Quebec Frontenac Castle

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How to spend a day in... Québec City, Canada

Get the best out of this historic and varied North American city

Updated May 2020

By Angelina Villa-Clarke

Founded by the French in 1608, Canada’s Québec City is one of the oldest cities in North America – and arguably one of the most picturesque. Its clifftop position gives dramatic views across the St Lawrence River, while Old Québec, a World Heritage Site, seduces with its cobbled streets and towering church spires. Fiercely French at heart, make the most of your afternoon arrival and extended port time there with this essential guide.

Stores and restaurants on Rue du Petit Champlain street, old City, Quebec

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1pm-4pm: Explore the historic quarter

Kick off your visit to Québec City with a Princess excursion that takes you around the historic quarter. The old heart of the city is full of atmosphere with ancient buildings and pretty bistros. The tour will take you to both the Lower and Upper Towns. Start in the restored Place Royale, home to Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church, one of the oldest stone churches standing in North America. Soak up the quaint ambience of the surrounding streets, including Petit-Champlain, then jump aboard the funicular to the walled Upper Town. Street musicians give this part of the city a Parisian feel, especially around Place d’Armes. Here you can stroll around the boutiques and refuel in one of the cosy cafés. The tour also includes a visit to the Place de l’Hôtel de Ville and Ursuline Monastery, as well as the Seminary of Québec.

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4pm-8pm: Have a local experience

From Old Québec, meander back to the ship to be whisked away for a ‘sugar shack’ dining excursion. Be warned: arrive hungry, as you’ll be served an endless line-up of Québécois dishes. From maple ham to maple candies, you can work off the sugar rush with a guided tour around the maple museum, while live folklore music will transport you to bygone days, before you’re taken back to the pier.

9am-10:30am: See the natural side

It’s a new day. After leaving the ship, walk off breakfast with a leisurely stroll to the tranquil Plains of Abraham. Now a stately park, stretching over 267 acres, it’s the site of a pivotal battle where British troops defeated the French in 1759 – the outcome of which changed the course of North American history. Thankfully the scene is more peaceful these days. Check out the Joan of Arc Garden, which has a display of over 150 varieties of plants and flowers.

10:30am-12pm: Take in a museum

Time for a culture fix with a visit to the Musée de la Civilisation. Retrace your steps to the old port and on the way you’ll find this world-class museum, which explores the history of Québec and the province’s aboriginal heritage and artworks. With interactive elements and rotating shows, there’s much to hold your interest. Our advice: choose only one or two exhibits so you’re not overwhelmed with the array of items to take in.

A plate of food served at Chez Rioux & Pettigrew in Quebec City, Canada

Chez Rioux & Pettigrew

12pm-1:30pm: Feast at lunch

You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to dining out in the city, but for something different, head to Chez Rioux & Pettigrew – a five-minute walk away from Musée de la Civilisation. Once an old general store dating back to 1860, it serves classic French cuisine. Take your seats in a dining room decorated with remnants from its past – think tea tins, barrels of molasses and sacks of flour – and try the blind menu for a seasonal journey through Québec. It’s a sensory adventure.

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1:30pm-2pm: Explore ancient architecture

Visit the 370-year-old Notre-Dame de Québec Cathedral-Basilica for a moment of reflection. Standing on the site of the chapel constructed by Samuel de Champlain, the founder of Québec City, its neo-baroque gilding and religious paintings are truly breathtaking.

2pm-3pm: Stop for a cuppa

For a touch of magic, the fairytale-like Fairmont Le Château Frontenac is the perfect place for a cup of tea and slice of cake. It may be a luxury hotel, but it’s also one of the city’s most iconic buildings, its turrets dominating the skyline since 1893. Said to be the most photographed hotel in the world, it has welcomed everyone from HM The Queen to Winston Churchill to Steven Spielberg. In celebration of its noted history, there is also a guided tour that reveals more about its layered past.

3pm-4pm: Soak up the views

Finally, it’s on to Dufferin Terrace – a 671m-long wooden boardwalk that stretches from the foot of the Citadelle (Québec’s famous military fort) to Fairmont Le Château Frontenac. The best spot to take in the views – the St Lawrence River and across to the Île d’Orléans – soaking up the vista is the best way to say farewell to the city before you return to the ship.

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About the Author

Angelina Villa-Clarke

Angelina Villa-Clarke

Angelina has been a travel journalist for the past 20 years, having caught the travel bug when she was a child. Before going freelance nine years ago, she was associate editor on British Airways' High Life Magazine and travelled widely. She now writes for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Her next assignment is in NYC and later this year she's headed to Mekong Delta in Vietnam.

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