Living back in Boston, we decided to book a trip just before Christmas to Québec City. It is known for its quaint European feel, and we wanted to experience the city’s festive decor and Christmas markets. Though cold and snowy, we enjoyed being surrounded by blankets of snow (our first snow of the season!), cozy shops and cafes, and lots of holiday cheer. Québec City hosts a classic German Christmas Market in Vieux-Québec (Old Québec) near City Hall, making it a great spot to shop local, eat pretzels and bratwurst, and drink mulled wine during the holiday season. A visit to the Quartier Petit Champlain and Place-Royale are an absolute must when in Québec City, located in the historic Lower Town part of Old Québec. These areas are accessed by either stairs or a funicular, situated right at the edge of the St. Lawrence River, and they make up the oldest shopping area in North America. You will love the stone buildings and narrow roads dating back to the early to mid-17th century.
Top Things to do in Québec City
Québec City’s old town is comprised of an Upper Town and Lower Town and this historic area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is a great area to stay when visiting Québec, as many of the attractions in the city are in this area. This historic district dates back to the early 17th century when Samuel de Champlain founded “New France.”
Quartier Petit Champlain
The Quartier Petit Champlain, in Lower Town, is one of the most quaint and historic districts in North America. The stone buildings date back to Québec City’s founding and now are full of restaurants, boutiques, and souvenir shops. You feel like you have stepped into Europe when you enter this area.
Tips: Visit in the morning for less tourist activity and better photo opportunities.
Just next to Quartier Petit Champlain is the Place-Royale, the historic town plaza in the heart of Lower Town that dates back to the city’s founding. The Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church is North America’s oldest stone church, dating back to 1688.
Tips: Visit the Museum of Place Royale to learn more about the history of the area.
Escalier Casse-Cou (Breakneck Steps) & Funiculaire du Vieux Québec (Old Québec Funicular)
To reach the Lower Town areas, you can either take the treacherous Escalier Casse-Cou (steep and long steps) or ride the funicular for 3 CAD per ride.
Tips: We recommend the funicular during the snowy and wet winter, plus it offers some great views of the Lower Town and St. Lawrence River.
Marché du Vieux-Port de Québec
Located in Old Port Québec City, the Marché du Vieux-Port de Québec is a covered market full of local produce, handmade gifts, baked goods, gourmet foods, and much more. The marché is decorated for the holiday season and is a great spot to escape the cold for a bit. Don’t forget to pick up some local delicious maple syrup and maple cookies!
Marché de Noël allemand de Québec
The German Christmas Market was celebrating 10 years this year (2017) in Québec’s old town. The market is located in the heart of Old Québec at the plazas next to City Hall. The market is a mixture of local Québécois gifts and crafts as well as traditional German food and music, housed in “kiosks”, like quintessential German wooden huts, with festive decorations and lights. An absolute must-do when in Québec during the holiday season!
La Citadelle de Québec
The oldest military building in Canada, La Citadelle forms part of the old city ramparts and is both the official residence of the Canadian monarch and the Governor General of Canada as well as an active military base. There are some great views of the St. Lawrence River and the towns across the river from Québec City from the top.
Tips: You can take guided tours of La Citadelle. Visit their website here.
Notre-Dame de Québec Basilica-Cathedral
The Notre-Dame de Québec Basilica-Cathedral (“Our Lady of Québec City”) is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Québec. The original church was built in 1647, but two devastating fires later, the current church has been open for over 350 years. The impressive interior is very ornate and has a traditional basilica layout.
Tips: During the holiday season, you can visit a large and beautiful crèche located right next to the church.
La Fresque des Québécois
Located near the Place Royale, La Fresque des Québécois is a massive fresco wall, providing a depiction of the city’s history and culture. It is a really impressive sight to see and includes some of Québec’s prominent artists and writers.
Tips: Walk over to Fresque du Petit-Champlain on Rue du Petit Champlain, another fresco depicting the working class neighborhood from the early 17th century to present day.
Built in 1859, the Terrasse Dufferin is a terrace that separates Upper and Lower Town of Old Québec and wraps around the Château Frontenac, overlooking the St. Lawrence River and Quartier Petit Champlain. It is spotted with various benches and ornate gazebos, and the UNESCO Monument Samuel-De Champlain is located here. Be sure to check out the sleigh ride called Les Glissades de la Terrasse and peer down the glass flooring roped-off areas to see some of the ruins in the Saint-Louis Forts and Châteaux National Historic Site.
Tips: There is a cute cafe called Au 1884 located in one of the gazebos. A nice spot for a coffee or sandwich.
Porte Kent & Porte St. Louis
The Porte Kent & Porte St. Louis are two of the four surviving gates from the old ramparts of Québec City. The current gates were constructed in 1879 and 1880, and Porte Kent was named after Queen Victoria’s father, The Duke of Kent.
The Rue Saint-Jean is one of the city’s main shopping streets, extending beyond Old Québec into the newer areas of the city. A great street to walk down for shopping and lunch at one of the cafes. Be sure to stop by Érico for gourmet chocolates and chocolat chaud (hot chocolate)!
Food and Drink in Québec City
This pub-bar is located in Quartier Petit Champlain and has lots of local beers and comfort food. The resto-pub says it is the new “sports chalet”, offering a cozy ambiance and a sports bar.
Brasserie Française chez Jules
Located in the heart of Old Québec, Brasserie Française chez Jules is a charming bistro-style restaurant with a seasonally crafted menu. A great dinner spot!
Au Petit Coin Breton
When in Québec, you can enjoy a crêpe brettone at Au Petit Coin Breton. This cozy restaurant serves up savory and sweet crêpes, both served with a side of maple syrup. The wait staff even wear some of the traditional brettone garb!
All the poutine!
Make sure to eat some poutine when in Canada, as well! One suggestion is Poutineville, but you can get it at many restaurants.
Where to Stay in Québec City
Hôtel Château Bellevue
Hôtel Château Bellevue is a pet-friendly accommodation located in Old Québec, right in front of the Parc des gouverneurs, adjacent to the Terrasse Dufferin. The location of this hotel is fantastic, within walking distance to almost all the city’s attractions. This hotel is affordable and has nice sized rooms with updated bathrooms and comfortable beds.
Fairmont Le Château Frontenac
This historic hotel is one of Canada’s grand railway hotels, built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in the 19th and 20th centuries. It is extremely grand in nature, with over 600 rooms, and is located right in the heart of Old Québec. The hotel is a National Historic Site in Canada and boasts the usual 4-star hotel amenities and comfort.