Quebec City

Destination Location

Quebec City
  • 46.791111, -71.393333:primary
  • 46.7910995483, -71.3933029175:secondary

Overview

Discover the real meaning of joie de vivre in Quebec City. High-spirited and stylish, much like the people who live there, Quebec City radiates with a unique charm and sophistication. Combined with its distinctly European flair, this city is the perfect place to shop, dine and explore some of Canada's top attractions.

Begin your trip with a walking tour of the Historic District of Old Quebec (Vieux-Quebec), which will take you to landmarks such as the Chateau Frontenac – part historical artifact, part luxury hotel and part architectural eye candy.

Rue du Petit-Champlain is next. The oldest street in North America, it's alive with cafes, boutiques and restaurants. Next, visit the historic Plains of Abraham (Plaines d'Abraham) and Battlefields Park (Parc des Champs-de-Bataille). Reminiscent of New York City's Central Park, this large urban park offers a unique taste of Quebec history. And don't miss Terrasse Dufferin. This long, wooden boardwalk offers stunning views of the majestic St. Lawrence River.

One of the most famous events in Quebec City is Carnaval de Quebec – the largest winter festival in the world. You may have heard about carnival mascot Bonhomme Carnaval, but did you know he has his own ice palace? Come check it out during Carnaval, and while you're here, grab a front-row seat to an ice sculpture competition, sample delicious Canadian maple products and check out the live entertainment.

When you're ready to come in from the cold, Quebec's wide range of cafes, bistros and fine dining restaurants await you. Or, stop by Chez Ashton – a fast-food joint that serves up some of the best poutine (fries with gravy and cheese curds) in the whole province.

And you'll find even more to do just outside of the city. Outdoor enthusiasts love Charlevoix – Quebec's backyard playground in the Laurentian Mountains. Located just two hours from Quebec City by car, this is where you'll find fabulous mountainside resorts and plenty of skiing, snowboarding, skating, mountain biking, canoeing, kayaking, rafting, golfing and so much more.

The Charlevoix region has also become a refuge for visual artists, poets, writers and those in search of fresh air, picturesque views and a bit of inspiration. So whether you're vacationing with family or thrill-seeking with friends, you'll find everything you’re looking for in this protected World Biosphere Reserve nestled beside the north shores of the St. Lawrence River.

Quebec City is a fantastic destination for:

  • culture and history
  • shopping and dining
  • romance

Destination basics

Travelling to Quebec City in the summertime? Pack your favourite short sleeve shirts and shorts. Visiting in the winter? You’ll want to bring a sweater, snow gear and maybe some long underwear if you’re planning to spend time out on the hills or in the parks.

Summer temperatures here typically reach highs in the mid 20s C, while winter temperatures range from -10 C to -17 C, perfect for skiing and spending time at Quebec’s famed Carnaval. Spring and fall tend to be short in the Quebec City region with a wide range of seasonal and not-so-seasonal temperatures that vary by year.

Average monthly temperature and average monthly rainfall diagrams for Quebec City

No visit to Quebec City would be complete without sampling its famous culinary institutions and its renowned, even notorious nightlife. For a metropolitan area of fewer than 700,000 inhabitants, Quebec boasts an uncommon number of superb restaurants, charming cafés, seething dance clubs and quiet little hideaways.

Most visitors will naturally gravitate towards the city's sensational French bistros and restaurants. Indeed, most of Quebec's truly world-class eateries serve some kind of French cuisine; at the forefront are the traditional (and expensive) opulence of Laurie Raphaël, Initiale and the incomparable Le Champlain, all in Vieux-Québec, with all setting diners back up to CAD100 for dinner for two.

The Grande-Allée hosts its own restaurant scene, which includes the hectic bistro action at Paris-Brest and other brisker, more casual spots. Haute cuisine finds a home, too, in the newer part of Quebec City, in such landmarks as the revolving L'Astral, and in the Loews Le Concorde hotel, where locally-influenced haute cuisine goes miles beyond the typical revolving fare.

