Exploring Quebec City: An European Experience in North America | Travel Guide

Having wandered the enchanting streets of Quebec City myself, I can say it truly feels like stepping into a European vacation. The winding cobblestone streets, charming brick buildings, and horse-drawn carriages create an atmosphere unlike any other. To make the most of your leisurely day in this historically-rich town, venture beyond the usual tourist spots and delve into its authentic charm and mouth-watering cuisine. Don’t just stick to the souvenir shops of the old town; let yourself explore and uncover the hidden gems that make Quebec City so special. Based on my experiences, here are my suggestions for places to see.

Le Clocher Penché

Start your day off with Le Clocher Penché, on rue St Joseph in the Lower Town (Basse-Ville) of Quebec. Weekend brunches are divine, with a menu that changes seasonally, but always includes original takes on breakfast classics. The price of the meal includes coffee and a pre-brunch appetizer, which is usually yogurt, homemade granola, and fruit. During the week, when brunch at Clocher Penché is unavailable, opt instead for pastries and a bowl of café au lait at Le Croquembouche, also on rue St Joseph. With everything from perfectly flakey croissants to mouth-watering pastries with unpronounceable names, you’re sure to find something to suit your tastes. Tables are limited, but the bakery is less crowded on week days than weekends.

Old Quebec City
Old Quebec City tourist attractions of Quartier Petit Champlain lower town, shopping district and old French architecture.

Old Port Market

Once you’ve enjoyed breakfast, take a leisurely stroll along the St Charles River towards the Old Port Market. This pedestrian path goes through parks, under bridges, and behind the train station, avoiding the traffic of downtown Québec. It is a popular route for locals on bikes, rollerblades, and foot. Once you reach the market, get a sampling cup of strawberries or raspberries, eat gelato in the courtyard, or simply enjoy the bright colors of fresh, local produce. The market is open every day of the year except Christmas Day, and vendors change with the seasons.

Antique stores and art galleries

From the market, turn up to rue St Paul, where antique stores, art galleries, and eco-boutiques crowd with cafés and condos. You’ll find everything from handmade soaps to collector hockey cards to oil paintings, and even if you aren’t looking to buy browsing is a fun way to discover Québec culture (for example, many antique stores carry miniature versions of Québec’s famous Bonhomme Carnaval from many years ago).

Rue St Paul

Near the end of rue St Paul is a collection of cafés and restaurants, clustered around a figurehead fountain in a square. This fountain, which commemorates the 50th anniversary of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, also doubles as a water park for overheated kids in the summer. Stop in one of these cafés for an afternoon snack, and maybe a beer on the sidewalk terrace, and watch the people go by. SSS (for Simple Snack Sympathique) has a wonderful assortment of shareable plates, including beer-battered onion rings with a honey-ginger dipping sauce.

Petit Champlain neighborhood

While escaping the crowds of tourists is the best way to see the city, a visit to Québec wouldn’t be complete without taking in the Petit Champlain neighborhood, the oldest commercial neighborhood in North America. From rue St Paul, turn right onto rue Sault du Matelot, and continue onto rue Notre Dame. Old churches, artists’ workshops, street performers, tourist shops, and restaurants compete for attention in the tiny streets. For a view across the river or to visit the Chateau Frontenac, work your way up the long staircase to the Upper Town (Haute-Ville), or take the funicular and enjoy the ride.

Quebec City
Night brings a romantic character to the old stone buildings of historic Quebec City. Founded in 1608, Quebec remains a walled fortress and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Where to eat in Québec City

You will find a good dinner at almost any one of the restaurants in this area, but for good food with a great view walk back along the water to Café du Monde. Tables on the terrace and next to the large windows look out across the St Lawrence River, and sunsets are spectacular. Service here is friendly and the menu has a wide selection of local specialties.

Around Québec City

If you are visiting during the summer be sure to check out the various festivals that take place in and around Québec City. Between the Old Port Market and Café du Monde you will find both the free Cirque du Soleil show and the Image Mill, a selection of films projected onto the grain mill on the river.

Quebec is a welcoming city, and no matter where you are from or what you do you’ll be met with smiles.

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