Québec City holiday highlights

Upper Town
Much of the city’s historic and heritage sites are located in Old Québec’s Upper Town. It was because of the uninterrupted views over the Saint Lawrence River and surrounding countryside that Samuel de Champlain chose this elevated plateau as the setting of a fort over 400 years ago. While the ‘Father of New France’ may no longer recognise the city and instead of enemy ships, it’s cruise liners that make their way along the river, the views from are still as striking as they were in the early 1600s. Today, one of the best vantage points is the Terrasse Dufferin, in front of Canada’s most photographed hotel – the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac. Elsewhere in the Upper Town, narrow streets are lined with 19th-Century granite buildings which house crêperies, cafés, bistros and boutiques. There are also plenty of squares and tree-dotted parks, a handful of churches and chapels, and the must-visit La Citadel de Québec (by guided tour only), the oldest fort in North America and the base of the Royal 22e Régiment. Here, on dry day summer days, you can watch the Changing of the Guard ceremony which is attended each day by the regiment’s mascot, Batisse the goat. Adjacent to the Citadel is the Plains of Abraham, the site of many battles between the French and British who were vying for control of the town and its surroundings. Visit the Plains of Abraham Museum before strolling through the gardens of Battlefields Park. The nearby neighbourhood of Montcalm is home to the Parliament Building and the National Museum of Fine Arts of Quebec as well as one of the main entertainment thoroughfares, Grande Allée.

Lower Town

The Lower Town sits between the foot of the city ramparts and the bank of the Saint Lawrence River. To experience Quebec City at its most charmingly European, descend from the Upper Town on the funicular or make your way down the Escalier Casse-Cou – also known as the Breakneck stairs – to the Quartier Petit Champlain. This popular shopping district is everything you wished Quebec City would be – cobbled streets, narrow alleyways and heritage buildings, antique shops and independent dining venues all bedecked in vibrant flowers and foliage during the summer months. The neighbourhood is a photographer’s paradise. The Old Port The Vieux-Port, or Old Port, is just a short walk away and is another quaint area filled with 18th- and 19th-Century buildings. The Marché du Vieux-Port de Québec, a bustling farmer’s market, is a must-visit if you love your food, while the Museum of Civilisation should be your go-to spot if you’d rather have a couple of culture-filled hours. While in the Lower Town, head to the waterfront where you can take a short ferry ride over to the southern bank of the river. Stay on board for the return trip and enjoy views of the Chateau Frontenac-dominated city skyline from the water.

Neighbourhoods
Much of the limelight is stolen by the historic heart of the city, but outside those once-formidable ramparts and city walls, there are neighbourhoods equally as charming and intriguing. Saint-Roch sits just to the west of Old Quebec and has developed over the past decade into the youthful and stylish district you see today. Artisanal pastries shops, coffee joints, craft microbreweries and high-end boutiques sit side by side along Rue Saint-Joseph. Another neighbourhood just a short walk outside the city gates (and an uphill hike from Saint-Roch) is the laid-back and hipster-friendly Saint-Jean-Baptiste. There are plenty of cool bars, restaurants where food is served in innovative ways, boulangeries and creperies.

Where is Québec City?
This Gallic city sits on the north bank of the St Lawrence River in the province of Québec.

Shopping
Québec City’s shopping reflects its old-world-meets-modern-chic atmosphere, with many independent boutiques run by Québécois designers, local arts and crafts and antique shops. In the Upper Town, wander along the narrow alley Rue du Tresor, an open-air gallery where you can buy a diverse range of pieces from great value to fine art. Down in the Lower Town, a host of welcoming shops open their doors on to Rue du Petit Champlain, the oldest commercial street in North America; as you dip in and out of the boutiques and souvenir stores, you can really embrace the history of the city.

Getting around

Thanks to its the compact size of Old Québec, which is where the majority of attractions are, the easiest way to get around is on foot. To get between the Upper Town and Lower Town, you can walk up or down the 59 steps that make up the Breakneck Stairs. Alternatively, jump on the funicular which will whisk you between the two areas with very little effort on your part. If you would rather not walk, there are six bus routes that operate within Old Québec which have stops close to all the city’s important sites. There are also plenty of taxis which can be hailed from the roadside. If you have hired a car and are visiting Québec City as part of a self-drive, we recommend leaving the car in your hotel’s car park and either walking or taking public transport as parking is limited within the city.

Québec City key facts

Time difference

GMT -5 hours

Capital

Ottawa

Currency

Canadian Dollar (CAD)

Flying time to destination

Montreal: 7½ hours
Québec City: 12 hours (with 1+ stops)

Language

English is widely spoken all over Canada except Québec, which is bilingual (French-English).

Passport & visas

An Electronic Travel Authorisation (eTA) is now required for British citizens travelling to Canada, please speak to a Personal Travel Expert for details

Québec City good to know

Tipping

Many Canadians in the service industry rely on tips to supplement their income. Tips or tax are not usually automatically added to a bill in Canada, but you should always check. Taxi drivers, hairdressers and waiters are generally given 10-15%. Bellhops, porters and doormen are generally paid Can$1 per item of luggage. It may be advisable to carry small change for this purpose. These figures are for guidance only and assume that service has been good.

Shopping in Québec City

Most goods are available slightly cheaper than the cost at home. Canadian arts and crafts fashioned from pewter, wood, silver and pottery (as well as Native Canadian art like soapstone-carvings, totem poles and weavings) are best found in the regions where they are produced.