Don’t miss out on exploring Canada’s most beautiful city – here’s our guide to all the best things to do in Quebec City!
The French part of Canada is a truly fascinating region, filled with picturesque landscapes, historic cities and a wonderful culture.
When we first moved to Montreal in 2009 we instantly fell in love with the Quebec attitude towards life – eat well, have fun, don’t take life too seriously.
And nowhere is this more evident than in the capital of the province, Quebec City.
This absolutely gorgeous city has a distinctly European feel about it, and being incorporated in 1608, it is now proudly over 400 years old.
We’ve had the pleasure of visiting Quebec City in both the summer and the winter, and it has quickly become one of our favourite cities in all of Canada.
No matter what season you choose to visit, you’re bound to find plenty of amazing Quebec City activities to enjoy.
Things to Do in Quebec City, Canada
Quebec City is blessed with fantastic weather throughout the summer, and with cafes spilling out onto the sidewalks and flowers blooming around town, it’s a great time to be here.
Just because it gets very cold in winter though doesn’t mean Quebec City shuts down – quite the opposite! Now you’ll find adrenaline-filled toboggans, unique hotels and one of the world’s largest winter carnivals
You’ll be spoilt for choice when wondering what to do in Quebec City in summer or winter.
From thrills to food, the curious to the astounding, here’s our guide to the best things to do in Quebec City.
Tour La Citadelle de Québec
The citadel just on the edge of the city at Cap Diamant is one of the most impressive and interesting places to visit in Quebec, and is well worth spending a few hours at.
It was built in the 17th century, and has managed to stand the test of time to be the oldest military installation still in use in Canada.
This star-shaped citadel has incredible views over the St Lawrence River, and has been designated as both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a National Historic Site.
The best way to explore La Citadelle de Québec is to join a guided tour, where you will be shown through its 300-year-old history, with a good measure of interesting stories thrown in that you won’t find in any guidebooks.
Definitely don’t miss the museum as well, which has a bunch of fascinating exhibitions and interactive displays providing a wealth of information.
The Citadel is open year-round, with longer operating hours in the summer, making it one of the top things to see in Quebec City. Prices include entrance to the museum, the Changing of the Guard and the Beating of the Retreat ceremonies.
It’s the biggest event on Quebec City’s calendar, and if you’re planning on visiting Quebec City in winter, you need to time your trip with the Carnaval de Quebec.
The city comes alive every February when the carnival comes to town, and huge parts of the old town play host to parades, exhibitions, fun rides and concerts.
There’s a range of events that shouldn’t be missed as well, such as the ice canoe race that happens down the St Lawrence River.
Each year a number of artists come together to build a collection of ice sculptures too, with the largest being the legendary Ice Palace, home to the carnival’s mascot, Bonhomme.
This is the kind of event that is fun for people of all ages, and we’d go so far to say that if you didn’t spend some time at the Carnaval de Quebec, you missed the biggest attraction for things to do in Quebec City in winter.
Get a Selfie with Bonhomme
Bonhomme, the ‘King of Winter’ is the 7-foot tall walking snowman that is proudly the mascot of the Carnaval de Quebec, and he is a true provincial legend.
Bonhomme was born in 1954 during the first event of the current Carnaval de Quebec (it had been happening in various forms for over 50 years prior to that), and he has been an integral part of the carnival ever since.
Nobody knows who Bonhomme actually is, and there’s never been an instance of Bonhomme being seen in two places at the same time, adding to the intrigue and mystique of this 400-pound snowman.
If you attend the winter carnival in Quebec City though, there’s a good chance you’ll find him hanging out in his palace or taking part in the parades.
Try to get a selfie with the legendary snowman, and be the envy of Quebecers forever!
Get Lost in Old Quebec (Vieux-Québec)
The most stunning part of Quebec City is without a doubt the old quarters, and you can easily spend days walking around its narrow, cobblestoned alleyways.
Vieux-Québec is the centrepiece of the city’s UNESCO World Heritage Site designation, and no matter what you are planning when thinking of things to do in Quebec City, you need to make this area a focal point.
By far the best way to explore Old Quebec is on foot, so set aside at least a day to wander aimlessly, allowing yourself to be amazed by the stunning architecture, delicious cafes, funky bars and curious shops.
Do Some Shopping at Quartier Petit-Champlain
One of the most beautiful parts within the old city is the Quartier Petit-Champlain, found at the bottom of the funicular beneath the Dufferin Terrace.
