Quebec City: 400 Years In One Day

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A walking tour of North America's most European city, Quebec City

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Québec City’s historic highlights are mostly in Vieux-Québec (Old Québec) which was founded in 1608, and close to the St Lawrence River. You’ll find 17th-century structures that impress at every turn. Hotels, cafes, bars, restaurants, artisans and souvenir sellers take full advantage of the lure of the quaint and old.

It’s a compact area. The loop detailed below is only about 2km, but allow all day all the same.

Morning: Quebec City’s Haute-Ville (Upper Town)

Start at the city’s centerpiece Château Frontenac beside which you’ll find Dufferin Terrace promenade, complete with ornate Parisian-style street lamps. There are brilliant views from the side of the Cap Diamant rock escarpment. Basse-Ville (Lower Town) and Vieux-Port (Old Port) fill the foreground, and the St Lawrence River paves the way to the Ile d’Orle´ans.

Just off the promenade, monuments in the the Jardins des Gouverneurs (Governor’s Gardens) honor Generals Wolfe and Montcalm who masterminded proceedings at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham.

Say adieu to views and head to the other side of the Frontenac hotel to explore the streets just north. To see key sites, head down Rue Du Tresor to get to the Notre Dame Basilica-Cathedral. If you have time or energy for a lesson in city history before lunch, try the Musee deL’Amerique Francaise in the Seminary of Quebec.


If you’re not tempted by food options near the Basilica, which include Pub D-Orsay, then head back to the promenade and use either the Breakneck Stairs or the Funicular to drop down to the many close to the St Lawrence River and Basse-Ville options. They include Le Lapin Saute and Le Cochon Dingue. For less expensive options take a ten-minute walk north toward the port to a gathering of eateries including Le Buffet de l’Antiquaire.

Afternoon: The Basse-Ville (Lower Town)

The Basse-Ville is the old merchant district where the city began. A short walk down the road from the Funicular, Place Royale is where Samuelde Champlain first established this settlement in New France. Stroll the narrow Rue Petit Champlain, which is still easy to imagine bustling with settlers, traders, and merchants centuries ago. Their place now is largely taken by sightseers.

North of here lies the Vieux-Port (Old Port) area, where the Musée de la Civilisation offers the city’s best spot to learn its history. Then, beyond a zone of restaurants, boutique hotels, souvenir shops, fancy art galleries and antique shops, you’ll find Rue Saint Paul, another key street. It leads out of the district to the Gare du Palais train station.

A block north of Rue Saint Paul lies the Marché du Vieux-Port, the old harbor building that now serves as a covered grocery and delicatessen market. It’s a great place to buy one or two things for the next day’s picnic. It overlooks the Louise Marina and the modern port.


If you haven’t already spotted a restaurant from today’s walkabout, have a look at our Quebec City Gastro Tips.

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