If you want to experience the most European city outside of Europe without leaving the continent, brush up on your French and grab your passport. Québec City might just be the place for you. French is the official language spoken in the city -- and approximately 80% of residents are Francophone or French-speaking. This, combined with immutable old-world charm, make it easy to forget you're still in North America. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes -- this enchanting city has winding cobblestone streets and hills to climb, with breathtaking views at every turn.
This opulent five-star hotel and coveted crown jewel of the Québec City skyline holds the Guinness World Record for "Most Photographed Hotel in the World," and it's easy to see why. With its instantly recognizable verdigris copper roof, the 120-year-old castle has 18 floors, six wings, and scores of ornate gables and dormers.
You don't have to book one of the stately castle's 611 rooms to enjoy its luxuries. Savor fine French cuisine prepared by a top chef in the Champlain, sip a cocktail in the cozy wood-paneled 1608 Wine & Cheese Bar, grab a bite in Bistro Le Sam, or have afternoon tea at Place Dufferin.
Old Québec, known as Vieux-Québec by locals, earned a spot on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1985. There is no shortage of things to see and do in this European-style historic district, which is divided between Haute-Ville and Basse-Ville. Stroll down the oldest commercial avenue in all of North America, Petit-Champlain Street, and swing by the striking Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Québec. If you're peckish, you can go on a three-hour walking food tour and finish your excursion with a drink under vaulted ceilings at the atmospheric 400-year-old Pape Georges V tavern.
Open year-round, the unmissable Parc de la Chute-Montmorency is an easy get from Québec City. You'll fall in love with the park's 272-foot tall waterfalls, which are nearly 100 feet taller than Niagara Falls. A cable car will take you up the cliff to the manor at the top. There, you'll find a footpath that will take you to a suspended footbridge stretching dramatically across the waterfall's drop. Don't look down!
For over a century, this cable railway has linked Basse-Ville and Haute-Ville, lifting passengers up at a steep 45-degree angle between these two parts of the city. Although it provides riders with sweeping views, the Funicular might not be so fun if you have a fear of heights. It deposits you 200 feet above your starting point.
Canadians can thank Québec for inventing one of their favorite comfort food:s poutine. The famous dish, which consists of French fries topped with gravy and cheese curds, was first served in 1972 by chef Ashton Leblond at his restaurant. To this day, Chez Ashton is still the place to go to sample some of these savory, cheesy, gravy-drizzled spuds. There are now 25 Chez Ashtons in the region -- many of which are all too conveniently located near drinking establishments.
For less than $5, you can board a ferry, or traversier, that will transport you across the St. Lawrence River to a sweet little town called Lévis. The ferry leaves its port at Old Québec every half hour or so, only lasts about 15 minutes, and provides picturesque panoramic views of the city from the water. If you happen to find yourself in Québec during the winter months, the ferry ride is particularly thrilling: it becomes a glorified icebreaker, slicing through the ice on the river.
La Citadelle de Québec is the largest active fortress in North America, backed by over 200 years of history. If you're quick on your feet, you can catch the Changing of the Guard at 10 am from late June through early September. Be sure to check out the fort's museum exhibits and guided tours, or simply soak up the spectacular views of the city and St. Lawrence River from your perch high above.
Jean-Alfred Moisan opened his petite epicerié's doors in 1871, and they haven't closed since. Epicerié J.A. Moisan might have a decidedly old-fashioned vibe, with tin ceilings, original woodwork, and vintage 1920s and '30s music piping through the speakers. But the store's offerings are anything but dated. Its shelves are stocked with fine Québec-made foods, including local preserves, bread, charcuterie, and cheeses, as well as hard-to-find foodstuffs from around the world. If the weather's right, the epicerie has all the fixings you need for the perfect picnic in the park. If you haven't yet had your fill of J.A. Moisan, you can even spend a night or two there. The original founder's living space upstairs has been transformed into a fully functioning B&B.
When it comes to dinner options, you pretty much can't go wrong anywhere in Québec City, thanks to the city's abundance of authentic French "gastronomie." But if you want the quintessential Québecois dining experience, just look for the red roof. Aux Anciens Canadiens first opened its doors in 1675 as Maison Jacquet and still retains most of its original character. The restaurant is named after a novel written by Philippe-Aubert de Gaspé, who lived in the house from 1815 until 1824. The service is top-notch, and the entire menu is beautifully executed, but don't miss la Soupe a l'Oignon au Fromage -- French onion soup -- while you're here.
This Québecois pastry glazed in butter and brown sugar is so scrumptious that even its name doesn't deter die-hard fans -- it means "nun's fart" in French-Canadian. Some say it derives its off-putting moniker from the sound it makes when frying. Others claim a nun's fart once caused so much uproarious laughter that someone dropped a piece of dough into boiling oil. Whatever the origins of its name, it's hard to argue that Pet de Soeur is damn delicious and dangerously addictive.
Step into the heart of nature at Jacques-Cartier National Park, a sprawling outdoor haven a mere 30-minute drive from Québec City. Whether you're an adrenaline junkie or a peace-seeking wanderer, the park's 415 square kilometers of verdant valleys, rushing rivers, and towering peaks offer something for everyone. Hike along the scenic trails, paddle down the serene rivers, or simply set up a picnic and soak in the breathtaking views. The park's diverse wildlife and stunning landscapes make it a must-visit for nature enthusiasts.
