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Quebec City is the "national" capital of the Canadian province of Quebec. Located at a commanding position on cliffs overlooking the St. Lawrence Seaway, Quebec City's Old Town is an UNESCO World Heritage Site and the only city in North America (outside Mexico and the Caribbean) with its original city walls. Quebec is a city of about 700,000 residents.
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Points of Interest in Quebec
Quebec City's main sight is the Old Town, the upper part of which is surrounded by a stone wall built by both French and British armies. It is now a tourist district with many small boutiques and hundreds of historical and photographic points of interest. Some of the buildings are original structures, while others are built in the same style and architecture as former buildings.
- Chateau Frontenac. Quebec City icon. Claimed to be the most photographed hotel in North America. Stay the night if you can (see Sleep) and pop in for a martini if you can't (see Drink). Guided tours available .
- Dufferin Terrace (Terrasse Dufferin). Boardwalk situated alongside (east of) the Chateau Frontenac, and offers a grand view of the St. Lawrence River.
- Musée national des Beaux-arts du Québec. Located on the Battlefields park, the mission of this art museum is to promote and preserve Québec art of all periods and to ensure a place for international art through temporary exhibitions. You can also visit the old prison of Quebec City, which is now one of the two main pavilions of the Museum. An annex designed by renowned architectural firm OMA is currently being built. Permanent exhibits are free of charge while admission to the temporary exhibits is $15 for adults.
- Musée de l'Amérique française. $8.
- The Citadel (La Citadelle). This fortification at the juncture of the Old City wall and Grande Allée holds a changing of the guard ceremony mornings at 10AM complete with traditional bearskin hats, weather permitting.
- Plains of Abraham Battlefield Park (Outside the Old City walls), ☎ +1 418 649-6157. Site of the 1759 battle that saw the British conquer Quebec, now used for public events, sports, and leisure activities.
- Observatoire de la Capitale (Outside the Old City walls). One of the tallest buildings in Quebec, offering a panoramic view of the whole city. Admission is $10.
- Place-Royale. The spot where Samuel de Champlain landed in 1608 and founded the first French settlement in North America, now converted into a postcard-pretty public square. Do not miss the huge mural covering the entire side of a nearby building; the figure with a hat standing at the base of the 'street' is Champlain.
- Musée de la civilisation (Museum of Civilization), 85 rue Dalhousie, ☎ +1 418 643-2158. Tu-Su 10AM-5PM. Museum devoted to the world's peoples, with a well-done if still somewhat dull permanent exhibit on the history of Quebec. $13.
- Parc du Bois-de-Coulonge, 1215 Grande Allée, ☎ +1 418-528-0773, fax: +1 418-528-0833. Residence of past lieutenant-governors from 1870-1966 and spread over 24 hectares, this garden features heritage buildings, wooded areas and gardens.
Quebec City is the capital city of the province of Quebec (though it is referred to as the National Capital in the province). Much of the business here is of the administrative and bureaucratic nature, which would normally make a city quite dull. Fortunately, the city has a remarkable history, as the fortress capital of New France since the 16th century. Although the town's day-to-day life leaves things a little yawny at times, the vibrant historical centre makes for an incredible visit.
Quebec was first settled by Europeans in 1608 in an "abitation" led by Samuel de Champlain and celebrated its 400th anniversary in 2008. The generally accepted dates of Champlain's arrival in the city are July 3rd and 4th and were marked with major celebrations. The area was also inhabited by Native peoples for many centuries before the arrival of the Europeans, and their ongoing presence has been notable since then.
Founded by the French to make a claim in the New World, the name Quebec originally referred to just the city. It is an aboriginal word for "where the river narrows" as the St. Lawrence River dramatically closes in just east of the city. It is situated on 200 foot high cliffs with stunning views of the surrounding Laurentian mountains and the St. Lawrence River. Under French rule (1608-1759), the major industries were the fur and lumber trades. The French lost the city and its colony of New France to the British in the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759. Much of the French nobility returned to France which resulted in British ruling over the remaining French population. Fortunately, the rulers of the colony allowed the French to retain their language and religion leaving much of the culture intact. The 1840s saw an influx of Irish immigrants during the Potato Famine. Due to cholera and typhus outbreaks, ships were quarantined at Grosse Ile to the east of the city past l'Ile d'Orleans. The bodies of those who perished on the journey and while in quarantine are buried there. The city remained under British rule until 1867 when Lower Canada (Quebec) joined Upper Canada (Ontario), New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to form the Dominion of Canada.
