Moon Québec City


By Sacha Jackson

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See the City with a local!

Sacha Jackson lives and works in Québec. In this book, she shares what she loves about Québec City with you.

Experience the life of the city in the best neighborhoods—traverse historic Quartier du Petit Champlain and trendy Saint-Roch.

Stroll the top of Les Fortifications and see stunning Château Frontenac.

Find the best late-night poutine and the squeakiest cheese curds.

Catch live music at a boîte à chansons and quaff artisanal Quebecois beer at La Barberie.

Make excursions to the Côte-de-Beaupré, Île d'Orléans, and Charlevoix.

Get oriented and navigate the city on the go.


DISCOVER Québec City

Planning Your Trip

The Best of Québec City


Romantic Weekend Getaway


The province of Québec is a place all its own: It’s a country within a country with its own traditions, architecture, and language. Perched on a cliff above the St-Lawrence River, Québec City is the soul of the province: the first city to be founded in Canada, the seat of the Québec government, and the self-proclaimed “Capitale Nationale.”

The historic landmarks and 17th-century architecture are captivating. But what will impress you the most is the infectious energy that people exude here. Temperatures drop below freezing in winter but bars and restaurants are still packed, with windows steaming with that unmistakable joie de vivre.

You can still walk the narrow, cobblestone streets of Vieux-Port or pose next to one of the many cannons that line the city’s walls. But a youthful revolution in the old working-class neighborhoods is bringing a daring new quality of art and culture to this historic city.

Planning Your Trip

Where to Go
Vieux-Québec’s Upper Town

Les Fortifications surround Vieux-Québec’s Upper Town, a 400-year-old neighborhood where the history of the winding streets and original architecture remains safe from the ravages of time. Protected by these walls is the Château Frontenac, Québec City’s most famous sight, and the Séminaire de Québec, one of the city’s oldest sights.

the entrance into Vieux-Québec’s Upper Town

Vieux-Québec’s Lower Town

The stone Norman-style buildings and cobblestone streets of Place Royale mark the country’s birthplace. History is unavoidable here, from the narrow lanes of Quartier du Petit-Champlain to the historic Vieux-Port, with its converted warehouses, antiques shops, and trendy hotels.

Parliament Hill and the Plains

Outside of the walls are the Plains of Abraham and Battlefield Park, the site of France’s historic defeat by the British. The seat of the provincial government is to its north, housed in Hôtel du Parlement. Running alongside the government building are the nightclubs and bars of La Grande-Allée, the city’s nightlife destination. Also in the Plains is Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec, which holds the largest existing collection of Québec art.

Saint-Jean-Baptiste and Saint-Roch

Once working-class neighborhoods, Saint-Jean-Baptiste and Saint-Roch are now trendy, bohemian neighborhoods, home to the city’s coolest kids, and the area where you’ll find the best bars, browse independent boutiques, and catch the latest bands. It’s also a major arts hub, and the contemporary arts complex Méduse is located here.

Les Fortifications, a popular place to take a break in the summer

Greater Québec City

In the areas surrounding the center of the city, find kid-friendly destinations like the Aquarium du Québec and the beautiful, sprawling gardens of Parc du Bois-de-Coulonge. The slopes of Mont-Sainte-Anne are fun for the whole family.

Excursions from Québec City

Just a half-hour drive from the city are the picturesque towns of Île d’Orléans and Côte-de-Beaupré, while an hour north, the Charlevoix region has some of the most spectacular scenery in the region.

When to Go

Though summer is the busiest time to visit, it’s also the best time to explore the cities’ neighborhoods, and you’ll get to experience fun summer events like the Festival d’Été.

It’s no surprise that prices drop considerably October-April, so if you can handle a bit of cold, your pocketbook will thank you. Plus, the cold isn’t so bad when it’s hockey season and 98 percent of the people—and you—are crowded into bars watching the game. Quebéc City winters can be particularly freezing, but December-March is an ideal time to visit if you love skiing or other winter recreational activities. October is particularly pretty thanks to the changing fall foliage, and even February has a couple of bright spots with the Carnaval de Québec’s unadulterated celebration of snow.

