20+ Amazing Things To Do In Quebec City For First-Timers

As the official capital of the province of Quebec and one of the oldest settlements in North America, Quebec City requires very little presentation. In fact, I get a lot of emails about visitors planning a day trip to Quebec City from Montreal – but every time, my answer is the same: stay overnight. Not only are the train and bus schedules rather restrictive for day trips, but the city is just magical after nightfall and truly deserves a lot more than a rushed, quick-let’s-move-on-to-the-next-place few hours.

First time in Quebec City? Here’s everything you need to know.

* updated January 2017

Things To Do In Quebec City If You’re Visiting For The First Time

Take the ferry to Lévis

Things To Do In Quebec City

To get the best view of Quebec City, you need to leave Quebec City – just for a few minutes! There’s a ferry service between the capital and its adjacent neighbour Lévis, which means that for a handful of change you can cross the St. Lawrence River, sit back, and enjoy the view that unfolds before your eyes.

Go on a food tour in Old Quebec

things to do in quebec city poutine
things to do in quebec city
 

Gone are the days where Quebec City was the laughing stock of ultra foodie Montreal; in fact, Quebec has undergone a total revitalization in the past few years and is now home to numerous forward-thinking, imaginative restaurants that are well worth a visit. The 2.5-hour Old Quebec food tour features five culinarily and culturally significant spots showcasing the area’s historic European heritage as well as the city’s inventive streak. Bring your eating pants!

  • When: 11:00 AM and more, consult website for full schedule
  • How much: 54$
  • More info here: Old Quebec food tour
Wander around the Old Port Market

If you’re indeed a foodie yourself and you’re somehow still hungry after that food tour, why not take some time to visit Quebec City’s busy market? Sample local products such as ice wines, terrines, fresh blueberry juice, maple syrup, and mingle with locals in this waterfront thoroughfare. If the weather is on your side, get a few of your preferred indulgences and head outside for a waterfront picnic near the marina.

Walk on Dufferin Terracethings to do in quebec city

Wrapped around Château Frontenac, this 200-years-old wooden promenade connects the leafy historic battlefields to the Old City and features several noteworthy sights, including Russian cannons captured by the British army during the Crimean War as well as the original fortifications of the Upper Town.

Marvel at the Château Frontenac

Things To Do In Quebec City

Sitting predominantly atop Quebec’s upper town, Château Frontenac is the capital’s emblem and most visited attraction. But despite its somewhat contradictory name, it was never a castle; the National Historic Site of Canada was actually built in the late 19th century as part of the series of “château” style hotels for the Canadian Pacific Railway company throughout Canada. While the now-Fairmont-owned hotel no longer offers guided tours, it is possible to step inside for a drink or a meal – check out make-your-own negronis at 1608 or the opulent brunch at Champlain Restaurant.

Go 400 years back in time at Place Royale

Things To Do In Quebec City
Things To Do In Quebec City
 

Set foot in the cradle of French Canadian civilisation by visiting the very place where Quebec City was founded in 1608 by Samuel de Champlain after having opened the very first trading post. The small square is awash with history and is flanked by exceptional New France architecture.

Morrin Centre

things to do in quebec city Morrin Centre Library

Formerly a prison, now Quebec City’s flagship English-language cultural hub, the Morrin Centre is a stunning 200-year old building filled with history  and obscure inmate stories. It also features a Victorian-era library containing 25,000 books, an old-timey chemistry lab, and is home to Canada’s first learned societies. It’s even possible to book a traditional afternoon tea, complete with period costumes and Victorian etiquette lessons.

Visit Maison de la Littérature

things to do in quebec city Maison de la Littérature

And while you’re at it, hop over next door to Maison de la Littérature, a completely renovated building with a Scandinavian feel to it and infinitely strong Instagram game. It is entirely dedicated to Québécois creativity, with an obvious focus on literature.

Explore the quaint district of Petit-Champlain

Things To Do In Quebec City

Once a tiny riverside hamlet, now a thriving destination, this touristy yet incredibly quaint part of Old Quebec encompasses the most picturesque streets in the province; think multi-centennial colourful townhouses and cobblestone alleys among cosy bistros and theatres.