French is the official language of the province of Quebec though in the tourist areas of Quebec City English is widely spoken as a second language by almost all of the staff. It is also not unusual to find Spanish, German and Japanese spoken in many establishments in Vieux Quebec. Outside of the tourist areas, some knowledge of French is advisable and perhaps necessary, depending on how rural the area is you are visiting. It should be noted that while older locals will struggle when attempting to sustain a discussion in English, most youths under 35 should be able to speak conversational English. Less than a third of the overall population is bilingual French/English.
In French, both the city and the province are referred to as "Québec". Which is meant is determined by context and by the convention of referring to the province with the masculine article ("le Québec or au Québec") and to the city without any article at all ("à Québec"). This may lead to confusion when following provincial road signs as the City of Quebec, (Ville de Québec) is referred to only as Québec in official signage.
Orienting yourself in Quebec is fairly easy. Many sights of interest are in the Old Town (Vieux-Québec), which constitutes the walled city on top of the hill. Many surrounding neighbourhoods, either in Haute-Ville ("Upper Town") or in Basse-Ville ("Lower Town"), are of great interest : Saint-Roch, Saint-Jean-Baptiste, Montcalm, Vieux-Port and Limoilou. Haute-Ville and Basse-Ville are connected by many staircases, all of which are unique, such as the aptly-named Escalier Casse-Cou ("Breakneck Stairs") and the more easily climbable "Funiculaire".
The city spreads westward from the St. Lawrence River, for the most part extending from the original old city. The true downtown core of Quebec City is located just west of the old city. Across the river from Quebec City is the town of Lévis. Frequent ferry service connects the two sides of the river.
- Centre Infotouriste de Québec, 12 rue Ste-Anne (across from the Château Frontenac), ☎ +1 514 873-2015, toll-free: +1 877 266-5687. 21 Jun-31 Aug: 8:30AM-7PM daily. 1 Sep-20 Jun: 9AM-5PM daily.
- Horse-drawn carriages. A one-hour tour of the Old City.
- Ferry to Lévis. Beautiful views of the Chateau Frontenac and the Lower Old Town, and the other side of the river. Quite cheap and only one ticket is required for round trip if you stay aboard. (However, don't tell that to the ticket agent; some will insist on charging you the round trip fare.) $3 one-way fare.
- AML Cruises. Offers short three-hour cruises on the St-Lawrence river leaving from the docks nearby the ferry. One of the cruises leaves as the sun is setting and comes back when the sun is down for a stunning view of Quebec city by night.
- Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing on Plains of Abraham. Treat yourself to nature in the city and ski free of charge in one of the most accessible, enchanting sites there is, as you enjoy a breathtaking view of the St. Lawrence River.
- Villages Vacances Valcartier. Water park and go-carts open during the summer season. Tubing and ice skating offered in the winter.
- Mont-Sainte-Anne. Ski and snow during the cold season. Camping, biking and hiking at summertime.
- Station touristique Stoneham. Ski and snow during the winter and an animated summer camp from June to August every summer.
- Choco-musee Erico. A small museum of chocolate, talks about the history and making of chocolate. Free admission.
- Ice Hotel (Thirty minutes west of Quebec at Station Touristique Duchesnay on Lac St-Joseph, MetroBus 801). One of only two ice hotels in the world, from January to early April the Ice Hotel is a must-see. $17.50 will get you full tour during the day, after 8PM access to the guest rooms is restricted to guests only. The best time to go here is just before dark so you can see the hotel in natural lightning and then artificially lit. Each room is themed and decorated with exquisite ice sculptures. Rooms start at $299/night. Includes an ice bar where you can get a drink served in an ice glass. For the romantics, there is a wedding chapel complete with snow pews.
- Governeur's Walk. Scenic walk starting at the top of the Funiculare, continuing along the wall over looking the old city. The many staircases lead to overlooks offering scenic views of the St. Lawrence. The walk ends at the gazebo on the Plains of Abraham.
- Ice Slide at Terrasse Dufferin. During the winter you can slide down a ice slide on a toboggan, quite fast and great view. Buy the tickets from the Café at the end of the slide. $2.5 per person.
- Patinoire de la place d'Youville. Ice skating rink located right in the middle of Old Quebec. Skating is free to those with their own skates, and rentals are available for $7.50 to those who need them. Rink is small in size but the location can't be beat.
