Do you believe in love at first sight? Because that’s precisely what you can expect when you first set foot in Quebec City, and a weekend in Quebec City is a full-on love affair. This city has old colonial charms like cobblestone streets, narrow buildings, and a vibrant modern lifestyle.
It may be a predominantly French-Canadian-speaking part of the country, but we were able to find our way around this mystical city with ease. With plenty to see and do, it’s easily one of the best weekend getaways in Ontario, so disappointment isn’t in Quebec’s vocabulary.
Get ready to discover everything you need for the ultimate weekend in Quebec City, from how to get there to what to see.This article is now available as a mobile app. Go to GPSmyCity to download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article.
History Of Quebec City
- In 1535, French explorer Jacques Cartier arrived in present-day Quebec City and set the stage for Samuel de Champlain to found the city in 1608.
- Champlain’s New France was the cradle of French Civilization in the Americas, evidenced by the old city, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985.
- Strategically placed atop the cliff, French forts helped protect the city from various threats until British General James Wolfe arrived in the summer of 1759. Despite their efforts, New France eventually succumbed to the British Navy.
- Famous for its beautiful scenery, Quebec City is also considered one of the most romantic destinations on earth.
How to Travel to Quebec City, Canada
Whether you’re heading on a family trip or a romantic Ontario getaway, you must know how to get there. While you can travel from pretty much anywhere, Montréal is the closest major Canadian city, and Boston is the nearest US option. Let’s dive in, shall we?
Taking the bus is an excellent option if you want to save money. If you’re travelling from Boston (12 hours), it’s a long and arduous journey via Greyhound to Montreal and another bus with Orléans Express to Quebec City.
While travelling to Quebec City from Montréal (158 miles) takes around three hours, and a Boston trip (396 miles) is roughly six hours. If you’re starting in Boston, travel along Interstate 93 until you join Interstate 91. From there, it’s a simple drive to the border, where you’ll drive on Autoroute 55 to Montréal.
It’s a three-hour drive on either Autoroute 40 (the more scenic of the two) or Autoroute 20 to Quebec City.
Planes are the quickest, most comfortable, and best way to get from Montréal to Quebec City. Air Canada is the most straightforward service to use from the US, but other airlines like Alaska and Westjet are also great.
Flight times vary depending on your departure destination. But a flight from Montréal is around 45 minutes and flies straight to Québec City Jean Lesage International Airport (YQB).
Top Tip: We recommend using Skyscanner to find the best deals on flights to Quebec City.
This is probably the most scenic and stress-free option. Take the Amtrak train from any US destination to Montréal, then hop on board a VIA Rail train to Quebec City.
Montréal to Quebec City trains takes just over three hours and a ticket costs in the region of 68 CAD.
How to Get Around During Your 3 Days in Quebec City
No Quebec travel guide would be complete without knowing how to get around the city. While driving is easy outside peak traffic, most Quebec City tourist attractions are within walking distance of one another.
Renting a bike is also a great option if you’re looking for a cheap way to get around without relying on public transportation. Cyclo Services offer affordable rentals while joining a cycling tour is another great alternative.
A bus is an excellent option to avoid the cold — especially during an Ontario winter getaway. The Quebec City Transit System is good, but RTC provides a more extensive bus route. RTC also offers an unlimited weekend package for 21.95 CAD.
3-Day Quebec City Vacation
We hope you’re as ready for this epic Quebec City itinerary as we are. From perfectly preserved buildings to quirky bars around town, you’re in for a jam-packed weekend getaway.
No matter when you visit Quebec, these activities are an absolute must. So pack those bags and get ready to explore.
Day One: A Lower Old Quebec City Travel Extravaganza
Before we get stuck into the activities for day one, you’ll most likely arrive in Quebec the night before. Kickstart your time in this effervescent city with a delicious dinner at Chez Rioux & Pettigrew. It’s one scrumptious menu, everything from the slow roasted Réconfort to local beers like Belle Guelle.
Once you’ve had a good night’s rest, day one presents an adventure of a lifetime through the stunning Lower Old Quebec City district.
Morning Things to Do in Old Quebec City’s Lower District
Everything on this list is within walking distance of one another. There’s no particular order to see things, so as much as this is a detailed itinerary, you can make it your own.
Dive into true Quebec at what was once the capital of New France. Like all the squares in Quebec, it’s a hub for socialites, with bars, cafes, and historic buildings everywhere.
Nestled in the lower part of old Quebec, Quartier Petit-Champlain traces its roots back to 1608 when it was the capital of New France. Its narrow, pedestrian-only cobblestone streets frame the area’s historical buildings, making way for souvenir shops, aboriginal stores, bistros, and artisan boutiques serving up the best of Quebec cuisine.