This blending of traditional French cuisine with local ingredients and techniques such as game meats, local cheeses, cranberries, maple syrup products, and so on, is characteristic of many restaurants in the area. Few kitchens in Quebec City entirely escape the hearty, stick-to-your-ribs influence of Quebecois fare. Those that revel in it include the landmark Maison Serge Bruyère, perhaps the city's best-known restaurant, and the spectacular Manoir Montmorency (where, after dinner in the winter, you can stop in for a unique nightcap at the Ice Hotel's Absolut Bar!).

The countryside surrounding the city, and especially the tiny townships of Île d'Orléans, contains numerous other French/Quebecois institutions. La Mairie, in Loretteville's beautiful town hall, and the renowned Le Canard Huppé in St-Laurent on Île d'Orléans, are just two examples. Many of these ages-old restaurants are associated with charming inns or B&B's, and can form part of a delightful day trip away from Quebec City. Each exudes its own sense of quiet civility, especially in winter for the ideal romantic getaway.

Area restaurants also benefit from Quebec's proximity to the sea, which results in such restaurants as Le Marie-Clarisse in the historic Quartier Petit Champlain, and also in a seemingly incongruous concentration of Belgian restaurants. Witness Vieux-Québec's Môss and the charming B&B hideaway Douceurs Belges, just west of the city proper. Moules frites (mussels and fries) are a very popular choice for pub grub or a light evening meal in a city that tends to eschew McDonald's and its ilk.

Though anyone with a strong distaste for French food will find his choices limited in Quebec City, he will not go hungry. Two outstanding Italian restaurants also highlight the local scene: Graffiti's French-Italian fusion cuisine and indomitable wine list can be found on the Grande-Allée. Other options await the intrepid, of course, especially outside of heavily touristed areas. As in France, eating out is considered not just a means to an end but a way of life; substandard food is simply not tolerated and should by no means be expected, even in a neighborhood Chinese or Vietnamese place.

Of course, even if a meal should somehow fall short of your justifiably high expectations, plenty of distraction awaits at night to put your mind on other things. Though locals bemoan the death of Vieux-Quebec's traditional café culture, a thoroughly civilized afternoon or evening awaits at the popular Pub Saint-Alexandre, the Café Krieghoff, or any number of lesser known coffee shops and cafés. It may seem in Vieux-Quebec like there should be more of them, but you will never want for a steaming cup of coffee and good conversation.

Later in the night, things get considerably rowdier at any number of nightclubs in Vieux-Québec and especially on the Grande-Allée. Some of the better-known nightspots include Chez Dagobert and Chez Maurice, the latter named ironically after despotic former Quebec Premier Maurice Duplessis—both are enormous, pulsating dance clubs that don't cool down until 3am at the earliest. Quieter pints await at the aforementioned Pub Saint-Alexandre or the Thomas Dunn Pub, where you can also take a break from all the steak-frites and baked chèvre in favor of a bang-up plate of fish-n-chips!

All in all, the dining and nightlife in Quebec City exude a decidedly French charisma—much more so even than in Montreal. Though cosmopolitan in appearance and attitude, Quebec is less multicultural than many other Canadian cities, and English is rarely—if ever—heard outside of tourist areas. It is, literally and spiritually, the capital of French Canada. As such, this relatively small city manages to remain at the forefront of the North American restaurant scene, which only strengthens its uniquely European feel.

Quebec is one of the most beautiful cities in North America. Founded in 1608 by Samuel de Champlain, this fortified city has a rich history, architecture and culture, which can be discovered and enjoyed on foot.