Before You Go
Passports and Visas

All visitors must have a valid passport or other accepted secure documents to enter the country; even those entering from the United States by road or train must have these documents.

Citizens of the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Japan, and most Western European countries don’t need visas to enter Canada for stays up to 180 days. U.S. permanent residents are also exempt.

Nationals from South Africa, China, and about 150 other countries must apply for a temporary resident visa (TRV) in their home country. Full details can be found at Citizen and Immigration Canada. Single-entry visitor visas are valid for six months and cost $75, while multiple-entry visas cost $150 and last for two years, as long as a single stay doesn’t last for longer than six months. A separate visa is required if you intend to work in Canada.


Most visitors arriving by air will land at Montréal’s Pierre Trudeau International Airport, the main hub for both national and international air travel to the province. Direct flights are also available to Quebéc City’s Aéroport International Jean-Lesage de Québec. It’s about 15 kilometers from downtown, but there are no shuttles to downtown from this airport.

If you’re arriving by train you’ll arrive at Québec City’s Gare du Palais near the Vieux-Port. Those arriving by bus in Québec City will also arrive at the Gare du Palais.

Québec City’s transit system is limited to buses, but they are fast and efficient in getting you up those steep hills. Taxis are useful when the winter hits, though they can be hard to flag down, depending on the area. Although driving the city streets is straightforward enough, if you’re not used to ice and snow, it’s better to leave it to the pros.

The Best of Québec City

Four days is the perfect length of time to visit Québec City, allowing you to dedicate enough time to experience the city’s historic center with a few side trips.

Day 1

Drop off your luggage at your hotel in Vieux-Québec’s Upper Town then head directly to Café-Boulangerie Paillard for some fresh croissants. Browse the shops and historic buildings on Côte de la Fabrique until it brings you to Terrasse Dufferin in the shadow of Château Frontenac. Snack on a beaver tail pastry as you stroll the promenade and look out over the St-Lawrence, then head into the chateau for a guided tour.

Tour the historic Citadelle and then wander through the winding streets and alleys of Upper Town.

La Citadelle

For dinner, take your pick of the restaurants along rue St-Louis or splurge at Le Patriarche. After dinner, walk along Les Fortifications and finish the night at a boîte à chansons, such as Le Pape-Georges, or with a nightcap at the cozy Bar Ste-Angèle.

Day 2

After breakfast at Crêperie le Billig take the Escalier du Casse-Cou or ride the Funiculaire du Vieux-Québec down to one of the oldest streets in North America, rue du Petit-Champlain. Browse the independent boutiques and follow the cobblestone lanes that will eventually lead you to Place Royale. Take a peek at La Fresque des Québécois and see if you can point out the famous characters. Whether you fail the test or not, head to the Musée de la Civilisation and brush up on your history.

Musée de la Civilisation

The Escalier du Casse-Cou connects Upper and Lower Town.

After visiting the museum, head west along rue St-Paul to browse antique stores. Or skip the stores and take the well-hidden rue Sous-le-Cap until it brings you to Galerie Madeleine Lacerte. Check out the latest exhibit and then cross the street for a drink at Taverne Belley and watch the locals playing petanque.

On your way to Saint-Roch, stop to admire the graffiti murals on the highway overpass, then head for a bistro dinner at Les Bossus. Cap the night off with a show at Le Cercle and a bit of dancing at La Cuisine.

Day 3

Have a hearty breakfast at Le Petit Coin Latin, then head to the Fontaine de Tourny and take a trip around the statues at the Hôtel du Parlement. Stroll the rolling hills of the Parc des Plaines d’Abraham and make a stop at Tours Martellos. Continue through the park all the way to the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec. After seeing the latest exhibit, grab launch at Morena on avenue Cartier.

Follow Cartier south, down the sloping hill, and take a right on rue St-Jean, where you can spend the rest of the afternoon popping in and out of stores and drinking coffee at the many cafés. Don’t miss Auberge J.A. Moisan, the oldest grocery store in North America, or the quiet shade of St-Matthew Church and Cemetery.