You won’t find a square in Quebec with more 17th and 18th-century buildings than at Place Royale. Often seen as the birthplace of Quebec, this cobblestone courtyard with cafes and quaint shops dates back to 1608. In 1608, Samuel de Champlain founded a fur trading post and the first permanent settlement in what is now known as New France.
Place Royale is the focal point for the four centuries of North American history it represents and was named in honour of Louis XIV of France. This location boasts the largest collection of 17th and 18th-century buildings in the area.
La Maison Smith Cafe
Look no further than this quaint cafe in Place Royale for specialty coffee and delectable chocolates. While their pastries are a perfect pick-me-up, their pizzas also make a fantastic meal. Their selection of chocolates is mouth-watering and artfully created – from creamy truffles to sophisticated marble bars. While the pizza selection is varied as well; from classic Margherita to quattro formaggi to vegan options, there’s something for everyone.
The cafe is also a great place to relax and take in the local atmosphere.
It’s simple but simply beautiful. Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church is one of the oldest churches in North America, built on the ruins of Champlain’s first settlement in 1723. It was rebuilt in 1859 after being heavily bombarded in 1759 and, to this day, continues the tradition of blessings and handing out buns on the feast day of St. Genevieve.
Rue du Petit-Champlain
Rue du Petit-Champlain, one of the oldest streets in the Quartier Petit-Champlain district, has preserved the original architecture from its French colonial beginnings.
Walking down one of the oldest cobblestone roads in Quebec is an absolute must as it is filled to the brim with artisanal bistros, art galleries, and numerous specialty stores selling handmade leather goods, jewellery, decorative art, apparel, woodwork and more.
Of the stairways in Quebec (there are lots), Breakneck is the prettiest with its turquoise palisade. It’s the oldest (made in 1635) and has beautiful frescoes on the adjacent building depicting historical events in the old Cap-Blanc district.
Quebec City Mural
If you love art, then Quebec has you covered with several fresco murals throughout. But possibly the best of the bunch is the mural at Parc de la Citiere, which depicts the 400-year history of this breathtaking city.
Place De Paris
To dip into history, visit this fortification that has protected the city since 1691. Sitting across from the Quai Chouinard, it also offers majestic views of the St. Lawrence River. The former site of Place De Paris was the Finlay market, and visitors are likely to note the unique historical architecture, including the ladders on the roofs – a reminder of times when chimney sweeping was commonplace.
The Royal Battery was built in 1691 and named after Louis XIV of France, the reigning monarch at the time. It served as part of the city’s fortifications during the French Regime and withstood the siege of 1759. It is located at the Quai Chouinard, the port of departure for cruise ships navigating the St. Lawrence River.
Afternoon Saint Lawrence River Tour
After a lovely time exploring Lower Old Quebec City, joining a Saint Lawrence River tour is a genius idea.
The guide keeps things light and fun, while the views you’ll pass are second to none. Admire things like Château Frontenac, the Laurentian Mountains, Montmorency Falls, and Côte-de-Beaupré, to name a few.
You can even see the sights from the comfort of the heated cabin or feel the fresh air hit your face. There’s no better way to cap off an epic first day in Quebec City.
Day Two: Visiting Quebec City’s Old Upper District
While you can merge this into day one, spending more time exploring each district is far better. You’ll start the day off by taking the funicular up to the walled city of Upper Old Quebec City.
That’s right. Canada has its very own European-style city that offers majestic views of the surrounding landscape.
Morning Things to Do in Old Quebec’s Upper District
Once you’ve made your way up to this part of town, it’s time to explore this UNESCO World Heritage Site in all its glory.
Place d’Armes | Monument Samuel-De Champlain
This area, formerly known as the Grande Place during French rule, was a popular gathering spot for military parades and public speaking events, featuring a gothic-style fountain at its center. The monument of Samuel-De Champlain, created to honour the founder of Quebec City, was a work of art by Paul Chèvre that was unveiled in 1898.
The Fort Museum
Take a trip back to the roots of Quebec and witness the six military sieges that greatly impacted its history with a 30-minute sound and light show!
Fort Saint-Louis, established by Samuel de Champlain in 1620, is the historical cornerstone of The Dufferin Terrace’s construction. It is here that de Champlain sadly passed away in 1635. Visitors of the Terrace are rewarded with a breathtaking view of the river, Place-Royale and Lower Town. The Dufferin Terrace is honourably named after Lord Dufferin.