Old Quebec The Old City is one of the most popular areas for both tourists and locals, not only because of its charm but also because of its many restaurants, pubs, hotels and boutiques. St-Jean Street is the main entrance to the Old City. This street is at the heart of the social and cultural life of the city, with Place d'Youville and the Palais Montcalm Theatre on the south side and Le Capitole hotel on the north. During the summer months, Place d'Youville is a stage for performing artists, and once the weather gets cold, people of all ages ice skate here to classical music!

A little further down is the historic St-Jean Gate, where one can find many small shops, boutiques, pubs and restaurants. The Magasin Général L.P. Blouin, an old-time general store specializing in souvenirs and collectibles, is a popular stop. Restaurants and pubs abound, but the Pub Saint-Alexandre, Au Petit Coin Breton and, of course, the famous Serge Bruyère are among the best.

City Hall is on Côte-de-la-Fabrique, where the strip of restaurants and boutiques continues. This street leads to the Place de l'Hôtel-de-Ville, the Petit Séminaire de Québec and the Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-Québec. The Rue du Trésor, where local artists show and sell their works, is a few steps away and leads to the Château Frontenac and the Dufferin Terrace boardwalk. A stroll on the boardwalk is a must, for the splendid views of the St Lawrence River, the Laurentian Mountains and the Île d'Orléans. The boardwalk also features street entertainers in the summer and two great ice slides in the winter.

Place Royale and Vieux-Port The Terrace ends with long stairs on both sides: one set goes down to the Vieux-Port and Place Royale, the most picturesque area of Quebec, built in 1608 and abounding in restaurants, antique shops, art galleries and boutiques. Place Royale is not as busy as the Old City but just as fascinating. The wonderful Laurie-Raphaël, Café du Monde and L'Inox bar are located in the Vieux-Port area.

Plains of Abraham The other set of stairs goes up to the Plains of Abraham. It can be quite a workout on a hot summer day but the view is worth the effort. The Plains of Abraham are at the heart of Quebec City's history. Although nowadays it looks more like a beautiful place to have a family picnic, it is the site of a bloody 1759 battle between the French and the English. Several plaques describe the battle and explain its significance to Quebec's history. The Martello Towers, which were built to counter the British invaders, are strategically located on the Plains and are open to the public.

On the east end of the Plains, the Musée du Québec is home to an interpretive center about the battlefields, and also hosts numerous art exhibits throughout the year. The Plains are a rendezvous for joggers, rollerbladers, soccer players in the summer and cross-country skiers and tobogganers in the winter. This is also where people gather for the annaul St-Jean-Baptiste celebrations, the Summer Festival and the Winter Carnival.

St-Louis Street and the Grande Allée St-Louis Street runs parallel to St-Jean Street and is equally filled with restaurants and boutiques. Aux Anciens Canadiens is an interesting restaurant for those with a taste for traditional Quebec cuisine. In this 17th century house, the wait staff dresses as the first habitants of the colony did and customers can enjoy some of Quebec's classics—tourtière, for example.

Further west is the entrance to the Citadel, a protective fort located on Cap-aux-Diamants. Every day in the summer, troops perform the changing of the guard according to pure military tradition, and The Citadel also has a fascinating museum. The Parliament Buildings are located on the corner of St-Louis Street and Dufferin Avenue, across from the Plains of Abraham. The design is quite interesting, as the architect, Eugène-Étienne Taché, was inspired by the Louvre Museum in Paris. The results are splendid French Renaissance buildings, which are open for the public to discover.

St-Louis Street becomes the Grande-Allée west of the Parliament Buildings. The Grande-Allée is synonymous with entertainment. This is where most of the clubs in the city are located, and there are also plenty of restaurants. In summer, the establishments open their terraces and people go from one club to the other, dancing the night away.

René-Lévesque Boulevard and Cartier Street Parallel to the Grande-Allée but further south is René-Lévesque Boulevard. This is where Québec's Grand Théâtre and Music Conservatory are located. A few blocks West is Cartier Street, another popular entertainment and dining district. With restaurants like Graffiti, Le Cochon Dingue, Café Krieghoff and Momento, this area is a haven for great dining.

