17 Epic Things to Do in Quebec City (First Time Visit)


Things to Do in Quebec City: The 17 Best Places to Visit

You’re planning to visit Quebec City during your next trip and you’re looking for the best things to do?

You’re at the right place!

In order to help you plan your stay, I have prepared this guide of the 17 best things to do in Quebec City, with all points of interest and must-see attractions.

In this article, you will learn everything you need to know to visit Château Frontenac, Quebec old town, the Montmorency waterfall… and a lot more!

In addition to my list of things to do and activities, I will also give you optimized itineraries to visit Quebec City in 1, 2 or 3 days as well as my selection of the best accommodations depending on your budget.

So, what are the best things to do in Quebec City? Where to stay?

Visit Quebec City: All must-see attractions

1. The Château Frontenac

We kick off this roundup of things to do in Quebec City with the city’s iconic landmark: the famous Château Frontenac.

I’ll let you in on a secret right away: to truly be in the know, you’ll need to snap photos of it from every conceivable angle during your visit to Quebec City. After all, it’s said to be the most photographed hotel in the world.

Let’s be real, it is remarkably imposing and effortlessly charms with its authentic allure, inspired by French castles.

It’s also steeped in history, having hosted Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt for two conferences in 1943 and 1944. The site is also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

You can explore the interior of the Château Frontenac during a one-hour guided tour, led by a vibrant character dressed in period costume. This will give you a chance to learn a heap of historical anecdotes about the place.

To book your guided tour of Château Frontenac, click on the green button below:

Voyage Tips - Advice

If you want to do more than just photograph it and your budget allows, I recommend you spend at least one night there as Château Frontenac is primarily a luxury hotel nowadays.

Enjoy beautifully decorated rooms, a spa, a swimming pool, views over the St. Lawrence River, and dine in one of the hotel’s gourmet restaurants. Ideal for a romantic getaway in Quebec City.

Book your stay at Château Frontenac by clicking here!

The Château Frontenac
Château Frontenac – Best things to do in Quebec City

2. The Dufferin Terrace promenade

Right at the foot of Château Frontenac (so you can also take pictures from there) is the Dufferin Terrace promenade.

This long wooden pedestrian walkway is the best spot in Quebec City to contemplate the St. Lawrence River below. It also offers a stunning panorama of the Island of Orléans (Île d’Orléans in French) and Quebec City Lower Town.

It’s always popular and frequently hosts activities:

  • Among the best things to do in Quebec City in winter: Enjoy the Terrasse Dufferin Slides by racing down a giant 250-meter toboggan run!
  • If you’ve decided to visit Quebec City in summer, get ready for lively street artists and outdoor concerts.
Voyage Tips - Advice

If you’re interested in exploring Quebec City with a guide, you should take one of these tours (click on the orange link to book):

For an unique experience in Quebec City, why not try a virtual reality tour? With a headset on, you’ll be fully immersed in the history of Quebec City through stunning 3D recreations.

Book your VR experience in Quebec City by clicking here!

The Dufferin Terrace promenade
The Dufferin Terrace promenade

3. The Petit-Champlain district

The Petit-Champlain district is a must-visit neighborhood in Quebec City. With its pedestrian-friendly streets and typical houses, it’s one of the main attractions to stroll around in Quebec City.

You’ll find plenty of nifty artisanal boutiques to do a bit of shopping during your trip to Quebec City, along with a wealth of bars and restaurants.

The area has a very warm vibe, particularly in winter when the streets are lit up by Christmas decorations. It’s the perfect neighborhood for a leisurely stroll

Also, you absolutely have to check out Place Royale in the district. It’s the oldest French site in North America and definitely worth a visit! The square hosts the oldest church in Canada, Notre-Dame-des-Victoires.

Also, take a moment to stop in front of the fresco called “Fresque des Québécois“, portraying the city’s history through its notable figures.

Voyage Tips - Advice

To get to the Petit-Champlain district from Dufferin Terrace, take the funicular. The descent offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the St. Lawrence River.

The Petit-Champlain district
The Petit-Champlain district – Visiting Quebec City

4. Cruising the Saint Lawrence River

My tourist guide continues with a truly delightful must-do activity in Quebec City: a short cruise on the Saint Lawrence River.

You’ll have a range of cruises to choose from, some including breakfast or dinner, but most follow roughly the same route so you can feast your eyes on the stunning panorama of Château Frontenac, the city fortifications, and the waterfalls of the Island of Orleans.

