How to Visit Quebec City in 1 Day: A Practical Travel Guide
12 March, 2018: If you are planning a trip to Québec, the French-speaking province of Canada, do not miss a chance to visit Quebec City, the provincial capital. The city has a population of half-a-million residents and lies along the Saint Lawrence River, two-and-a-half hours northeast of Montréal. Quebec City is also the oldest city in Canada, having been first occupied by French settlers and then founded in 1608 by Samuel de Champlain during the reign of King Henry IV of France, who 2 years later was succeeded by his son King Louis XIII.
Quebec City was witness to a turning point in the history of French Canada, as it is where, on the Plains of Abraham, the British defeated the French in 1759 and took control of the French colony, thus forever altering the fate of the French-speaking population of Canada.
You don’t need a lot of time to visit Quebec City, as it’s quite a small city. In this mini travel guide, I will teach you how to visit Quebec City in just one day, including how to get there, where to stay, what to eat, and what to do. You are of course free to take it slower and extend your stay beyond 24 hours.
How to get to Quebec City
There are many ways to visit Quebec City. The city is easy to reach by plane (the local airport is Jean Lesage International Airport), by car (253 km from Montreal, Quebec), by train, or by bus. There are also car-sharing programs such as Covoiturage and Amigo Express that can get you there on the cheap.
Where to stay when you visit Quebec City
There are many places to stay when you visit Quebec City, but if you are looking for cheap accommodation, then you’ll want to look into these three options:
1. Hotel Belley in the Old Lower Town: located at 249 rue St. Paul; Tel: 418-692-1694; cost: $90-$140 high season, $20-$100 low season.
2. Auberge de la Paix in the Old Upper Town: located at 31 rue Couillard; Tel: 418-694-0735; cost: $30-$34 high season or $25-$28 low season for a dormitory bunk bed; $84-$175 high season or $60-$165 low season for a private room; includes breakfast.
3. Manoir Charest in Saint-Roch: located at 448 rue Dorchester; Tel: 418-647-9320; cost: $75-$149 high season, $49-$99 low season; includes breakfast.
Look on Booking.com to book your room for extra discounts.
4. However, if you want to stay in the lap of luxury, there is no better place to book a room than at Fairmont Le Château Frontenac.
Where to eat when you visit Quebec City
When you visit Quebec City, you should take your appetite with you.
For breakfast, you can either take advantage of the complimentary buffet breakfasts provided by Auberge de la Paix or Manoir Charest or you can visit the best bakery in town, La Boite à Pain (a 5-min walk from Manoir Charest), for pastries and coffee.
For the best brunch or lunch in town, go to Le Café du clocher penché, and call ahead to make a reservation as places fill up fast in this popular restaurant. Priding themselves on their locally sourced ingredients, the restaurant is located at 203 rue Saint-Joseph Est in the Saint-Roch neighbourhood.
For dinner, look no further than La Cuisine. La Cuisine is where you can discover traditional, homemade Quebecois food like tourtière and pâté chinois while playing boardgames and relaxing in a fun, living-room-type ambience. Located at 205 rue Saint Vallier Est, it is just a 5-minute walk from Auberge Charest. (Note: they are also open for lunch.)
What to do when you visit Quebec City
When you visit Quebec City, it is very easy to just walk around the entire city and sightsee all day long. Along the way, you should stop at the following points in the following order to really appreciate the essence of Quebec City history and culture:
1. The waterfront at the Old Port of Quebec: Quebec City lies along the Saint-Lawrence River, and walking along the waterfront is both a good place to start your tour of the city and a therapeutic stroll in the heart of the most beautiful part of the city. If you love public markets, stop at the Marché du Vieux-Port de Québec for fresh produce to snack on during your walk.
2. The Museum of Civilization: After your stroll at the Old Port, visit the Museum of Civilization at 85 Rue Dalhousie, the most popular museum in Quebec City.
3. Notre-Dame Cathedral: If museums are not your thing, keep going on rue des Remparts and turn right onto rue de Buade to visit the Basilique-Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Québec, a National Historic Site of Canada. The cathedral was built in 1647 and possesses one of the 7 Holy Doors of the world and the only Holy Door in North America in the Chapel of the Sacred Heart.
