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Quebec City Introduction Walk (Self Guided), Quebec City

The province of Québec is a place all its own; a country within a country with its own traditions, architecture, and language. Perched on a cliff above the St. Lawrence River, Québec City is the soul of the province: the first city to be founded in Canada, the seat of the Québec government, and the self-proclaimed "Capitale Nationale".

The historic landmarks and 17th-century architecture are captivating. You can still walk the narrow, cobblestone streets of Old Québec’s Lower Town or pose next to one of the many cannons that line the city's walls. Included in this self-guided walk are Quebec's most visited historic landmarks and tourist attractions.
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Quebec City Introduction Walk Map

Guide Name: Quebec City Introduction Walk
Guide Location: Canada » Quebec City (See other walking tours in Quebec City)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 14
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.2 Km or 2 Miles
Author: Caroline
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Place Royale
  • Rue du Petit-Champlain
  • Old Quebec Funicular (Funiculaire du Vieux-Quebec)
  • Terrasse Dufferin
  • Chateau Frontenac
  • The Fort Museum (Le Musee du Fort)
  • Notre-Dame de Québec
  • Rue du Trésor
  • Ramparts of Quebec City
  • Citadelle of Quebec (La Citadelle de Quebec)
  • Parliament Building (Hotel du Parlement)
  • Plains of Abraham / Battlefield Park
  • Capital Observatory (Observatoire de la Capitale)
  • Grande Allée
1
Place Royale

1) Place Royale (must see)

It's not often one can visit an area in North America with a 400-year history. The birthplace of French-Canadian civilization, Place Royale is the original site of Samuel de Champlain's fort that he built on the shores of the St. Lawrence in the early 1600s. The footprint of that building is marked with black tile on the cobblestones and is particularly noticeable just in front of the stone church on the square – the oldest of its kind in N America, known as Notre-Dame-des-Victoires. At the door to the church is a bronze plaque commemorating said event, though it's unfortunately just inscribed in French.

Place Royale is quite small as it was built in the late 1600s by orders of the French "Sun King", Louis XIV, whose bust visitors can still see. What gives the square its charm, however, are probably the 2-3 story grey fieldstone row houses, all restored to their French colonial appearance with small windows, wide brick chimneys, steep roofs, and firewalls to prevent the spread of fire. Window shutters and doors are painted in cheerful colors (rose, yellow, blue, green), while plentiful window boxes are planted with colorful annual flowers. The ground floors of these homes, once owned by wealthy merchants, have shops offering art, clothing, and souvenirs.

Stop at Place Royale for some attractive photos, briefly visit the church, look at the tiled outline of Champlain's fort, and browse the shops. Not far away is one of the most stunningly beautiful murals in town called Fresque des Québecois, a three-dimensional landscape featuring landmarks and figures of Québec City's history.

Why You Should Visit:
To escape the crowds in a charming part of town. Not only beautiful but equipped with nice shops and restaurants. Feels more like Europe than anything else.

Tip:
La Maison Smith on the square here is a wonderful place to watch people go by with a cup of coffee and croissants. From there you can also easily walk to Petit-Champlain, which is a row of wonderful shops.
2
Rue du Petit-Champlain

2) Rue du Petit-Champlain (must see)

Named after Samuel de Champlain, who founded Québec City in 1608, Petit-Champlain is the oldest commercial district in North America and a wonderful place to pick up hand-made local items or enjoy a nice meal. In this unofficial "quartier" (neighborhood), boutique shops and cozy cafes spill out of restored houses, adding to the amazing smells from the many restaurants. You may pose at one of the cute windows or doors, or find benches in many locations if looking to rest for a bit.

The tiny neighborhood is centered on Rue du Petit-Champlain – a quaint narrow street at the foot of Cap Diamant. As you stroll through, don't miss the Fresque du Petit-Champlain, a large mural covering the side of a 3-story building near the street's southern end, at No. 102. Measuring 100 sq-m (900 sg-ft), it highlights the history of the district, including the 1759 bombardments, the landslides, and the many fires that occurred over the years. At the other end, you will find the famous Escalier Casse-Cou (or "Breakneck Staircase", because of its steepness). Be sure to get a picture of the Rue de Petit-Champlain from above, as the view is very iconic.
3
Old Quebec Funicular (Funiculaire du Vieux-Quebec)

3) Old Quebec Funicular (Funiculaire du Vieux-Quebec) (must see)

A quick, convenient and scenic way to get to and from Old Québec, the "Funiculaire" is also a little piece of history, first opened in 1879 in order to link the lower and upper towns. That's right, eighteen seventy-nine! Before being converted to electricity in 1906, water was transferred from one reservoir to another to make it function.

As small and limited as a funicular may seem, it's an amazing way to "see things". If going uphill, you'll enter at the Louis Jolliet House and, after getting a ticket (which takes about 10 minutes on a summer afternoon), you'll click and clack the 64 meters (210 feet) up on a 45-degree angle... to arrive at a beautiful view of the lower city, the St Lawrence River, and the city's most iconic building, Château Frontenac. It's a one-of-a-kind experience that you won't get in many other places on this planet.

