The Getaway
12 Must-Do Experiences in Old Quebec (Vieux-Québec)

Step into a living postcard as you explore Old Quebec, a UNESCO World Heritage treasure along the St. Lawrence River. This enchanting district, with its cobblestone streets and centuries-old architecture, transports you to a bygone era where French and British influences blend seamlessly.

As North America's only remaining fortified city north of Mexico, Old Quebec offers a unique journey through time. From the imposing Château Frontenac crowning Upper Town to the charming boutiques of Lower Town's Petit-Champlain district, every corner tells a story. Whether you're savoring local delicacies, walking atop historic walls, or immersing yourself in vibrant festivals, Old Quebec promises an unforgettable adventure that will captivate your senses and ignite your imagination.

Get ready to discover 12 must-do experiences that will make your visit truly magical.


01 Walk the fortifications of Quebec

Porte Saint Louis is one of the city gates of Quebec City but it's not the one of the original fortifications. It dates back in 1878.

A journey along Quebec's fortifications offers a unique blend of history and panoramic beauty. These impressive walls, stretching 4.6 km around the old city, stand as the only remaining fortified city walls in North America. As you traverse the ramparts, you'll be treated to breathtaking views of the St. Lawrence River and the cityscape below.

The fortifications tell a compelling story of Quebec's military past. Each stone bears witness to centuries of strategic importance and defensive prowess. Informative plaques along the route provide fascinating insights into key historical events and architectural features.

For an enhanced experience, consider joining a guided tour that is available from June to October. These expert-led walks offer deeper context and little-known facts about the fortifications' role in shaping Quebec's destiny.

Photography enthusiasts will find the walls particularly captivating at sunset. The golden hour casts a magical light on the ancient stonework, creating stunning photo opportunities that capture the essence of Old Quebec's timeless charm.


02 Visit the iconic Château Frontenac

Skyline view of Old Quebec City with iconic Chateau Frontenac and Dufferin Terrace against St. Lawrence river in autumn sunny day, a national historic site of Canada, most famous landmark of Quebec.

The iconic Château Frontenac, a grand castle-like structure dominating Quebec City's skyline, is more than just a luxurious hotel. This architectural marvel, often dubbed the world's most photographed hotel, offers visitors a glimpse into Quebec's rich history and culture.

Step into the opulent lobby, where the grandeur of the past meets modern elegance. The hotel's public areas are adorned with historical artifacts and exhibits, providing a fascinating journey through time. Don't miss the opportunity to admire the intricate woodwork, stunning chandeliers, and period furnishings that reflect the hotel's 19th-century origins.

For a truly immersive experience, book a guided tour. These informative walks reveal captivating stories about famous guests, from royalty to Hollywood stars, who have graced the hotel's halls. You'll also learn about the hotel's pivotal role in significant historical events, such as World War II meetings and the 1985 Shamrock Summit.

Culinary enthusiasts can indulge in a gastronomic adventure at one of the hotel's renowned restaurants. For a more casual yet equally memorable experience, visit the 1608 Wine & Cheese Bar. Here, you can savor local flavors while enjoying breathtaking views of the St. Lawrence River.


03 Stroll along Dufferin Terrace

Quebec City, Quebec, Canada, July 2012 - Dufferin Terrace in front of Chateau Fairmont overlooking the St Lawrence river

Dufferin Terrace, an iconic promenade in Old Quebec, offers visitors a captivating blend of history, entertainment, and breathtaking vistas. This 425-meter-long elevated boardwalk provides unparalleled views of the majestic St. Lawrence River, making it a perfect spot for leisurely strolls and photo opportunities.

During summer months, the terrace comes alive with street performers and artists, creating a vibrant atmosphere that encapsulates Quebec's cultural spirit. Visitors can enjoy impromptu shows, live music, and talented artisans showcasing their crafts against the backdrop of the river and distant Laurentian Mountains.

Winter transforms Dufferin Terrace into an exhilarating playground with its famous toboggan run. Thrill-seekers can experience an adrenaline rush as they hurtle down the icy track at speeds reaching up to 70 km/h (43 mph), offering a unique winter adventure in the heart of the city.

For history enthusiasts, the archaeological site beneath the terrace reveals fascinating ruins of the Saint-Louis Forts, providing a tangible connection to Quebec's colonial past. This hidden gem offers insights into the city's strategic importance and architectural evolution over the centuries.


04 Explore Place Royale

Place Royale (Royal Plaza) buildings - Quebec City, Quebec, Canada

Place Royale, the birthplace of French America, offers visitors a captivating journey through Quebec's rich colonial history. This charming square, founded by Samuel de Champlain in 1608, showcases beautifully restored 17th and 18th-century architecture, transporting you back to the early days of New France.

At the heart of Place Royale stands Notre-Dame-des-Victoires, the oldest stone church in North America. This architectural gem, with its solid stone walls and refined interior, stands as a symbol of the lasting belief and skill of the early settlers.

