A city on a cliff. Cobblestone streets. Cheese, chocolate, and coffee. Le francais.
This past August (I know – a wee bit late!) was our fourth trip to Canada in three years, but our first time staying in Quebec City. I love to travel and I love sharing my experiences with others. I often find, though, that I quickly forget everything we did – at least the details. I made sure to take copious notes this time around regarding where we stayed, where we ate, what we did, etc.
Kevin and I are most certainly budget travelers, so nothing we do is ever super fancy unless it was a gift or we have good reason to splurge. We do not dine out much, but rather hit up markets and get snacks to make up meals here and there.
Our first night, we stayed in Auberges de Basilique– a little inn right across from the Shrine of St. Anne de Beaupre. For a decent price, you get a nice room with a private bathroom and free wifi (option to have breakfast included). It also has a stunning view of the shrine when you walk out front. We spent some time at the shrine, which is of course, simply magnificent. A majestic place that is built to draw us into prayer and devotion. My favorite parts are just gazing up at the ceiling and trying to decipher the french written all around.
Since the shrine is about 40 minutes away from downtown Quebec City, we decided to spend the remaining nights in La Cité-Limoilou, just a 25-30 minute walk from the old city. We used Airbnb to find the apartment we stayed in, and it could not have worked out better. Talk about a phenomenal alternative to an expensive hotel! The apartment we stayed in was perfect, we had a nice kitchen to cook most of our meals (avoiding the cost of dining out!), a great touchdown place not too far from the places we wanted to go, and free parking and wifi.
It did rain off and on while we were visiting, but luckily the sun poked out intermittently as well. One morning, we got up early and headed down to Le Chateau Frontenac (most photographed hotel in the world!). It was early on a Wednesday, so the place was all but deserted, which made for a peaceful stroll. I love the Fairmont brand. Their hotels, including the Chateau, really are the epitome of luxury to me. So that landmark is most certainly worth seeing!
From the Chateau (which is located in upper town), we walked down to lower town. I’ll be honest when I say that Kevin and I are not great city travelers. While of course I’d have no problem filling my time in a place like Rome, Paris, London, etc, many cities prove difficult for us to find “things to do.” We don’t shop much (it’s expensive), we don’t love museums, we don’t go to shows, and we’re not much for drinking. So what is it that we do?
Well, it looks different depending on the place, but here we planted ourselves on the patio of the most quaint little coffee shop, La Maison Smith, in the Place de Royale for some people watching, architecture admiring, journaling, and in Kevin’s case, drawing. It was the perfect choice. I got a fancy latte and Kevin got a tasty croissant. And as we continued our exploring of both lower & upper town, we found plenty of adorable shops & restaurants. Nobody should be left wanting when wandering around these parts.
Since some of the day was rainy, we took some time to drive around the coast of Quebec City and taking in the views of the St. Lawrence river.
The next day, we continued exploring upper town since it really is quite big. This included more shops – some were incredibly unique. We stopped in the oldest grocery store in North America, Épicerie J.A. Moisan, still in operation – lots of novelty items as well as your typical grocery products.
We spent the remainder of our afternoon walking around the Citadel (since Quebec City was/is the oldest fortified city in North America). Inside the fortress is a museum (for a fee), but we opted to just walk above on the fortress walls. We had a gorgeous day combined with the most grand perspective of the city. Walking around the citadel offered some truly amazing views. A perfect place for a picnic!
After a late afternoon stop at the apartment for some nourishment & rest, we went out again and decided to take the ferry from Quebec to Levis. It leaves from the vieux-port (in lower town) and costs just 3,50 per person (one way)! We took it in the evening during a striking golden hour, and I’d say it was worth it just for the chance to see Quebec City from the water. Levis seems like it could have some interesting things to do, but not in the evening (everything was closed!). We instead took a long walk up MANY steps to see a high-point view of the river.
Our last full day we were very excited because we planned to go to Ile d’Orleans. This is a little island in between Quebec City and the mainland (Beaupre being one of the towns), with one bridge on/off – only open from 9am-9pm (free to visit)! It’s pretty much completely countryside, focused very much on agriculture and tourism. It was the most intriguing little place I’d ever seen! The island is quite long and took us about and hour and a half to drive around fully (with one brief stop at first). Beautiful fields, little farm homes with red doors & shutters, and incredible landscape at every stop. Our first drive around was in the rain, but the sun came out and thank goodness it did or we would have missed the entire point of our visit!
Nearly every house or farm you saw was open for business, selling all different kinds of goods! Blueberries, strawberries, chocolate, cheese, wine, iced cider, and more! We stopped in at multiple places and picked up a few things that we could not resist (I mean…one was the oldest fromagerie in America…and raw goat & sheep cheese? Can’t really get that around here!) Needless to say, I highly recommend this gem!
Finally, since it was our last night, after stealing some last views of the old city, we went out for dinner downtown, in newer parts of the city (still beautiful, and less expensive). We chose to visit a place called Brynd Smoked Meat, and we were so happy with our choice. We split a delicious salad and some poutine (very generous portions!).
That pretty much sums it up. I’m always happy to answer any questions if you are planning a trip to Quebec! It’s a beautiful place with such wonderful culture. Au revoir!