A three day itinerary to historic Quebec City.
Our vacation to Quebec City over the summer was memorable, enlightening, and plenty of fun. While we didn’t feel overly rushed, we did maximize our few short days in the city by visiting as many places as possible.
Whether you’re a history buff or a nature lover, Quebec City has something for everyone. If you’re planning an upcoming trip to Quebec and don’t really know where to start, I’m going to tell you exactly what we did throughout the duration of our three full days there. I’ll provide a couple of alternate activities in case you have time for them, too.
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While traveling to any place in general, I think that the key is striking a balance between making the most of your time there, but not feeling like you’re rushing from place to place.
You don’t want to completely burn out or feel like you need a vacation from your vacation!
At the same time, it’s great if you have weeks and weeks to soak up the true atmosphere of a place, but many of us don’t have that luxury. Justin and I are only part-time travelers and only have a limited amount of time before we have to return to our regular jobs at home. It is important to visit the must-see spots that are at the top of your list, but make sure that you take some time to relax.
We made sure to order some sangria while sitting on a patio at Place Royale, watching as tourists flocked to the church as we listened to the street performers across the square. One evening, we went on a relaxed bicycle ride along the river to enjoy the views. There are plenty of ways to take it easy in between some scheduled activities.
Here’s our Quebec City 3 Day Itinerary. I’ll make note of the places we visited, our overnight accommodations, and the restaurants where we dined.
On our first driving day of the trip, we departed from the Toronto area and didn’t arrive until around 6:00pm. On our first evening in town, we ate dinner at Chez Victor, and wandered around Lower Town of Old Quebec, checking out the Unusual Passages Outdoor Art Exhibition.
DAY 1: WALKING, WALKING, WALKING!
This day was our first time truly exploring Quebec City. We had the basic plan of walking all over town, hitting up some historical places and interesting buildings along the way.
It made the most sense to start in Lower Town as our hotel was near the St. Lawrence River, Place Royale, and Quartier Petit Champlain. If your hotel is in Upper Town, you might start up there and make your way down below later in the day.
Place Royale (27 rue Notre-Dame, Lower Town, Old Quebec)
We visited Place Royale, a historic plaza and the Notre-Dame-des-Victoires church there. Be sure to take a peek inside the church as it is ornately decorated (and free of charge to enter!). You can enjoy a drink or a coffee on a patio here or do some shopping. It’s also great to just walk around and snap some photographs!
Quartier Petit Champlain (Rue du Petit Champlain, Old Quebec)
As you walk a little further, you will come across a very popular and cute neighbourhood in town, Quartier Petit Champlain. You’ll notice tons of souvenir shops, clothing stores, and local artists selling their wares.
This is likely one of the more expensive places in town due to the influx of tourists, so you may want to shop elsewhere in town for better prices.
This is also where the Funicular and the Breakneck Stairs as located where you can travel on to Upper Town, Old Quebec. From here, you can take the Funicular car (or the stairs!) to the top of the escarpment. We took the Funicular on our first time there to enjoy the views of the river as we rode to the top.
Dufferin Terrace and the Chateau Frontenac (1 Rue des Carrières)
Once you reach the top, you’ll see the massive, iconic Chateau Frontenac, a famous hotel in the city. It is thought to be the most photographed hotel in the world, so why not join in on the fun? There were always musicians or singers performing along the boardwalk, though one lady we saw there a couple of times was clearly lip-syncing! We also went inside the lobby of the extravagant hotel just to check it out. We thought of coming back here for a drink at the bar, but never ended up getting the chance.
Notre Dame de Quebec Cathedral-Basilica (16 Rue De Buade)
Though we aren’t religious, we stopped to admire the architecture and decor of the Notre Dame de Quebec. We also had the rare opportunity to pass through the Holy Door. While we didn’t discover it until our second evening in town, there is a courtyard and garden on the grounds of the church, too.
Fortifications of Quebec
As we walked up Rue Saint-Jean, we came across the fortification wall of Quebec City. It is one reason why Old Quebec is a UNESCO World Heritage site, as it is the only remaining walled city in North America, north of Mexico.
We climbed up the stairs and walked along the wall, passing over the city streets below. Eventually, we reached the Citadel where you will find ceremonial guards and a museum. There is also a changing of the guards ceremony that takes place in the summer months at 10:00am, though we missed it.
