Quebec City is about as unique of a destination as you can find in Canada, if not North America. Where else can you stroll cobblestone streets within a walled city and order a croissant en Français without crossing the Atlantic? I was lucky enough to spend 3 days in Quebec City wandering its tiny streets, eating its cheese curds, and discovering its nearby sights.
Come along as I explore Quebec City, inside and out.
My 3 days in Quebec City was my first trip outside of my home province since the start of the pandemic. Thankfully, it ticked all my boxes.
That said, this was not my typical three-day excursion. With a pandemic still very much in full swing, I focused my 3 days in Quebec City on outdoor activities. Also, I wore my mask inside, carried hand sanitiser with me, and washed my hands frequently. For your travel to Quebec City, or anywhere for that matter, please do the same. Respect the local guidelines and be a good traveller.
Day 1 – Explore Quebec City On Foot
With its strategic location high on the banks of the St. Lawrence River, Quebec city has seen some things. Over its 400+ years, it has been a battleground and stronghold. With both France and Great Britan controlling the area at different times, the result is a city full of history and interesting architecture. Thanks to its walkable layout, a day spent exploring Quebec City on foot is a must-do.
Plains of Abraham
This 3 days in Quebec City itinerary starts just southwest of Old Quebec in the Plains of Abraham. From there, it’s a scenic stroll past several local highlights and into the old part of the city.
On this very spot on the night of September 13, 1759, British soldiers scaled the cliffs of the St. Lawrence and attacked the French ruled city. Although the Battle of the Plains of Abraham lasted less than an hour, the result was a monumental shift in the Seven Years’ War. The French retreated from the city and never took control again.
Today, the Plains of Abraham is recognized as a National Historic Park of Canada and is one of the nicest urban parks that I have had the pleasure of visiting. This massive green space is popular with joggers, festival-goers, and houses a massive skating rink in the winter.
Sites of interest include the Joan of Arc Garden, the Plains of Abraham Museum, and the spot where North America’s 2nd oldest golf course once stood.
Citadel of Quebec
Continuing east towards the old town you will hit the Citadel of Quebec. This massive fortification has passed hands between the French and British and was last updated to defend Quebec City from American forces. Today it is home to the oldest military building in the country and is a National Historic Site.
Although the Citadel is currently closed to visitors, guests can still stroll its perimeter, check out the collection of WWI artillery, and walk the fort walls.
St. Louis Gate
Speaking of walls, if you follow the wall leading away from the Citadel you’ll end up at St. Louis gate, one of four remaining gates to Old Quebec. This archway offers transportation back in time. Once through, you are inside the only walled city north of Mexico. The cobblestone roads, buildings, and narrow streets offer something so truly unique you will think you have been teleported to Europe.
After passing through St.Louis Gate, turn right towards Avenue Saint-Denis. At the end you will come to Pierre-Dugua-De-Mons Terrace, the postcard capturing location in Quebec City. From there you get beautiful views of Old Quebec, Château Frontenac, and the St. Lawrence River.
Besides taking in the views, this is a great spot for a picnic or taking in the sunset. I will need to return in the wintertime to check out the toboggan track that runs down the hill!
Sandwiched between the St. Lawrence River and the iconic Château Frontenac you will find Dufferin Terrace. This wide, wooden boardwalk is popular with tourists and locals alike. It’s a great place to enjoy a walk with views of the river and is typically buzzing with activity. There are local street performers scattered throughout and on hot days you can enjoy ice cream from one of the many stands. In the wintertime, this turn into hot cocoa.
If you look down you can catch a glimpse of what’s left of Forts-et-Châteaux-Saint-Louis through window cutouts. These ruins are the remains of the governor’s residence and today is a National Historic Site of Parks Canada.
I was too busy looking up though as I was in awe of the Château Frontenac and how massive it is. This really shouldn’t be surprising given its dominating presence in the city skyline and how synonymous it is with the area.
With the Château Frontenac at your back, make your way past Prescott Gate and down to Quartier Petit Champlain. This is the founding area of Quebec and its streets are some of the oldest in North America.
Take in the view from on top of Escalier Casse-Cou (Breakneck Steps), Quebec City’s oldest staircase, before wandering the shops and restaurants of Petit-Champlain Street, possibly the cutest street in Canada.