Just a stone's throw from the old town, Beauport Bay is a hidden gem that offers a refreshing escape from the city's hustle and bustle. Spend a sunny afternoon paddleboarding or windsurfing on the bay's calm waters, or simply relax on the sandy beach with a good book. The bay's on-site restaurant and bar provide the perfect setting for a leisurely lunch or a sunset cocktail. With its tranquil ambiance and beautiful views, Beauport Bay is a delightful addition to your Québec City itinerary.
Immerse yourself in the vibrant energy of Downtown Québec City, a bustling district that perfectly blends the city's rich history with its modern spirit. Explore the myriad of museums that offer a glimpse into Québec's past, indulge in some retail therapy at the chic boutiques, or savor a delicious meal at one of the many local restaurants. As the sun sets, the downtown area comes alive with music, laughter, and the clinking of glasses, offering a nightlife experience that's as diverse as the city itself.
A stroll down Rue Saint-Jean is a feast for the senses. This lively street is lined with charming boutiques, quaint bakeries, and gourmet chocolate shops that are sure to satisfy your sweet tooth. As the day turns into night, Rue Saint-Jean transforms into a gastronomic hotspot, with restaurants serving everything from traditional Québecois fare to international cuisine. Whether you're a foodie, a shopaholic, or simply a curious traveler, Rue Saint-Jean offers a slice of Québec City's vibrant culture.
Step back in time as you wander through the cobbled streets of Quartier Petit Champlain, home to North America's oldest commercial street. This picturesque district is brimming with artisan shops, cozy cafes, and fine-dining restaurants serving French-inspired cuisine. The charming architecture and the district's artistic vibe make Quartier Petit Champlain a must-visit for those seeking a unique cultural experience.
Escape the city's hustle and bustle and head to Île D'Orléans, a tranquil island known for its lush vineyards, charming villages, and scenic landscapes. Spend the day exploring the island's artisan shops, savoring locally-produced wine and cheese, or simply soaking in the idyllic views. A visit to Île D'Orléans offers a taste of rural Québec's laid-back lifestyle and rich culinary heritage.
Discover a piece of Québec's spiritual heritage at the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré. Located just 20 minutes from the city center, this historic pilgrimage site draws millions of visitors each year. Marvel at the basilica's stunning architecture, intricate stained glass windows, and works of art. Whether you're a history buff, an architecture enthusiast, or a spiritual seeker, the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré offers a serene and enriching experience.
For a truly unique Québec City experience, book a stay at the Hotel De Glace, the city's only ice hotel. Open from January to March; this architectural marvel is made entirely of ice and snow. From the intricately carved ice sculptures to the cozy fur-lined beds, every detail of the hotel is designed to provide a magical winter wonderland experience. Even if you're not staying overnight, a tour of the hotel is a must-do on any Québec City winter itinerary.
Less than an hour from Québec City, Mont Saint Anne is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. The snow-covered slopes in the winter are perfect for skiing and snowboarding. In the summer, the area transforms into a haven for hikers and downhill mountain bikers. With its stunning views and a wide range of activities, Mont Saint Anne offers year-round fun and adventure for visitors of all ages.
Nestled in the heart of Old Quebec, the Basilique-Cathedrale Notre-Dame-de-Quebec is a testament to the city's rich religious heritage. As the oldest church in the Americas north of Mexico, this stunning cathedral is a treasure trove of religious art and history. Step inside to marvel at the intricate stained glass windows, the gold-leaf canopy, and the beautifully carved pulpit. Whether you're a history buff, an art enthusiast, or a spiritual seeker, a visit to the Basilique-Cathedrale Notre-Dame-de-Quebec offers a fascinating glimpse into Quebec's past.
Elevate your Quebec City experience at the Observatoire de la Capitale. Perched on the 31st floor of the Marie-Guyart Building, this observatory offers panoramic views of the city's skyline, the shimmering St. Lawrence River, and the rolling Appalachian Foothills. As you soak in the breathtaking views, learn about the city's history and landmarks through the observatory's interactive exhibits. Whether you're a first-time visitor or a seasoned local, the Observatoire de la Capitale offers a fresh perspective on Quebec City.
Art enthusiasts shouldn't miss a visit to the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec. Located in the historic Plains of Abraham, this museum is home to a vast collection of Quebec art spanning from the 17th century to the present day. Explore the museum's four pavilions, each showcasing different aspects of Quebec's artistic heritage. From contemporary art to Inuit masterpieces, the museum offers a rich and diverse exploration of Quebec's cultural landscape.
Dive into the depths of human history at the Musée de la Civilisation. This innovative museum hosts a wide range of exhibitions that explore different aspects of human civilization, from ancient cultures to modern societies. Discover the rich heritage of Canada's indigenous cultures, delve into the mysteries of the Maya civilization, or explore Canada's ancient fishing traditions. With its engaging exhibits and interactive displays, the Musée de la Civilisation offers a fascinating journey through time and culture.