Notre-Dame de Quebec Basilica-Cathedral
Built in 1647, it’s fair to say this majestic cathedral earns its namesake Notre Dame. Much like the Cathedral in Paris, this basilica has had its fair share of historic events, from expansions to fires. Today, it’s a beautiful reminder of France’s rule throughout Canada.
La Boutique de Noël de Québec
Enjoy a shopping spree that rivals all the Christmas markets in Ontario at this little boutique shop. It’s a Christmas shop all year round, so you can beat the December shopping craze and get all your decorations anytime.
You’ll recognize the turquoise roofing wherever you are in Quebec, so why not visit this epic building? Established in 1833, this is the formal council of Quebec and has a super exciting blend of Medieval, Classic, and Châteauesque architecture.
Le Monastère des Augustines
Initially set up as a hospital in 1639 by three sisters of the Augustinian Order, this historic monastery continues its caring practices. It’s just the perfect place to relax during a fast-paced day of exploring.
The Morrin Centre has a long and diverse history. Built more than 300 years ago as a military barrack, it was then converted into a prison, with balconies from which prisoners were hanged. In later years, it was repurposed to become Quebec’s first English-language college, complete with a stunning library.
Today, the Morrin Cultural Centre provides a unique insight into the history of English-speaking culture in the region.
Rue Saint-Jean and Porte Saint-Jean
Much like the archaic square of Quebec, Rue Saint-Jean is one of the best-kept fortifications in the city. It’s the perfect place to meander from store to store and see the turquoise roofs of Porte Saint-Jean up close.
For an iconic theatre, restaurant, and hotel all wrapped up into one Beaux Art-style building, visit La Capitole.
The Capitole de Québec, designed by American architect Walter S. Painter, is a grand Beaux Arts-style theatre constructed in 1903. Recognized by the Quebec Cultural Heritage Directory and the National Historic Sites of Canada.
Palais Montcalm – Maison de la Musique
Located in the heart of Old Québec, the Palais Montcalm – Maison de la Musique is a world-class venue renowned for its high-quality acoustics and exceptional comfort. Here, lovers of classical music, jazz, and world music can enjoy a variety of programs and performances in the stunning Raoul-Jobin concert hall.
Pub St. Patrick
It’s not an absolute must, but you won’t find a friendly atmosphere anywhere besides Pub St. Patrick. This joint has everything from tasty beer to classic hip-swinging Irish music.
The Québec provincial government has its home southwest of the historical Upper Town. The Parliament, erected in 1877, is the venue of The Salle de l’Assemblée Nationale (National Assembly) and Salle du Conseil Législatif (Legislative Council) are open to the public.
Épicerie J.A. Moisan
JA Moisan Epicerie has been around since 1871, making it the longest-running grocery store in North America. Stepping inside is like going back in time; it’s as if you could be in a museum, yet it’s still open for business. It’s a one-stop shop; you can find all your everyday items and things you didn’t even know you needed – like 50 varieties of mustard!
Afternoon Nordic Therma Spa Experience
There’s no better way to spend an afternoon in Old Quebec City than by booking a cleansing thermal spa experience. Rejuvenate your mind, body, and soul at the Strøm Nordic Spa along the St. Lawrence River.
The views are to die for, and the thermal pools are just the perfect way to wind down after a long day of walking. Trust us. There’s a lot of walking to be done in Quebec.
And to end the day, consider grabbing dinner at the unique Chez Boulay-Bistro Boréal. They use authentic ingredients from the Boreal region, like Elk, elderberry flowers, and trout, to prepare a lip-smacking dinner.
You’ll be left wanting more. It’s that good.
La Citadelle de Québec & Musee Royal 22e Regiment (Museum)
Perched atop Cap Diamant at a towering 100 meters is Québec’s star-shaped Citadel. Built in 1832, the formidable fortress is encased by thick walls, ramparts, and ditches. It remains an active military post to this day, hosting generals, officers, servicemen, and the summer residence of the Governor-General of Canada.
The Musee Royal 22e Regiment Museum boasts one of Canada’s most significant military collections.
Plains of Abraham
Just west of Québec City’s Citadel stands the Plains of Abraham (Champs de Bataille), the site of the British victory over the French-led Montcalm army in 1759. The park is home to numerous archeological artifacts, educational displays, and multimedia presentations that chronicle the epic battle and siege of the city.
Day Three: Join a Quebec City Tour
The first two days have all been about independent travel and experiencing the city at your own pace. But at least one day in Quebec City should be dedicated to a fully immersive guided tour.