4. Place Royale: Next, make your way south along Côte de la Montagne to Place Royale for more sightseeing. While you’re there, visit Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church, the oldest stone church in North America, built in 1688. Place Royal is also a great place to stop for a drink or a snack from one of the café that line the lively square.
5. The Old City: If you’ve reached Place Royale, you are now effectively in the Old City, or Vieux-Quebec. This part of town is a must-see destination for witnessing the beautiful colonial architecture of 17th century New France. As you explore it, you’ll pass by the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, the first Anglican cathedral built outside the British Isles, on rue Des Jardins, and the Ursulines’ Museum of Quebec, where the first girls’ school in North America was founded, at 12 Rue Donnacona. You’ll also skirt the boundaries of the 5 km fortified stone wall that served as the city’s ancient fortification and is currently a UNESCO World Heritage site. This part of the city may well be the highlight of your tour when you visit Quebec City.
6. Fairmount Château Frontenac: Château Frontenac is a hotel, and a conference centre, but was never historically a castle, though it was intended to resemble one when it was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1894. You can walk around Château Frontenac, eat lunch at its on-site restaurant, Bistro Le Sam, and take lots of photos of its beautiful grounds and architecture.
7. The Citadel: South of Fairmount Château Frontenac and on the way to the Plains of Abraham, you will discover the Citadel. The Citadel is a fortress on Cap Diamant built in 1832 by the Brits, and it is still active to this day, hosting the Royal 22 Regiment of Canada. At the Citadel, you can pay a visit to the Musée Royal 22e Régiment indulge in a guided day tour or night tour.
8. The Governor’s Promenade: Take the wooden walkway called the Governor’s Promenade from the cliff lining the Citadel, and use this scenic route to get from Cap Diamant to Dufferin Terrace.
9. Dufferin Terrace: Take the stairs on the Governor’s Promenade down to Dufferin Terrace, the site of many residences of governors past. The terrace is a gathering point for tourists and street musicians, and boasts a statue of Samuel de Champlain, the founder of the city.
10. The Plains of Abraham: Alas you get to arguably the most important site in not only Quebec City history but also French-Canadian history. You cannot visit Quebec City without visiting the Plains of Abraham. As mentioned earlier, the turning point in French Canadian history occurred at the Plains of Abraham in 1759, when the British battled the French and won possession of all the French colonies of New France, thereby consolidating all of Canada under British rule. Now a park named the National Battlefields Park, the Plains of Abraham has beautiful views of the St Lawrence River and is a good place to go for a walk to contemplate what is, what was, and what could have been. You can also stop here for a picnic or visit the Plains of Abraham Museum to learn more about its history.
11. Parliament Square: Northwest of the Plains of Abraham, you will find Parliament Hill, home to the National Assembly. I recommend going on the free guided tour offered, to deepen your understanding of Quebecois and Canadian history. When you are done, continue along rue Saint-Jean, a major commercial thoroughfare where you can get some shopping done, then head north to Basse-Ville (Old Lower Town).
12. Petit Champlain: To get to Petit Champlain, which lies at the bottom of Côte de la Montagne in Basse-Ville (Old Lower Town), you can either walk, take the ancient Funiculaire du Vieux-Québec from Dufferin Terrace, or take the Escalier Casse-Cou (ie, Breakneck Stairs). The Petit Champlain neighbourhood is a picturesque neighbourhood with narrow cobblestoned streets, cute boutiques and bistros, and well-preserved colonial houses that are some of the most Instagrammable in the city. Historically, it was a small village of fur trading posts and fancy residences that was home to Quebec’s first port.
13. Fresque des Québécois Mural: The biggest magnet-pull of Petit Champlain is the Fresque des Québécois (lit: Mural of the Quebecois). No picture can do justice to its beauty or literary appeal. You simply must visit it yourself to truly take it all in.
14. Montmorency Falls is an 83 metre-/272-foot-tall waterfall (and provincial park) just a few minutes from downtown Quebec City (13 km east) where you can walk or zip line between cliffs, forest, and streams and past a suspension bridge to witness the impressive waterfall. It is very easy to get to from downtown Quebec City.
15. Île d’Orléans, on the other hand, is a beautiful island also just a few minutes from downtown Quebec (5 km east) that is famous for its strawberry fields from which you can purchase and eat fresh, delicious strawberries in the summertime. The island is also home to several vineyards, orchards, and art galleries.
For more on how to visit Quebec City, visit the official page of Tourism Quebec.