There are few cities in North America who celebrate their history as flagrantly as Quebec City in Canada. But you can’t blame them – how many fortified cities remain in the region? Well, with the exception of some remnants in Charleston, North Carolina and Montreal just a few hours away, the fortified walls of Quebec City are the only standing remains of a much different time in the Continent’s history, north of Mexico.
It’s a history those who call Quebec City home wear with pride, and its European-flavoured cobblestone streets are something that attracts tourists from all over the world. Stepping into the city – especially within the fortified walls – is like moving back in time, to another era, another country and is a one-of-a-kind experience worth the trip.
As important as the city’s history is, however, this destination isn’t just for educational field trips. Though you may need to walk outside the fortified walls, the city is bursting with incredible food, nightlife, arts and culture at every corner; not to mention beautiful scenery. And though the weather for much of the year is – less than divine to say the least – residents don’t let that stop them from getting outdoors, and festivals like Le Festival d’été de Québec in July (one of the cheapest yet largest ticketed music festivals in the world) and Winter Fest in February seem to act as bookends for a never-ending calendar of outdoor activities. But Summer has not left the city yet, and here are ten ways visitors and locals alike can spend the remaining days of Summer in one of Canada’s finest cities.
1. Go see some live entertainment
Though Le Festival d’été de Québec just came and went – which in our opinion is one of the best festivals in the world – there are still countless live music events remaining through the Summer. Festival d’opéra de Québec kicks off this week (July 24th) and runs through August 6th. There’s also the The Grands Feux Loto-Québec, with a mix of music and film nights throughout August. Even Celine Dion is coming to town! But it’s not just about the big, outdoor events. Every night you’ll find venues around the city showcasing the world’s best talents. Head over to Bands in Town to see who’s playing when you’re going to be in the city.
2. Go on a food tour
There is so much amazing food in Quebec City it’s impossible to whittle it down to just a few favourites. But one thing we can recommend is to jump on a food tour and get a taste of as much of the city as possible – with its unique blend of French meets North American flavours, capturing just about every other cuisine along the way. Tours Voir Québec runs a fantastic walking food tour, taking you through 7 different venues and allowing you to taste some 15 products; from Traditional Quebec cuisine with a modern twist at La Buche to crepes at Crêperie le Billig and Choco-Musée Érico, a chocolate museum – a destination worth visiting regardless if you’re on the food tour or not!
3. Get a bit spiritual in your journey
The Shrine of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré is located about 20 minutes out of Québec City, but it’s very much worth the trip. This stunning piece of architecture is second oldest pilgrimage site in North America and sits alongside the Saint Lawrence River. If you want to stay more central, however, you can visit Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Québec (16 Rue De Buade, Ville de Québec) or “Our Lady of Quebec City”. The Cathedral dates back to 1647, though burnt down a couple of times between now and then. It’s a fascinating historical site that is the primatial church of Canada and the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Quebec.
4. Have lunch at La Traite at Hôtel-Musée Premières Nations
Though it’s certainly also an option for accommodation while you’re in Quebec City, even if you’re staying elsewhere we recommend heading out to the hotel’s restaurant, La Traite, for a meal. Their focus on local ingredients – from Bison to Deer Sausage – makes it as unique a dining experience as it is a delicious one. But going to the hotel is more than just enjoying a meal – it will also be an opportunity to learn more about the Huron-Wendat community’s fascinating history, culture and legendary hospitality with an on site museum. You can even spend a night in the longhouse that’s on site, though all of the 55 rooms in the hotel are inspired in some way by the traditional Indigenous accomodation. Head HERE for more details about the hotel and their services.
5. Wander through the streets of Old Québec
The streets of Old Québec are filled with charm and history – and it feels like another world. Or at the very least like a city in Europe. Set inside the remains of the city’s fortified walls you’ll find shops, museums and plenty of tourist attractions. You’ll also find some fantastic food. While you’re there, make sure to enjoy the view on the Old Québec funicular, which takes you from the Dufferin Terrace to the Petit Champlain neighbourhood, Place-Royale and the Old Port. But, as much as you can, walk through those cobblestone streets and breathe in the history.
6. Visit Montmorency Falls Park
Here’s the author looking like a dag through an Instagram filter in a typical tourist shot from atop one of Quebec City’s natural tourist attractions, Montmorency Falls Park, and the suspension bridge that sits atop it. They’re located about 12 km from Old Quebec, and you can get to the top either by stairs or an aerial tram for a small charge.
7. Take the Charlevoix Rail Transit
The Charlevoix Rail Transit takes you on a 125 kilometre journey from Québec City to Charlevoix, with stop overs at a string of beautiful villages as it travels through river vistas and stunning mountains to La Malbaie. It’s a stunning trip and both a convenient and affordable way to see some of the province’s quainter villages. Head HERE for more details.
8. Rent a bike and explore the city
There are nearly 400 km of bike paths in Quebec City, giving you the opportunity to truly discover every nook and cranny of this incredible city. You’ll also find great mountain bike trails in Mont-Saint-Anne, Vallée Bras-du-Nord and Sentiers du Moulin. Alternatively, if bikes aren’t for you, head to Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier and enjoy their 100 kms of hiking trails. Either way, this is what Summer was made for in this incredible city.
9. Eat plenty of Poutine
And finally we have something which goes without saying, for any time of the year. Whether it’s Summer or Wintertime, you have to fit in some poutine in your visit. A dish from Le Chic Shack is pictured above, where you’ll enjoy some more “gourmet” poutines, while the chain Chez Ashton is also easily accessible for the more run-of-the-mill potatoes covered in cheese curds and gravy. I wrote a little bit more about the poutine I found in Quebec City HERE. It is magical and delicious.
How To Get To Quebec City
Air Canada serve the most direct route to Québec City from Australia, flying direct from Sydney to Vancouver, with easy onward connections. New direct flights from Brisbane to Vancouver launched in May 2016. Visit aircanada.com for more details. An alternative route will take you first to Montreal and then to Quebec City via VIA Rail, which was how we got to Quebec City on our trip.
Where To Stay When In Quebec City
We stayed at the beautiful Hôtel Château Laurier Québec while in Quebec City, walking distance from just about everywhere you need to be. We didn’t catch public transport once while in the city – though we did have shuttles organised to some of the destinations mentioned in this article.
The writer travelled to Québec City courtesy of Québec City Tourism and Tourisme Québec. Photos by the author except where mentioned.