As you wind your way down cobbled streets, the smell of fresh pastry and sugar will be in the air. You might just think you’ve wandered into a charming European city instead of being deep in the heart of the Canadian province of Quebec. In my heart, I have often craved the historic charm that’s more commonly found in towns and in the countrysides of Europe. However, I have found that a long weekend in Quebec City is a perfect substitute.
Although a bustling hub surrounds the fortified old city, and seemingly endless activities are abound, a weekend getaway is often enough.
Here’s how to spend 48 hours in Quebec City.
Getting to Quebec City:
By Car: Connected by major highways, driving in Quebec City is a breeze. Although the surrounding city is a bustling metropolis, the streets are relatively easy to navigate. Just be aware that signs are in French, so have a reliable GPS if you are unfamiliar with the language.
By Train: The train centre is located at the base of the old town and within close walking distance of many boutique hotels and activities.
By Plane : A taxi from Jean Lessage International Airport to downtown will run about $40. If you’re on a tight budget, bus number 78 connects with the airport, but it’s a long ride into downtown. I’d recommend splurging on the taxi if you’re able to.
Where to Stay:
Air BnB: There are plenty of Air BnB options within walking distance of all the action. This could be a budget-friendly way of exploring the city.
Boutique hotels: I prefer to stay in small, locally owned boutique hotels when I travel and Quebec City provides countless opportunities for this. I would recommend staying as close to the old city as possible. The area just outside of the even older ” Le Petite Champlain” has many options for a slightly lower prices than directly in the old city.
Things to do:
Explore the old city and Le Petite Champlain: In the winter, snow covered Christmas markets take over the old town. And I n the summer, colourful flower pots climb grandiose stone steps . However, twinkling strings of lights line the beautiful cobbled streets creating a magical atmosphere any time of year. Dodge down narrow streets, while popping in and out of art galleries and shops filled with Canadian made products. Although many of the shops are pretty touristy, it still makes for a pleasant afternoon.
Do a street art walk: Like many cities world wide, Quebec City has developed quite a street art scene, particularly in the Old city. Take a guided walk or explore on your own.
Plains of Abraham : The historic battlefield offers impressive views from its high perch and is worth the walk along the sky level boardwalk. The small museum and military structures might be of interest to some history buffs interested in the local conflicts between French and English forces.
Wendake: This self governing territory in Quebec is a must if you are interested in the history of First Nations people in the area. Wendake is a historic area thriving with authentic cultural experiences. Visit a reconstructed Hero village, watch a cultural dance performance, or sample traditional foods. You will need access to a car.
Hike or Ski Mont -Sainte- Anne : Quebec City’s easy access to the Laurentien Mountains make it a nature lovers dream as well. Take to the slopes for some skiing in winter, or ride a gondola to the top and hike down in summer. In the winter, shuttles run between the city and several of the most popular slopes.
Ice Hotel: If you have access to a car, this is an impressive half day activity just outside of the city. The Ice Hotel itself makes you feel like you are a character in the movie Frozen. It is brilliantly sculpted with incredible attention to detail and complete with an ice bar where visitors can sample signature cocktails from ice glasses.
See the full post about my visit to the Ice Hotel here.
Beaver tail: This deep-fried pastry covered with the toppings of your choice is a classic Canadian treat.
Crepes: Outside of France, I have never had crepes as good as those I had in Quebec. Many eateries serve these for breakfast, but I suggest trying to find those dedicated solely to this dish for the absolute best.
Maple syrup: Although perhaps nothing special if you’re from Canada or the USA, but for international visitors this is a must! In winter, many stands sell (or give away free if you’re lucky) toffee on a stick made with real maple syrup and snow as you watch. If this is not appetizing to you pancakes or crepes are an option.
Poutine: Another Canadian specialty. It is made the absolute best in Quebec. French fries covered in locally made cheese curds and drizzled in gravy. A deep fried cholesterol heaven.
Have a few more days? Combine Quebec City with a visit to Montreal.