Taste local craft beers in one of the many brewpubs

things to do in quebec city Barberie

Beer is no laughing matter in this province. Québécois take their brews very seriously, which is certainly why there are so many microbreweries throughout Quebec City. These are my favourite:

  • Griendel (195 Saint-Vallier Ouest)
  • La Souche (801 Chemin de la Canardière)
  • La Barberie (310 Saint Roch Est)
  • La Korrigane (380 Dorchester)
  • Noctem (438 du Parvis)
Discover Montcalm : Quartier des Arts

Things To Do In Quebec City

As it is often overlooked by tourists in favour of more popular Petit-Champlain, this portion of Quebec City is very authentic and retains a strong local feel. Here are a few suggestions on where to start:

  • Stroll the streets of Montcalm right up to the Musée des Beaux-Arts (Fine Arts Museum) and historic Plains of Abraham
  • Marvel at the English architecture and bourgeois feel of the neighbourhood. Walk along Braves Avenue and see the mansions once built to house ambassadors from around the world
  • Step on Cartier Street and enjoy the epicurean shops, fine restaurants, cinemas, and indoor food markets
  • Take a breath of fresh air in the luxuriant Jardin Jeanne d’Arc
Go on a day trip

Things To Do In Quebec City
Things To Do In Quebec City
 

One of the few advantages Quebec City has over Montreal (what can I say, a girl’s gotta represent) is its volume. Being of a more modest size, the capital doesn’t take as long to visit and is easier to navigate, much like its neighbouring attractions. Here are a few ideas:

  • Relaxing road trip along King’s Road between Saint-Augustin and Neuville
  • Active day trip at Camp Mercier, with cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in wintertime as well as hiking and fishing in summer months
  • Exhilarating outing at the Massif Ski Resort in Charlevoix, home to the North America’s longest luge track (better hold on to your hat tuque!)
  • Bucolic and slow-paced day at Île d’Orleans
  • Thrilling canoe and canoe-camping adventure at Bras du Nord Valley
  • Jaw-dropping Montmorency Falls, the tallest in Canada (yes, more so than Niagara!) at Parc de la Chute-Montmorency. If you’re by car, why not follow the Route de la Nouvelle-France up to the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, an impressive church which is famous among pilgrims for its healing miracles. On your way back to the city, stop at Microbrasserie des Beaux-Prés and enjoy some local brews right on the St. Lawrence River.
Learn all about military history at Citadelle de Québec & Plaines d’Abraham

As one of Canada’s most historically-significant places, the Plains of Abraham are not to be missed. This is where the French and the British armies fought on multiple occasions in the hope of keeping their respective grip on the North American continent, until the decisive 1759 conquest. The Citadelle de Québec – the largest British-built fortress in North America – is an utterly fascinating stronghold encompassing over 300 years of military history.

Attend one of the many outdoors festivals

Things To Do In Quebec City

Despite its old age and timeless attractions, Quebec City still knows how to throw a damn good, generally-free-of-charge party. Whether you prefer musical events (Festival d’été de Québec, Envol et Macadam), historic festivities (Fêtes de la Nouvelle-France), artsy displays (Loto-Québec fireworks festival, Crépuscule circus show) or if you’re brave enough, winter celebrations (Carnaval de Québec), there’s undoubtedly a festival that will tickle your fancy in this lively, cheerful town.

Get a bird’s eye view at Observatoire de la Capitale

things to do in quebec city Observatoire de la Capitale

Take an elevator (thank God!) to the 31st floor of the iconic Marie-Guyart building, which offers unobstructed, 360-degree views of not only both the lower and upper towns, but also the mighty St. Lawrence River and even the Laurentians Mountains on clear days.

Indulge with an afternoon tea at Bistro Le Sam inside Château Frontenac

Because you should never need an excuse for afternoon tea. Especially not when it’s inside one of the world’s most photographed and emblematic hotels!

Treat yourself to a damn good meal

things to do in quebec city Clocher Penche brunch

I’ve made it abundantly clear that Quebec City is now blessed with a very dynamic, rapidly-evolving food scene. I get so many emails from readers asking where they should have a Québécois dinner, or whether there’s a brunch place worth getting up early for. Below, a few of my favourite restaurants in Quebec City:

  • Le renard et la chouette (125 Saint-Vallier Ouest)
  • Le clocher penché (203 Saint-Joseph Est)
  • Laurie Raphaël (117 Dalhousie)
  • Chez Boulay (1110 Saint-Jean)
  • Le lapin sauté (52 du Petit Champlain)
  • Sapristi (1001 Saint-Jean)
Visit the Musée de la Civilisation

Discover one of the many permanent and temporary exhibits of the Musée de la civilisation, which boldly delves into topics like Quebec City’s past to present history, the First Nations culture, contemporary arts, all complemented by state-of-the-art interactive displays and the latest technology.