Suburbs There are many suburbs around Quebec, and most of them are much more than bedroom communities. In the West end, Sainte-Foy has several great restaurants like Cactus and Nupur, while Le Clap movie theatre specializes in international films.

On the St Lawrence River, Beauport's picturesque Royale Avenue leads to the Montmorency Falls. The majestic Île d'Orléans, an island in the middle of the St. Lawrence River with orchards, farms, charming inns and traditional cuisine, is like having the country in the city. The great outdoors is just a short drive from the Old City—that's the beauty of Quebec. From fascinating historic buildings to amazing dining and entertainment, powerful rivers and breathtaking mountains and forests, you can have it all.

Quebec may be a small city but there's always plenty to do, even during the cold winter months. Its rich history and culture are effervescent, making residents and visitors want to enjoy their city even more.

Music and theater Culture is behind each and every stone wall in Quebec City. There are plenty of theaters, presenting a wide variety of shows. The Grand Théâtre is at the heart of the city's entertainment life. It's home to the Music Conservatory, the Quebec Symphony Orchestra, the Opéra de Québec and the Trident Theatre, which features plays throughout the year.

The Périscope and Bordée theatres, though of smaller stature, are also much appreciated and often present alternative plays. The Palais Montcalm is one of the most beautiful theatres in the city, standing atop Place d'Youville and featuring a wide range of events from classical music to humour. Le Capitole, also located near Place d'Youville, is a richly decorated theater offering musicals like "The Elvis Story." Le Capitole also has its own hotel and cabaret, for more intimate entertainment.

Quebec City's beautiful churches are well-known, in part for the wonderful concerts hosted. The Violons du Roy, a famous string orchestra, performs regularly in local churches. The Salle Albert-Rousseau, located in Sainte-Foy, is the choice of many artists who wish to perform in a smaller state-of-the-art theater. Pop artists who attract large crowds usually head for the Colisée de Québec, a large arena where the NHL Nordiques hockey team used to play. Finally, artists who wish to perform under the stars can do so at the Agora du Vieux-Port, a popular outdoor theatre.

Festivals and carnivals During the summer, Quebec City becomes one giant theater. Artists perform in the streets, in parks, and pretty much everywhere a crowd can gather. In June, hundreds of children from several countries come to the Montmorency Historic Site, near the famous Montmorency Falls, to share their cultures through dance and music. In July, the Summer Festival brings local and international artists to town. For 10 days, stages spring up everywhere in the city: Place d'Youville becomes its own performance space, a large stage is put together in front of the Parliament Buildings and most city parks are turned into small theaters where jazz, folk, pop, rock, opera and every other imaginable genre resonates. For less than CAD10, you can purchase a pin that gives access to all shows during the festival.

In August, Quebec City goes back in time with the Fêtes de la Nouvelle-France, which celebrates the 150 years of French Regime in the 17th and 18th centuries. Peasants and seigneurs gather at Place Royale for five days of celebration. During the last week of the summer, Quebec City has its annual fair with all the rides, animals, clowns and cotton candy one would expect.

During the winter, Québécois find a way to entertain themselves despite the cold with their famous Winter Carnival. For more than 47 years, they have enjoyed many sporting, artistic and cultural activities during this magical carnival, which allows them to rediscover each year the wonders of winter. An international ice sculpture contest, a parade, an ice castle and a canoe race on the icy St. Lawrence River are some of the activities that take place during these 17 days and nights of sheer fun. Ice rinks also spring up everywhere—at Place d'Youville, for instance, people of all ages skate to classical music.

