Québec City is one of Canada’s oldest settlements and the city is home to lots of incredible attractions. From Old Québec, a UNESCO World Heritage treasure, to its renowned food scene, Québec City has lots of things to do in 48 hours.
You’ll notice its strong grip on French Canadian identity; the European influence on architecture, art and culture can be seen down every cobbled street and in the historic neighbourhoods.
So if you’re planning to book flights to Canada and have a couple of days to explore this incredible city, follow our suggested itinerary to find out some top things you can do during your visit.
Our suggested itinerary
Morning – Go on a walking tour of Québec
Afternoon – Visit the Plains of Abraham and its museum
Evening – Enjoy dinner at your Auberge Saint Antoine hotel
Morning – Take a trip to the majestic Montmorency Falls
Afternoon – Take in the views from the fortification or visit the Citadelle
Evening – Enjoy the local cuisine on your last night
Morning: Go on a walking tour of Québec
Strolling around the streets of Old Québec is like journeying back in time and this is one of the best ways to get introduced to the city.
Samuel Dubois, who has lived in the city for over 27 years, runs walking tours throughout the summer with his firm A Free Tour of Québec. He explains why you should go on a free walking tour of this part of the city.
“I would do a walking tour in the old town. The free walking tour I offer gives you the chance to learn more about Québec City and is filled with story, humour and fact. You learn lots of secrets that many locals don’t even know about and see some major attractions and hidden ones too.”
This tour of Old Québec lasts two hours and it is one of the most highly recommended summer tours for the city as it runs between May and October.
In the winter you should still walk around the city and its neighbourhoods. Seeing the top attractions in Québec City covered in snow makes it even more magical. You should also take a few snaps of the Chateau Frontenac as it is such an iconic landmark.
Québec City is renowned for its cuisine and foodies can instead go on a tour with Québec City Food Tours.
Talking about why you should go on a foodie tour Emilie Bergeron, who is the general manager, says, “Québec City Food Tours is a fun mix of culinary exploration and cultural immersion inside Québec City’s most lively neighbourhoods. Our tours take you through the city’s vibrant, active and diverse foodie scene, by visiting a variety of notable food establishments and enjoying enough bites and sips to make up a hearty and satisfying lunch. Our walking tours are suitable for all ages, cover the historical landmarks in town, and are guided by fun and local tour guides. It’s the perfect way to discover Québec City!”
Afternoon: Visit the Plains of Abraham and its museum
Continuing on the historic theme, your next stop should be the Plains of Abraham, the colonial battle site.
On 13 September 1759, the Battle of the Plains of Abraham took place and it was a pivotal moment in the history of Canada as a British invasion force led by General James Wolfe defeated French troops, which led to the surrender of Québec to the British.
Here you can retrace the steps of the soldiers who fought here. Visit the Plains of Abraham Museum to see exhibitions dedicated to the battle such as a multimedia presentation that will plunge you into the heart of the Seven Years’ War.
Now, the Plains of Abraham fulfils a similar role to that of Hyde Park in London, with crowds flocking to music and horticultural events there in the summer. There are lots to do in the winter too. We recommended you embrace the outdoor fun and rent skis, snowshoes and skates to explore the park and take in some of the best views the city has to offer.
Evening: Enjoy dinner at your Auberge Saint Antoine hotel
The Auberge Saint-Antoine Hotel is located in the heart of Old Québec overlooking the St. Lawrence River and is a historic and charming boutique hotel.
A spokesperson for Auberge Saint-Antoine Hotel, says, “Consistently named one of the top hotels in Canada, the family-owned Auberge Saint-Antoine is a member of Relais & Châteaux, and is renowned for its warm, Québecois hospitality. Built on a major archaeological site, Auberge Saint-Antoine displays hundreds of artefacts from the French and British colonial regimes, all unearthed on-site during several years of archaeological excavation. The hotel’s museum-hotel concept extends beyond the common spaces and into the guest rooms, where each individually designed accommodation also displays an artefact and description of the item.
“People seeking a glimpse into the city’s rich history would love Auberge Saint-Antoine. In addition to the display of artefacts in cases throughout the hotel, the lobby bar, Artefact Bar, also houses a French cannon and Dauphine battery on display in its original location. Above all, guests will find the hotel to be a cosy retreat with a familiar sense of place, topped by warm hospitality just steps from some of the city’s most historical sights.”
If you are a bit of a foodie, then the hotel’s fine dining restaurant is another tantalising reason to stay. They specialise in farm-to-fork dining and slow cooked meats.
Auberge Saint Antoine Hotel, adds, “The hotel’s restaurant Chez Muffy, is a favourite among locals and is renowned for its fine French-Canadian cuisine using local, seasonal produce from its prized organic gardens on the nearby Île d’Orléans.”
Morning: Take a trip to the majestic Montmorency Falls
Just a few minutes from Québec City, Montmorency Falls nestles between the river and cliffs and is one of the most spectacular areas in the whole of the province.
