Founded in 1608, Quebec City has a rich history and heritage for you to delve into with centuries-old buildings, churches, and fortifications wherever you look. As well as attractive and impressive architecture, the city is also set in a stunning spot overlooking the Saint Lawrence River.
Fiercely proud and protective of its French-Canadian identity and language, Quebec City acts as the heart, soul of the province of the same name. Many of its museums and tourist attractions highlight this rich heritage, as does its packed schedule of festivals and cultural events.
With so many exciting things to do in Quebec City and so much history, culture, and nature to explore, the provincial capital of Quebec is certainly not to be missed when in Canada.
In this post, we'll cover:
15. Fortifications of Quebec National Historic Site
The only city walls still standing in North America outside of Mexico, the Fortifications of Quebec are now protected as part of a National Historic Site. Erected in the seventeenth century, the sturdy ramparts, gates and towers, played a deciding role in the defense of the colony and withstood several sieges by the French and Americans.
Expanded and improved at various times over the centuries, the well-restored walls now stretch nearly three miles in length and encircle Old Quebec. Wander along its ramparts and enjoy commanding views of the city and its landmarks. You can learn about its history through the informative displays dotted about.
14. Musee National des Beaux-Arts du Quebec (MNBAQ)
Boasting one of the biggest art collections in Canada is the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec, which can be found in Battlefields Park. While its main focus is on artworks produced in the province, the museum has over 40,000 paintings, prints and sculptures by artists from other parts of the country, as well as the rest of the world.
Opened in 1933, the museum’s colossal collection now sprawls over four buildings with the pavilions being connected by a series of underground passages. Of particular interest is its excellent exhibit on Inuit Art with big names, such as Jean-Paul Lemieux and Fernand Leduc, also on display.
13. Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre
Set alongside the Saint Lawrence River is the beautiful Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre which exhibits some incredible architecture. Named for the province’s patron saint, the basilica is visited by millions of pilgrims and tourists each year and is said to cure the sick and disabled.
It was completed in 1946 after having been the site of an important shrine for centuries. The gorgeous Romanesque Revival building sports two tall towers and a lovely rose window. Its interior is just as arresting as it is decorated with colorful frescoes and stone statues. At its entrance, you can see the canes and crutches that have been left behind by the cured.
12. La Promenade des Gouverneurs
A very popular place to stroll around is La Promenade des Gouverneurs, which stretches around a mile in length. Starting near both Chateau Frontenac and Terrasse Dufferin, the elevated boardwalk meanders past fantastic viewpoints and interesting historic landmarks before ending up at Battlefields Park.
Built in 1958, the promenade impressively hugs the side of a steep cliff with steps taking you up and down its leafy tree-lined paths. On one side you have the fortifications of the old citadel with phenomenal views out over Lower Quebec and the waters of the Saint Lawrence River on the other.
11. Parliament Building
The stunning Parliament Building can be found perched atop a hill just outside of the city walls, not far from both the citadel and Battlefields Park. The seat of the province’s government, it lies amidst some lovely gardens which are dotted with superb statues of influential figures from the history of Quebec.
Built in 1886, it exhibits some striking Second Empire architecture with a tall clock tower rising above its fine facade that features people and places from the province’s past. On tours, you can learn all about the history of the building, the province and its government and even attend parliamentary proceedings.
10. Morrin Centre
Situated in the heart of Old Quebec is the Morrin Centre which offers a fascinating insight into the history of the city. Formerly a prison, it now hosts an English-language library and learning centre and was designated a National Historic Site in 1981.
Within the stately stone building, you can find a marvelous Victorian-era library with ancient tomes and rare books lining its shelves from floor to ceiling. Visitors can take tours around the facility and see elegant halls alongside gloomy jail cells. There are also antique furnishings and age-old artifacts from when the building was constructed in 1712.
9. Old Quebec Funicular
A wonderful way to get from Lower Town to Upper Town is to take a ride on the Old Quebec Funicular, which links the two together. Besides helping you avoid the steep Breakneck Stairs, it also offers some great views of the city and river down below as you go.
Founded in 1879, the railway takes visitors both up or down the cliffside at a steep 45-degree angle. While it only takes a couple of minutes to ascend the 200 feet to Upper Town, the ride is well worth it for the historic look and feel of the funicular.