Note: If you aren’t up for the stairs, no worries. There is a historic funicular you can take!
Quartier Petit Champlain is also home to the Place Royal and the location of North America’s first French settlement. Across from that is Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church, a stone church from 1688.
Continuing towards the port you will find the amazing Fresque des Québécois mural. This massive painting depicts the story of Quebec City.
Day 2 – Waterfalls and the Birthplace of Francophones
Although one could easily spend 3 days in Quebec City getting lost in its winding streets and exploring its many museums, there’s plenty to see and do beyond the city walls. Rent a car and enjoy some of the following nearby sites.
When I think of Quebec City, Château Frontenac and the city walls come to mind. Waterfalls and canyons do not. This makes Canyon Sainte-Anne that much more enjoyable.
Located just 42 km northeast of the city, visitors can enjoy a leisurely stroll through lush forests and a deep gorge. Along the way, you crisscross a river on several rope bridges over a cascading waterfall.
Thrill-seekers can enjoy a ride over the gorge on the Air Cannon. I can only describe it as a hybrid couch/zip line and something that looks incredibly fun. Unfortunately on my visit, this attraction was closed due to the pandemic. Just another excuse to return!
Note: Canyon Sainte-Anne is seasonal and open from May to October. Also, because of the pandemic, be sure to check ahead for operating hours.
This large island in the middle of St. Lawrence was one of the very first locations the French settled. As such, it’s known as the birthplace of Francophones. Locals embrace this heritage and it is well on display through its artisan shops and farms scattered around the island.
Once over Pont de l’Île bridge, turn right on Chemin Royal for a leisurely loop around the island.
Along the way, you’ll pass through picturesque villages, vineyards, and plenty of farms. Stop for a wine tasting at Vignoble Ste-Pétronille and enjoy views of Montmorency Falls in the distance. If wine isn’t your thing, check out Microbrasserie de l’Île d’Orléans for a pint before stocking up on local cheese at Les Fromages de l’isle d’Orléans. Also, don’t forget the Maple Syrup! Relais des Pins Sugar Shack offers the full experience. From tasty treats like Maple Taffy on snow year-round to a traditional Quebec meal, this is a great stop.
Montmorency Falls is located directly across from Île d’Orléans and, at 270 feet tall, is impossible to miss. Clocking in at just over 98 feet taller than Niagara Falls, Montmorency Falls should stick out like the massive waterfall that it is. I say this because, on my last visit to Quebec City, I didn’t know it was there.
On that visit, I didn’t leave Old Quebec. This is a shame as I am coming to realize there is plenty to see and do minutes from downtown. Parc de la Chute-Montmorency is no exception. From admiring nature to seeking thrills, one can spend a full day here.
The park includes several walking trails that lead to different vantage points of the falls. This includes a beautiful bridge directly above the drop-off. Those looking to get their steps in can take the 487 steps down to the base of the falls.
If that sounds like too much work, there is a cable car you can ride. If getting an adrenalin rush is your thing, visitors can zip line along the front of the falls and even rock climb the face of the cliff.
Le Grand Marché de Québec
Clearly, I didn’t get my fill of cheese curds on Île d’Orléans.
On my way back into town, I stopped in at the Le Grand Marché de Québec or The New Grand Market. This massive complex houses both full-time shops and stalls featuring fresh produce straight from the farm. There’s also a great microbrewery on the backside of the market with a nice outdoor patio.
Depending on the time of your visit, or if the pandemic is done and dusted, you could also catch a Quebec Remparts hockey game at the new Videotron Centre next-door. I’m starting to think I need to experience Quebec City in the winter ?.
I stocked up on supplies for my next outing to Jacques-Cartier National Park. This included some maple candy, cheese curds, and a couple of Quebec grown apples.xcv
Day 3 – Jacques Cartier, Right This Way
Determined to see more of Quebec City’s backyard, on my last day in town I headed north to Jacques-Cartier National Park. Located just 50 km away, the drive turns to rolling hills on the outskirts of the city and, on my visit, was highlighted by a mix of yellows and reds thanks to the changing fall colours. Again, the natural beauty in and around Quebec City continues to impress. That said, the scenery only gets better inside the park.
Focused around the Jacques-Cartier River, the park is highlighted by its vast glacial valley and thick coniferous forest. As I was driving along the misty river I could easily picture early explorers navigating the waters with the same wonder I was experiencing. As if to read my thoughts, a red canoe passed by.
