Visiting Quebec, one of the oldest cities on the American continent and the only walled city north of Mexico, is like being transported back to the historic cities of France.
If you wonder what are the best things to do and see in Quebec, this short Quebec city guide covers the main attractions in picture-perfect Old Quebec.
How long should you stay in Quebec City
Quebec is the capital city of the Province of Quebec but it is by no means the largest city in Quebec (that title goes to Montreal). A fairly compact historic core with all major attractions in easy walking distance means, spending two days in Quebec is actually the perfect time to discover all the main things worth seeing.
What to do and see in Quebec City in 2 days – 12 attractions you should not miss in Quebec City
Old Quebec, a UNESCO world heritage site since 1985, is practically divided into two districts, the upper and lower part of Old Quebec.
To get from one to the other, you can either take one of the several stairs or you take the funicular which is located on Dufferin Terrace right next to the impressive Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac. The funicular makes for a great ride and some awesome views over the area.
Located in the lower town, Quartier Petit Champlain is the heart of Old Quebec. It is one of the oldest neighborhoods in North America and once was the home of the New France colony.
With its narrow cobble-stone streets and beautiful historic stone houses it really gives you the impression to wander through one of the beautiful medieval villages of Europe. Many of the buildings around here are still dating back to the origins of the city.
The area is filled with small boutique shops and art galleries worth while seeking out; and once you feel like needing a break from all the walking around and exploring, just stop in one of the many cute cafes or restaurants.
Place Royale is the very place where Samuel de Champlain founded Québec in 1608 and thus the oldest place in Quebec.
Just a few steps from Place Royale you will also find the largest wall mural in the city, portraying historic life in Quebec.
Notre-Dame-des-Victoires, located on Place Royale, is the oldest Catholic parish church in North America. It dates back to 1647 and since it had been destroyed and rebuilt twice. The first time was in 1759 during the English Conquest when it was set on fire by cannon fire, the second time again by fire in 1922.
Each time the church was rebuilt, it became bigger and more beautiful. The most recent and likely most noticeable addition however took place in 2014 in occasion of the church’s 350 year anniversary: A holy door was added, which is one of only seven holy doors in the world and the only one not located in Europe.
One of the oldest streets in the city, Rue Saint-Jean in the upper part of Old Quebec is also one of the best locations for food in the city.
Another beautiful street lined with cute colourful facades and full of shops and restaurants not to be missed is Rue Saint Louis.
Chances are you might have chosen to stay in the city’s most famous hotel, Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac. If not, make sure you pay at least a quick visit (external guest are welcome to the lobby and shopping arcade and there is also a guided tour) or maybe treat yourself to a dinner in one of the hotels two excellent restaurants.
Directly in front of Chateau Frontenac you will find Dufferin Terrace, built in 1879 under the directions of Lord Dufferin, the third Governor General of Canada.
Once a military fortification, today the nearly 700 metres long wooden boardwalk is a favourite place to take a stroll and admire the beautiful views over St. Lawrence river. The terrace is also used for performances and other public events, especially during the summer month.
Below the huge wooden boardwalk, you can see excavated remains of his first dwelling going back to Samuel de Champlain, Saint Louis Forts and the Chateau Saint-Louis, which was the historic residence for French and British Governors.
From Dufferin Terrace it is just a short walk to Governors Promenade (OK, you need to climb several long stairs beforehand) , an enormous boardwalk that towers high above St. Lawrence River.
It is an amazing walk along the cliff-top all the way around the Citadel, with changing panoramic views over St. Lawrence River at every turn it takes.
The promenade leads to Plains of Abraham Park, a historic area within the larger Battlefield Park. It was there where in September 1759 the French were defeated by the English. This ultimately led the British taking control over Canada.
Head to the Citadel, located right next to Plains of Abraham and Battlefield Park, a huge fortress built after the War of 1812. It is the oldest military building across Canada and the largest British fortress built in Amareica and still serves a military base today. It is also home to a museum showing over 300 years of military history.
The historic wall of Quebec was built between 1608 and 1871 and today you can still walk the entire perimeter which is nearly five kilometres long, either on top of the wall or on path running directly parallel to the old fortifications.
Built over a century ago – and inspired by the Louvre in Paris – the Parliament building today is both the site of the local government and a popular cultural site. It is one of only few buildings in North America boasting a Second Empire style. There are tours of the building allowing you to see the National Assembly Chamber and the Legislative Council Chamber.
Not to be missed is the beautiful garden just in front of the Parliament building. It’s planted with indigenous flowers and plants, and there are around 130 different types of fruits, vegetables, and herbs.
There are quite a few locations worth visiting outside of Quebec City too, starting from Ile d’Orleans to nearby forests and lakes offering endless kilometres of hiking trails.
Exploring these places you will need either a car or arranging transportation, and you will definitely need more time than just two days.
There is one location outside Quebec City however, I’d recommend putting on your list when visiting the city: Montmorency Falls. The falls are only a short 15 minutes drive from old town Quebec and absolutely worth spending a few hours.
Even though it does not immediately spring to eye, perhaps because they are much smaller, Montmorency Falls are actually 30 metres higher (83 metres) than the better known Niagara Falls.
To reach the upper part of the Falls, you can either opt to climb a huge wooden staircase or take the cable car of the gondola.
Once on top, there is a suspension bridge spanning the Falls and even a zip line across the falls for the more adventurous. Otherwise, you can also just enjoy some food and drinks at Manoir Montmorency.
Have you been to Quebec City yet? What was your favourite sight or thing to do? Let me know about your experiences.