Museums and galleries Although Quebec City offers tons of outdoors activities, those who prefer to stay inside won't be disappointed. There are plenty of museums, malls and movie theaters. The Museum of Civilization is a must: it features many exhibitions on topics as varied as the beginnings of civilization, the history of clothes, naval history and humour. There are two permanent exhibitions: "Nous les Premières Nations," which presents the history and culture of the Native peoples of Canada, and "Mémoires," which relates the history of the first European settlers. The Musée du Québec, meanwhile, is a treasure of fine art. It has held exhibitions with some of Canada's most famous artists, including Krieghoff and Dallaire, as well as world-renowned artists like Rodin and Tissot.

Those interested in Quebec's history will enjoy the Musée des Augustines de l'Hôtel-Dieu de Québec, which relates the history of the sisters who founded the first hospital in North America, as well as the Musée de l'Amérique française and the Musée du Fort, which focus more on military history. The Battlefields National Park has an interesting interpretation centre, with a multimedia show on the battle of the Plains of Abraham.

Malls The Old City is filled with shops and boutiques, but there are many great malls in the Greater Quebec City area. Les Galeries de la Capitale is often the favourite because of its indoor entertainment park with rides, an ice rink and movie and IMAX theatres. Place Laurier is the largest mall with 350 stores, while Place Sainte-Foy has many upscale stores and designer boutiques.

Sports Many visitors take at least a day to swoop down the slopes or hit the links at Mont Saint-Anne or Stoneham, both just minutes east of the city. For those who prefer to watch their sports, the area's several hockey teams are not to be missed. The Remparts play in the Quebec junior league, while the Citadelles are the Montreal Canadiens' minor league affiliate in the American Hockey League. Both offer outstanding value and fast-paced entertainment.

Nightlife At night, the Grande-Allée is the place to be. This is Quebec City's busiest street, filled with restaurants, cigar rooms, cafés, pubs and nightclubs. Chez Maurice is one of the most popular clubs in the city, along with Chez Dagobert, and Le Vogue. As a general rule there are no cover charges to get into nightclubs, which means that people can go from one to the other all night long.

In the end, a walk in the Old City, especially on the Dufferin Terrace, is for some the best entertainment available in Quebec City. The view is absolutely gorgeous. Wander through the streets, watch a clown draw a smile on people's faces, enjoy the afternoon in a nice café or dance the night away.

Quebec City

Country: Canada

Quebec City by the Numbers
Population: 531,900 (city); 800,300 (metropolitan)
Elevation: 98 meters / 322 feet
Average Annual Precipitation: 122 centimeters / 48 inches
Average Annual Snowfall: 119 inches / 302 centimeters
Average January Temperature: -12.4°C / 10°F 
Average July Temperature: 19°C / 66°F

Quick Facts

Electricity: 120 volts, 60 Hz, AC

Time Zone: GMT-5; Eastern Standard Time (EST) 

Country Dialing Code: 1

Area Code: 418 & 581

Did You Know?

In the city of Quebec the people have a festival called Quebec City's Carnival each winter. The festival has been celebrated since 1880.

Quebec is one of the most intriguing cities on the North American continent. As the major center of French Canada, Quebec has more than a touch of European charm, with most of the population being bilingual-- capable of speaking French and English.

Orientation

Quebec City, located in the south of the province near the border with the USA state of Maine, is pooled on top of and below the cliffs of Cape Diamond (Cap Diamant) at the confluence of the St Charles and St Lawrence rivers. The city is about 254 kilometers (158 miles) to Montreal and 830 kilometers (516 miles) from New York City, USA.

Quebec (keh-BEHK) is Canada's oldest city, founded by Samuel de Champlain in 1608. Its name was an adaptation of the Algonquian word meaning "the river narrows here"—Champlain chose this spot for the settlement because the high cliffs and narrowing of the St. Lawrence River offered excellent natural and strategic defenses.

While regarded as the center of New France, the growing North American empire of the French, the colony struggled. The harsh climate combined with the rough terrain failed to attract great numbers of French families to the New World. Further, many of the colony's few settlers were migrants—Couriers de bois—who would come in from the wilderness with furs they had gotten in barter with Native Americans. These men had no interest in taking up permanent residence in Quebec, and often ended up marrying Iroquois or Huron women.

