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” aka Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, the iconic hotel which is the “castle of Québec,” towering atop cliffs overlooking the St. Lawrence.
Tip? Brand new (2014) culinary experiences await at its Champlain restaurant and 1608 Bar and Grill. For more things to do in Quebec City, 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.
Other things you can do in Quebec City include finding 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.
Foodie faves–Quebec City Christmas market and more
Here are some excellent venues to shop for local tastes.
Epicerie Moisan – 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 vinegars, chocolates, seasonal and local vegetables and fruits.
Although not as large as the Montréal markets, this colourful market on Saint-André Quai is very popular with locals because stalls are over flowing with freshle 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 (black currant liqueurs), apples and more.
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.
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 cuisine such as tortière and cretons. The latter is an herbed pork spread containing onions and spices – a favourite breakfast dish served on toast. Gracious staff are well informed and will suggest wine pairings.
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.
The result? Exceptional flavours!
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.
Beyond the capital: Explore Charlevoix
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.