“We are torn between nostalgia for the familiar and an urge for the foreign and strange. As often as not, we are homesick most for the places we have never known.” -Unknown
Quebec City is an easy escape from your daily grind if you are looking for a North American destination that boasts an European vibe.
A short plane ride away and you’ll find yourself whisked to another era, another land.
Upon arrival, you’ll hear French being spoken among the locals. As you wander around, exploring the streets in Old Quebec City, you’ll be dazed and distracted by the beauty of Vieux Quebec.
Every corner you turn will be a delight. Walking along the cobblestone streets surrounded by European architecture inside the fortification wall, you’ll stumble across street musicians. The music will light up your ears and add to the ambiance of the city. It will transport you back to the old-charms of Europe where you will see the city’s history, influences and culture come to life.
Yet, the city is modern and offers you an experience of present-day comforts and conveniences of city living with an old-world boutique feel.
With beautiful flower beds around every corner and planted along the window sills, the city will romance you to feel you’ve made a wise choice of choosing Quebec City as the perfect getaway to rejuvenate yourself.
It is a safe city where you can check out the different areas in and around the old town, without needing to keep your guard up all the time. It is extremely walkable and easy to explore.
Grand Allée– A popular street among the locals and an easy walk from the old town. This street is lined with trendy bars, restaurants with romantic patios and nightlife. A great place to people watch, drink and dine.
Tip: Have a drink or dine at Ciel! in Hôtel Le Concorde Québec, which rotates around offering a panoramic view of the city.
Petit-Champlain– One of the most Instagram friendly place in the city in the lower town. It is considered the oldest commercial street in North America that is narrow and tightly packed. Here you’ll find restaurants, cafes and stores selling souvenirs and local favorites like syrup, ice wine, cozy onesies and toques (a hat – for you non-Canadians).
To get back to the upper town, you can take the stairs or save your energy and hop on the funicular. You’ll enjoy a great view, on your quick ride up to Dufferin Terrace and Chateau Frontenac.
Place Royale– An adorable little plaza, where you’ll find the Notre-Dame des Victories – the oldest stone church in North America. Here your eyes will come across a huge art mural – Fresque des Québécois that paints the story of Québec City featuring some historic figures that have had influence the city and culture.
Rue Saint-Jean– Another street frequented by locals that is lined with boutiques, cafes and restaurants. Here you’ll also find the oldest grocery store (J.A. Moisan) in North America.
Rue Saint Joseph– An area near the harbor that boasts trendy designer boutiques and department stores
Because you’ve only got 48 hours, you want to stay in or around the old town. There is an array of choices from urban modern chic apartments to places that are reminiscent of yesteryear of French living. The best accommodation is a room that has been renovated but has kept its vintage French character. We stayed at the Auberge du Trésor and it was fantastic. They recently renovated keeping its old French Quebecois charm, the staff was friendly and the location couldn’t be better. It is in the heart of Old Quebec City
From French-Canadian cuisine to European-style restaurants to cool bistros that prides themselves in sourcing regional products to create flavors that will tantalizes your gourmet palette, you can rest assured you will not go hungry.
For a more casual fare, you’ll find plenty of sidewalk cafes, pubs and no-frill places serving up traditional poutine – crispy fries served with squeaky cheese curds, covered in gravy. To get your poutine fix – try Chic-Shack;
While many recommend Aux Anciens Canadiens for French Quebecois traditional cuisine, I would skip it. The food itself was disappointing for the price you pay. It’s mediocre, heavy and tasted more like your friend’s grandma’s average home cooking. The only charm to this place one can argue is to say you have dined in the oldest house in Quebec. Otherwise, there are much better places to eat in Quebec City, like Chez Boulay-Bistro and Panache.
Must Try: Dipped Ice Cream Cone. Visit Chocolate Favoris and Chocolate Vieux Quebec to satisfy and melt your ice cream cravings. Quebec City has the best dipped cone ice cream I’ve ever had. You can choose from a salted-caramel, milk chocolate, dark chocolate or maple white chocolate dip. The dip is thick and rich in flavor. It does not flake off and crumble like Dairy Queen’s dip. It was legit holding and cupping the ice cream leaving you feeling like you are a pro at eating an ice cream without making a mess.
When to visit
Any time of the year.
For those who prefer milder temperatures, May to September are good times to visit.
For a winter wonderland experience, December to April would be the time for you. Experience living in an ice hotel. Check out the famous winter festival- Carnaval de Quebec where you can take in various activities such as – snow bath, ice canoe race, night parades, snow slides, snow sculptures amongst many other winter outdoor activities. This festival typically takes place from the end of January to mid- February.
For those who enjoy a nice fall foliage, you can catch it late September to November. Take a day trip to the outskirts of Quebec City.
A 30 metres taller than Niagara Falls but Niagara Falls hands down is still more grand and powerful due to the width and flow rate of the water. There is a manor at the top where you can enjoy a bevy and the view from above. To get there you can pay to ride the gondola and cross the bridge, or take the stairs. Other activities around the falls include zip line and rock climb.
An island just 15 minutes outside of Quebec City known as the “Garden of Quebec”. It is famous for its traditional rural feel, pastoral scenery, abandoned boatyards and locally grown produce like strawberries, raspberries, apples, plums, potatoes and maple syrup.
If I had more time I would…
- Hop on the Quebec-Levis ferry in Old Port and take the 60-minute (return) journey across the river offering a stunning view at a steal of a deal for $8.
- Take a train out to the Charlevoix region and spend a night out there to enjoy the vibrant landscapes and quaint countryside where I can wind down, and get a sense of the cozy rural feel of French Canadian culture, visiting petite adorable rural shops, tasting homemade goodies;
- Relax at one of these 5 unique Scandinavia spas around the outskirts of the city.
Like a passionate but brief holiday love affair, 48 hours in Quebec City will make you feel like you experienced a piece of European jewel without having traveled the distance at a steal of a deal.