Thursday, September 21, 2017
While many are of the opinion that spending less than 72 hours in Québec City is not recommended, there are times when one only has a day or two to explore our stunning historic city–especially those arriving on a cruise ship! What does one see and do in Québec City during a 24-hour stopover? Well, exploring the city’s history should be at the top of everyone’s list–this is generally why people come to Québec City–quickly followed by a hot and gooey bowl of poutine! Here is how to catch Québec City's top highlights in a single day.
At the site of the first settlement of New France (now known as Québec City), wander the cobblestoned streets of this small neighbourhood, stopping by Notre-Dame-des-Victoires church which stands on the site of the first home and trading post of Samuel de Champlain when he established the first colony in 1608. After visiting the church, walk down Rue Notre-Dame, turn right onto Rue Sous-le-Fort and walk into another small neighbourhood, Petit-Champlain district.
As you reach the end of Rue Sous-le-Fort you’ll spot the Breakneck Stairs (Escalier Casse-Cou) on your right. To your left, Rue du Petit-Champlain, one of the oldest shopping streets in the city. Today, the cobblestone street is flanked by boutiques, artisan shops and restaurants. Charming (and busy!) during the day, this area is also quite beautiful at night. When you’ve had your fill of Petit-Champlain, walk back towards to Breakneck Stairs and ride the funicular to the top of Cap Diamant.
Dufferin Terrace & Château Frontenac
A ride on the funicular offers a lovely view of Petit-Champlain district, Place Royale and the St. Lawrence River. When you exit the funicular hut, you will be standing on Dufferin Terrace, facing Château Frontenac and a monument dedicated to Samuel de Champlain (the city’s founder). Spend time admiring the views from the terrace and the majesty of the château, stop by Au 1884 to buy a chocolate-dipped ice cream cone before walking up the wooden staircase on the right side of the terrace (towards where the houses end) to Pierre-Dugua-De-Mons Terrace.
Once you reach the top of the wooden staircase, follow the dirt path to the left, past the low stone wall and onto the terrace square. While the view from here is quite pretty, walk up the big concrete steps to the top of the hill for a postcard-perfect view of Château Frontenac, Old Québec and the St. Lawrence River. This is a lovely spot to sit and relax for a few minutes before continuing your exploration of the city.
There are quite a few restaurants to choose from in Old Québec, and while many can be quite touristy, there are a few worth a visit. If you’re in the mood for gourmet burgers or poutine your best option is Le Chic Shack on Rue du Fort, for deliciously inventive Québécois cuisine, give Batinse a try; but if you just want a beer and a light meal, go to Pub Saint-Patrick or Pub Saint-Alexandre.
Discovering the relics of the past
If you’re a fan of history, Québec’s is quite interesting. After lunch, consider visiting some of these sites: Citadelle de Québec, Musée du Fort and Fortifications of Québec National Historic Site.
Religion has played a large role in the shaping of Québec City, and while the congregations are not nearly as large as they were before the 1950s, there are several churches and cathedrals in the city that are worth a visit: Notre-Dame de Québec Basilica-Cathedral and Cathedral of the Holy Trinity.
For those who love to shop
- Art & antiques - In the neighbourhood of Vieux-Port, on Rue Saint-Pierre and Rue Saint-Paul you will find several art galleries and antique shops.
- Fashion - Probably one of the best neighbourhoods for fashion, Saint-Roch is about a 15-minute walk from Old Québec (or you can take bus #1 or #18). Walk along Rue Saint-Joseph to shop local boutiques like Swell & Ginger or quirky places like Deux22–which is also a tequila bar and Mexican restaurant!
- Gourmet foods - Walk outside the gate on Rue Saint-Jean into the neighbourhood of Saint-Jean-Baptiste to shop at places like J.A. Moisan (a Victorian era grocery store and gourmet food shop), Épicerie Europpéenne and Érico’s chocolate shop. A visit to Marché du Vieux-Port in the neighbourhood of Old Port is also highly recommended!
After a full day of walking around the city and experiencing all that it has to offer, it is time to have a relaxing or exciting night - depending on your personal preference. If you are a lover of craft beer, go to places like Griendel in Saint-Sauveur; or Korrigane, Noctem and La Barberie in Saint-Roch. If you love to dance, venture into the neighbourhood of Montcalm and go to Maurice Nightclub on Grande-Allée. If you are looking for live music, go to Le Cercle in Saint-Roch or Pub Nelligan’s in Saint-Jean-Baptiste.
Evenings in Québec City tend to be more quiet and laid back, a good time to wander through the streets and admire the lighted buildings and the dancing water features at places like city hall.
The secret to having the best day in Québec City is to indulge in the things you love most. Open your eyes and your heart. Make time to stop in a café for a coffee and pastry, try speaking French (the locals love it when tourists make an effort, no matter how bad that is) and take a lot of photos! After you spend the best day exploring Québec City you will likely want to come back for more (and stay longer as well!).
About Pamela MacNaughtan
Travel writer and photographer, Pamela has a deep love of all things Québec City. She is an anglophone from Ontario who prefers living in Québec. An avid city explorer and chocolat chaud connoisseur, Pamela accentuates the finest experiences in the city.