Grab a gourmet coffee

things to do in quebec city Saint-Henri Coffee

The third-wave coffee shops have reached Quebec City, for the enjoyment of those who can’t stand Tim Hortons (not all Canadians enjoy it, contrary to popular belief). If you want to have a high-quality, masterfully crafted cup of joe, you’ll need to pay a visit to the St-Roch area:

  • Nektar caféologue (235 Saint-Joseph)
  • Saint-Henri microtorréfacteur (849 Saint-Joseph)
  • Maelstrøm (181 Rue Saint-Vallier)
Food tour in Saint-Roch district

food tour Things To Do In Quebec City

If you’re truly a foodie, then this second food tour of Quebec City will definitely be up your alley. Focusing on the up-and-coming St-Roch, which is vastly different from Old Quebec, this Quebec City food tour tackles six of the best eateries while acknowledging the historical sights and recent developments along the way. A real treat for Quebec City connoisseurs.

A list of things to do in #Quebec City for first-time visitors who want to see and do it all. Includes day trip, food, and coffee recommendations! #Canada

62 Comments on 20+ Amazing Things To Do In Quebec City For First-Timers

  1. Sandrine
    April 23, 2016 at 7:08 pm (1 year ago)

    MERCI! Je prévois me rendre sur Québec cet été et le côté culinaire m’intéresse particulièrement, je ne savais pas trop par où commencer. C’est bien, la poutine, mais… ;-)

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      April 25, 2016 at 12:50 pm (1 year ago)

      Génial! Excellent timing, donc :-)

      Reply
  2. Stacey
    April 23, 2016 at 8:09 pm (1 year ago)

    What an awesome list! We’re planning a trip in November and although I’ve been before, I had forgotten about some of these things and didn’t know about others. Definitely bookmarking this to reference back to.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      April 25, 2016 at 12:49 pm (1 year ago)

      Wonderful, enjoy your trip!

      Reply
    • Becki
      August 28, 2017 at 3:22 pm (4 weeks ago)

      How did you like your November trip? We are thinking about going this coming November.

      Reply
  3. Courtney
    April 24, 2016 at 2:12 pm (1 year ago)

    Excellent tips, thank you so much! I heard that Quebec City is the only walled city north of Mexico, is it true? Can we visit the wall?

    Reply
  4. Josh
    April 24, 2016 at 9:28 pm (1 year ago)

    I think I stopped paying attention after you mentioned your favourite microbreweries. I really don’t need more convincing.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      April 25, 2016 at 12:40 pm (1 year ago)

      I see you have your priorities straight, haha!

      Reply
  5. Mary @ Green Global Travel
    April 25, 2016 at 1:39 pm (1 year ago)

    Quebec seems to have an endless amount of fun things to explore. The Sugar Shack sounds delicious. Thanks for this great list!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      April 25, 2016 at 4:05 pm (1 year ago)

      You’re welcome Mary!

      Reply
  6. Joey
    April 27, 2016 at 4:58 pm (1 year ago)

    Quebec City is one of the few places in North America that legitimately has a European feel to it … love every chance I get to visit this amazing place in Canada.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      April 27, 2016 at 5:46 pm (1 year ago)

      It really is an amazing place!

      Reply
  7. Ayngelina
    April 28, 2016 at 12:14 pm (1 year ago)

    Ooh I’d be all over the food tour.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      April 29, 2016 at 12:16 pm (1 year ago)

      I KNOW, right?! It’s really quite fabulous!

      Reply
  8. Bruce D Allen
    May 5, 2016 at 11:21 pm (1 year ago)

    If you take the ferry to Lévis for the view of the city, do it in the morning, when the sun is illuminating the river side of the Chateau Frontenac.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      May 6, 2016 at 2:00 pm (1 year ago)

      That is such a good tip, thanks Bruce!

      Reply
  9. Brian
    May 17, 2016 at 12:23 am (1 year ago)

    I love it, Quebec City has 20 things and Montreal only has 15. I would include on your list Sunday brunch at Chateau Frontenac.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      May 17, 2016 at 4:37 pm (1 year ago)

      Ha! You’re quite observant ;) There are many more things to do in each city but blog posts can only be so long!

      Reply
  10. Jenny
    May 17, 2016 at 12:24 pm (1 year ago)

    Désormais il y a un tout nouveau café à St-Roch: KRWN. Il font des espressos purement italiens, des cuban colada et du café turc! C’est délicieux, à essayer absolument!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      May 17, 2016 at 4:29 pm (1 year ago)

      Bon à savoir, merci!