All cruises depart from the Chouinard dock, located just below Old Quebec City.

To book your cruise in Quebec City (it’s essential to do this in advance), you simply need to click on one of the orange links below:

Just to be clear: these Quebec cruises do not operate in winter as the river freezes over and such boats cannot navigate.

5. Taking the Quebec City-Levis Ferry

Just a stone’s throw away from the Petit-Champlain district, you can hop on the ferry that connects Quebec City to the town of Levis. It’s a fantastic addition to your Quebec City tour, offering breathtaking views as you cross the river.

This isn’t a real cruise, but the journey allows you to take in Quebec City, Château Frontenac, and Cap Diamant in all their splendor. It offers one of the most beautiful views of the city.

In winter, it’s also the only way to enjoy the panorama since cruises don’t operate due to the ice covering the river.

Riding the ferry will give you a unique experience as the boat acts as an icebreaker to make its way. Quite a Canadian adventure!

You can make the round trip in one go within an hour for about $7 per person.

Voyage Tips - Advice

The best time to take the ferry is at sunset, that’s when you’ll capture the most memorable photos.

At night, the view is also pretty cool with the illuminated buildings.

Quebec City
Best things to do in Quebec City

6. Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Québec

Basilique-cathédrale Notre-Dame de Québec (as the locals say) is located opposite the City Hall in the historic district of Old Quebec.

It’s considered the cradle of Catholic faith in North America. Whether you’re a believer or not, it’s a must-see site on your Quebec itinerary.

Designated a “National Historic Site of Canada” for its remarkable architecture, the cathedral is worth a visit both inside and out.

The interior ornaments, along with the entirely gold-plated canopy and baldachin, are stunningly beautiful. You can also visit the crypt where the bishops of the diocese and the four governors of New France are buried.

Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Québec
Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Québec

7. Visiting Quebec City’s museums

Quebec City boasts a rich cultural scene thanks to its numerous museums.

Here’s my selection of museums to visit in Quebec City!

  • The Museum of Civilization traces the history of Quebec and also presents temporary exhibitions. If you’re visiting Quebec City with your family, it’s very interactive and fun, and it will please both young and old alike.
  • The National Museum of Fine Arts of Quebec showcases the works of Quebecois artists.
  • The Morrin Centre is the site of Quebec City’s first prison. You can visit the old cells there. Today, it houses a magnificent library (Harry Potter-style), and the tour includes both the dungeons and the library.
  • The Ursulines Museum presents the origins of the institution and the history of these nuns.
  • The Fort Museum where you can enjoy a sound and light show retracing the city’s military history.
  • The Saint-Louis Forts and Châteaux National Historic Site gives you a chance to discover the ruins of the first castle built in Quebec City by Champlain. The guided tour lasts 1 hour and can be booked by clicking here!
Library in Morrin Centre
Library in Morrin Centre

8. The Citadel of Quebec

Another must-see in Quebec: the Citadel, an integral part of the city’s history.

Built between 1820 and 1850 to guard the city against Americans, it quickly became the largest British fort in North America.

Guided tours of the Citadel are available all year round.

You’ll learn more about the city’s military history and the capture of Quebec by English forces.

Just so you know, the Citadel is still an active military base, so you can’t go wandering around on your own. It’s home to the Royal 22nd Regiment, the only French-speaking infantry regiment in the Canadian army.

From the ramparts, you’ll also enjoy a stunning view of the Chateau Frontenac and the St. Lawrence River.

Voyage Tips - Advice

If you’re headed to Quebec in the summer, you can watch the changing of the guard every day at 10 am. It’s not Buckingham Palace, but it’s still pretty cool.

The Citadel of Quebec
The Citadel of Quebec

9. The Plains of Abraham

The Plains of Abraham, also known as Battlefield Park, hold significant symbolic value for the city of Quebec.

They were the stage for the famous battle of 1759, where the British and French empires clashed.

The British troops, led by General Wolfe, defeated the French troops commanded by the Marquis de Montcalm, who had to surrender the city.

By the end of the war, France ceded several colonies to England, including Canada.

Today, the Plains of Abraham are a large park, the green lung of the city. It’s the perfect spot in Quebec for a leisurely stroll. The view of the St. Lawrence River is particularly beautiful.

In winter, there’s a skating rink available for free.

In summer, the Plains transform into a giant concert venue, hosting the biggest stars from around the world, like the Rolling Stones, Celine Dion, Madonna, and Elton John.

Voyage Tips - Advice

You’re going to Quebec?