While you’ve got the European vibe going why not continue with a French wine and regional cuisine at Le Moine Échanson. After your meal, head over to La Grande-Allée for a taste of sophisticated nightlife at Le Charlotte Ultra Lounge.

Day 4

Head down to Cyclo Services and rent bikes for the day. Pack your bags with sandwiches and goodies from the Marché du Vieux-Port and then take the Corridor du Littoral heading west. Ride about three kilometers and make a stop at the historic park Domaine Maizerets. After a wander among the ancient trees and lily-pad ponds, get back on your bike and ride another nine kilometers to the impressive park Chute Montmorency.

Leave your bike and follow the path closest to the falls and cool off in the mist. If you have any energy left, climb the stairs to the top for a view of the falls and mythic Île d’Orléans.

After you’ve taken in the view, go for a well-earned dinner at L’Aventure, then get back on your bikes and return to the city. Once there, leave the bikes at the rental place and head for a late-night stroll around the Vieux-Port, grabbing a treat at Le Marché du Vieux Port along the way.

Head back to your hotel for a good night’s rest before heading home the next morning.

Romantic Weekend Getaway

For a short, romantic getaway, Québec City is considered one of the most romantic cities in North America. The winding cobblestone streets, classic New France architecture, and overall charming ambience have a tendency to bring out the amorous side in visitors. But nothing seems forced about it—instead, the city carries its romantic status quite naturally.

Day 1

Check into your suite at the plush Auberge Saint-Antoine and then go exploring along the cobblestone streets of Quartier du Petit-Champlain. Stop for a coffee or a cool drink on the corner terrace of Lapin Sauté and be charmed by the traditional music of street performers. Head to Place Royale and check out the small but beautiful chapel in Église Notre-Dame-des-Victoires.

Église Notre-Dame-des-Victoires, on Place Royale

a quaint staircase in the historic Quartier du Petit-Champlain

Browse antiques and galleries on rue St-Pierre and rue St-Paul. Stroll among the boats and quays of the Vieux-Port, then head to Quai Chouinard and board the Louis Jolliet.

Enjoy views of Chute Montmorency, Île d’Orléans, and the illuminated city on this four-hour boat cruise as you dine on a five-course meal.

Day 2

Breakfast at Panache and then take the Funiculaire du Vieux-Québec to Terrasse Dufferin. Snap the requisite shots of Château Frontenac before taking the stairs at the far end to the Parc des Plaines d’Abraham. Stroll through the park to the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec. After browsing the largest existing collection of Québec art, pick up some gourmet treats at Les Halles du Petit Quartier on Cartier, then grab a cab to Parc du Bois-de-Coulonge. Picnic overlooking the St-Lawrence River, then wander the grounds, and don’t miss the arboretum close to the shore.

Hail a cab back to Upper Town and shop the independent boutiques along rue St-Jean. Freshen up back at the hotel and cab it to your reservation in the glass dining room at Le Saint-Amour. After dinner, take a moonlight tour through the streets in a caléche (horse-drawn carriage), stopping to admire the view at the Parc du Cavalier-du-Moulin. Then grab a cozy nook at Pub St-Alexandre for a nightcap.

Québec City skyline at dusk

Day 3

Rise early and drive to the base of the Chute Montmorency, about 20 minutes outside of Québec City, where you’ll board the train Le Massif for a leisurely trip up-river. Take in the stunning views of the Charlevoix region and the St-Lawrence from this luxury locomotive. Disembark at Baie-Saint-Paul, check out the modern and ecofriendly hotel La Ferme before exploring the town’s cultural heritage at the many galleries and artisanal shops. If all that walking makes you thirsty, grab a local microbrew at Le Saint-Pub.

Hop back on the train heading a farther 40 minutes north to the majestic Fairmont le Manoir Richelieu in La Malbaie for an overnight stay. Located on the banks of the river, it’s one of the prettiest spots in the region and a perfect place to kick back for the night. When you’re settled in your room, relax next to the outdoor pool and get a massage at the in-house spa.