      Reply
  11. Ben Bibeau
    May 24, 2016 at 9:04 pm (1 year ago)

    When visiting Quebec city, people often stay too close from the beaten track, aka the old town. Other districts, while less historically striking, are also worth a visit. Limoilou (like St-Roch) has some nice places as well, and allows to get a glimpse of everyday life in Quebec without the sugar coating of the well-preserved old town. Taking a walk or a bike ride along the St-Charles river could be a suggestion as well.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      May 26, 2016 at 1:54 pm (1 year ago)

      Limoilou and St-Roch are really hot right now with all the new restaurants and cafés. Well worth a visit!

      Reply
  12. Luis
    May 25, 2016 at 6:08 pm (1 year ago)

    By far the best guide to Quèbec City I’ve read! I moved here a few months ago and I love the selection you made!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      May 26, 2016 at 1:53 pm (1 year ago)

      Thank you so much Luis! Enjoy your time in Quebec City.

      Reply
  13. Kathleen
    May 26, 2016 at 2:24 pm (1 year ago)

    I am a local and I always suggest that people step off the ferry for a stop at Le Corsaire microbrewery. It is literally minutes from the ferry and well worth the stops. Also makes it a more “complete” activity. Great bites to eat at Le Corsaire as well.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      May 30, 2016 at 8:56 am (1 year ago)

      Thanks for the suggestion! :)

      Reply
  14. Christina
    June 13, 2016 at 8:26 pm (1 year ago)

    Can you do Quebec City, staying over for just one night? Can you see the most popular sites in one full day.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      June 14, 2016 at 10:33 am (1 year ago)

      Yes you can stay for just one night, that leaves you enough time to see the main sights. It’s not a big city.

      Reply
  15. Ashley Smith
    July 19, 2016 at 2:33 pm (1 year ago)

    Great article! I spend a lot of time in QC and you’ve included some places I’ve never seen. Thanks for the info!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      July 20, 2016 at 1:25 pm (1 year ago)

      You’re welcome Ashley!

      Reply
  16. Frances
    August 23, 2016 at 1:43 pm (1 year ago)

    Un “walking Tours” du Vieux Quebec. Je suis native de la ville, et je n’y connaissais presque rien. La venue de copains Americains et hop! je reserve. Meilleure soiree de la semaine!! Les petites ruelles “secretes, ‘histoire qui devient vivante. Nos guides/interpretes etaient extraordinnaires! Et nous etions bien contents d’avoir mis de bons souliers de marches. Voici le lien: https://www.viator.com/tours/Quebec-City/Animated-Crime-Walking-Tour-in-Old-Quebec/d626-22207P1 Tournees disponibles en anglais et francais

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      August 29, 2016 at 11:32 am (1 year ago)

      Génial, merci de la suggestion!

      Reply
  17. Shantel
    December 29, 2016 at 12:45 pm (9 months ago)

    Going to QC in June of next year, what’s a great affordable hotel to stay at that’s close to almost everything?

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      December 30, 2016 at 9:13 pm (9 months ago)

      It depends on whether or not you want to stay within the city walls. Affordable places in high season within the city walls will be hard to come by but Hotel PUR in St Roch is a great idea.

      Reply
  18. Brooke
    January 2, 2017 at 11:39 pm (9 months ago)

    My husband and I are considering a 5 night visit in April. We’re interested in relaxing and exploring. Do you think April is a decent time to visit? Does it typically start to warm up a bit by then? Do you think we can keep ourselves reasonably busy for 4 full days? Loved your suggestions btw!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      January 17, 2017 at 12:56 pm (8 months ago)

      April is a great time to visit the city. Not as many tourists and it’ll be a lot warmer than winter. Five nights is a lot but there is a lot to do outside the city as well (Ile d’Orléans, Charlevoix, hiking in Grands Jardins, etc.)

      Reply
  19. Emily
    January 5, 2017 at 9:07 pm (9 months ago)

    We have been following your recommendations all day! From cafes, to microbreweries to chez Boulay! Everything has been amazing! Thank you from two Aussies who would be lost without you in Quebec! Ps. Especially grateful for the coffee tips, Timmy H is not our friend!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      January 17, 2017 at 12:53 pm (8 months ago)

      Aw, so glad to hear! Hope you enjoyed Quebec City.
      (And Timmy H is nobody’s friend).

