Quebec City is a beautiful, historical metropolitan area located along the mighty St.Lawrence River in the French speaking province of Quebec, Canada. Its one of the oldest European settlements in North America being founded in the early 17th century by French explorer Samuel de Champlain. In 1985 the old quarter was even designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site!
Quebec City has a modern downtown area like you’d expect in any city around the world, but the beautiful old quarter is right out of Europe. One interesting fact about this old city is that its the only city in North America (north of Mexico) that has the original fortified walls surrounding it, complete with ramparts and bastions. Talk about history!
Having recently visited this incredible city I was surprised by how European it felt when wandering the cobblestone streets of the old quarter. I was also surprised at how inexpensive it can be while still enjoying all that the old city has to offer. I’ve put together a list of 10 things you can do for under $10 in and around the old city, that will give you the full French Canadian experience.
1) Explore Old Quebec City
Spend a few hours or an entire day just wandering the cobblestone streets of the old city. This section of Quebec City is still surrounded by its old fort walls complete with lookout towers and canons facing the St. Lawrence River. Filled with sidewalk cafe’s, restaurants, souvenir shops and boutiques its the perfect way to spend a summer day. I truly felt like I had been transported to Europe while exploring this beautiful area, as the buildings and atmosphere remind me of my travels in Europe.
Cost – Free
2) Ride the Funicular
Make your way through the beautiful old city all the way down to the St.Lawrence River. Rather than making the steep climb back up, take a 2 min ride on the historical funicular which drops you off right in front of the stunning castle-like Chateau Frontenac.
Cost – $2.50
3) Visit Chateau Frontenac
Walking around this stunning European inspired old Chateau makes you feel like your exploring a castle in Europe. While its the most expensive digs in town to stay at, its free to wander along the boardwalk that boarders its east end. Be sure to look up often and walk its entire length to see the turrets high above. There are also great vies of the St. Lawrence River from this vantage point and often buskers preforming for the crowds of tourists.
Cost – Free
4) Grab an Ice Cream
There are way too many ice cream and gelato stores in this city to count. Wait, I take that back. Can there ever be too much ice cream?! Just when the heat of the afternoon hits you, this is the perfect sweet, cold treat to cool you off.
Cost – $3 – $8 (depending on your taste and appetite)
5) Walk along the wall of the Old City
As I’ve already mentioned, the old fortification wall still surrounds the old quarter and you can walk along it from one look out tower to the next. I’ll be honest here, I actually only walked the section at the old cities main entrance (at Rue Saint Louis & Rue d’Auteuil) as this is the most obvious place to begin. An archway spans over Rue Saint Louis, complete with a tower on the south side. Take the wall east to the next look out tower for great views of the city.
Cost – free
6) Wander the Citadelle
Ok, I’m breaking the rules here. This one if a bit above the budget of $10 (entry fee is $16) but since some of the other items on this list are free, I just had to include it. One of the Old Cities main attractions, the Citadelle is a national historical site that offers many activities including, watching the changing of the guard, a museum explaining the fortress and cities 300 yr history and comes with amazing views. One thing I was surprised to learn is that its the largest British fortress built in North America!
Cost – $16 (Adult)
7) Visit Quebec Cities Parliament Building on Parliament Hill
This stunning European inspired building reaches high in the sky and is probably the other roof top you can see from afar (the first being Chateau Frontenac). The front of the building has a wide open walkway surrounded by beautiful manicured gardens full of blooming flowers. A large fountain and statue sits front and center while two staircases on either side sweep around and up to the front doors.
Cost – Free to wander the grounds and free guided tours inside.
8) Grab a drink during happy hour along Grande Allee E and people watch
This is where its at if your out looking for a meal or just a patio for a drink. I stopped for a $5 pint (happy hour!) here one Saturday afternoon and, not only did I get to try a local micro brew, I was also very entertained by watching the throngs of people walking up and down the street during this peak time of day. If your into cars, this is a the perfect location to set up shop and wait for the Maserati’s, Lamborghini’s and Corvettes to drive by.
Cost ~ $5 /pint
9) Visit the Plains of Abraham Park
Otherwise known as Battlefields Park, this vast 103 hectare park is located right in the city and is a beautiful place to wander and drown out the city noises. Located just south west of the old city, the enormous green space has beautiful gardens and the large grassy fields that are perfect for laying down a blanket for a picnic or reading a book. The park over looks the St. Lawrence River were you can watch the giant tankers moving along the rivers aquatic highway. You might notice some old canons and tower buildings, remnants of the old fort. Casting your view north, you see the expanse of the citadel with the towers of historical Chateau Frontenac in the background. The National Arts Museum can be found near the south end and this park hosts many outdoor concerts throughout the year given its large size and ability to hold thousands of people.
Cost – free
10) Try a Poutine!
Canada has few dishes that are authentically Canadian so trying a poutine is a must. What exactly is a poutine you ask? Well its a delicious concoction of french fries, covered in cheese curds, topped with warm gravy. I know what your thinking but seriously, don’t knock it till you try it! Originating in Quebec in the 1950’s (where exactly is still up for debate), you can find poutine across the country but the Quebecois pride themselves in making the best. Some restaurants make variations of the original poutine such as Bacon Poutine, Pulled Pork Poutine, Cheese Burger Poutine, and I recently tried General Tao (chicken) Poutine! Mmmmm…. poutine.
Cost – Generally $5 – $10
You don’t need to have a lot of time to thoroughly enjoy Old Quebec City. I had just 24 hrs and managed to not only explore but also relax and soak in the culture. If you have a few days, even better! Its well worth the effort to make it to this incredible urban area and you don’t have to blow your budget to experience the Old City either. I hope to return again this fall to see the city while the fall colors are in full effect!