It’s a magical place, Québec City. It’s like a trip to Europe without ever leaving North America. Its quaint city streets, Québécois culture, and traditional cuisine have all the charm and history you need without crossing the pond. Don’t worry about renting a car — it’s a walkable city and Uber is readily available for any trips further out of Old Quebec. The city is predominantly French speaking, but many people also speak at least some English as well. Still, it doesn’t hurt to brush up on some basic French skills! Spend the perfect weekend in Québec City with these things to do to get you started.
Explore Old Quebec
Québec City is charming in the winter too!
Right in the heart of Québec City, you could spend an entire day walking the streets through this historic district. Quebec is the only walled city north of Mexico, and the entire area of Old Quebec is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can actually walk along the top of the wall or on the path next to it for a great self-guided walking tour. If you walk the entire wall, it’s 4.6 km (just under 3 miles), but you can also choose to just walk a portion of it. For a guided tour, this Québec City walking tour will give you the complete details on the highlights of the city, or if you’re hungry give this small group food tour a try.
Discover the Huron-Wendat Nation at Wendake
This was one of my favorite things to do when spending a weekend in Québec City. To spread awareness and respect for the Huron-Wendat Nation, the Huron Traditional Site was built to re-create a typical village in Wendake where Huron-Wendat ancestors moved in 1697. This site is called Onhoüa Chetek8e, which means “from yesterday to today.” Guided tours are led by an aboriginal guide who will share details on the traditional way of life for the Huron-Wendat people and what their lifestyle looks like today. The tour will take you into the smokehouse and drying tent to learn about food preservation methods, the sweat lodge to learn about traditional purification techniques (this is where their ancestors would go to meditate and make important decisions), and will highlight other important parts of their history and culture.
Visitors will also walk through the Annonchia longhouse, which is the traditional Huron dwelling. People lived in longhouses from 500 AD all the way until the mid-1700s. This means that the Huron-Wendats never actually lived in teepees — other aboriginal people from different tribes did live in teepees, and the tour also covers how these tribes differ from each other.
Inside the longhouse
I especially loved learning about the Huron-Wendat women, as they played an essential role in their society. A clan mother was selected from the older women and she was in charge of all parts of domestic life — everything from distributing the food to appointing the Nation’s political leaders.
Today, there are just over 3,000 people in the Huron-Wendat Nation, and about half of those still live in Wendake. They nearly lost their language, but they are still thriving — their community even has their own police force and elementary school. The younger generations are turning more to the traditions of their ancestors and are keeping the culture alive and strong.
Eat a BeaverTail
A trip to Canada is never complete without a good BeaverTail! This fried dough in the shape of… you guessed it… a beaver tail, is a Canadian pastry that will give you your sugar fill for the week. BeaverTails are traditionally topped with cinnamon sugar and lemon, but there are plenty of other topping options to suit your preferences, like chocolate hazelnut, maple, or apple cinnamon.
And eat poutine, of course
Another Canadian staple, poutine actually originated in the province of Quebec. If you haven’t heard of poutine, it is the simple combination of french fries topped with cheese curds and gravy that is nothing short of amazing. Many restaurants have been getting creative in recent years and are creating their own spin on the traditional poutine, so you might as well just order it everywhere you go to test out the different variations.
Buy all the maple things
Whatever you do on your Québec City trip, don’t leave without something maple in your luggage! To get your fix, Délices Érable & Cie will have everything you need. They sell everything from maple sugar to maple mustard to maple vinegar, plus plenty of other products I never imagined would be made with maple. There’s even a cute little maple museum upstairs where you can learn more about all that maple you’ll be purchasing. I discovered that maple products are actually good for you because they contain natural sugar, and you can use maple sugar in place of white sugar in all recipes!
Find your wellness haven at Le Monastère des Augustines
Now that you’re ready for a cleanse after all that sugar and gravy, spend some time at Le Monastère des Augustines to connect with the legacy of the Augustinian Sisters and focus on holistic health. The mission of Le Monastère des Augustines is to heal the bodies and souls of their guests, and to also support those caring for the sick. In 1639, this is where three sisters from the Augustinian Order established the first hospital north of Mexico in North America. The Augustinian Sisters went on to found 12 hospitals that are still a part of Quebec’s public healthcare system today. The monastery now primarily serves as a museum that features the work of the Augustinian Sisters. Throughout the museum, you’ll find artifacts from these hospitals that tell the story of the sisters caring for the sick and information that sheds light on their way of life when they lived at the monastery.
You can even book a room here to stay overnight that will take you back to the simplicity of the lives the Augustinian Sisters led. They also offer regular yoga classes and other wellness activities for the public, and they take place in a peaceful vault that was used in the past to keep food fresh. They have a restaurant right on site that serves up fresh food options that include raw and vegetarian dishes, sprouts, nuts, grains, and healthy infusions inspired by the Augustinian Sisters. Outside they have an herbal garden in the summers, and when they need to purchase anything they work exclusively with providers from Quebec as much as possible.