This is Quebec City’s premier tourist shopping district, and if you’re looking for boutique souvenirs, this is the place to find them.
The restaurants around here are also incredible, and if you can get past the touristy atmosphere of the place, it’s a great spot to bring your friends or family for a meal and drink during your visit of what to do in Quebec City.
Don’t miss out on the magnificent artists that line the street as well, selling hand-painted works and plenty of handicrafts
Visit the Hôtel de Glace (The Ice Hotel)
Just 45 minutes outside of Quebec City in Valcartier is one of the world’s most unique hotels, the famous Hôtel de Glace, also known as the Ice Hotel.
Every winter a team of expert builders get together and construct an unusual hotel made completely of ice. Everything, from the walls to the roof, the beds to the bar, is made using ice blocks and packed with snow.
Each room is also uniquely different, and while some are quite basic with just a bed and side tables, others have captivating themes with intricate art carved into the walls and LED lights embedded in the ice.
The top-of-the-line suite also boasts a hot tub, fire place and sauna!
No two hotels are ever the same, and each year architects and artists put forward their designs for how the hotel should look. Students from the nearby university are also given the opportunity to design a few rooms.
If the idea of staying in a freezing cold hotel made of ice is putting you off, don’t worry – All guests are given thick, 4-season sleeping bags to keep warm at night, and the beds of course have mattresses.
One night in the hotel starts at $349 for a week-day stay, so it’s not the cheapest accommodation in town, but it is definitely the most unique!
During the day the hotel is open to anybody though to come and visit. Make sure you grab a drink in the bar before you go (served in a glass made of ice, of course).
Ride the Funicular
The quickest way to get from Quartier Petit-Champlain to Dufferin Terrace is to jump on the iconic funicular, which connects the upper town with the lower town.
This historic railway has been a trademark of activities in Quebec City ever since it was opened in 1879, and travels 64m along a 45-degree hill, making it a convenient way of getting around the Old Town.
The views as you climb the rails are quite beautiful as well, so make sure you have your camera ready.
Wander Around Dufferin Terrace
The famous boardwalk in the upper town is one of the most popular Quebec City points of interest, and over two million people hit the terrace every year to admire the views over the St Lawrence River.
Named after one of Canada’s Governor Generals, Lord Dufferin, the Dufferin Terrace used to be off limits to the common folk of Quebec City, and instead reserved for the country’s elite to enjoy.
That changed in 1838 when it had its huge public inauguration, and it is now one of the must-do attractions in Quebec City at any time of year.
In Summer, the Dufferin Terrace is alive with dozens of musicians, street performers, artists and food vendors, while in wintertime everybody heads up to the terrace to race down the toboggan, one of the top fun things to do in Quebec City.
Visit the Parliament Building
Quebec City’s Parliament Building is regarded as the most important historical site in the entire province, and this along with its imposing architecture places it firmly on the list of the best tourist attractions in Quebec City.
Its design was inspired by the Louvre, the famous museum in Paris, and it’s hard not to be impressed the first time you cast your eyes over it.
The Parliament Building is still in active use, and it is the current home to the National Assembly, where all 125 of Quebec’s elected members meet.
You don’t just have to admire it from the outside though. The Parliament Building is open most days for guided tours, taking you through its wings and historic rooms.
If you’re really interested, you can also sit in on one of the National Assembly Parliamentary Proceedings.
Visit the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec
By far the best art gallery in all of Quebec, the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec has over 38’000 pieces of art from all around the province spanning 4 centuries.
The various pavilions all focus on different styles, and strolling around the exhibits is a great thing to do in Quebec City on a rainy day.
You can find the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec on the edge of the Plains of Abraham.
Eat at the Revolving Restaurant – Ciel! Bistro-Bar
There’s nothing quite like enjoying a delicious meal with a view, and the best place to do this in Quebec City is at the Ciel! Bistro-Bar at the top of the Hôtel le Concorde.
Besides having a remarkable revolving floor, which slowly rotates to give you epic 360-degree views of Quebec City below, Ciel! Bistro-Bar has some of the highest (pun-intended) quality food in town.
This is one of those things to do in Quebec City where you can kill two birds with one stone – find an awesome view of the city, and tuck into a delicious meal.
Make sure you have a reservation, as it can get busy on weekends.
Chill Out at the Plains of Abraham
In the early days of Canada’s colonisation, the French fought ferociously with the British over land claims and the right to take control across the country’s east.