      Reply
  20. Tom Lewis
    February 8, 2017 at 1:35 pm (8 months ago)

    Your list is very interesting. My wife and I have booked 10 days between Montreal and Quebec City. We’ve elected to stay 5 nights including Christmas at the hotel Vieux Quebec. Unfortunately, I have some mobility issues due to a surgically repaired right foot–I limp. Very comfortable taking public transportation and have looked at the bus routes. It has been suggested that we go to île d’orleans for a day trip. Just wondering if you are aware of a tour company or car hire that does a tour of the island the week of Christmas? J’ai etudie le francais il ya 50 ans. Prendre un cours de recyclage. Merci Beaucoup. Tom

    Reply
  21. andthebee
    February 10, 2017 at 4:19 pm (7 months ago)

    Merci! I live in Montreal now, and next time I take a weekend trip to Quebec I will definitely refer to your guide :)

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      March 14, 2017 at 2:04 pm (6 months ago)

      Yes! You should absolutely go to Quebec City.

      Reply
  22. Wendy
    March 29, 2017 at 12:07 am (6 months ago)

    Marie-Eve your blog is wonderful and very informative, thank you!
    Now here is an age-old question: Can one get around Montreal and Quebec City without knowing a lick of French?? :/

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      April 26, 2017 at 5:48 pm (5 months ago)

      Absolutely! Everyone speaks at least a little bit of English, and most people are bilingual.

      Reply
  23. Stephen Knoblock
    May 4, 2017 at 4:38 pm (5 months ago)

    Marie, thank you very much for your first time visiting lists for Quebec City and Montreal. I’m going on a road trip for 3-4 weeks starting in Montreal, Quebec City, Maine coast, and some of the East coast US cities. I’m flexible on my travel dates, thinking 2-3 days in each city and try to check off most of the things on your lists!

    Sufficient plan? Thanks again!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      May 15, 2017 at 10:33 am (4 months ago)

      Be careful not to overdo it, Stephen! I find that visiting too many places in a short amount of time is akin to exhaustion and travel burn-out. Try to plan a little less and enjoy each place more :-)

      Reply
  24. Gary
    May 6, 2017 at 10:03 am (5 months ago)

    Looking forward to our families upcoming visit in August (5-13). My wife’s ancestry settled this area when arriving from France
    Really would like to know where to go to search for “family” names, and perhaps contacts???
    She recently did the DNA research, and the area is definitely filled with distant cousins!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      May 15, 2017 at 10:31 am (4 months ago)

      You will find what you are looking for at the Musée de l’Amérique francophone, I think.

      Reply
  25. KFlowers
    June 1, 2017 at 1:47 am (4 months ago)

    I have this blog bookmarked. I’m going to Quebec City in the next couple of weeks. Any recommendations for a single woman to do at night? I saw on the Montreal page you recommended a jazz club. I can’t wait to check each one of your suggestions off my list.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      June 9, 2017 at 3:16 pm (4 months ago)

      All of these places are good even for solo woman! Quebec City is very safe.

      Reply
  26. Tami Lyn Lee
    June 5, 2017 at 10:47 pm (4 months ago)

    I want to do a trip to Quebec with my husband. We usually do a 3 or 4 day trip. Would there be enough to keep us busy and can we do the trip without renting a car? I’m pinning this to my travel board :)

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      June 9, 2017 at 3:14 pm (4 months ago)

      You will have more than enough of 3 days in Quebec City. 2 is usually what I recommend. You can get a car for day trips (you won’t need one in the city) to go to Island of Orleans, Parc National de la Jacques Cartier, etc.

      Reply
  27. Ankit
    June 24, 2017 at 5:06 pm (3 months ago)

    Thanks. Any countryside near Quebec city that you suggest we check it out? Also do you suggest any fruited or berry picking place.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      August 15, 2017 at 3:02 pm (1 month ago)

      Ile d’Orléans is where you want to go!

      Reply
  28. Judy
    August 12, 2017 at 2:14 am (1 month ago)

    Hi. Is the Aurora Borealis light show showing on Sept 1/17 ? That’s when we’ll be in Quebec City. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      August 15, 2017 at 2:35 pm (1 month ago)

      No the show is finished.

      Reply
  29. Bob
    August 22, 2017 at 12:27 am (1 month ago)

    Hi Marie-Eve – I’m an American thinking of a first-time trip to Quebec City and Montreal. What would you consider a reasonable number of days in each city if I want a blend of food, art, history, and sightseeing (at a comfortably relaxed pace)? I’m a solo male traveler. Thanks!

    Reply
  30. Jeff Whyte
    September 15, 2017 at 8:05 pm (1 week ago)

    Such an amazing place. You capture the sights so well and just as I remember it!

    Reply

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