What to Expect on Your Epic Quebec Tour
We recommend visiting the Quebec City tourism board, which offers the best range of tours. We went for the full-day tour with Elyse Busque, and let’s just say we’ll never forget this experience.
This agricultural region is surrounded by natural beauty thanks to the Laurentian Mountains, the St. Lawrence River, and picturesque waterfalls. If you have the time, enjoy some epic outdoor activities in Canyon Sainte-Anne.
Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré
Possibly the most iconic landmark in Cote-de-Beaupre, this basilica holds the crazy status of a miracle worker. Over half a million pilgrims visit yearly, with many stating they’ve been healed after visiting. There are even two pillars packed with canes and crutches of those healed.
This underrated waterfall will have you in awe thanks to its 272-foot drop. That makes it 98 feet taller than Niagara Falls. Pretty crazy, right?
Musée de la Civilisation
Learning is a part of every vacation, and this museum is the perfect place to learn about French America’s history. A must-visit exhibit at the museum is the Illusions collection. It’ll leave you questioning reality, not really, but kind of.
Known for the bustling Marché du Vieux-Port public market, Vieux Port is the perfect place to admire St. Lawrence and Saint-Charles River’s converging. You can even grab some tasty treats and handmade goods at the market with expert suggestions from your local tour guide.
Alternatively, book this half-day tour of Quebec City, and spend the rest of the day exploring sights on the city’s outskirts. These include Observatoire de la Capitale, Morrin Centre, St. Andrew Church, and the Monument Samuel-De Champlain.
Best Hotels in Quebec City For Your Weekend Getaway + Map
Don’t worry. We’ve also got all your accommodation options sorted. One of these is bound to be the best hotel in Quebec City for you.
Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac (Luxury)
It would be silly not to include the one building you can see from the point of the city. It may be a bit pricey, but its subtle combination of textures, colours, and hospitality make this a fantastic place to stay. And to make things better, it’s right in the middle of Upper Old Quebec.
Hotel Le Germain Quebec (Mid-Range)
With an old-school building and modern interior, Hotel Le Germain Quebec is a fantastic lodging option we adore. Don’t even get us started on breakfast. They’re simply out of this world. It’s also in the heart of Old Quebec City, so the top attractions are never far away.
Hotel du Vieux Québec (Mid-Range)
Let this hotel’s stunning exposed brick walls and uber-lux finishings have your imagination in overdrive. Resting in the 18th-century walls of Quebec City’s Latin Quarter, this hotel has everything, from the location to a fireplace in each room to keep you all snug.
Best Places to Eat in Quebec City and Dishes to Try
Before we leave you to embark on your epic trip to Quebec City, here are a few must-try restaurants and dishes from each place.
Aux Anciens Canadiens
Constructed in 1675-76, the iconic Maison Jacquet (Jacquet House) is the oldest house in Quebec. Its thick walls and wainscoting are classic to houses of this era. It once belonged to Philippe-Aubert de Gaspé, author of the book “Les Anciens Canadiens,” which is the exact name of the restaurant occupying the house today.
Chez Boulay-bistro boréal
Chefs Jean Luc Boulay and Arnaud Marchand established Chez Boulay – Bistro Boreal to demonstrate the abundance of local specialties from Quebec’s boreal region, including elk, trout, elderflower and Labrador tea.
While Le Chic Shack may be known for its epic burgers, it has another dish worth a try. You can’t go wrong with their Poutine, a delicious combination of cheese curds and french friends topped with mouth-watering gravy.
Restaurant La Buche
La Buche offers a comforting combination of rustic interiors and classic Quebecian homestyle cuisine. While there’s plenty to pick from, you must try the Pâté chinois, a French-Canadian-style shepherd’s pie.
For a double-crusted taste sensation of meat and carbs, head to the region of Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean. It’s not so much about the restaurant here, but rather the Tourtière in this region, with a delectable range of meats from veal to pork and even Moose.
With a full range of pastries, smoked meats, and everything in between, Paillard is the best place to get your taste buds dancing in the morning. It’s so good; you may even go back for seconds, trust us, we would know.
Chez Rioux & Pettigrew
Chef Dominic Jacques – a winner of “Les chefs” in 2012 – has taken Chez Rioux & Pettigrew from a wholesale grocer to a bistro-style restaurant with his inventive cuisine.
The Best Weekend Visit to Quebec City Recapped
You no longer need to travel halfway across the world to experience the European lifestyle, as Quebec has you covered. Whether you decide to visit in winter or you want to admire the spring blossoms that bring the streets to life is up to you.
One thing is sure, your weekend in Quebec City will be an unforgettable, action-packed travelling experience that’ll live long in your memory.