There are many things to see in Quebec City for first-timers, but these are the best.
If you’re planning a trip to Quebec City, Canada, you’ll want to make the most of your time. Luckily, I went there in late 2022 and went to most attractions in Quebec City that are on top of the list for first-time tourists. There is plenty to do and see in the city that will keep you busy for at least four days and three nights. This list will give you an idea of what activities are available so you can plan your trip before you go.
Quebec City, a city of over 800,000 people, is a popular tourist destination for Canadians and Americans. It is the capital of the province of Quebec and is known for its French heritage and culture. Quebec City also has a great deal of history, with many buildings dating back to the 16th century. The city is described as an old-world charm city full of rich history with many historic buildings. Its narrow cobblestone streets make it a perfect place for walkable tourism. Locals refer to their city as “little Europe” and are proud of that.
Disclosure: I spent four beautiful days in Quebec City, sponsored by the CVB. All opinions are mine.
Unique Experiences In Quebec City
There are many things to do in Quebec City when planning a vacation. Here are some of the top attractions for first-timers.
- Visit the Saint Lawrence River. The river flows through both sides of Quebec City and is perfect for a walk or bike ride along its banks. The views of downtown from across the water are beautiful, especially at night when all its lights reflect off the surface!
- Take a hike up Montmorency Falls, just outside of town, about a 30-minute drive, but worth visiting if you’ve never been. The waterfall will blow you away!
- Ride the Funicular to get from upper to lower town – it only takes about five minutes each way and costs $4 each way!
Quebec City is a walkable town, but if you plan to visit Montmorency Falls and a few places I’ve mentioned below, you’ll want to rent a vehicle or find other transportation.
Best Time To Visit
The best time to visit Quebec City is in the summer. The weather is warm and sunny, and there are plenty of festivals and other events throughout the city. If you’re looking for something more picturesque, visit in late September when the leaves begin changing color for autumn. As for the wintertime, it does get cold, but locals tell me they dress in many layers and prefer the summer months.
Tips When Visiting Quebec City For the First Time
- Book a hotel with spectacular views.
- Hire a tour guide whenever possible. They know the city and can tell you things you’ll never find out on your own unless you know the right questions to ask.
- Brush up on your French (not needed, but helpful when driving around the city and reading signs).
- Take the Funicular at least once.
- You do not need to exchange US currency.
- Reservations are required at most fine-dining restaurants.
- To be on time when driving to attractions, leave earlier than you think you should. Especially if you don’t know French and can’t read the signs, it’s doable. Just go early in case you get turned around on the highways.
- All tourism personnel speaks English, but not all locals speak English. Be sure to talk to someone in the tourism business if you have questions: Hotel personnel, restaurant servers, taxi drivers, valet parkers, etc.
Attractions In Quebec City For First-Timers
Quebec City is unique. Outdoor activities are among the most unbelievable experiences. You’ll want to explore as many outdoor adventures as possible.
What should you do if you are a first-time visitor to Québec City? I recently took a first-time trip to Quebec City and would have been lost if I didn’t have a plan. I had an itinerary to follow, but knowing not everyone will, you at least have to have a plan before you go.
• Saint Lawrence River
The Saint Lawrence River is a major waterway that flows through Quebec City, dividing it in half. It’s also one of the longest rivers in North America and extends over 2,300 miles from Lake Ontario to the Atlantic Ocean. The area surrounding this massive body of water has been inhabited for thousands of years; its first inhabitants were Native Americans. Later European settlers arrived around 1608.
• Montmorency Falls
Montmorency Falls is a waterfall on the Montmorency River and is a short drive from the city. The falls are a natural attraction and are one of the major tourist attractions in Quebec City.
Fact: Montmorency Falls are taller than Niagara Falls by 98 feet. The falls are fed by water from Lake Saint-Francis through a canal that runs down its side before emptying into another lake called Lac Beauport just south of where it meets up with St Lawrence River, which eventually flows into the Atlantic Ocean near New York City!
Be sure to ride the cable car up there and back because the other way to get there would entail a long walk up many stairs, but if you’re inclined to do so, do it! It would be a great workout, for sure. Spend time on the suspension bridge above, take photos, and consider doing the zip line if it’s open.
• Photograph Château Frontenac
Fairmont Le Château Frontenac is a Europe-style resort with spectacular views of the St. Lawrence River in Quebec City and is the most photographed hotel in the world. It’s located on the banks of the St. Lawrence River and is the second most visited tourist attraction in the province of Quebec (after Montmorency Falls). Suppose you want to get some pictures of this beautiful building and its surrounding landscape. In that case, we recommend going during sunset or sunrise to capture its beauty and colorful skies – it will look even more spectacular!
Also, take a photo of the Parliament Building. I believe they offer tours. I didn’t get to do this, but my tour guide told me all about it.
• Stroll Old Quebec / Funicular
With its cobblestone streets and boutiques and restaurants one after another, a stroll is one of the best things you can do, and that doesn’t cost a dime – unless you find souvenirs and other things you want – I did! Be sure to ride the Funicular to the lower town and either ride it back or walk back to the upper town. But for the experience, you should ride it at least one way.
If you want to know about the history of the city, then I suggest hiring a local tour guide. They know it all – at least mine did. I found out things that I’m sure I learned in high school but have forgotten. Walking tours are the best here because everything is so close to one another.
While in Québec City, one must experience the Old Quebec Funicular!
• Old Quebec City Food Tour
The Old Quebec City Food Tour is a great way to explore the city. The tour is a guided walking tour, and you can choose from various packages that range in price and length. Tours are offered in French and English.
The food tour allows visitors to enjoy their favorite local dishes while learning about the history of Quebec City’s gastronomy. You’ll taste samples of poutine, maple syrup taffy on snow, smoked meat sandwiches, ice cream or cheese fondue–and more!
For a Quebec City experience, make reservations for a four or 6-course experience.
• Strom Spa
A visit to Strom Spa is a must for those looking for relaxation, luxury, and pampering. Located in the heart of Old Quebec, this spa offers various services, most being outdoors. The spa is open year-round and offers massages, facials, and body treatments. The best part – the Saint Lawerence River is the view!
• Visit île d’Orléans
The île d’Orléans is a popular day trip from Quebec City. The island is about an hour away and has plenty of things to do and see. You can visit the Maison Saint-Louis, built-in 1688 as a Catholic mission. Or you can take your time wandering around the charming village of Saint-Pierre-de-l’Ile d’Orleans, which has restaurants and shops that will help you get lost in history for hours!
• Tour Jacques Cartier National Park
Jacques Cartier National Park is a Canadian National Park located on the south shore of the Saint Lawrence River in Quebec. The park was named after Jacques Cartier, a French explorer who explored the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and River and claimed Canada for France. The park contains various landscapes and ecosystems, including boreal forests and peatlands. There are also many waterways within its boundaries, such as lakes and rivers which are home to many species of fish and wildlife.
Jacques-Cartier National Park is located about 62 miles southwest of Quebec City. The park is open year-round and is an outdoor adventure I’ll never forget. This area is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts.
We hope you’ve enjoyed learning about some of our favorite attractions in Quebec City. If you are planning a trip to this beautiful city, we hope these ideas will help make your vacation even more memorable!