The square's centerpiece, an impressive statue of Louis XIV known as "The Sun King," brings a royal flair to the historic area. This bronze statue honors the French king, who was key in the growth of New France.

For a deeper understanding of Place Royale's importance, visit the Interpretation Center. Here, interactive exhibits and knowledgeable guides bring 400 years of history to life, offering fascinating insights into the area's evolution from a humble trading post to the cradle of French civilization in North America.


05 Take the funicular or climb the breakneck stairs

Quebec City, Canada - August 27 2022: The Petit Champlain district of Quebec City is home to many restaurants, stores and galleries and popular with tourists and residents alike. Mystic Stock Photography/Shutterstock

Old Quebec's unique topography offers visitors two exciting options to traverse between Upper and Lower Town: the historic funicular and the aptly named Breakneck Stairs. The funicular, operating since 1879, provides a scenic and effortless journey with panoramic views of the St. Lawrence River and the charming Petit-Champlain district. This glass-enclosed cable car ascends 59 meters at a 45-degree angle, offering a thrilling yet comfortable ride for just CAD 3.50 per person.

For the more adventurous, the Breakneck Stairs (L'Escalier Casse-Cou) present a challenging but rewarding climb. With 59 steep steps, this historic staircase dates back to the city's early days and offers a unique perspective of Old Quebec's architectural beauty. As you ascend, take time to appreciate the quaint shops and cafes lining the route.

Both options provide distinct experiences: the funicular offers accessibility and sweeping vistas, while the stairs deliver a sense of accomplishment and intimate glimpses of local life. Whichever you choose, you'll gain a deeper appreciation for Old Quebec's layered history and captivating landscape.


06 Shop and dine on Rue du Petit-Champlain

The Petit-Champlain at Lower Old Town (Basse-Ville) at night on christmas event

Rue du Petit-Champlain, North America's oldest shopping street, offers a charming blend of history, culture, and gastronomy. This picturesque cobblestone lane, nestled in the heart of Old Quebec, is a treasure trove of unique experiences for visitors.

Boutique enthusiasts will delight in the array of artisanal shops lining the street. From handcrafted jewelry to locally-made clothing and Quebec-inspired souvenirs, each store tells a story of the region's rich heritage and creativity. Make sure to visit La Fudgerie, where you can enjoy handmade chocolates and fudge, showcasing Quebec's culinary skills.

Food lovers can explore the street's delightful cafes and restaurants. Try local specialties like poutine at Le Lapin Sauté, known for its innovative rabbit dishes, or enjoy French-inspired cuisine at one of the many bistros along the lane.

During the holiday season, Rue du Petit-Champlain transforms into a winter wonderland. Twinkling lights, festive decorations, and the scent of mulled wine create a magical atmosphere that captivates visitors and locals alike.

At the street's end, pause to admire the Fresque des Québécois, a stunning mural depicting the city's history. This visual masterpiece serves as a fitting conclusion to your Petit-Champlain adventure, encapsulating the area's blend of art, history, and culture.


07 Visit the Citadelle of Quebec

Walls and towers of the UNESCO Quebec Citadelle fort

The Citadelle of Quebec, North America's largest British-built fortress, offers visitors a fascinating glimpse into the city's rich military history. This star-shaped fortification, still in use by the military today, highlights Quebec's significant role in history.

Guided tours, offered all year in both English and French, give a detailed look at the importance of the Citadelle. These informative walks take you through key areas of the fortress, including the 1693 French military building, the oldest of its kind in Canada, and the well-preserved Dalhousie Gate.

From June to Labour Day, visitors can witness the impressive Changing of the Guard ceremony daily at 10 am. This colorful spectacle showcases the precision and discipline of the Royal 22e Régiment, complete with their distinctive red uniforms and bear fur caps.

The on-site museum, housed in a 1750 powder magazine and an 1842 military prison, offers a comprehensive look at Quebec's military past. Interactive exhibits and artifacts bring to life the stories of soldiers who defended the city over the centuries.

For a unique experience, time your visit to coincide with the daily noon cannon firing, a tradition that echoes throughout Quebec City and serves as an audible reminder of the Citadelle's enduring presence.


08 Discover the Plains of Abraham

View of the Plains of Abraham park in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada

The Plains of Abraham, a sprawling 98-hectare urban park, offers visitors a unique blend of history and natural beauty in the heart of Quebec City. This former battlefield, now a serene green space, invites exploration and relaxation in equal measure.

History buffs will appreciate the free guided tours available during the summer months. These informative walks provide fascinating insights into the pivotal 1759 battle that shaped North America's future. For a more immersive experience, time your visit to coincide with historical reenactments, where costumed interpreters bring the past to life through musket and cannon demonstrations.

Nature enthusiasts can enjoy a variety of outdoor activities year-round. In warmer months, the park's expansive lawns are perfect for picnicking or leisurely strolls. Cycling enthusiasts can explore the park's network of bike paths while winter transforms the landscape into a cross-country skiing paradise.