8. Battlefields Park
Lying just a short stroll to the west of the center is the sprawling Battlefields Park, popular with both locals and tourists alike. The park is so named because it is the site of the 1759 Battle of the Plains of Abraham when the British beat the French and so influenced the creation of Canada.
Due to its strategic setting on the banks of the Saint Lawrence River, and its important military past, Battlefields Park is littered with historical artillery pieces, as well as four Martello towers. It also has lots of pretty green spaces, picnic areas and playing fields for people to make use of.
7. Musee de la Civilisation
Offering an interesting look into the cultures and communities of Quebec, the Musée de la Civilisation can be found not far from Place Royale, overlooking the Saint Lawrence River. Its extensive galleries house collections of artworks, artifacts and archaeological findings that shine a light on the history of the area.
Since opening in 1988, the museum has been a firm favorite with locals and tourists thanks to its interactive exhibits and innovative architecture. As well as having fascinating sections on the past, present and future of the province’s Indigenous peoples, it also regularly hosts special exhibits and cultural events.
6. Place Royale
While it may look like just another pretty plaza, Place Royale was the first site in the city to be settled by Samuel de Champlain back in 1608. Long the center of life and commerce in Quebec, it is well worth visiting for its historic importance, architecture and charming ambience.
Lining the small cobbled square are lots of beautiful old buildings which now house cafes and boutiques. At the birthplace of the French colony, you’ll also find the arresting Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church which dates to 1723 and is one of the oldest churches in all North America.
5. La Citadelle
Covering a huge part of the center of the city is a colossal citadel, which was built over decades by the French, and then British, to protect Quebec from a potential American attack. Known as ‘La Citadelle’ in French, the star-shaped fort has lovely green spaces and sturdy fortifications for you to explore as well as a great on-site museum.
Due to its strategic location, Cap Diamant has been the site of several forts over the centuries with the current citadel dating to 1850. Besides exploring the National Historic Site and learning about its history, visitors can also watch its daily changing of the guard ceremony.
4. Montmorency Falls Park
Just fifteen minutes’ drive to the northeast of town is one of the area’s most astounding natural sights, the majestic Montmorency Falls. Set in a scenic park of the same name, the waterfall towers to a huge 275 feet which is much taller than the famed Niagara Falls.
While its white wall of water certainly makes for some fabulous photos, the park itself is also well worth exploring. Besides a suspension bridge and cable car that offer up commanding views over the falls, it also has some terrific hiking trails, playgrounds and even zip-lines for visitors to enjoy.
3. Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Quebec
The oldest church in Canada, the Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Québec has stood in the same spot since 1647. Although it has been burnt down and destroyed numerous times throughout its long history, the basilica has always bounced back, bigger and better than before.
Located in the heart of Old Quebec, the current cathedral exhibits a somewhat austere exterior with its hulking great grey facade topped by two asymmetrical towers. Inside is another story entirely, as the illuminated interior is decorated with shimming treasures, colourful stained glass windows, and historical religious paintings.
2. Terrasse Dufferin
One of the most popular places to spend time in the city is at Terrasse Dufferin, which offers stunning views out over Old Quebec and the Saint Lawrence River. Perched atop a cliff, the long boardwalk wraps its way around Chateau Frontenac, the historic hotel that dominates the city’s skyline.
Built in 1879 under the direction of Lord Dufferin, after whom it is named, the wooden plank walkway is dotted with quaint old gazebos, lamp posts and benches with historic cannons also on show. The area also has an appealing ambience as street performers and artists often line the terrace.
1. Old Quebec
The historic heart of the city, Old Quebec is home to an incredible array of attractions with beautiful buildings and charming streets wherever you look. Presided over by Chateau Frontenac, it is made up of both Upper Town and Lower Town with the old port and Battlefields Park lying to either side.
Enclosed within its crenelated walls are not only numerous museums and monuments but Place Royale, the first site settled in the city. The historic area also boasts countless centuries-old buildings, and standout sights include its citadel and cathedral.
The highlight of many people’s visit, Old Quebec has a lovely atmosphere with innumerable shops and restaurants also being on offer.