At one point, King Louis XIV had French women sent to New France as wives for the men who inhabited the fledging settlement. These filles de roi exemplified the state of the colony in its early days. In 1666, 58 years after its founding, the population was only 547. Only with increased incentives and persuasion was France able to increase the number of permanent residents to 1,500 by the end of 1690, and to 34,000 by 1730—120 years after the creation of New France.

In the 18th century, the city of Quebec finally began to grow. With a larger population, industry and trade flourished. Couriers de bois continued to bring pelts and furs into the marketplace to trade for other goods, which they could take back into the wilderness. Stores and workshops were built on the river's edge in the Lower Town.

This market area was Place Royale, still one of the Lower Town's most popular landmarks, along with the Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church. The latter is noted for having its altar shaped as a fort. It was completed in 1688 and stands on the site of Champlain's very first settlement. Meanwhile, the Upper Town gradually began to take its current shape. Houses and schools sprang up within the city's walls as French citizens began to put down roots in Canada. Today, the Upper Town is full of gourmet restaurants, fine hotels like the Château Frontenac, and numerous shops and boutiques. You will also find the Quebec National Assembly here.

As the city grew in size, so did its economic and military importance. The French knew they needed to create a strong system of defenses to protect the capital of New France from the enemy British, ensconsed to the south in the American colonies. What they constructed was the Citadel. Perhaps the most famous of Quebec City's landmarks, it stands 106 metres above the city on Cap Diamant. It was assumed that an attack would come from the river, the city's most vulnerable point, and that is where the cannons were aimed.

Unfortunately for the French, the British surprised the French. General James Wolfe and 4,500 British soldiers scaled the steep cliffs leading to the Plains of Abraham, under cover of darkness from September 12-13, 1759. The French commander, Lieutenant-General Louis de Montcalm, ordered his “army” (a combination of French regulars and poorly-trained militiamen) to meet the enemy. In a battle that lasted 15 minutes, the British routed the defenders. They battered the city with cannon fire until the French army retreated to Montreal, where they would be defeated a year later and New France would fall to the British.

The surrender of Quebec was followed by a period of military occupation and martial law until 1763, when a peace treaty was signed in Paris. With New France now secured as British North America, immigrants arrived to occupy existing cities and to build new ones. The large influx of British, Scottish and Irish immigrants into Quebec City created considerable tension, but it also fostered the international flavor the city still retains. A mingling of cultures over time has resulted in a unique lifestyle and atmosphere.

With the British came order and wealth, and the city grew in leaps and bounds. New sectors of the city were built with their own architecture and character. Agriculture flourished and trade routes extended deeper into the heart of the continent and into the American colonies. But beneath all the British influence remained the "French identity." Citizens refused to give up their language or their culture to the English speaking authorities.

This patriotic fervor has only increased over time. In 1774, the British passed the Quebec Act, which allowed the French citizens to practice Roman Catholicism and to use French civil law. Still, French-speaking citizens struggled to preserve their culture. During the debates on Confederation in 1867, Quebec representatives refused to join unless guarantees were made to protect the identity of French-speaking people in the newly formed Dominion of Canada.

Quebec City has continued as a hotbed of political activity for those who feel that the French influence in Canada is not strong enough, or that the French are poorly represented and inadequately supported by their government. But despite its strong French identity, Quebec remains a city rich in diverse cultural flavors, styles and history. It is a city of passion. Its residents are not only passionate about their politics, but about their desire to enjoy life to its fullest.

Points of interest in Quebec City

See all points of interest Quebec City

Departing from:

^Total price one-way per guest. See terms and conditions.

*Prices are per guest, based on double occupancy and are limited; may not reflect real-time pricing or availability. See terms and conditions.

Explore our world.

or find your dream vacation with our Vacation finder