You probably know it: the hardest part of planning your trip is to find an hotel offering a good value for money!

And that’s even worse in big touristic cities like Quebec 😅.

The closer you get to your travel dates, the harder it will be to get a good deal. Lots of people will be visiting Quebec on the same dates as you, so you can be sure that the best deals are booked extremely quickly!

Hopefully, there is a pretty simple solution to this problem: do like me and book your hotel as early as possible!

So, my best advice is to take 5 minutes (now) to have a look at the list of travelers’ favorite hotels in Quebec.

And if you see a good offer, book it!

Most hotels offer free cancellation, so it’s quick, easy, and you will avoid the the inconvenience of finding nothing but mediocre rooms at exorbitant prices.

To check the current best deals for your hotel in Quebec, simply click on the green button below 😎:

Once you’ve booked your hotel, it will be time to continue reading this guide and find out more about the best things to do in Quebec!

The Plains of Abraham
The Plains of Abraham

10. The Parliament Building

If you’re wondering what to see in Quebec, I recommend visiting the Parliament Building, the seat of the National Assembly of Quebec.

Perched on a hill and surrounded by 23 statues of historical figures, with a grand fountain at its center, this French-style building is one of the must-see places in Quebec City.

You can enjoy free tours of the interior.

You’ll get to admire the National Assembly Hall, the President’s Gallery and the Legislative Council Chamber. It’s a chance to learn more about the organization and workings of the Canadian government.

The Parliament Building
The Parliament Building

11. The Observatoire de la Capitale

If you want to enjoy a 360° view during your weekend in Quebec City, the Capital Observatory is the place to be!

It’s located on the top floor of “Édifice Marie-Guyart”, an office skyscraper on Parliament Hill.

An elevator will take you up to 221 meters high for a breathtaking view of the river, the Citadel, the Plains of Abraham, and the Island of Orleans.

In short, it offers a view of all the places mentioned in this list of things to do and see in Quebec City!

All the info on access and rates can be found on the official Observatory website.

Voyage Tips - Advice

To see the city from an even higher perspective, here’s an exciting activity in Quebec City: a helicopter tour!

You’ll find all the details by clicking the button below:

The Observatoire de la Capitale
The Observatoire de la Capitale

12. The Aquarium of Quebec

If you’re looking for a fun activity with your kids during your stay in Quebec City, I recommend visiting the Aquarium of Quebec.

Spread across 16 hectares, the vast site houses nearly 10,000 marine animals, including seals and polar bears. There’s also a touch tank with rays and a deep-sea tank with jellyfish and seahorses.

This unique site in Quebec is open year-round.

It offers different activities depending on the season. For example, in winter there’s an outdoor light trail, while in summer your kids can enjoy water games and treetop courses.

Plan your visit to the Aquarium by checking out the official website.

The Aquarium of Quebec
The Aquarium of Quebec

13. Quebec Winter Carnival

It’s the most anticipated event of the year: the Quebec Winter Carnival.

If you’re in Quebec City between late January and mid-February, you can’t miss this staple of Quebec life.

Thousands of visitors flock each year to the world’s largest winter carnival. The atmosphere is festive, warm, and very family-friendly.

A multitude of activities are lined up to entertain you:

  • A nighttime parade with a float procession
  • An ice canoe race with participants from around the world
  • An international ice sculpture competition
  • A massive snow bath
  • Ice skating and sledding
  • Giant bowling or kegling games
  • A sugar shack
  • Tomahawk throwing (yes, we’re in lumberjack country!)

Finally, you’ll meet the carnival mascot, Mr. Bonhomme Carnival, a huge snowman wearing a red toque. I should note that a picture with him is a must for your souvenir collection! Feel free to share it with us in the comments! 🙂

Voyage Tips - Advice

If you want to attend the Quebec Winter Carnival, make sure to book your accommodation well in advance.

Quebec Winter Carnival
Quebec Winter Carnival

Best things to do around Quebec City

So, you’ve finished exploring the city, now what? I’d say it’s time to venture beyond Quebec City and discover it’s surroundings. There are a bunch of nearby attractions perfect for a day’s outing.

14. Montmorency Falls

Just a quick 40-minute drive from Quebec City, you’ll discover one of the most awe-inspiring natural sites around the Montmorency Falls.

Taller than Niagara Falls by 30 meters, you really should check them out while you’re in town. They’re a year-round spectacle, equally impressive in the winter when parts often freeze over.