Québec is a great city for going out to dance traditional and nuevo-Argentinian Tango. You can find out about classes, practicas, milongas and events at the local association  or at L'Avenue Tango .
- Martin Lachance, 399 St.Joseph, Quebec City (E), ☎ +1 418 641-6654. 24. Québec is one of North America's most beautiful port cities. Set against the stunning backdrop of Cape Diamond, its port is the gateway to Old Québec's historic and cultural neighborhoods. Set foot ashore and walk into a world of museums, heritage homes, art galleries, craft boutiques, public markets, parks, murals, sidewalk cafés, restaurants, bistros, and more—all just a few steps or a buggy ride away! Extend your stay upon arrival or departure and enjoy a few extra days in one of the world's best destinations*! 80 000 pax are expected for the Summer Fall season in 2011.
- 5th best city destination in North America and 10th in the world in 2010 according to Condé Nast Traveler.
Best Canadian city for culture, 4th best Canadian destination, and 7th most romantic city in the world in 2010 according to TripAdvisor.
- Winter Carnival. City-wide, first two weeks of February and spanning 3 weekends. A truly spectacular event, the Winter Carnival is a hundred-year tradition in Quebec City. Each year, a giant ice palace is built in the Place Jacques-Cartier as the headquarters of the festivities, but there's activities all during the week. The International Ice Sculpture Competition sees teams from around the world build monumental sculptures. There are 3 parades during the event in different quarters of the city, and other winter-defying competitions including a canoe race across the St. Lawrence and a group snow bath. The festival's mascot, Bonhomme Carnaval, a sashed snowman, is the city's most famous logo. $12 (2010) will get you a rubber snowman to attach to your parka for entrance into the festivities on the Plains of Abraham.
- Saint-Jean Baptiste Celebration. Every year, June 23. Without a doubt the biggest party of the year in the entire province. Join over 200,000 Québécois of all ages on Plaine d'Abraham while they celebrate Quebec's National Day throughout the night. Various Québécois musical performances, bonfire, fireworks, and a lot of drinking.
- Festival d'été. Beginning to mid-July, a lot of cheap music shows (you buy a button for $45 and it gives you access to all the shows, for the 11 days of the festival) in and around the Old Town, with international and local artists (for example in 2004, The Nits, Wyclef Jean, Bérurier Noir in 2010, Iron maiden, The Black Eyed Peas, Santana, Rush, Arcade and Rammstein).
- Edwin-Bélanger Bandstand. A musical experience in the open. Jazz, blues, Worlbeat. June to August. Thursday to Sunday.
- Festival of New France. First weekend in August.
- Quebec City International Festival of Military Bands. Spectacular performances are offered by Military Bands from all around the world. The Festival takes place at the end of August.
All restaurants in the Old City will post menus out front in French and in English. Look for the table d'hote specials for a full course fixed price meal. On the cheaper (but very satisfying) side, have a traditional tourtière québecoise (meat pie), or a poutine (fries, gravy, and cheese curds).
The café culture is very much a part of Quebec City as in most of Europe. It should be very easy to find a quaint cafe around Marche Champlain, and around the Chateau. Food is fairly expensive in Quebec, and even a simpler café or bar may be costly.
Most Quebec City delicatessens and markets offer a large variety of Quebec cheese from farms in the surrounding countryside. Specialty of the region include brie or camembert style cheeses made with raw milk (lait cru), which endows the cheese with superior flavors and textures not usually found in North American cheeses of the same type.
- Le Patriarche, 17, Saint-Stanislas, Québec G1R 4G7, ☎ +1 418 692-5488. Set in a decor inspired by its old stone walls. Imbued with a unique architectural cachet, this 1827 heritage home-turned-restaurant has been serving discerning gourmets since 1965.
- Aux Anciens Canadiens, 34 rue Saint-Louis, ☎ +1 418-692-1627. Specializes in Quebecois cooking, including dishes that feature caribou, buffalo, or wapiti. The table d'hote (the local term for prix-fixe), served until 17h45, is quite a good deal at $19.95. Reservations recommended.
- Casse-Crepe Breton, 1136 rue Saint-Jean, ☎ +1 418-692-0438. 8AM-6PM. Inexpensive crepes, starting at about $5. Usually a long line to enter, due to the fact that the restaurant is rather small. Come early.