Canoeing is one of the many activities you can enjoy at Jacques-Cartier National Park. There are cabins and campsites to rent, bike trails, and over 100 km of hiking trails. Wintertime brings guests on snowshoes and skies as well as toboggans.
Since I only had 3 days in Quebec City I looked to capitalize on my short visit. I settled on the Les Loups Trail which did not disappoint. It includes two beautiful vantage points as your reward for sweating it out over the five km climb up. The trail is 10 km in total, 485 m in elevation change, and is rated as difficult so prepare accordingly.
Where to Eat in Quebec City?
Although I spent most of my 3 days in Quebec City outside of town, I did eat at a few great spots and made sure to enjoy some local eats. Here are some of my favourites:
Chez Muffy/Bar Artefact
Located inside a warehouse dating back to 1822, Chez Muffy offers one of the most beautiful and unique dining experiences in the city. The interior is stunning with original wood beams and stone throughout. The menu is French-Canadian and includes the best lobster roll west of the Maritimes.
Bar Artefact is the cocktail bar located next door and is a homage to the footprint of the Auberge Saint-Antoine property. During construction, several pieces were unearthed and put on display. The menu features scaled-back items from Chez Muffy. Don’t worry, the lobster roll is available!
Vegan food may not be unique to Quebec but they certainly do it right at Don Vegan. This hip eatery serves up great cocktails and features romantic outdoor dining next to La Vivrière fountain. Also, the mushroom fettuccine and DONplings are ?
Le Casse-Crêpe Breton
Vegan food may not be Frech cuisine but crepes certainly are. Le Casse-Crêpe Breton servers up some of the best in the city. Enjoy both savoury and sweet creations, perfect for satisfying your craving no matter the mealtime.
3 Brasseurs Grande Allée
Another beautifully resorted building, 3 Brasseurs Grande Allée is a microbrewery in a Canadian Heritage building. Sample the beer on tap and tuck into hearty poutine creations. When I was there I enjoyed a shrimp roll with shrimp from Quebec waters.
Where Should You Stay in Quebec city?
From budget accommodations to five-star historic hotels, Quebec City has no shortage of sleeping options. You can even sleep in a hotel made of ice if you time your stay right!
My 3 days in Quebec city was split into two locations which played well into my itinerary of exploring the town on foot as well as seeing the outskirts.
Hotel Château Laurier
Steps away from the Plains of Abraham, the Hotel Château Laurier is well situated to explore Quebec City from. It’s minutes away from the city walls making it a great home base with the added bonus of escaping the crowds of Old Quebec.
Rooms range from Business suites to Presidential. I stayed in La Luxueuse which is spacious and modern and includes a large soaker tub and fireplace.
On top of supporting local by sourcing its produce, meats, and cheeses from nearby farms, the Hotel Château Laurier also supports local artists. In the lobby, you will find several pieces of famous Francophone artists commissioned by local artist.
Hôtel Le Germain Québec
On the opposite end of town and also tucked away from the tourist crowds, is the beautiful Hôtel Le Germain Québec. This 1912 stock market turned boutique hotel has been beautifully renovated and boasts an excellent location with river views.
The Hôtel Le Germain Québec was the perfect spot for me to relax in after my long hike. I kicked back with a coffee and enjoyed the view before exploring the port and tiny walking streets nearby.
Courtyard by Marriott
If you’re less interested in exploring downtown on foot and want a comfortable home base to explore Quebec City’s nearby site, the brand new Courtyard by Marriott offers excellent value. Rooms are modern and spacious and parking is included.
3 Days in Quebec City – Mapped Out
Is Quebec City on Your List?
After spending 3 days in Quebec City I can confirm that it truly is a gem, now more than ever. With the bulk of international travel grounded, those longing for a European vacation will find plenty to see, do, and eat in Quebec City.
For me, this filled a big travel void. On top of that, I was able to see Quebec City beyond the city walls. I have come to appreciate that there is a diverse culture, natural beauty, and great food all within Canada’s borders. For those North American’s looking for a European type vacation without heading to Europe, Bienvenue à Québec.
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Although my time 3 days in Quebec City was sponsored by Québec City Tourism, the experience, opinions, and desire to return is my own.