A Tour Guide's Guide to Quebec City
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Travelzoo intern Kiera Dinsmore — who worked as a tour guide in Quebec City — shares her insider tips for seeing the city. Québec City is a perfect getaway for every kind of traveller. Whether you’re looking for delectable cuisine, intriguing art, unique shopping experiences or a treasure trove of Canadian history, you’ll find it in Canada’s oldest city. No matter the season, it is brightly coloured and bursting with old-world European charm.
After working as an educational tour guide there, I’ve come to know my way around the cobblestone streets. I’ve fallen in love with the city time and time again – and I hope you will too! Here are a few of my tips for making the most of your time there.
- Everything within the walls is considered to be part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site – it’s the oldest walled city in North America -- and the only way to really experience old Quebec City is on foot; driving around is a nightmare. Bring sturdy walking shoes because these streets are winding, uneven, hilly and cobblestoned. You can even walk along the old walls.
- There’s so much to take in that I suggest you start your stay with a guided walking tour -- all guides must be licensed -- or go on a haunted walk. Ghost tours and night walks are informative, entertaining and very memorable.
- The steep stairs joining the old city's upper and lower town are commonly called "l'escalier Casse-Cou" or "breakneck steps." I’d recommend going down the steps to get the full experience, but you can take the funicular or the public bus either way for a few dollars.
- One of the oldest houses is also one of the best restaurants. Aux Anciens Canadiens serves up traditional habitant cuisine -- split pea soup, tourtiere and game.
- Some of the best photos of the iconic Chateau Frontenac can be taken from the lower part of town on Dalhousie Street, or -- even better -- from the water! The ferry to and from Levis costs just $3.55 and offers perfect photo ops.
- Looking for a caffeine fix that comes without a touristy price tag? Try Maison Smith or Paillard, two popular local café-bakeries.
- You can get incredible views of the city from the Citadelle -- a bastion-style fortress and active military base atop Cap Diamant. Perfect for history buffs, families and photographers, the site is home to the Royal 22nd Regiment (or "Van Doos") and the Governor General’s second official residence; tours of the residence are free.
- One of the best walks is from the top of the Plains of Abraham down the Promenade des Gouverneurs. Unless you want to go up hundreds of stairs, start your stroll from behind the Citadelle and end on the Dufferin Terrace.
- If you have a car, take a day to visit the Beaupre Coast and l’Ile d’Orleans. Montmorency Falls (1.5 times the height of Niagara Falls), the ornate Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre and the Canyon Sainte-Anne are great stops along the way. You can see the way the French tried to build up the area, as the original habitant plots are still visible along the coast and the island. Many gourmet food and wine experiences can be had on the island as well.