Got French Canadian culture on the brain? Satisfy your cravings by experiencing the best things to do in Quebec City.
Perched on the banks of the St. Lawrence River, Québec City is one of the most charming travel destinations in Canada. With roots digging back to 1608, Quebec City’s one of the oldest cities in North America.
The top tourist attractions in Quebec City span five centuries of its history. By day, you can search out the city’s soul in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Old Quebec. You’ll wander among 17th- and 18th-century buildings in Quartier Petit Champlain. Or you can dive into military history at the Plains of Abraham after a stroll along Dufferin Terrace. By night, you can explore Quebec’s renowned culinary scene or splurge on a night at the legendary Château Frontenac hotel.
Not sure what to do in Quebec City? Start planning your trip with this guide to the best places to visit in Quebec City.
What to do in Quebec City
Le Quartier Petit Champlain
Looking for a place to start your adventures in Old Quebec (Vieux-Québec)? Beeline for Le Quartier Petit Champlain.
Le Quartier Petit Champlain is located between the base of Upper Town and the Old Port. Petit Champlain is one of Quebec City’s most beautiful areas. It’s also close to many of the top points of interest in Quebec City.
The district is a popular hangout spot for locals & travellers alike. It sports plenty of street-side cafés, restaurants, and boutique shops. They’re hidden among its historical buildings that shed off a strong European vibe.
Among the prettiest scenes in Le Quartier Petit Champlain is Place Royale. The 400-year-old cobblestoned square marks the founding of Quebec City by Samuel de Champlain.
Most of the original buildings from the New France days are long gone. There’s still plenty of history on display at Place Royale, though. Look out for Notre-Dame-des-Victoires, the oldest stone church in North America.
Le Château Frontenac
Long the most recognizable symbol 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. It was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway, one of the two competing trans-Canada rail companies. Chateau Frontenac shows off the popular “grand hotel” style. It was designed to mimic 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. The hotel was 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.
Can’t afford to dish out the hefty room prices to stay here? Pop into this National Historic Site of Canada on a guided tour. On a tour, you’ll get to admire its lovely architecture while hearing its story. You’ll also get to check out its collection of historical artefacts. Some of the items date back four centuries to the city’s founding.
Montmorency Falls Park
Just 15 minutes north of Old Quebec, you’ll find Montmorency Falls Park (Parc national de la Chute-Montmorency). Montmorency Falls is one of the best day trips from Quebec City. Both nature lovers and adrenaline junkies alike will love carving out time for the park.
At the park’s heart, the 83-metre-high Montmorency Falls cascades from the Montmorency River. Surprisingly, the waterfall is almost 100 feet taller than Canada’s far more famous Niagara Falls in Ontario.
The best way to get the most out of your day trip to Montmorency Falls is to ride the cable car to the top. If you’ve got energy to spare, you can also hike to the clifftop. Either way, prepare for outstanding views over the waterfall.
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
Visiting Quebec City as a art lover? Don’t miss the eclectic collection of contemporary & historical art at the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec (MNBAQ). Although it focuses on Québec art, MNBAQ also includes work from various international & Canadian artists.
The museum consists of four pavilions. Each specialize in different periods & styles. The pavilions include:
- Pierre Lassonde Pavilion (contemporary art)
- Charles Baillairgé Pavilion (modern art)
- Gérard Morisset Pavilion (historical art)
- Central/Grand Pavilion (family gallery)
The Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec is located in Battlefields Park.
Notre-Dame de Québec Basilica-Cathedral
Although 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. Like its Montreal brethren, the basilica teems with superb architecture and historical value.
Notre-Dame de Québec Basilica-Cathedral dates back to 1647. This National Historic Site of Canada has been rebuilt over the centuries. Today, the cathedral is home to various important works of art. Keep on the look out for the central gold-leaf canopy, stained glass windows from Europe, and the 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. The kerfuffle was one of the most important battles between the French and British in a bid to control the important trading city of Quebec.
To get your historical fix, visit the Plains of Abraham Museum. The museum features several exhibitions expounding the battle & its consequences in great detail.
Even if museums aren’t your thing, the sprawling 98-hectare park is a fantastic place 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
Visiting Quebec City with kids? Musée de la civilisation à Québec (Museum of Civilization) is one of the best family-friendly activities in Quebec City. This interactive museum focuses on the history of Québec, its people, and its First Nations cultures.
The exhibitions at the Musée de la civilisation are more dynamic than most history museums. They blend media & interactivity to keep guests entertained while providing an educational experience.
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.
The Observatoire de la Capitale is perched on the 31st floor of the Marie-Guyart Building in downtown Quebec. The observatory delivers 360-degree panoramas of Quebec City.
From the 132-metre-high viewpoint, you’ll catch a glimpse of the entire city. You’ll see the cobblestoned streets of Vieux-Québec and the St. Lawrence River. You’ll also get to view the Fortifications of Québec National Historic Site of Canada, the only intact walled city north of Mexico, from above. On a clear day, you’ll even see as far as the Laurentian Mountains.
The observatory is also home to Horizon. This interactive exhibit details the entire four-century history of the provincial capital.
Where to stay in Quebec City for sightseeing
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 Upper Town & Lower Town. Here are a few places to start your search…
- Chateau Des Tourelles is a boutique-style hotel located just 10 minutes from the old city. The hotel is housed in a late-19th century historic building. It features comfortable rooms & suites.
- Quebec City Marriott Downtown is an awesome 4-star hotel at Saint-Jean Gate in Old Town. It’s just steps away from some of the top places to see in Quebec City. The rooms are modern & spacious.
- Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac is a luxury property that needs no introduction. Staying at this legendary 5-star hotel could be the stand-out memory from your trip to Quebec City. The rooms here, frequented by innumerable dignitaries, are both elegant and modern.