The falls stand at an incredible 83 metres high, which is 30 metres higher than the iconic Niagara Falls, and you can explore the area on foot or by cable car.
Samuel Dubois from A Free Tour of Québec highly recommends heading to Montmorency Falls, “I would go see the beautiful and impressive Montmorency Waterfall quite near the city. You can take public transportation to go there.”
The waterfall is accessible year-round and there are a variety of activities you can do in the summer and winter. During the summer months, thrill seekers can speed down the 300-metre zip line or get some spectacular views from the via ferrata trail, a hiking trail on a cliff.
Brigitte Bouchard from Parc de la Chute-Montmorency, says, “To fully enjoy your visit, choose the panoramic circuit, including the cable car ride that will take you to the Manoir while admiring the scenery and an 83-metre high waterfall. Inside the Manoir, an interpretation centre recounts the history of this incomparable heritage site. Via the promenade along the cliff, you will reach the suspension bridge where you will feel the waterfall as it roars beneath your feet.”
In winter there are lots of snowy hiking trails available for snowshoeing. For a more adventurous activity, try ice climbing on the face of the frozen falls.
Afternoon: Take in the views from the fortification or visit the Citadelle
The Fortifications of Québec are close to 4.6km long (just under 3 miles) and you can either take a guided tour along the wall or just stroll along it to experience three centuries of Québec City history.
Samuel Dubois says, “Walk over the fortification from gate Saint Louis to gate Saint-Jean in the upper town.”
Walking the fortifications offers great views and is a wonderful way to enjoy Québec City’s hot summer weather. However, if you’re holidaying in Canada during the winter we’d recommend you visit the Citadelle of Québec, an iconic star-shaped fort which is a part of the fortifications.
The Citadelle is located on Cape Diamond, the city’s highest point, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also still an active garrison and is Canada’s oldest military building, dating back to 1693.
Karine Fauvel, the communications and marketing coordinator for the Citadelle of Québec, says, “La Citadelle of Québec is a must-see stop on any itinerary when visiting Québec city! Whether it’s for a day or night tour (night tours only available during the summer), discover this impressive fortress and its history through storytelling given by experienced guides.
“Why did Québec City have to have a fortress? What explains its shape, like a star, when seen from above? What goes on within its walls today? Find the answers to these questions and many more during your visit.
“Guided tours of the Citadelle reveal over 300 years of history. Join our guides to explore this fortress—an active garrison of the Royal 22e Régiment—and delve deeply into this National Historic Site with its impressive architecture and spectacular views of the city and St. Lawrence River.”
On your visit, learn about the Citadelle’s role in Canada’s history, see the Changing of the Guard during the summer months (June – September) and watch the daily noon-day gun firing (actually an impressive cannon boom!)
Evening: Enjoy the local cuisine on your last night
Québec is well-known for its cuisine, which is a melting pot of European and Aboriginal influences. Our favourite place to try the local flavours is Auberge Baker, an eatery that is aptly located in an ancestral home in a charming rural setting.
The restaurant boasts delicious house specialities such as pea soup, tourtière and sugar tart to name just a few. You can also enjoy French cuisine, seafood, pasta, pizza and a range of salads too, with dishes as varied as snails and bison.
The restaurant is open 7-days a week until 9 pm and it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for their special deals advertised on their website.
Another favourite restaurant of ours is Laurie Raphael, a family business that has been open and running for almost 27 years in Québec City.
Founded by Daniel Vézina, a chef considered a pioneer of Québec gastronomy, and his wife Suzanne Gagnon, the restaurant is now also run by their son Raphael. The three partners have created both a visual and culinary experience to diners.
Laurie-Alex Vézina, the director of sales and operations at Laurie Raphael explains why you should visit the restaurant during your holiday.
“You should visit Laurie Raphaël if you want to live a truly unique fine dining experience. At Laurie Raphaël you will taste and see Québec fully but also learn about our culture and background through the 5 themes that constitute our menu and philosophy. As for the wine lovers they will definitely be charmed by our wine list of 480 labels or the 3 different pairings that we offer.”
If you’re looking to try a Québécois classic Québec City Food Tours’ Emilie Bergeron recommends trying Poutine.
“While in Québec City you have to try ‘Poutine’: a bowl of fries, covered in a thick brown gravy and topped with cheese curds. A Québécois classic! A lot of restaurants make it–fast food chains and high-end restaurants alike–but they will all be different in their creativeness with the ingredients. One of our favourite Poutines is at Le Chic Shack. They replace the fries with russet potatoes, the gravy is actually a beef stew, and the best part is the fresh cheese curds! All local ingredients.
“Québec City is a great destination for foodies. If you’re at a restaurant or at a market and don’t know what an ingredient is, (for example, sea buckthorn or green alder) don’t be afraid to ask about them. Most likely, these are foods that are specific to the ‘Boreal cuisine’ and you’ll be happy to discover where it comes from and how it’s used. There’s a lot to learn through the food!”
Check out what Canadian holidays we offer to Québec City here.
Image Credit: Saint Antoine hotel.