In the evening have dinner at Vices Versa, and get a taste of the local cuisine.



Vieux-Québec’s Upper Town

Vieux-Québec’s Lower Town

Parliament Hill and the Plains

Saint-Jean-Baptiste and Saint-Roch

Greater Québec City

The only fortified city left in North America, Québec City is like no other place on the continent. Constructed on the top of Cap Diamant, a cliff that looks out over the St-Lawrence River, the city is defined by its natural hills and cliffs, though from afar it’s not always easy to notice. Québec City is the cradle of Canadian society, where in 1608 the first settlers arrived. Led by Samuel de Champlain, they built the first habitation on the site that’s now called Place Royale. It was under French rule until 1759, when it fell to the British at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, but this political feat did not alter the existing French-Canadian culture and way of life. Despite 100 years of British rule and the eventual founding of the Canadian Dominion, the city’s ties to the early settlers remain remarkably intact. It’s this lineage and incredible architectural heritage that give it its own unique (albeit European) feel.

Quebéc City is divided into two main areas, Haute-Ville (Upper Town) and Basse-Ville (Lower Town). They are easy to differentiate thanks to their geography. Upper Town constitutes the area on the top of the cliff, while Lower Town constitutes everything below it. It’s in Upper Town that you’ll find Les Fortifications, the walled defenses that encircle Old Québec’s Upper Town and many of the biggest sights, including Château Frontenac and La Citadelle.

Directly below, between the cliff and the river, is Vieux-Québec’s Basse-Ville (Old Québec’s Lower Town). This is where the first European settlement was established, near Place Royale, and where historic areas like the Vieux-Port (Old Port) and the Quartier du Petit-Champlain are situated. Getting from the lower to the upper part of the city isn’t complicated, provided the winding, hilly streets aren’t sheets of ice. Taking the Escalier Frontenac (Frontenac Stairs) is the easiest way, but the funicular and the brand-new Ecobuses offer some good alternatives.

Though separated by a cliff, Vieux-Québec is quite small and dense, so it’s easy to cover by foot. In fact the best way to get around the city, in winter or summer, is by walking. Expect to get quite a workout, though, thanks to the hilly geography. No matter where you are in the city, if you want to get down or up, there are likely stairs involved, or at the very least, a city bus. Due to the density of the city, even peripheral areas like the Plains (just outside of the walls in Upper Town) and Saint-Roch (the city’s coolest post code, located in Lower Town) are only a 15-minute walk from Vieux-Québec.

Of course, Québec is a vastly different city with a completely different landscape in winter than in summer. Many sites close during the winter or have truncated hours. What constitutes the different seasons, however, is a complicated matter. A good general rule of thumb is the following: Summer hours usually run from June 24, Saint-Jean-Baptiste day and the province’s national holiday, to Labor Day, the first Monday in September. Winter hours, meanwhile, could start as early as Labor Day or Canadian Thanksgiving (the second Monday of October) and run until May or June. Many of these dates fluctuate according to the weather, so make sure to double-check hours if there’s a particular sight you want to visit.

With so many interesting historical sites just about everywhere you turn in Québec City—even a stroll down Faubourg Saint-Jean Baptiste is a lesson in the city’s evolution—there’s no time for a dull moment.


On Sale
Aug 25, 2015
Page Count
200 pages
Moon Travel

Sacha Jackson

About the Author

Sacha Jackson first visited Québec as an eighth-grader. Years later, she moved to Montréal with a high school diploma and a bad French accent. As a student there, she learned that the best way to get to know the city was on a bike, spending many nights touring the quiet, tree-lined streets and racing friends down Mont-Royal.

After graduating from college, Sacha lived in London and Toronto before settling back in Montréal. Two of her favorite things about the city are its impractical outdoor circular staircases and the smell of hot bagels; as for Québec City, she makes regular visits there to wander its cobbled streets and picnic on the Plains of Abraham.

Sacha is a Montréal-based freelance writer and editor. Her writing has appeared in Dazed & Confused Magazine, the Montréal Mirror, Exclaim! and elsewhere.

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