Those unfamiliar with Quebec’s historic capital might think that it’s all cobblestone streets, ancient museums, and European charm. But it’s also a hub for hip boutiques, bustling modern bistros, and a thriving contemporary art scene. While Quebec City’s infinite charms could keep visitors busy for weeks, here’s how to make the most of it if you have only 24 hours to spare.
Morning History Lessons
Stroll past 400-year-old fortified walls for a brief lesson on Quebec City’s military history. Visit the Citadelle of Québec, the largest British fortress in North America, from which you can enjoy the province’s only Changing of the Guard ceremony in the summers and breathtaking views of the Saint Lawrence River year-round. Don’t miss the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec and its stunning collection of artwork that dates back to the 17th century. And if you’re looking for something completely different, sign up for a Quebec History X tour. It’s led by a Quebecois rapper who explores the city’s history through the lens of black slavery since the very beginnings of New France in 1629.
Afternoon Shopping Spree
Venture beyond the old city to cool revitalized districts like Saint-Jean-Baptiste and Saint-Roch. Take a trip through 1970s pop culture at the wacky Rétro Bordello, bring home a vintage birdcage chandelier from home furnishings store Bois & Cuir, or reclaim your childhood at the 25,000-square-foot toy store, Benjo, where VIP entrances are only for kids. If you’re feeling even more adventurous, head across the Saint-Charles River to the working-class neighborhood of Limoilou, where you might find the perfect gift at an eclectic boutique like Article 721 or learn to make your own pasta at kitchen emporium La Folle Fourchette.
Is it lunchtime yet? You would be seriously remiss to leave Quebec City without tasting Canada’s national dish – the humble yet mighty poutine. This dish of crispy fries doused in piping hot beef gravy and topped with squeaky cheese curds can be best enjoyed at Poutineville (where you can build your own with imaginative toppings like Philly steak and feta cheese), the tiny hole-in-the-wall Chez Gaston in the heart of St Roch, or the Fromagerie des Grondines for an artisanal, organic variation.
To burn off some calories from all that poutine, consider an adrenaline-pumping activity like whizzing down Au 1884, the 800-foot-long toboggan slide that dates back to 1884 and reaches speeds of more than 40 miles an hour. In warmer weather, head to the Parc de la Chute-Montmorency, where you can climb the cliffs adjacent to the magnificent 272-foot-high waterfalls or take a zip line that stretches almost a thousand feet across.
Dinner and Nightlife
End your evening along the bustling sidewalk cafes, restaurants, and bars of the Grande Allée. Here you can listen to French-Canadian folk singers at Les Voûtes de Napoléon, see and be seen with an exotic cocktail in hand at Bistro L’Atelier, or unwind with a couple of locally brewed Quebec beers at Brasserie Inox. If you’re not still ready for bed, take an evening stroll along the Old Port area or the romantic Quartier Petit Champlain. For the most spectacular after sunset view of the Old Town, take the 12-minute trip aboard the year-round Québec-Lévis ferry to enjoy the lights shimmering over the water.
For convenient access to attractions across Quebec City, consider booking your stay at the Hilton Quebec, where you’ll be only steps away from the cafes, shopping, and amenities of the city’s Old Town.