You’ll be able to admire the fall’s mighty rush of water from a bunch of different viewpoints.

And for a real treat, why not take a cable car ride to the top, then cross the suspension bridge that spans the falls? You can now even book your cable car ticket in advance to avoid queueing:

Also, there’s a staircase with 480 steps starting at the foot of the falls that lets you ascend to the top or descend after crossing the bridge.

And for the brave or the fit, there’s also a 300-meter-long zip line and a via ferrata course.

To grab a bite, you’ll find a restaurant at the top of the falls. Or you can bring your own picnic and enjoy the tables provided for visitors.

Voyage Tips - Advice

If you haven’t rented a car for your Quebec vacation, you can take the bus to Montmorency Falls. A shuttle operates transfers between Old Quebec and the falls.

However, spots are quite limited, so it’s important to book in advance using the button below:

Montmorency Falls
Montmorency Falls, close to Quebec City

15. Ile d’Orléans – The Island of Orleans

I’ve mentioned it a few times in this post, Quebec City boasts gorgeous views of the Island of Orleans (or Ile d’Orléans as the locals call it). So, why not go explore it after you’ve toured Quebec City?

Stepping foot on the Island of Orleans, you might feel like you’ve stepped back in time.

Here, you’ll discover quaint rural villages with centuries-old homes that have preserved Quebec traditions. The villages of Saint-Laurent, Saint-Jean, Saint-Pierre, and Saint-François are all well worth a visit.

In Sainte-Pétronille, you’ll find one of the most stunning views of Cap Diamant and Montmorency Falls.

The surrounding countryside is also a sight to behold, known for its strawberry and raspberry fields, as well as its pear and apple orchards. When the season is right, you’ll find plenty of roadside stalls selling local produce.

For me, it’s one of the most beautiful places to visit around Quebec City!

If you don’t have a vehicle, you can rent electric bikes (click here for info) or take a guided tour of the island (click here to book).

Voyage Tips - Advice

You have the option to take day trips from Quebec City to visit the beautiful Ile d’Orléans. For example, you can choose between:

Ile d’Orléans - The Island of Orleans
Ile d’Orléans

16. Village Vacances Valcartier

Just 30 minutes north of the city, you’ll find the perfect place for a family day near Quebec City: Village Vacances Valcartier.

In winter, Village Vacances Valcartier is the largest winter playground in North America. It features:

To book your day at Valcartier, just click on the green button below:

You can also go for a massive indoor Polynesian-themed waterpark. Get ready for wave pools, water slides, a surf wave, and an adventure river.

In summer, the park also has an outdoor water area with a pool, slides, toboggans, and volleyball courts. You can even camp there if you wish.

On-site, you’ll also find a 4-star hotel right next to all the activities. It’s perfect for some rest before or after a full day of sliding. You can book your night at Valcartier Hotel here.

Village Vacances Valcartier
Village Vacances Valcartier

17. Other activities to do around Quebec City

Around Quebec City, you’ll be able to take part in a bunch of fantastic activities, some of which are truly iconic for a trip to Canada:

Snowmobile Canada
Snowmobile ride in Quebec

How many days to visit Quebec City?

You can easily explore Quebec City on foot in just 2 days. You’ll have plenty of time to see the majority of our top 15 picks.

However, if you’d like to tour all the museums or take the opportunity to explore the surroundings like Ile d’Orléans for instance, I’d suggest allocating 3 days to Quebec City.

One Day in Quebec City

For a day in Quebec City, I’d suggest the following itinerary:

  • Start by admiring the Château Frontenac
  • Take a stroll along the Dufferin Terrace
  • Drop by the Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Québec
  • Take the funicular or brave the thrilling breakneck steps down to the Petit-Champlain district
  • Lunch break in the district where you’ll find a multitude of restaurant choices
  • Wander through the cobbled lanes and do a bit of shopping
  • Take a cruise or catch the Quebec City-Lévis ferry at the end of the day

2 Days in Quebec City

To visit Quebec City in 2 days, follow the itinerary from the first day and add:

  • Visit of the Citadel of Quebec
  • A walk in the Plains of Abraham
  • Discovery of the Parliament building
  • Head up to the Observatoire de la Capitale
  • Lunch break
  • An afternoon at Montmorency Falls Park

For getting around Quebec City during this day, you can also take the hop-on hop-off bus that stops at all the main tourist sites that I recommend.

It has 14 stops in total, including Place Royale, the Citadel, the Plains of Abraham, and the observatory.

Book here!