From the Citadel, we walked along the edge of the Plains of Abraham until we reached a lengthy boardwalk between the fortifcation wall and the escarpment overlooking the St. Lawrence River. This boardwalk is called the Governors’ Promenade and it consists of many stairs and fantastic views.
We ended up walking down most of these flights of stairs rather than up – if you’re looking for a great exercise, perhaps start at the Dufferin Terrace and walk towards the Plains of Abraham!
We didn’t mind going down the flights of stairs as we had walked around for most of the day already at that point. Eventually, you’ll be back where you started in Upper Town, at the Chateau Frontenac/Dufferin Terrace.
We were starving at this point, and we were pretty desperate for a good meal. We figured that we would be able to easily find something vegetarian, even if it was just pasta or pizza. This proved to be more difficult than it sounded. Many places in the tourist areas around the Dufferin Terrace and Rue Saint-Jean didn’t offer anything remotely vegetarian on the menu!
Luckily for you, if you’re vegetarian or vegan, I have planned out this vegan guide to Quebec for you after we returned from our trip.
Unfortunately for us, we settled on the first place that we stumbled upon that had a pasta that was vegetarian – Trattoria di Mike’s, a Quebec Italian chain restaurant.
The food tasted fine (not great or anything special), but it ended up giving us both a stomach ache as we walked around for the next hour or two. If you can avoid that situation, please do! Eat great food while you are on holidays! Thankfully, we didn’t run into that problem again in Quebec City.
J.A. Moisan (699 Rue Saint-Jean)
This is the oldest grocery store in North America, so we had to take a peak inside! There were a variety of interesting things for sale, although nothing that I haven’t seen elsewhere at home.
Perhaps if you are visiting Canada or Quebec from overseas, this store may be more interesting or appealing to you. You might be able to find things like maple syrup and other typically Canadian items for less money elsewhere, though they did have a great collection of tasty treats.
Observatoire de la Capitale (1037 De La Chevrotière)
If you want to see a view of Quebec from above it all, take a trip up the elevator to the Observatoire de la Capitale. I would plan to spend 1-2 hours here so you can fully absorb all of the 360 degree views, as well as their short history videos about Quebec.
Parliament Building (Grand Allee)
We explored the exterior of the Parliament Building and its beautiful gardens on our way back towards the Funicular/Breakneck Stairs.
Coffee Break (143 Rue Saint Paul)
We decided it was time for a mid-afternoon coffee break. While there are tons of chain coffee shops (yes, please enjoy the Tim Hortons if you don’t have one in your hometown!), we have all of those right near our home. We went to Les Cafes du Soleil in Lower Town to enjoy some delicious coffee in a quaint shop made for coffee connoisseurs. It was also a great time to unwind and relax after such a busy day.
Ferry to Levis (Rue Dalhousie)
Another way that we relaxed while enjoying some beautiful views of the Quebec skyline was by taking the ferry round-trip to Levis and back. It took about an hour to ride around the harbour, and was definitely one of the most inexpensive activities of the day at just over $3 per person. Besides the gorgeous views, it felt great to have a fresh breeze off the river on my face after walking around on a hot, summer day!
Dinner (40 Rue du Marché-Champlain)
We stayed overnight at Le Saint Pierre Auberge Distinctive in Lower Town, Old Quebec.
DAY 2: RAINY DAY PLANS
It’s always good to factor in rainy day activities while traveling. It’s bound to happen, right? Thankfully, there are plenty of things to do indoors in Quebec and these were on our list anyway. I suggest saving these activities for the day when it’s most likely to rain. There are so many great outdoor activities in Quebec, and you want to save the sunny days for those ones!
Musee de la Civilisation (85 Rue Dalhousie)
This was an easy choice for us: the Musee de la Civilisation was right across the street from our hotel.
There was a powerful exhibit on display called Haiti in Extremes that showcased the works of Haitian artists. These expressions of creativity highlighted themes such as death and life, and living with the struggles during natural catastrophes, harsh living conditions, poverty, and political unrest. These images were at times controversial, but very thought-provoking.