Spend a day out on Ile d’Orleans
Just outside of the city and across the Île d’Orléans Bridge from Beauport, the countryside beckons on this peaceful island. The size of the island is nearly as big as Manhattan, but it is home to only 7,000 inhabitants, 90% of which are famers. Throughout Île d’Orléans you’ll find adorable shops, wineries, farms, and more. Find some of my favorites below if you’re visiting on your own, or try a farm and market tour to explore the best of the island with a group.
Chocolaterie de l’Ile d’Orléans
There’s just about every kind of chocolate you can imagine at Chocolaterie de l’Ile d’Orléans, including ice cream and jumbo chocolate cows. It’s a great stop for a tasty gift or a sweet treat for yourself!
Cidrerie Verger Bilodeau
Fresh from the apples they grow, Cidrerie Verger Bilodeau makes ciders, ice ciders, and sparkling ciders. They grow 10 different varieties of apples and have 3,000 apple trees. Made from frozen apples, the Nectar de Glace ice cider is my personal favorite. They refer to it as the “drink of god,” which I think explains it perfectly. They also have lots of other apple and maple goodies here besides the cider, like the melt-in-your-mouth apple butter I took home.
Cassis Monna & Filles
At the core of Cassis Monna & Filles is black current — a berry rich with vitamin C and antioxidants. Black currant is perfect for l’Ile d’Orléans since it can survive the harsh winters in Quebec. Down in their wine cellar you can browse their shop and taste their wines and other black current products. Two sisters, Catherine and Anne, are the 5th generation of the Monna family and are now running the family business.
Vignoble du Mitan
Sample some of the different wines from a variety of grapes (over 8,000 vines!) at Vignoble du Mitan with one of their tastings. The family has owned the farmland since the 17th century and founded the vineyard in 1998. They also make an ice wine if you want to continue the “ice” theme from the cider. It takes 10 times more grapes to make and they press the grapes when they are frozen, but it sure is a refreshing treat on a warm summer day looking out at the beautiful views of the St. Lawrence River and the Laurentian Forest.
La Nougaterie Québec
La Nougaterie Québec makes all-natural products without preservatives. If you’ve never had nougat it tastes a bit like a marshmallow (shh don’t tell the French) but a little harder, and sometimes there are other additions to the candy, like nuts or dried fruit. The nougat is made from egg whites, honey, sugar, and almonds. They have so many different kinds of nougat — like green apple, maple, salted caramel, and even piña colada — that you’re bound to find one you like.
Have dinner at L’Affaire est Ketchup
First things first, make a reservation at L’Affaire est Ketchup. The entire restaurant probably isn’t much bigger than your own kitchen, so seating is very limited. You might as well plan to spend at least a few hours here, because the food is just that good that you’ll never want to stop eating. In fact, between me, @thecitysidewalks, and @arielpoems, we ordered every appetizer on the menu, an entree each, and 3 of their 4 dessert options.
The menu changes daily and is posted on a chalkboard hanging on the wall. It’s written in French, so the waiter reads it off in English to the whole restaurant each night. And the descriptions with the language barrier make it even better. For example, the pied blu was described as, “You take a pig and we cook it. Even the things you think you won’t like, we cook it.” The kitchen actually looks like it’s just someone’s house, but you’ll be amazed at the incredible food that comes out of it.
Also have dinner at Bello Ristorante
If you’ve been a part of the Little Things Travel community for a while now, you’ll know I am a sucker for a good pesto pasta dish. I am happy to share that Bello Ristorante did not disappoint! I would return back here in a heartbeat on my next trip to Québec City. This is another one that gets booked up quickly, so be sure to make that reservation!
Stay at the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac
It would only make sense that I suggest the iconic Château Frontenac, right? Seriously, this place will make you not want to even leave the hotel. But make yourself do it, because there is SO much to see in Québec City. More than just a hotel, the Château Frontenac is a gorgeous castle overlooking the St. Lawrence River. It also happens to be the most photographed hotel in the world, and for good reason. The immaculate Château Frontenac is the star of the Québec City skyline and your luxurious stay will be well worth it. This year, 2018, is actually the celebration of the hotel’s 125th anniversary!
Just alongside the Château Frontenac is Terrasse Dufferin. This boardwalk stretches along the St. Lawrence River and offers some of the most beautiful views and is simply a lovely place for a stroll. If you happen to visit in the winter, there is a toboggan run right along the boardwalk that’s a lot of fun even for the adults!
Don’t forget your prAna gear on your Québec City trip! My yvonna tee was the perfect top for a day of exploring the city. Read my full prAna review for the complete scoop on my favorite outfit of the trip.
The great thing about Québec City is that what’s mentioned here only scratches the surface. This should keep you plenty busy with only a weekend in Québec City, but you can spend much more time discovering this true gem of a city.
Have you been to Québec City before? What would you add to this list of must-sees for a weekend in Québec City?
Special thanks to Québec City Tourism for hosting the Women in Travel Summit 2018 and providing complimentary tours for attendees. As always, all opinions are my own. If you have any questions about the companies or products mentioned on this page, please reach out to me and I will happily answer them.