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Five Incredible Things to Do in Quebec City for First-time Visitors

Steeped in history and surrounded by nature, Quebec City is a favorite destination of those traveling to Canada.


Steeped in history and surrounded by nature, Quebec City is a favorite destination of those traveling to Canada. This city is predominantly French in nature and is, in fact, the oldest French-speaking city in all of North America, at over 400 years old. With its age comes culture that just cannot be recreated in more modern cities, but history is not the only thing Quebec City has to offer. Food, shopping, museums and the natural side of Quebec Province all come together here to create an unforgettable experience each and every time. Are you ready to experience everything this city has to offer? Vacations By Rail offers thoughtfully planned rail vacations that allow you to see some of the best things that Quebec City has to offer. Once your adventure is on the books, check out these five things to do in Quebec City for first-time visitors.

1. Walk Through Old Quebec

Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985, Old Quebec offers a feel straight out of Old World Europe, with its winding cobblestone streets that take you through the city and amazing examples of French architecture. In fact, some of the buildings in the city date back to the time of Quebec’s founding. Old Quebec is split into two sections: Upper Town and Lower Town. Upper Town is the more formal end of town - a place where government buildings, historic hotels, cathedrals and even the city’s ancient fortress are located. In Lower Town, the theatre, shops and museums are more prominent, although there are also historic homes and sites to be experienced. During your time in Old Quebec, take the time to see:

  • The Fortifications of Quebec
  • The Citadel
  • Fairmont Château Le Frontenac Hotel
  • Notre-Dame-de-Québec Basilica-Cathedral
  • Battlefields Park
  • The Plains of Abraham battleground
  • Holy Trinity Cathedral
  • Saint Louis Forts and Chateau
  • The Parliament Building

2. Climb the Falls in Montmorency Falls Park

Located just minutes from the heart of Downtown, Montmorency Falls Park and its natural beauty make it one of the best things to do in Quebec City. The hallmark attraction of Montmorency Falls is, of course, the waterfall. Raising 272 feet above the ground, these falls are approximately 99 feet taller than Niagara Falls and pour into a basin that goes down 56 feet at its deepest point. Visitors have the option to gaze upon this magnificent display of nature from the ground level or from above. At the bottom, there are walking trails from which to enjoy the park and the falls themselves. One pathway leads to a 487-step cliffside staircase that leads right up to the top of the falls. Alternatively, head to the onsite cable car, which takes you to the top for a nominal fee. Once above the falls, there are more paths to be explored, as well as a suspension bridge over the crest of Montmorency Falls. For an even more exciting way to explore the falls, there is a double zip line course that takes two people across the water at once.

Besides the waterfall, frequenters of the park enjoy the multiple playgrounds for children, the walking and bicycle pathways and, in the winter, snowshoeing and ice climbing.

3. Tour a Museum

The selection of museums in Quebec City is nearly as impressive as the city itself; in fact, there are over 30 to choose from. Whether your interests lie in maple syrup or the arts, there is a museum for you within this cultural metropolis. Some of the most popular options include:

  • Musée de la Civilisation - Over 50,000 pieces and 20,000 documents here tell the story of different cultures and civilizations and their many differences. Many of the exhibits are interactive and hands-on, making this a true learning experience.
  • Musée de la Place Royale - Have you ever wondered what life was like for residents of New France (Quebec City) in the 1600s? This museum tells the history of the region in an anthropological way, giving a glimpse at how the world has changed for inhabitants of this city throughout the years.
  • Erico Chocolate Museum - Lighten your day with a history of chocolate! At Erico, there are more than 200 artifacts that tell the story of how chocolate came to be one of the world’s most popular treats, as well as windows to watch the chocolatiers work and, of course, plenty of treats to enjoy along the way.
  • Morrin Centre - A site that has been used for many purposes throughout the years, the Morrin Centre is one not to miss. Many visit because it is a hub for the English language and boasts an impressive Victorian library, while others visit because at one point it was Quebec’s first prison. Guided tours help you learn it all.
  • Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec - Displaying art pieces that date back hundreds of years and modern paintings by contemporary artists, this museum offers something for everyone. There are both temporary and permanent exhibits to enjoy, though the setting and architecture of the building itself are also impressive.
  • Musée des Ursulines - Set in a convent dating back centuries, this museum teaches the history of the Ursuline nuns and their influence over the education of girls in this region. Further, learn about the fascinating life of the convent’s founder and see artifacts remaining from the 17th and 18th centuries.

4. Cruise the Waters

Quebec City is bound by the St. Lawrence River, which connects with the Atlantic Ocean and provides beautiful natural scenery to contrast the city. Interestingly, one of the best ways to get a view of the Quebec City landscape is from these waters. Hop aboard the Quebec Ferry for a cruise through the Quebec-Levis Crossing and some of the most amazing scenery. Daytime brings views of the dramatic elevation changes between the Upper and Lower Towns of Old Quebec. At night, the city is illuminated by thousands of lights, all of which twinkle off the calm waters of the river. No matter what time of day or season you ride the ferry, you are in for a true treat.

There are even more ways to explore the St. Lawrence River in Quebec City. Boating companies throughout the city offer a variety of touring options, including those that last just a few hours and those that cover an entire day. You can book cruises that set out far east on the St. Lawrence in search of whales and penguins, as well as leisurely dinner cruises that highlight the coastal Quebec scenery. The choices are truly limitless. If you want to set out on the water on your own, kayaking and canoeing are ever popular in Quebec City.

5. Sample the Local Cuisine

In the past when people thought of the best destinations for a “foodie,” Quebec City did not top that list; however, with the infusion of new restaurants and a changing food scene, Quebec City is quickly becoming one of the best food destinations in Canada. There is an abundance of new-age restaurants that combine impeccable technique with locally sourced ingredients. The city boasts French restaurants, modern eateries, diners and everything in between. Coffee houses are plentiful, and there is a fine mixture of restaurants to suit every budget. Do not worry, there are still plenty of places to try out the local favorite, poutine, as well. Not sure where to begin your culinary journey through Quebec City? There are food tours available that allow you to eat your way through this historic destination.

Let Vacations By Rail be your guide to Quebec City! We offer rail vacations in both the summer and the winter months, allowing you to take on the city when it is best for you. Your Canadian rail expedition awaits.

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