- Cafe-Boulangerie Paillard, 1097 rue Saint-Jean, ☎ +1 418-692-1221. 7:30AM-7PM. Good selection of Viennese pastries and gelato. Locals line up to buy inexpensive soups, sandwiches, and pizza.
- Le Continental, 26 rue Saint-Louis (one block west of the Chateau Frontenac), ☎ +1 418-694-9995. Warm, cozy environment. Fantastic food--shrimp scampi that melts in your mouth, filet mignon cooked at table side, and other delectable dishes. Expensive but well worth it.
- Le Petit Coin Latin, 8 1/2 rue Sainte-Ursule, ☎ +1 418-692-2022. Quiet but pleasant atmosphere, nice made-in-quebec music, friendly staff. Serves good quality breakfast for $6.25 starting at 8AM. Serves good Raclette dish.
- Le Saint-Amour, 48 rue Sainte-Ursule, ☎ +1 418-694-0667. Expensive. The environment is a mish-mash of styles that do not seem to work together. The wait staff is friendly and knowledgeable. The French food is well-prepared but probably the most expensive restaurant in Quebec City and you should be aware of this fact. On the other hand, this restaurant is a must for stars visiting Quebec City, Paul McCartney had dinner at the St-Amour in 2008 the night before his concert.
- Les Frères de la Côte, 1190 rue Saint-Jean, ☎ +1-418-692-5445. Filled with more locals than tourists, this small eatery serves up a good selection of European dishes including their trademark moules (mussels). $30.
- Moine Échanson, 585 rue Saint-Jean (Outside the Old City walls, about 4 blocks west of the St-Jean Gate), ☎ +1-418-524-7832. Outside the purlieu of the mechanized tourist cafeterias of the Old Town, this warm restaurant produces high-quality food and drink in small, manageable doses. They have a short but provocative nightly menu, and the food is produced by hand with the loving attention of chefs who care about their craft. Great cellar of organic wines that will surprise you with their depth. $15.
- Pizzeria La Primavera, 73 rue Saint-Louis, ☎ +1 418-694-0030. Pizzas baked in a wood-fired oven. Expensive and small portions. Surcharge of $3.25 per pizza to cut them into two. 10% service charge added to the bill.
- Samurai Restaurant Japonais, 780 rue Saint-Jean (Outside the Old City walls, about 2 blocks west of the St-Jean Gate and one block north of the Convention Centre), ☎ +1 418-522-3989. Good Japanese food in a small comfortable setting. Midi-Express (lunch) starting at $9.95 is a good deal and includes soup or salad, main course, and coffee or dessert. NOW CLOSED :(
- L'Astral, 1225 Cours du General-De Montcalm (Sitated just outside of the city walls on Grande Allée Est, which runs alongside the Parliament Building.), ☎ +1 418-780-3602, fax: 418-647-4710. Located at the top of the Concorde Hotel this revolving restaurant offers unrivalled 360° views over the city and French sytle cuisine. Also known for its Sunday brunch.
- Cochon Dingue, 46 blvd Champlain (Basse-Ville). Touristy, but in a good way — the "Crazy Pig" is cavernous but usually packed, with hefty portions from a frequently-changing menu. Lunch specials are good value at $10-15, including starter and coffee.
There is a place for nearly every visitor, from the wild nightlife to the cozy corner. Drinking age is 18 though enforcement is hazy.
Quality wine and liquor can only be purchased at SAQ shops, most of which are open until 6PM Sunday - Wednesday and 8 or 9PM on weekends; the smaller SAQ Express outlets are open daily from 11AM to 10PM, but the selection is restricted to the SAQ's most popular items. Beer and a small selection of lower-quality wine are also sold at convenience stores (dépanneurs) and grocery stores (not what youwould usually bring to a dinner party but sometimes drinkable-—it has been imported in bulk and bottled and sometimes blended in Quebec and known as "piquette" by the locals). All retail alcohol sales stop at 11PM and bars and clubs stop serving at 3AM.
There is only one SAQ within the walls of the old city, a SAQ "Selection" inside the Chateau Frontenac. It has high-end wines and liquors, a small selection of other liquors and no beer. A SAQ "Classique" with better (though still small) selection is located just outside of the walls on Rue St-Jean on the south side of the street.
During the frigid Carnaval, a local specialty known as caribou is available to warm you up (did you know that those canes they sell are hollow?). Though the mixture varies with what is available, it tends to be port or red wine with a hodge-podge of liquors, normally vodka, brandy and perhaps even some sherry.
