Mind you, just so we’re clear on that – three-and-a-half days is NOT enough to see everything worth seeing in Québec City and the area.
From its centuries-old stone buildings that look like they were transported straight from France, to its many museums, this charming city of about half a million has a lot to offer to visitors.
Unfortunately, we only had a long weekend for this visit, but if you have more time, do yourself a favor and spend a few more days in this capital of the Canadian province of Québec.
It’s an about six-hour drive from Boston, another old city worth seeing, but it’s very different than any American cities you will see, including the also-French New Orleans.
We saw the following attractions in Québec City. You can decide whether you want to put them on your to-see list as well.
Les Tours du Vieux Québec
Whenever we’re visiting a city for the first time, we like to do a bus tour, just to get a general overview and feel of the city. In every city there might be streets and areas that buses don’t go to, of course, and that applies to Québec City as well, but Les Tours du Vieux Québec does a pretty impressive loop on their Ligne Rouge.
It’s is a hop-on-hop-off type of tour, with 12 stops, but buses leave only about every 30 minutes, so you’ll have to time your visits to local museums just right, so that you don’t have to wait.
We did the whole loop the first day, and it was a lot of fun getting this general overview of Québec City from the upper deck!
Funiculaire du Vieux-Québec
The Funiculaire was built in 1879, and modernized in 1998. The ride isn’t long, but the kids liked the view onto the river, and if you don’t want to face the stairs, it’s a fairly cheap ($2.25 CAN) option to get you up or down the hill.
Lunch at Le Comptoir
Le Comptoir is located on rue Saint-Jean, a bit to the west beyond the walls of the Old Québec. It was recommended by the concierge at the place where we stayed, and since it was on our way, we decided to stop and try some poutine, of course.
(For those of you who don’t know what poutine is, it’s a traditional Quebecois dish of french fries, topped with a light brown gravy-like sauce and cheese curds. It’s probably incredibly unhealthy, but it’s also very yummy, when made well.)
All in all, Le Comptoir is a funky little restaurant, with nice, urban décor.
While you’re on rue Saint-Jean, you walk a bit further west, to 755 rue Saint-Jean. The building at that address looks like a church, and it used to be a church – an Anglican St. Matthew’s church to be exact. In 1979 the building was purchased by City of Quebec to accommodate a library. If the library, known in French as Bibliothèque Saint-Jean-Baptiste, is open, go inside and look at the beautiful stain glass windows!
Observatoire de la Capitale
The Observatoire de la Capitale is located on the 31st floor of the Marie-Guyart Building, and is the highest vantage point in Québec City. You can get an impressive panoramic view from its floor to ceiling windows into every direction.
The Observatoire also offers touch screen stations pointing out the most important buildings, wall displays illustrating the city’s history, and audio stations where you can listen to narratives about the area’s history “told” by historical figures.
Érico Chocolaterie et Pâtisserie Créative – Érico Creative Chocolate Shop and Chocolate Museum
Either on the way to the Observatoire or on the way back to the Old Québec, stop at the Érico Chocolaterie et Pâtisserie Créative, located at 634 Rue Saint-Jean. You can get there some pretty yummy (though pricey) chocolates and ice cream, but make sure you also walk around their one-room Chocolate Museum.
My daughter loved the “feel without seeing” displays and trying to guess what she was touching, and the chocolate whisk used by the Mayans to whip up chocolate into liquid form.
Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec
Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec is located quite a bit to the west from the Old Québec. If you’re staying within the city walls, it will take you at least 20 minutes by foot to get there. You can drive there and park, of course, or you can try public transportation, and use the trip planner Trajecto.
It’s not a huge museum, compared to some famous art museums you might have seen if you traveled to London, New York City, or even Boston, but it’s worth visiting.
Make sure you don’t miss the “prison” wing – the Charles Baillairgé Pavillion was the Québec City jail for more than a century and was incorporated into the museum in 1991.
Also, the new addition to the museum, that will allow it to show a larger percentage of its collections, is scheduled to open in 2016.
Musée de la place Royale
Musée de la place Royale, located at the original site of a trading post established in 1608 by Samuel de Champlain, offers a glimpse into the history of New France from its founding in 1608 through today.
Don’t miss “Facing Champlain” – a 3D movie which in a quite artistic way offers an overview of myths surrounding the founder of Québec City – Samuel de Champlain.
The museum also has a small, but fun dress-up section for kids on the ground level.
Traverse Québec – Lévis
Traverse Québec – Lévis is a short ferry ride that connects Québec City and Lévis, located on the opposite bank of the St. Lawrence River.