3 Days in Quebec City

Spending 3 days exploring Quebec City? Follow my two-day guide, then add:

  • A morning visiting the city’s museums. If you’re only going to check out one, I highly recommend the Museum of Civilizations to dive into the city’s history.
  • Lunch break
  • An afternoon on the Island of Orleans.
Voyage Tips - Advice

Alternatively, for an unforgettable experience on your third day in Quebec City, I would recommend going whale watching.

From Quebec City, you can book a day tour, they’ll come pick you up right at your hotel. You’ll find all the booking information you need at the following link:

Where to sleep in Quebec City

  • Quebec City International Hostel: This hostel is located in Old Quebec. Dormitory beds from €27. Strong points: the location, the cleanliness. The best choice for budget accommodation in Quebec City!
  • Hotel Manoir Vieux-Quebec: Situated right next to the Château Frontenac. Modern and comfortable double room starting at 130€ per night. Strong points: the location, the view from the terrace, the comfy beds.
  • Hotel Port-Royal: Located in Old Quebec. Double room equipped with a kitchenette starting from 170€. Strong points: the location for exploring Quebec City on foot, the friendly staff.
  • Hotel Clarendon: Also located in Old Quebec, you’ll stay in a 19th-century building. Cosy double room from €170, breakfast for €22. Strong points: the very comfortable beds, the central location, the views from certain rooms.
  • Le Capitole Hotel: Located in Old Quebec. Superb tastefully decorated room starting from €290 per night. Strong points: the warm staff, the great location, the quality of service, the rooftop pool, the excellent breakfast. Our recommendation for a high-end stay in Quebec City!
  • Château Frontenac: Why not spend a night in the world’s most photographed hotel? A unique experience and the chance to enjoy all the services and comforts of a luxury hotel: spa, pool, gourmet restaurants. A great way to treat yourself in Quebec, after all, it’s not every day you get to sleep at Château Frontenac!
Quebec City Gate
Quebec City Gate

Where to eat in Quebec City

  • Le Chic Shak: Located at Place d’Armes, in Old Quebec. The restaurant offers dishes made from fresh, local products. You can choose between Canadian beef burgers, poutines, and even homemade sodas. Rediscover the real “good” fast food. I should also mention that the prices are very affordable. It’s our favorite spot for quality/price.
  • Chez Rioux and Pettigrew: Located on St. Paul street, 200 meters from the Museum of Civilizations. The restaurant welcomes you in a super warm setting. The dishes are plentiful, tasty and affordable. You can choose the blind tasting menu. Be sure to book and secure your seats in advance to ensure availability.
  • L’affaire Est Ketchup: Located on St. Joseph East street. The atmosphere is friendly, the welcome is warm, the service is impeccable, and the dishes are good and plentiful. Very good wine list as well. Small restaurant with about twenty seats, remember to book.

How to Get to Quebec City

If you plan on visiting Quebec City during your tour of Canada, the best way is to fly into Montreal.

Then, you have several options to reach Quebec City:

  • By car, which is the quickest way. Expect about a 3-hour drive. You should know that car rental is quite affordable in Canada.
  • By bus, it’s about 3h15 ride for around $25. Departures are from the Montreal bus station. Orléans Express line offers 17 daily trips between the two cities, so you’ll have a choice of times.
  • By train, it’s a 3h30 trip for around $35. Departure is from the Montreal railway station. About ten trips per day.
Quebec City Terrasse Dufferin
Quebec City Terrasse Dufferin

My thoughts on Quebec City

Quebec City is a city that begs to be explored on foot. As a European visitor, you’ll likely find a comforting sense of familiarity, making you feel right at home amidst the enchanting charm of this place.

I especially enjoyed the Petit-Champlain district with its pedestrian streets and its neat little shops. The neighborhood is very warm and really exudes a good vibe.

I found the Château Frontenac particularly impressive and of course, I helped it maintain its ranking as the world’s most photographed hotel! 🙂

Tourist map of Quebec City

To help you visualize the city a bit better, I’ve created a tourist map of Quebec City, with all the best things to do and must-see attractions.

You can display the map’s legend by clicking the button with a small arrow located in the top left corner.

Book your trip now and save money!

You’re traveling in Canada? These articles will help you!

Discover all my articles about Canada: All my articles to help you plan your trip to Canada are listed there.

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Visit Quebec City
Visit Quebec City

Creator of the Voyage Tips blog, travel and photography lover. I give you all my best tips to plan your next trip.

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