The Grande Allée has most of the city's clubs & youth-oriented bars and spots:
- Le Dagobert, 600 Grande-Alle Est, ☎ +1 418 522-0393. One of Québec's biggest clubs and over 25 years old, with shows by local and international musicians. With its heart-stopping techno and enormous outdoor disco ball, you cannot miss it. Crowd tends to be young. One of the few venues that consistently asks for identification for age verification. Free admission.
- L'Ozone, 570 Grande-Allée Est, ☎ +1 418-529-7932, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Offers great music and atmosphere.~$5/pint.
- Chez Maurice, 575 Grande-Allée Est, ☎ +1 418 647-2000. Upscale with a crowd in the mid-to-late 20s playing dance. Has a dress code for the second floor.
- Les Voutes de Napoléon, 680 Grande Allée Est, ☎ +1 418 640-9388. Great chansonnier bar located in the vaults of a restaurant. Live music everyday. Gets packed on weekend especially saturday night. Festive atmosphere.
La Rue St. Jean, beyond the city walls on the west end, is where travelers will find the best pubs in Québec, as well as some smaller dance clubs:
- St Patrick, 1200 rue Saint-Jean, ☎ +1 418-694-0618. An excellent bar with multiple indoor levels, in addition to its outdoor terrace at the heart of Old Québec. It serves typical bar food, but come for the live music, of the folk and Irish variety, that fills the atmosphere multiple nights a week. Try the draft cider, at about ~$9/pint.
- Pub St. Alexandre, 1087 Rue St.-Jean, ☎ +1 418-694-0015. Another great bar/restaurant that specializes in imports, but charges a price for them. A 16 oz Belgian import can be $9-12.
- Casablanca, 1169 Rue Saint-Jean, ☎ +1 418 692-4301. A small, upstairs, tucked-away club that plays heavy rosta-beats and has room to dance. It's a good place to bring your own party, with a unique ambiance.
- Sacrilege, 47 Rue Saint-Jean, ☎ +1 418 649-1985. Darkly lit beer bar with an open air patio. Ideal for a relaxed atmosphere with good friends.
- Ninkasi, 811 rue Saint-Jean, ☎ +1 418 529-8538. The best place to have a large choice of Quebeckers beers and see a variety of shows.
- L'Oncle Antoine, 29 Rue St. Pierre, ☎ +1 418 694-9176. Located in the touristy part of town, it's one of the city's oldest bars. Cozy atmosphere with great selection of local brews. Also offers an open air patio.
Spread throughout Old Québec are many upscale bars and jazz clubs. Search out the hotels, as they typically have the best venues for jazz and music at night.
- Bar Château Frontenac, 1 rue des Carrieres (in Chateau Frontenac Hotel). Famous for their perfectly mixed and generously sized martinis, available in numerous versions including half-a-dozen named after famous visitors ranging from Winston Churchill to René Lévesque. Try to score a window seat for great views across the St. Lawrence. The ice wine martini is a great treat. $13/16 for a martini with house/premium vodka.
- Pub Nelligans, 789 Cote Ste Genevieve, ☎ +1 418 529 7817. A real irish owned pub in the heart of the St.jean Baptiste neighbourhood. Famous for its year round Tuesday night traditional musique jams. A great place to meet people with a friendly ambiance and sorroundings, no better place to go and have a great pint of Guinness at 6.75$ a pint.
Quebec City's Old Town, especially Basse-Ville, is riddled with shops for tourists. Watch for leather goods and various handmade crafts made by Canada's First Nations Peoples.
- Marché du Vieux-Port, 160 Quai Saint-André. Open daily 8 AM-8 PM. Farmers' market just north of Basse-Ville, offering cheap and tasty local produce.
- Place Laurier, Place de la Cité, Place Ste-Foy, 2700 boulevard Laurier (located in the Ste-Foy district, to the west of the downtown). Three large shopping malls right next to each other. Place Laurier boasts being the largest shopping mall in eastern Canada.
- Galeries de la Capitale, 5401, boulevard des Galeries (Located in the Lebourgneuf neighborhood of Les Rivieres borough). Large shopping mall towards the north of the city which boasts 280 stores and 35 restaurants. Also contains an IMAX theater and an indoor amusement park which includes a Ferris wheel, a roller coaster and a skating rink for hockey games.
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Quebec City on Wikivoyage.