Bonjour, mes amis! I thought I’d put together a little guide for anyone interested in visiting or already planning a visit to Quebec City.
Quebec City is an extremely historic town with a lot of character. Because we went during off-season (April/May), everything was very slow-paced, and we felt like we had the city to ourselves. It was an unforgettable trip, and I hope you can use some of these ideas to plan an unforgettable trip of your own.
P.S. If you make it all the way to the bottom, I have a golden nugget for you! 🙂
1. Brush Up On Your French… Kind Of
French is the city’s official language, and you will hear it everywhere you go. Additionally, just about everyone will try to speak to you in French first. Contrary to what every other guide says, you don’t need to be fluent. All you have to really learn is:
Bonjour! (Hello/Good day!)
Bonsoir! (Good evening!)
Je ne parle pas Francais. (I don’t speak French.)
Je parle Anglais. (I speak English.)
Tu parle Anglais? (You speak English?)
Merci! (Thank you!)
Pardon! (Excuse me.)
Or, you can do what Blake and I did… which was just give everyone this look:
Then the person will usually switch to English right away. Be warned: This whole exchange usually comes with some sort of stank face, but it’s the kind of behavior we experienced in France, so it didn’t offend us much.
2. Stay in Old Quebec
As a tourist, it really doesn’t make sense to stay outside of Old Quebec. Everything is basically walking distance in this vicinity, and you’ll be thankful for the convenience. Plus, Quebec City isn’t very car-friendly, so I wouldn’t suggest driving in and out every day. We stayed at Hotel du Vieux, which I cannot recommend enough. We were in a central location, the staff were amazing, and there were plenty of amenities, including: an amazing coffee machine, a DVD collection with complimentary popcorn (in the case you need a break from wandering around), breakfast in a basket each morning and so much more! However, you will be fine at any hotel in Old Quebec, including the amazing Chateau Frontenac!
3. Food Tour
I recommend booking a food tour the first or second day in any city that you’re relatively unfamiliar with. Not only will the tour familiarize you with the area, but you’ll be able to figure out where to eat for the rest of your stay! We booked ours through Tours Voir Quebec and loved our guide. She provided a mini history lesson, took us to some truly amazing restaurants and shops, and provided one-on-one recommendations.
4. Take the Funicular… at least once!
While researching the city, I became really confused by the areas of Old Quebec. But just know that there are basically two areas: Upper Town and Lower Town. Upper Town is where you’ll probably be staying, and it’s on the same level as the Chateau. Lower Town is basically beneath Upper Town, and you need to either take stairs or the Funicular to get there. The Funicular is a mini railway that costs $3 CAD each way. Our food tour guide told us that they usually walk down to Lower Town and take the Funicular back up… it’s much easier on your legs/knees. As for the stairs, try to find the metal ones off the side… those are the easiest!
5. Marvel at Le Petit Champlain
Once you get down the stairs or Funicular… you’ll be in Le Petit Champlain! It’s just a really adorable area full of shops and bistros, and it’s probably what you’ve seen in all the photos of Quebec. We found ourselves going down to this area pretty often on our trip just to sit and watch the scenery.
6. Try Poutine
You. Must. Try. Poutine. In fact, you must eat poutine at least once a day while you’re there. We did! For all you poutine virgins out there, the dish consists of fries, gravy and cheese curds. It is also heaven on Earth. We tried every single place that was recommended online (Chez Ashton, Le Chic Shack, etc.) but none of them beat Snack Bar on St. Jean. It is the best poutine in Quebec City! I’m drooling just thinking about it… ugh…
7. Picnic in the Park
Because Quebec is the second oldest city in North America, it has a lot of claims to fame. One of these claims is the oldest grocery store, J.A. Moisan Epicerie. With all its curated charm and character, it’s like stepping back in time! Anyway, I highly recommend stopping there to pick out some delicious cheese, fruit and wine, then heading toward the Parc de l’Esplanade/Citadel for a scenic picnic overlooking the city and Chateau.
8. Visit Chateau Frontenac
Of course you can’t miss the city’s focal point, the Chateau Frontenac. It’s a gorgeous hotel just to wander through, but I recommend 1608, the wine and cheese bar. I saw people relaxing, grabbing drinks and even reading at the bar. If you manage to grab a window seat, you’ll get amazing views of the St. Lawrence River.
9. Channel Your Inner Belle
If Quebec City reminds you of the village in Beauty and the Beast, you must check out the Morrin Center. It’s an old jail that’s now converted into a beautiful library. If you love books, definitely check the tour schedule to learn more about its history.
10. Splurge on an Unforgettable Dinner
Quebec is a true foodie city. I mean, I don’t think we had a bad meal the entire time we there. Almost every restaurant we went to emphasized farm-to-table, and a majority of ingredients are either grown on property or sourced from nearby farms. Some places we highly recommend:
- Legende for the best meal of your life… I recommend the chef’s tasting menu
- Chez Boulay for Nordic food
- La Buche for a shot of Caribou and some out of this world bacon
- Le Billig for crepes
- Le Moine Echanson for rare wines and incredible service
- Le Chic Shack for a quick bite
- Snack Bar for poutine
- Delices Erable & Cie to try everything maple syrup you could possibly dream of… plus every employee there is a character and so much fun to talk to!
11. Get Hot Chocolate at La Maison Smith
It’s the cutest little sidewalk bistro with the best hot chocolate. I prefer the Place Royale location in Lower Town, which is perfect for people watching!
12. Go Museum Hopping
The city is full of great museums, but the only one we had a chance to visit was Musée de la civilisation. The first floor is all about the history of the city, and the rest of the floors have super cool interactive exhibits. When we were there, there was a cat and dog exhibit, which you know, made my entire life. Another museum that came highly recommended was the Musee national des beaux-arts du Quebec, which as you might have guessed, is an art museum.
13. Montmorency Falls Park
Unfortunately we missed the falls because of bad weather, but it was definitely on my must-see list! They’re actually higher than the Niagara Falls, so I was really looking forward to it. (Another reason to go back, hehe.) The park has fun activities year around, and it’s just a quick 25-minute drive or Uber ride from Old Quebec.
14. MacFly Bar Arcade
Part bar, part arcade, this place is really the best of both worlds. You can play classic games such as Space Invaders, Centipede, PacMan, Donkey Kong and more… as long as you drink!
15. Take Side Streets
Probably the best advice that we received during our trip. Take side streets! Wander around, get lost, walk until your legs are sore. Quebec City is one of the safest cities in the world, and the people are the nicest. It’s also a place that pushes you out of your comfort zone, so you have to really embrace it to get the most out of it.
Lastly, a lot of you have been commenting about Blake and I’s photos. If you’re a couple, you know the drill. You ask someone to take a photo of you, and the lighting is bad, they completely cut off the background, and you feel bad asking for more photos. So before our trip I purchased a little selfie stick that turns into a handy tripod! Then we’d use a Bluetooth remote to take as many photos as our hearts desired. The setup is the most annoying part, but once you get it up and running, it’s perfect. Just be careful with any wind, you’d definitely have to weigh it down with rocks, etc. What’s hilarious is that Blake always felt the need to point the remote directly AT the tripod, so it resulted in some really hilarious photos, like this:
Hahaha, I crack up laughing every time.
Bon voyage, friends!