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Why take a guided tour when you can get out and enjoy all Québec City has to offer at your own pace? From historic sites to restaurants and shopping, the storied city’s attractions are nestled closely together, making a walking tour one of the best ways to see it all. Below, we’ve detailed two exciting walking tours—one in Upper Town and one in Lower Town—that give tourists a comprehensive look at life in La Vieille Capitale.
Day one: Take a journey through historic Upper Town
1. Get started on your visite historique with a trip to the Plains of Abraham, Canada’s first national historic park, viewed by many as an oasis of greenery in the heart of the city. At 250 acres, the park is the site of two important battles in the French and Indian War. Stop in the museum to learn more about the park’s military history, or enjoy a morning stroll through its lush green meadows.
2. Walk northeast along the boardwalk until you come to the Citadelle, a star-shaped fortress known for its role in fending off an American invasion during the War of 1812. Located on the top of Cap Diamant, the highest point in the area, the Citadelle offers a beautiful view of the surrounding city. The fortress is still an active military base, so be sure to watch the changing of the guards on summer mornings at 10 a.m. Continue along the fortifications—city walls built between 1608 and 1871—to experience North America’s only walled city north of Mexico. Nearly three miles in length and open to the public, the walls offer a peek into the city’s vast defense system.
3. Exit the fortifications at Porte St. Louis to visit the Parliament Building, where Québec City’s National Assembly meets. Take a moment to appreciate both the building’s stunning Second Empire architecture and the 22 statues of important figures in Québec’s history lining the building exterior. If you like, head inside for one of many daily tours, or stay outdoors and enjoy the splendor that is Fontaine de Tourny, a 23-foot fountain purchased in France and donated to the city by the Simons family, owners of the largest department stores in Québec City, in 2007.
4. Grab a traditional French lunch along Rue St. Louis before continuing up to Rue St. Jean for a delicious surprise: Canadian Maple Delights, or Les Délices de l’Érable. Stock up on all the maple goodies your heart desires—from syrup and candies to dressings and rubs, this is the one-stop shop for those with a sweet tooth.
5. After recovering from your sugar crash, stroll east to Rue Trésor, where you might find some new décor for your home. The narrow street is an open-air gallery that’s home to several artists who set up shop every day to sell original paintings, etchings, and silkscreen works.
6. Next, walk to what is perhaps Québec City’s best-known attraction: Château Frontenac. Cicérone offers tours of the building, but what’s special about the hotel is the view from the outside. Said to be the most photographed hotel in the world, Château Frontenac is situated perfectly for a sweeping view of the St. Lawrence River and Laurentian Mountains. To enjoy the upscale experience inside without booking a room, grab a cocktail at one of the hotel’s two bars.
Day two: Enjoy Lower Town, the bustling city below
1. From Terrasse Dufferin—after you take in the spectacular view of the St-Lawrence River and the Petit Champlain—take the funicular, on which you’ll travel 195 feet at a 45-degree angle down to Lower Town. Or, for more of a workout, take the Breakneck Steps (L’Escalier Casse-Cou). In the summer, locals run these stairs and others in the city in the Québec City Staircase Challenge—when you see the incline, you’ll know why it’s called a challenge!
2. Both the funicular and stairs lead to Rue du Petit-Champlain, a quaint street full of shops, restaurants, and bars. The narrow alley is the oldest commercial district in North America and feels distinctly European: Here, it’s clear the French were very influential in the city’s design.
3. Once you’ve shopped Petit-Champlain, head north to Place-Royale, where city founder Samuel Champlain constructed the first trading post in 1608. Now, the square is a bustling location for events and the home to Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church, the oldest stone church in North America. Stop inside to view a stunning set of 19th century frescoes as well as a model of the Brézé, the ship that transported Lieutenant General Marquis de Tracy to Canada.
4. Located within a five-minute walk of one another, Musée de la place Royale and Musée de la Civilisation offer an inside look at the history of Québec City. At Musée de la Civilisation, learn about the city’s rich culture and take part in a family workshop. For a more immersive experience, visit Musée de la Place-Royale, where you can view historical reenactments by performers in period costume.
5. Round out your trip to Lower Town with an evening at Vieux-Port (Old Port). Visit one of Rue St. Paul’s many shops, galleries, and cafés, or stop at the Québec Public Market during the day for seasonal fruit, cheese, meats, and baked goods.