My daughter declared that was the most fun thing she did that day, and my son had a lot of fun playing with my iPhone during the trip, making slow-mo and time-lapse videos.
Word of advice: take the ferry either in the morning, when the Old Québec will be illuminated by the morning sun, or in the evening, when you can see the city lights. Otherwise your photos might be not quite as attractive.
Walk around the Old Québec and beyond
Québec City is such a charming place you have to set aside some time to just walk around, even if you did the sightseeing bus tour.
From the quaint shops on the Rue Petit Champlain that looks a bit like the Diagon Alley from Harry Potter movies, to the Hôtel du Parlement (the Parliament building), with vegetables growing in front, the city offers plenty of interesting photo ops.
Musée de la civilisation à Québec (Museum of Civilization)
The Musée de la civilisation à Québec (Museum of Civilization) is an interesting place, with very cutting edge modern exhibits on shantytown cities, as well as a fun dressing room and play area for the kids.
While we visited, it also featured “Frame x Frame” on animation, together with a hands-on room where you could spend quite a bit of time making your own stop-motion feature.
My daughter liked the dressing area the most, of course. My son declared the “Earth Unveiled” section, together with its simulator of scale 7 Earthquake room was the most interesting.
Musée de l’Amérique francophone
Musée de l’Amérique francophone was nearly deserted when we visited. It’s not a large museum, but if you like history, it offers a very interesting and artistically designed glimpse into the life at the colony founded in 1540s, located at the site of the Old Quebec, nearly 60 years before Quebec City was founded.
The museum is located on the site of the Séminaire de Québec, and before you get to the exhibit area, you have to walk through the seminar chapel, deconsecrated in 1992.
Late lunch at Baguette Et Chocolat
Baguette & Chocolat at 36 Cote de la Fabrique isn’t by any means the most famous or the most delicious place in the city, but that’s where we stopped when kids started whining for ice cream, and we noticed they had an ice cream display just by the entrance.
When we went inside, it turned out they also have a deli and make crêpes. My son had two of them. I had one, and can tell you that they are BIG.
Day Four (morning)
Aquarium du Québec
In the morning of Day Four, on the way home, we stopped at the Aquarium du Québec, something that all of us enjoyed very much.
The aquarium website says you can get close to the aquarium on bus routes 13, 25 and 400 (during summer only). We parked in the parking lot right outside the front entrance.
In addition to fresh and salt water tanks, the Aquarium also houses seals, sea lions, polar bears, and polar foxes. We spent quite a bit of time there.
Personally, I found the jellyfish mesmerizing. The kids liked everything, from the playground, and watching the polar foxes play, to touching the sting rays.
What did we miss?
I was hoping to see the 3D display at the Maison historique Chevalier, but it was closed when we visited.
We also didn’t have enough time to go east to the Parc de la Chute-Montmorency, the Huron-Wendat Museum, the geological museum Le Musée de géologie René-Bureau de l’Université Laval, or the botanical garden Jardin botanique Roger-Van den Hende at Universite Laval.
I was also hoping to walk down the in the evening and see the artistic giant lampshades on Cartier Avenue aglow.
Obviously, we’ll have to go to Québec City again some time. I certainly wouldn’t mind!
Even with visiting historical and art museums, both my kids declared they liked Québec City very much, even more than Madrid, Spain, which rather surprised me.
Office du tourisme de Québec / Québec City Tourism
In closing, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to the Office du tourisme de Québec / Québec City Tourism who provided our whole family not only with passports to the city attractions but also tickets to the bus tour.
As is customary to say in these cases, all opinions are our own, but I can honestly say we had a fabulous long weekend!
You can create your own discount passport at the Discount Passport web site.
Where to Stay in Quebec City
Or, you can stay at one of the other hotels, B&Bs, hostels, or apartments available in that great city. There are plenty to choose from.
Québec City Pinterest Board
If you’re planning a trip to Québec City, feel free to repin my Québec City Pinterest board where I included all of the attractions mentioned above, plus a whole lot of blog posts by other travel bloggers. Enjoy!
Invitation to #WeekendWanderlust Link Up
#WeekendWanderlust, hosted by Chris & Heather from A Brit and a Southerner, Jessi & Tara from Outbound Adventurer, Ashley from A Southern Gypsy, Justin and Lauren from Justin Plus Lauren, and yours truly, is a collaborative effort to share travel blog posts, and to discuss all travel-related things.
The hosts organize each week a link up through which travel bloggers from around the world can promote their posts, in exchange for a promise to give some attention to other travel bloggers. (One of the rules for linking up is to comment on three linked up posts.)
If the link up is still open, feel free to add a link to one of your posts below, then comment on three linked up posts. And I welcome comments as well, of course!