Through this exhibit, I was able to learn more about Haitian culture and Vodou religion. We didn’t explore too many other areas of the museum besides this exhibit, though there were some permanent installations about the history of Quebec.
You can consider going to the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Quebec (fine art museum) instead, or go to both if you love museums! We didn’t have time for both, unfortunately.
Highway Overpass Street Art (Rue Saint-Vallier E)
We stumbled upon this graffiti while walking to the restaurant, Le Tier Temps. You can discover this street art along Rue Saint-Vallier E as you approach the Saint-Roch neighborhood.
Lunch (595 Rue de St-Vallier E)
We enjoyed a delicious meal at Le Tier Temps in the Saint-Roch neighborhood. We highly recommend checking it out! (Update: This restaurant is now closed).
Morrin Centre (44 Chaussée des Écossais)
After lunch, we walked up the Lepine Stairs to Upper Town. We visited the Morrin Centre, Quebec City’s first prison, English college, English cultural centre and English library! It’s quite the building, and we truly enjoyed our tour there. The guided tour lasts approximately an hour.
Erico Chocolaterie (634 Rue Saint-Jean)
If you’ve got a sweet tooth, be sure to stop by Erico Chocolaterie for a scoop of ice cream (or in my case, vegan soy chocolate ice cream!) and some chocolates!
La Pizz (3 Place Royale)
We ventured back to Place Royale and enjoyed a pitcher of sangria on the patio of La Pizz. It was a great spot to relax, chat, and people watch! As you can probably guess, it stopped raining and became sunny outside once again!
Dinner (311 Rue Saint Paul)
We had a great meal at La Petite Dana, a Vietnamese/Thai restaurant in Lower Town.
As day became night, we went for a short walk around Place Royale, Quartier Petit Champlain, and around the Notre Dame de Quebec in Upper Town.
Quebec City has an entirely different vibe at night once most of the tourists have left for the day.
It is very quiet and peaceful. Also, Quebec City is extremely safe, so you don’t have to worry about wandering around when it gets dark outside. Also be forewarned: many restaurants are closed after 9:00pm, which seems very early to me. Be sure to eat before 9pm or check the restaurant hours.
DAY 3: BEAUTIFUL NATURE
Ile d’Orleans is an island just outside of Quebec City across the St. Lawrence River. It is thought of as the Cornucopia of Quebec as the people rely on farming traditions to sell fresh produce, preserves, wine, and more. We spent a few hours here circling the island to view beautiful scenery and taste the fresh fruits and veggies!Canyon Sainte-Anne (206 Route 138 East, Beaupré)
If you love waterfalls, you will love Canyon Sainte-Anne. About a half hour away from Quebec City in the town of Beaupre, Canyon Sainte-Anne offers scenic hiking trails and incredible views of a spectacular canyon from multiple positions, including a bridge that’s suspended across the gorge.
Montmorency Falls (2490 Ave Royale)
While we elected to visit Montmorency Falls on following morning before we drove home from Quebec City, you could quite possibly fit it into your day after going to Canyon Sainte-Anne. It might be a little rushed to visit all three places in one day.
Montmorency Falls is a great option if you don’t have a car as I believe you can take the train there from Quebec City. It is a breathtaking waterfall that’s even higher than Niagara Falls. I highly recommend that you visit!
Cycling along the River
We were able to borrow bicycles from our hotel, Hotel 71 whenever we wanted, which was a fantastic perk of being a guest there. There are several places where you can rent bikes in Quebec City if your hotel doesn’t have any to lend out. It was a great experience being able to cycle along the paved path that ran parallel to the St. Lawrence River.
I hope that my Quebec City 3 Day Itinerary gives you some ideas to plan a trip of your own! Please post any questions that you may have in the comments section, and I’ll try my best to answer them for you!
LOOKING FOR A HOTEL?
We stayed at Le Saint-Pierre Auburge Distinctive and Hotel 71, two sister hotels with a very different style. If you’re looking to explore more choices, there are hundreds of hotels in Quebec City in Lower Town and Upper Town. Take a look!
VISITING IN WINTER?
Since writing this post, we’ve travelled to Quebec City in the winter (in late November and in February).
Here’s how to plan your perfect Quebec City winter itinerary.
Interested in more Quebec and Canadian travel? Check out our entire Canada page!
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