Founded by French Explorer Samuel de Champlain in 1608, the capital of Québec is situated on a cliff overlooking the St. Lawrence River. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site because it is the only walled city in North America. If you are wondering what to do in Quebec City, Québec City is full of gastronomic delights.
Our recommendation for your discovery of the city is to start at the “castle” or the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac.
The iconic hotel which is the “castle of Québec,” towers atop cliffs overlooking the St. Lawrence.
Culinary experiences await at its Champlain restaurant and 1608 Bar and Grill.
After enjoying a meal get a sense of the history here by strolling Dufferin Terrace, overlooking the river, then ascend steps to the Plains of Abraham and Citadel (defences of the city) where locals jog, picnic, and come winter, ski and snowshoe.
The Quebec Winter Carnival is an annual event to mark on your calendar.
Find Québec City’s Lowertown by descending l’escalier casse-cou (Breakneck Stairs).
Built in 1635, they descend to the Vieux Port’s (Old Port’s) picturesque and historic cobblestone network of streets and Place Royale, where the colony first took hold.
Naturally, all this exploration of the hilly city works up an appetite – and Québec City delivers.
Quebec City food
By Christina Pfeiffer
Famous for its cheese and maple syrup, Quebec City’s food trail serves up a cornucopia of French tastes in Quebec City restaurants and markets.
French brie and camembert makers must have thrown their arms in the air in despair when an article in France’s national newspaper, Le Parisien wrote “Whatever the lovers of pate cuite, lait cru and d’affinages fermiers may think, the best cheese in the world is not French, but Canadian.”
Well, such generosity of praise from the French – where centuries of cheese-making traditions has earned France the crown of cheese capital of the world – occurred when a little-known Quebec goat’s milk cheese beat 2,440 entries from 34 countries for the title of World Champion at the 2009 World Cheese Awards.
Since then, Quebec’s food scene has grown from strength to strength.
Le Cendrillon (Cinderella), produced by La Maison Alexis de Portneuf, 50 kilometres north of Quebec City, is one of 300 varieties of cheese produced in Quebec.
The Canadians have perfected the art of making cheese with raw cows, goats or sheep’s milk, in the style of France’s fromages au lait cru.
Here are some excellent venues to shop for local tastes.
By Katharine Fletcher
Opening in 1871, this is Québec’s oldest grocery store – an old-fashioned “must-experience”.
Found on Rue St. Jean, stepping through the door introduces a different era.
Wooden wainscoting and shelving, a pressed tin ceiling, and the shopkeepers – who know their fare inside out – attest you’ve come to a special spot.
Here find fresh produce through to specialty vinegar, chocolates, seasonal and local vegetables and fruits.
Marché du vieux-port
Although not as large as the Montréal markets, this colourful market on Saint-André Quai is very popular with locals because stalls are overflowing with fresh terroir produce.
What to look for?
Québec is the world’s largest producer of maple syrup, so discover its sweetness here.
Godbout is one of several family businesses here, specializing in the production maple syrup, butter, and sugar.
As well, they sell Québec’s flavourful wild blueberries in season.
Similarly, Les Serres Roch Hébert has for more than fifty years sold maple products plus fruit, cassis (blackcurrant liqueurs), apples and more.
By Christina Pfeiffer
A convenient spot for visitors to taste cheese is La Fromagere.
The specialty cheese shop has hundreds of different kinds of Quebec cheese, including creamy Riopelle.
The cheese has the texture of soft butter and melts in the mouth.
Riopelle is a local cheese named after the late Quebec painter Jean-Paul Riopelle who, like the cheese, had ties to Ile-aux-Grues, an island on the St Lawrence River known for excellent cheese making.
Or try Bleu d’Elizabeth, a rich sweet blue cheese.
Les Clos de la Chapelle’s farm in L’Ange-Gardien specialises in organic produce such as baby spinach, lettuces, yellow carrots, Espelette pepper and Swiss chard.
Claude Begin’s farm in Chateau-Richer cultivates 50 varieties of herbs and grows winter squashes.
Francois Blouin’s farm in Sainte-Famille, on Ile d’Orleans, has a niche growing asparagus, strawberries and plums, a fruit that had been abandoned by growers in Quebec.
Quebeckers also come here buy products such as honey, fruit-based delicacies from Ile d’Orleans and Quebec-made liqueurs.
There are croissants, baguettes, jams, and home-made apple, cranberry and pear ciders.
Aisles are stacked with sacks of apples (C$6 a bag); there are tables laden with enormous punnets of strawberries (C$7) three times the size of the small square tubs sold in Australian supermarkets; there are raspberries, cherries, blackcurrants and gooseberries.
Fruit is grown in such abundance in Quebec that producers have become creative in finding ways of utilising each crop.
Les Jardins du Petit-Pre Bilodeau makes apple products such as home-made jellies, syrups, apple butter and apple juice.
I’m plied with sparkling cider, straw-coloured light cider and ice nectar, perfect with terrines, foie gras and cheese.
Quebec City Christmas Market
By Katharine Fletcher
Come Christmas, visit a twinkling little “German village market” full of kiosks where you can sample roasted chestnuts, Glühwein (spicy mulled wine), bratwurst sausages and gingerbread.
Artisans sell their crafts here, too.
Best restaurants in Quebec City
So many delightful experiences await you in the cobblestone streets of the “Paris of the North”
If you are wondering where to eat in Quebec City, here are a few favourites.
Aux Anciens Canadiens
This once private residence built in 1675 shows the charm of old Québec is architecture.
Its whitewashed façade and scarlet roof are a picturesque addition to the streetscape but this historic exterior is well-matched by the interior’s old-world charm.
Here find traditional Québec cuisines such as tortière and cretons.
The latter is a herbed pork spread containing onions and spices – a favourite breakfast dish served on toast. Gracious staff are well informed and will suggest wine pairings.
Chez Boulay-bistro boreal
A few years ago, this restaurant opened which features boréal (northern) cuisine.
It is named Chez Boulay-bistro boréal after Chef Jean-Luc Boulay, owner of Le Saint-Amour, another of the highly regarded Quebec City restaurants.
What is northern boreal forest cuisine? Wild meats such as goose, duck, venison, and wapiti (elk).
Wintergreen (a pungent evergreen plant with scarlet berries and glossy green leaves). Elderflowers (from elderberry bushes).
Fish such as northern pike. Syrups as made from white birch and maple trees.
Le Lapin Sauté
Celebrate the rabbit!
This country-style, charming restaurant is near the bottom of Breakneck Stairs.
It’s always packed with locals who come to enjoy bunny prepared in a host of tasty ways.
Try the rabbit pie, which is chock-full of the goodness of vegetables as well as tender lapin.
Restaurants near Quebec City
Leave time to experience Charlevoix, that region east of Québec City where you’ll find the Flavour Trail, where 40 local producers await.
Go to the Laiterie Charlevoix, for example, to learn about how cheese is made in the traditional way.
Or, visit La ferme Basque and learn about foie gras.
Wherever you choose, linger, taste, and drink in the views of the mountains.
Tip: Take the Le Massif train to La Ferme, a hotel with a fabulous spa and restaurant located near artsy Baie Saint Paul.
A 21/2-hour drive from Quebec City, Montreal has more gourmet delights to offer.