If you’ve got French Canadian culture on the brain, there’s no better way to satisfy your cravings than with the best things to do in Quebec City. Perched on the banks of the St. Lawrence River, Québec City is one of the oldest cities in North America and certainly one of the most fascinating & charming travel destinations in Canada.
From wandering among picturesque 17th- and 18th-century buildings in Quartier Petit Champlain in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Old Quebec to spending a night at the legendary Château Frontenac hotel, start planning out what to do in Quebec City with this guide to the top tourist attractions & best places to visit in Quebec City…
What to do in Quebec City
Le Quartier Petit Champlain
If you’re looking for a place to start your adventures in Old Quebec (Vieux-Québec), beeline for Le Quartier Petit Champlain.
Located between the base of Upper Town and the Old Port, the Petit Champlain is one of Quebec City’s most beautiful areas and close to many of the top points of interest in Quebec City.
The district is a popular hang-out spot, sporting plenty of street-side cafés, restaurants, and boutique shops hidden among its historical buildings that shed off a strong European vibe.
Among the prettiest scenes in Petit Champlain is Place Royale, a 400-year-old cobblestoned square that marks the founding of Quebec City by Samuel de Champlain.
Although most of the original buildings from the New France days are long gone, there’s still plenty of history on display at Place Royale including the Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church, the oldest stone church in North America.
Le Château Frontenac
Long one of the most recognizable symbols of Quebec City, Le Château Frontenac sits high above the St. Lawrence River on Cap Diamant.
This world-famous luxury hotel dates back to 1893 when it was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway, one of the two competing trans-Canada rail companies, in a grand style that mimics the grand medieval chateaus of the Loire Valley in France.
Since its inception, Le Château Frontenac has been the hotel of choice for celebs & dignitaries passing through Quebec City.
It’s even got its own place in the history books as the site of several parlays between British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, American President Franklin Roosevelt, and the Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King during World War II.
Even if you can’t afford to dish out the hefty room prices to stay here, pop in to this National Historic Site of Canada on a guided tour to admire its lovely architecture & check out its collection of historical artefacts dating back four centuries to the city’s founding.
Montmorency Falls Park
Located just 15 minutes north of Old Quebec, Montmorency Falls Park (Parc national de la Chute-Montmorency) is one of the best day trips from Quebec City for nature lovers and adrenaline junkies alike.
At the heart of this park, the 83-metre-high Montmorency Falls cascades from the Montmorency River. Impressively enough, the waterfall is almost 100 feet taller than the far-more-famous Niagara Falls in the neighbouring province of Ontario!
For most travellers, the best way to get the most out of your day trip to Montmorency Falls is to ride the cable car or hike to the top of the cliff for excellent views over the waterfall.
If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, suspend yourself 300 metres above the ground on the short, but thrilling, zipline.
Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec
Art lovers visiting Quebec City will love a chance to check out the eclectic collection of contemporary & historical art at the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec (MNBAQ). Although it focuses mostly on Québec art, the MNBAQ also includes work from various international & Canadian artists.
The museum consists of four pavilions, each specializing in different periods: Pierre Lassonde Pavilion (contemporary art), Charles Baillairgé Pavilio (modern art), Gérard Morisset Pavilion (historical art), and Central/Grand Pavilion (family gallery).
The Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec is located in Battlefield Park.
Notre-Dame de Québec Basilica-Cathedral
Although perhaps not as impressive as its namesake in Montreal, the Notre-Dame de Québec Basilica-Cathedral is a must-see on your visit in Quebec City thanks to its superb architecture and historical value.
Originally dating back to 1647 and rebuilt over the centuries, this cathedral, dubbed a National Historic Site of Canada, is home to various important works of art including the central gold-leaf canopy, stained glass windows from Europe, and a sanctuary lamp gifted by King Louis XIV of France.
The cathedral’s crypts are also the final resting place of several bishops and governors of the former colony of New France.
Plains of Abraham
Situated in Battlefields Park, the Plains of Abraham is a must-visit Quebec City attraction for history buffs.
The Plains of Abraham were the site of the Battle of Québec in 1759, one of the two most important battles that pitted the French against the British in a bid to grasp control of the important trading city of Quebec.
To get your historical fix, visit the Plains of Abraham Museum, features a number of exhibitions expounding the battle & its consequences with great detail.
Even if museums aren’t your thing, the sprawling 98-hectare park is a fantastic to unwind in Quebec City in any season. Whether you want to walk, picnic, cross-country ski, or skate, there’s a place to do it at this popular greenspace.
Musée de la civilisation à Québec
One of the most family-friendly activities in Quebec City, the Musée de la civilisation à Québec (Museum of Civilization) is an interactive museum focused on the history of Québec and its people including its First Nations culture.
The exhibitions at the Musée de la civilisation are more dynamic than most history museums, blending media & interactivity to keep guests entertained while providing an educational experience for patrons.
Keep in mind that this museum’s collections & exhibits are quite extensive. If you’re stuck to only one day in Quebec City, you may want to skip out and focus your itinerary on other attractions.
Observatoire de la Capitale
To soak up the finest views of Quebec City, head over to the Observatoire de la Capitale.
Located in the Marie-Guyart Building in downtown Quebec, this 31st-floor observatory delivers 360-degree panoramas of Quebec City from 132 metres above the city streets.
From the viewpoint, you’ll catch a glimpse of the cobblestoned streets of Vieux-Québec, the St. Lawrence River, Fortifications of Québec National Historic Site of Canada (the only intact city north of Mexico), and even as far as the Laurentian Mountains.
The observatory is also home to Horizons, an interactive exhibit detailing the history of the provincial capital.
Where to stay in Quebec City
As it’s one of Canada’s most popular tourist destinations, choosing where to stay in Quebec City can sometimes be a challenge. For most travellers, the best area to stay is in & around the city centre including the Upper & Lower Towns. Here are a few places to start your search…
- Chateau Des Tourelles: Located just 10 minutes from the old city, this boutique-style hotel, housed in late-19th century historic building, features comfortable rooms & suites.
- Quebec City Marriott Downtown: This awesome 4-star hotel at Saint-Jean Gate is steps away from the some of the top places to see in Quebec City. The rooms here are modern & spacious.
- Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac: A luxury property that needs no introduction, staying at this legendary 5-star hotel will be the stand-out memory from your trip to Quebec City. The rooms here, frequented by innumerable dignitaries, are both elegant and modern.