Things to Do in Old Quebec, Canada

Château Frontenac claims to be the world's most-photographed hotel
Château Frontenac claims to be the world's most-photographed hotel | © Shawn Lee / Unsplash
Photo of Patrick Twomey
7 August 2020

Old Quebec (Vieux Quebec) is an architectural gem and famous for being the only remaining walled city in North America. Quebec is recognized as the oldest city in North America and Old Quebec is easily walkable, consisting of an upper and lower town.

While the community feels distinctly French and over 90 percent of the population speak French as a first language, the architecture is a fusion of French, British and Canadian adaptations. Quebec is a major tourist destination, yet manages to keep its feel and energy.

The Château Frontenac

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Standing imposingly over Quebec, this famous hotel claims to be the most photographed in the world. It was built as part of the Canadian Pacific chain of hotels that contributed to Canada’s formation and success. The chateau is perfectly located for exploring the Old Town and the best angle for photos is from the lower town – ideally from a boat or ship on the Saint Lawrence.
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Louis Jolliet

Historical Landmark
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Louis-Jolliet Excursion Boat on the Saint Lawrence River,  Quebec City, Canada.
Quebec was once known as New France | © Dan Leeth / Alamy Stock Photo

Offering sightseeing and dinner cruises on the Saint Lawrence, the Louis Jolliet docks in the lower town and is easy to walk to. The Saint Lawrence itself is one of the world’s great waterways and served as the original entrance into North America for Europeans (the name Quebec means “narrowing of the river”).

Take a walking tour

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark
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Cars and busses do drive in the old town, but it’s really best visited on foot. There are many different tours – covering everything from art and food to history – but the best of them will include both the upper and lowers towns. Don’t be put off by the climb, as there are stairs and a funicular cog elevator.

Museum of Civilization

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Opened in 1988, Quebec’s most popular museum is located near the river in the lower town. The modern design fits in well with the surrounding architecture, and the museum is an excellent place to explore French history in North America as well as First Nations history. There are frequently updated exhibitions, and the museum offers signage in both French and English.

Tour the Quebec Parliament

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parliament building,quebec city,canada
© Panther Media GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo
Located outside the Saint-Louis gate of the walls, Quebec’s Parliament, or National Assembly, is an impressive building inside and out. It was completed in 1886 and has been the centre of many fiery debates concerning Quebec’s place in Canada. As is the case across the country, Quebec’s government operates on a version of the British Parliamentary System. Tours are offered and remain apolitical.

Local Art

Architectural Landmark, Art Gallery
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The small neighbourhood (quatier) of Petit Champlain, located below the cliffs and the Château Frontenac, is an organized cooperative of art galleries, shops and restaurants. Everything is locally produced with a distinct Quebecois perspective. From Petit Champlain, walk the short distance to Place Royale, considered to be the first urban square north of Mexico.

These recommendations were updated on August 7, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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