Art lovers shouldn't miss the Musée National des Beaux-arts du Québec, located within the park. This world-class museum houses an impressive collection of Quebec art, from historical pieces to contemporary works.

Music fans will delight in the annual Festival d'été de Québec, held in July. This vibrant event transforms the Plains into a massive outdoor concert venue featuring both local and international artists.


09 Experience the Morrin Centre

Quebec City, Quebec, Canada - 18 September 2023: The Morrin Centre is a cultural centre in the Old Quebec neighbourhood, Canada Iryna Makukha/Shutterstock

The Morrin Centre offers visitors a unique journey through Quebec City's cultural history. This multifaceted institution, housed in a 19th-century building, seamlessly blends the city's past and present.

Originally serving as Quebec City's first prison from 1812 to 1868, the Morrin Centre now functions as a vibrant cultural hub. Guided tours provide fascinating insights into the building's transformation, allowing visitors to explore the old jail cells and imagine life behind bars two centuries ago. The preserved graffiti on wooden floors offers a poignant glimpse into the lives of former inmates.

The center's crown jewel is its beautiful Victorian library, home to over 25,000 English-language books. This literary oasis, with its ornate woodwork and spiral staircases, invites bibliophiles to lose themselves among the stacks. The library's collection, curated by the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec, spans centuries and genres, offering a unique perspective on Anglo-Quebec culture.

Throughout the year, the Morrin Centre hosts an array of cultural events and literary festivals, cementing its status as a dynamic community space. Events ranging from author readings to historical enactments offer visitors exciting opportunities to engage with the rich cultural heritage of Quebec.


10 Enjoy local cuisine

Enjoying local cuisine is an essential part of experiencing Old Quebec's rich cultural heritage. The city's culinary scene offers a delightful blend of traditional Québécois dishes and innovative modern interpretations.

For an authentic taste of Quebec, indulge in poutine, a hearty dish of crispy fries smothered in gravy and cheese curds. Local favorite Chez Ashton serves a classic version that's hard to beat. Another must-try is tourtière, a savory meat pie traditionally enjoyed during the holiday season but available year-round at many local eateries.

Food enthusiasts should not miss the Marché du Vieux-Port, a vibrant farmers' market where local producers showcase their finest products. Here, you can sample artisanal cheeses, fresh-baked bread, and seasonal fruits while chatting with passionate vendors about their craft.

For a unique winter treat, head to Petit-Champlain during the colder months to experience maple taffy on snow. This quintessential Quebec dessert involves pouring hot maple syrup onto fresh snow, creating a sweet, chewy delight.

Fine dining aficionados will appreciate Ciel!, a revolving restaurant offering panoramic views of the city alongside innovative cuisine. Remember to make reservations well in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons, to secure your spot at this popular establishment.


11 Attend seasonal festivals and events

Old Quebec comes alive throughout the year with vibrant festivals and events that showcase the city's rich culture and history. The Quebec Winter Carnival, held annually in February, stands out as one of the world's largest winter festivals. This exhilarating event transforms the city into a winter wonderland, featuring ice sculptures, night parades, and the iconic Bonhomme Carnaval mascot.

In August, history enthusiasts flock to the New France Festival, a colorful celebration of Quebec's colonial past. With over 400 shows and activities, visitors can immerse themselves in 17th and 18th-century life through historical reenactments, period costumes, and traditional music and dance performances.

The holiday season brings its own magic to Old Quebec, with twinkling lights adorning the cobblestone streets and festive markets offering local crafts and delicacies. Summer ushers in a lively atmosphere with street performers entertaining crowds in Place Royale and along rue du Petit-Champlain.

For music lovers, the city's event calendar is packed with free concerts and performances throughout the year. From jazz ensembles in intimate cafes to grand orchestral performances in public squares, there's always a melody in the air to enhance your Old Quebec experience.


12 Take a ghost tour of Old Quebec

A ghost tour of Old Quebec offers a thrilling way to explore the city's darker history and mysterious legends. These eerie excursions typically begin as night falls, casting long shadows across the ancient cobblestone streets and adding an extra layer of atmosphere to the experience.

Led by knowledgeable guides dressed in period costumes, these tours blend historical facts with spine-tingling tales of paranormal activity. You'll visit supposedly haunted locations, such as the Château Frontenac and the Plains of Abraham, learning about tragic events and unexplained phenomena associated with each site.

The tours, available in both English and French, usually last about 90 minutes. As you walk, you'll hear chilling stories of executions, unsolved murders, and ghostly apparitions that are said to still haunt the city's narrow alleys and historic buildings.

For the best experience, dress warmly and wear comfortable shoes suitable for walking on uneven cobblestone streets. Both skeptics and believers will find enjoyment in these tours, but be ready for unexpected surprises as guides use dramatic methods to make the experience more eerie.


Scroll Down

for the Next Article

The Getaway Badge
Sign up to receive insider info and deals that will help you travel smarter.