The most European city in all of North America and the only fortified city north of Mexico, Quebec City is a place that offers a wonderful experience regardless of the type of holiday you have in mind.
A beautiful pedestrian-friendly old town, a beautiful national park (Montmorency Falls park) with the highest waterfall in the province of Quebec (higher than Niagara falls), and a nature-filled island on the other side of the falls (Ile d’Orleans) all come together to make Quebec City one of my favorite destinations in all of Canada.
In the 20-something years I’ve lived in Canada, Quebec City has always been one of my favorite destinations.
In each one of my trips to the capital of La Belle Province (the beautiful province, as the province of Quebec is known as), Quebec City manages to surprise me by offering something new. A new experience, a new taste, a new view, each trip to Quebec always manages to surpass my previous visit.
Quebec City is small, and can be easily done in a day. However, to fully enjoy what the city has to offer, look into staying a full 3-days/2-nights over the weekend, which is when the city comes alive.
Here are the best sights in Quebec City:
You simply cannot go to Quebec City and not take a walk through the historic neighbourhood of Old Quebec.
Old Quebec has been an UNESCO World Heritage site since 1985, and has been the spirit of French Canadian identity for many centuries.
Old Quebec is separated between the Old Upper Town and the Old Lower Town.
Old Upper Town
The Quebec City old upper town (Haute Ville) sits above the St. Lawrence river, with its top on the Cap Diamant cliffs.
The upper town offers some of the best views of the Old City, especially near the walls by the Parc du Bastion-de-la-Reine which overlooks the Chateau Frontenac and the coast guard.
For a good walking opportunity start your exploration by the Plaines d’Abraham, where many battles between the British and the French were fought, which saw the British ultimately winning.
Continue your walk past the Citadelle de Quebec, where you will find a walkway taking you behind the walls of the Citadelle, overlooking the city of Levis, ultimately taking you to the Chateau Frontenac itself, a fairy tale castle now converted into a luxury hotel.
Although a hotel, the Chateau Frontenac has a small but interesting showcase of pictures showing its construction at the bottom floor, along with some old artefacts found during the city’s 400th anniversary dig.
Finally, stroll through Saint-Jean street, one of Old Quebec City’s busiest streets where today’s world meets the past, as most of the shops and restaurants are set in authentic 18th and 19th century buildings.
Old Lower Town
The old lower town of Quebec City is a charming cobblestone street pedestrian neighbourhood located right below the old upper town.
The lower town can be reached by taking a funicular, from the walkway overlooking the sea by the Chateau Frontenac (right behind the statue), or by the stairs located near the funicular.
The funicular will leave you right in the center of the Quartier Petit Champlain, a small pedestrian street filled with restaurants and shops selling local products like maple syrup and more.
To get more of the old lower town head towards Notre Dame street and admire the old architecture of Place Royale. A bit further on Notre Dame you will find the Fresque des Quebecois, a wall painting showing historical characters from Quebec’s past.
Do not be surprised if, for at least a moment, you feel you are in the middle of old European cities like Lille or Gent. The structures of the old buildings and the views throughout the streets in the lower town of Quebec City will certainly give you that feeling.
Montmorency Falls are the tallest waterfalls in the province of Quebec. Located along the Montmorency river at 246 feet high, they are 50% higher than Canada’s iconic Niagara Falls.
There are many impressive things about these waterfalls, but the most astonishing thing about visiting the Parc des Chutes Montmorency (Montmorency Falls Park), is the number of possible views of the fall the park offers.
The falls can be easily seen from Highway 40 East; the entrance to the park from the highway offers the most “complete” view of the falls and the mountain surrounding it. This first viewpoint is located at the base of the falls, facing them.
A suspended bridge on top of the waterfalls can be reached by going up a staircase heading up from the viewpoint at the base of the falls. The bridge provides a perfect view and feeling of the potency of the falling water. If that wasn’t enough, the bridge also provides views to the bridge leading to Ile d’Orleans (more on this island down below).
There is also a cable car running up and down the mountain, with just as amazing views of the falls.
For those seeking a more up-close-and-personal experience, the Montmorency Falls Park also offers two additional ways to one-up your experience to the falls.
Via Ferrata: Steel rods and cable are literally nailed to the side of the mountain, creating a metal path where climbers, tied to the steel cable, can climb the mountain. The via ferrata starts on the left side of the falls; as climbers make their way to the front of the mountain and besides the fall, they make their way up the mountain besides the water. Overall, a thrilling experience.
Zip Lining: A steel cable running from the east to the west side of the falls allows you to fly past them, offering you the ABSOLUTE BEST views of the waterfalls you can get (not to mention one of the best zip lining experiences out there). Check out the full video of my ride here.
The Montmorency Falls fully deserves its place in the best sights in Quebec city list.
Only a few kilometres from downtown Quebec City, Ile d’Orleans runs along the banks of the St. Lawrence river and offers one of the most natural and beautiful sights near Quebec City. It is then no wonder that its nickname, the Gardens of Quebec, is well earned.
Beautiful yellow canola fields amidst strawberry, blueberry and apple farms accompany the many vineyards and wineries found on Ile d’Orleans. Through the island’s main road, you will also found many local barns selling antiques.
On the eastern side of the island, about 28 kilometres from the bridge, an ancient house (Maison Drouin) dating from the 18th century has been conserved and can be visited. Although quite small, it still provides a good picture of what life was like centuries ago.
Have you been to Quebec City? What are your best sights in Quebec city?