spot enemies approaching from land, as well as from the St. Lawrence River, giving them ample time to prepare a defence. A system which worked well for hundreds of years. Today, the ramparts remain intact as a testament to the character, history and battles that have taken place since the 17th century.

    Walking Along the Ramparts

    Sure you can walk through the Saint-Louis and Saint-Jean Gates. But did you know you can also walk on top—on the ramparts between them? There are stairs in the Artillery Park near the Saint-Jean Gate that will take you up over Place D’Youville. The stones have been meticulously restored, making these the best‑preserved fortifications in North America.

  • 7 Parliament Building

    Tour Québec’s first National Historic Site

    The Parliament Building is a fantastic work of Second Empire architecture you don’t want to miss. Wander through its magnificent gardens and admire it all from up close. 

  • 8 Citadelle de Québec

    Dive into the city’s military history at Britain’s biggest fortress in North America

    On the city’s natural summit at Cape Diamond is another authentic historic wonder. The Citadelle has been home base for the Royal 22e Régiment since 1920. Tour the fortress for a behind-the-scenes look at Québec City’s defences.

  • 9 Plains of Abraham

    Get on the site of the Battle of 1759

    In 1759, the Plains of Abraham rang out with the clash of arms. Today the former battlefield rings out with the music of the Québec City Summer Festival as tens of thousands flock to the plains to hear the world’s hottest artists (2020 edition is cancelled). In winter, there are athletes to cheer on in competitive events. This vast park is also home to several monuments, two Martello towers and the Plains of Abraham Museum.

    Learn about the Battle of Québec

    The Battle of the Plains of Abraham exhibit is one of the best ways to learn about the circumstances and history of this famous battle. Learn about Generals Montcalm and Wolfe, how the battle took shape and so much more. A fascinating stop on your historic journey through Québec City.

    Treat Yourself to a Picnic on the Plains

     A gorgeous and large green space close to the fortifications of Québec. The Plains of Abraham are an ideal spot for laying out on a blanket and enjoying a picnic comprised of local goods. A delightful experience on a sunny day.

  • 10 Old Port

    Experience the charm of the irresistible streets just steps from the St. Lawrence River

    The many antique shops on Rue Saint-Paul are living proof of Québec City’s closeness to history. You’ll also find art galleries, cafés, and restaurants that practically force you into the role of flâneur, the idle sophisticate of Europe’s Belle Époque.  The river whispers to you. “Relax,” it says—why fight it? In Summer, some streets in the Old Port turn into terraces and allow visitors to live the unique experience of a huge open-air restaurant.

    Browse the Antique Shops and Art Galeries

    Old Port is the best place to shop for antiques and art in Québec City. Start on rue Saint-Paul and continue to rue Saint-Pierre, popping into antique shops for artifacts that are functional, religious and decorative. Wander through the small art galleries and discover the astounding talent of Québec artists. There is a good chance you’ll find a piece to display at home, a constant reminder of your unforgettable trip to Québec City.

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Editorial Team

As proud ambassadors of our beloved city, we’re delighted to be sharing the things and places we love most in the Québec City area. What a joy for us to help you discover everything this vibrant and welcoming city has to offer!

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