While the British eventually dominated in most of Canada, the province of Quebec remained French, and it is here in the Plains of Abraham where the largest battles were fought.
Today though the Plains of Abraham is a large city park, similar to Central Park in New York City, and it’s a popular place for locals and tourists alike to gather any time of year.
You’ll find plenty of cycle tracks, cross-country ski trails, walking paths and open spaces to enjoy. If you have a few hours spare on your trip to Quebec City and are looking for a great place to relax, this is the place to be.
Wander the Grounds of the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac
Quebec City is home to a lot of incredible attractions, including what is claimed to be the most photographed hotel in the entire world – the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac.
The Fairmont chain of hotels in Canada are famous for being housed in the most spectacular buildings or locations in the country, and in Quebec City things aren’t any different.
This massive hotel almost looks like a castle with its place high on the hill, and with 611 rooms it could house a small army.
While the luxurious rooms are of course only reserved for paying guests, anybody can walk around the grounds or check out the restaurants and bars inside the Fairmont.
Follow the City Walls
Before you actually visit Quebec City, you’d be forgiven for not realising that it is actually a walled city. In fact, it is the only walled city still remaining in all of Canada or the United States!
The fortifications surrounding Vieux-Québec stretch for 4.6km, with a number of large gates found along its perimeter.
In certain parts you can even climb onto the top of the fortification, allowing you to walk around with a beautiful view of the city on both directions.
When wondering what to see in Quebec City, make sure you don’t miss the fortifications!
Race Down the Toboggan au 1884
Quebec City in winter isn’t all about unique hotels and colourful parades – by far the coolest activity is racing down the Toboggan au 1884!
Located at the far end of the Dufferin Terrace, this huge slide built of timber, snow and ice has been a Quebec City staple for over 100 years.
You purchase your tickets from the nearby cafe, and then jump in line with the masses before heading to the top of the ramp to claim your toboggan, which is a simple wooden sled.
Once at the top, there’s only one way to get down, and that’s quickly!
Jump on the toboggan with your friends and family, and be prepared to slide down at speeds up to 70km/h.
It is a thrilling ride, guaranteed to have you shrieking with joy (and perhaps trepidation) as you hurtle down the tracks of a snowy ramp. Once is never enough, so buy multiple tickets.
Enjoy a Coffee and Meal at Le Local 1160 Cafe
Le Local 1160 Cafe can be enjoyed at any time of year, but it’s a particularly cool place to visit in winter thanks to their mini-museum of Carnaval de Quebec memorabilia found upstairs.
Le Local 1160 is a truly special place, and not just because they make fantastic coffee.
All the ingredients they use in their meals are organic and locally sourced, and their menu is ever-evolving based on what they can get in stock.
They actively work with local farmers as well, supporting them throughout the year and investing in community-based projects.
The food in seriously impeccable, and hugely varied. We enjoyed the best breakfast we had in all of Quebec here (don’t miss out on the crepes), and wish we could have eaten here every single day.
Go Ice Skating at Place d’Youville
Every winter the local council turns the Place d’Youville just outside of the old city into a large outdoor ice skating rink, and doing a few laps around is known as one of the top things to do in Quebec City.
It’s quite amazing to be doing such a truly Canadian activity right in the heart of a city, surrounded by centuries-old buildings and beautiful lights.
You can rent your skates right there by the edge of the rink, or bring your own. Fun for the whole family!
Soak in the Strøm Spa Nordique
This brand new, luxurious spa located near the Plains of Abraham is the newest hotspot in all of Quebec City, and everybody from celebrities to students have been flocking to it since opening in 2018.
The idea is simple – take a traditional Nordic spa experience, place it in an urban setting, and ensure no expense is spared when designing it.
They have achieved just that at Strøm Spa Nordique.
With its sensational views over the St Lawrence River being the main drawcard, the Strøm Spa Nordique is made up of a number of hot pools and sensual rooms to relax the muscles and mind.
There’s a wide range of herbal saunas, thermal pools and cold plunge ponds, all set at different temperatures so you’re guaranteed to find a spot you feel comfortable with.
Besides the traditional spa options, there’s infrared chairs, massage treatments, and our personal favourite, the salt floating pool, where all of your senses are completely isolated as you float effortlessly in the hot water.
Take it from us as people who really aren’t spa people in the slightest – the Strøm Spa Nordique is an absolute must-do!