While all too brief, Québec's little piece of history puts the "fun" in Funiculaire! It also features a gift shop and a café.
4
Terrasse Dufferin

4) Terrasse Dufferin (must see)

Along the front of Château Frontenac is the wide boardwalk of Terrasse Dufferin, conceived in 1879 by the governor general of Canada, Lord Dufferin, as a place for residents and visitors to take their daily stroll. The use of wooden planks gives the whole thing an air of summer, even in the middle of winter, when a huge slide is added.

When you go to places for a view, it is usually one way – but not so at this place! Looking east, you'll have a panoramic photographer's dream come true of a large expanse of the St. Lawrence River, Île d'Orléans (Orleans Island), as well as the city of Lévis across the water.

To your north, Notre-Dame de Québec Basilica-Cathedral and the beautiful (now-oxidized) green dome of the old post office. To your south, about a kilometre and a half is a wide, wooden boardwalk along the river known as the Promenade des Gouverneurs, which will take you to Q-City's famed 300+ stairs and The Battlefields Park.

Even looking down is a treat. First, you can peer down the hill at Lower Town (Basse-Ville). And, below your feet, there are peek-a-boo windows and encasings where you can catch glimpses of the Saint-Louis Fort and Château – the official residence and seat of power for governors from 1620 to 1834, when it was destroyed by fire. Only a few steps down and you’re face-to-face with the foundations of the original building and some of the artifacts they uncovered there. A hidden jewel! 

The best may be behind you (West): An up-close-and-personal view of Château Frontenac, the gigantic hotel whose iconic and grandiose look is Québec City's most iconic and enduring symbol.

Simply put, Terrasse Dufferin showcases the best of a beautiful city.
5
Chateau Frontenac

5) Chateau Frontenac

Proudly holding the title of "most photographed hotel in the world", Château Frontenac, operated now as the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, is one of the most astonishing buildings in Québec. The fortress-like architecture and its location on top of the Cap Diamant ridge give it an especially majestic feel.

Built in 1893, it is part of a chain of "château-style" hotels that were constructed across the country by the Canadian Pacific Railway. Since Québec was one of the North American ports before the long trip across the Atlantic, the hotel was designed to rival any European counterpart and grab the attention of travelers. American architect Bruce Price drew from both the Middle Ages and Renaissance, using elements like the turrets found on Scottish castles and the bastion towers of French châteaus.

Named after twice governor of New France, Louis de Buade de Frontenac, the hotel sits on the site of what was once Château Saint-Louis, the official residence of the governor of New France and later home of the British governors. The ruins of the many incarnations of the residence lie just in front of the hotel.

It has been the temporary residence of everyone from Queen Elizabeth II to Charles Lindbergh, as well as the setting for Alfred Hitchcock's 1953 drama "I Confess", but the hotel's most memorable moment took place in 1943. It was the site of the Québec Conference of World War II, where U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt, British prime minister Winston Churchill, and Canadian prime minister William Lyon Mackenzie King discussed the eventual invasion of France via Normandy.

Tip:
If you book a room, ask for a high floor – city view – the 18th floor is amazing!
A hotel tour runs each day and there are some good anecdotes and stories about events in its history.
6
The Fort Museum (Le Musee du Fort)

6) The Fort Museum (Le Musee du Fort)

Situated in a historic house in the shadow of the Château Frontenac, this is a "museum" in the loosest sense: there is precisely one theater, a small shop in the waiting area, and a few timeline pictures on the walls of the staircase up to the main attraction.

What is the main attraction, you might ask? A 30-minute multimedia presentation of the city that recreates its six sieges and the Battle of the Plain of Abraham – a formative event in the making of Canada as we know it. Revolving around a diorama with lighting effects and audio narrative, these are probably the best 30 minutes for a quick history lesson about QC as a gateway to the American Continent. You will watch the multimedia presentation on a wide screen above a large-scale model of ancient QC and the surrounding rivers and islands, in a small 50-seat theater where the seats vibrate with each gun battle! LEDs in the models and well-placed synchronized projections onto the rivers and the model's terrain give an excellent audio-visual experience.

Short but packed with information, this is definitely a must-see for history buffs and those who only have a few hours to spend in Québec City. Included among other highlights is a small exhibit of weapons, uniforms, and military badges.

Why You Should Visit:
Filled with passion for storytelling, the daily shows as well as the information about the museum itself is extremely intriguing. Québec does not have much of a military history, but this presentation sure tries to make it exciting! Included in (the very fair) admission is a discount coupon to Le Chic Shack and a number of other attractions.

Tip:
The show is given in French and English, so make sure that you go to the right one. In English on the hour and in French on the half hour (but double-check).

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am–5pm (May-Oct); 11am-4pm (Nov-Apr)
7
Notre-Dame de Québec

7) Notre-Dame de Québec (must see)

Dating back to the mid-17th century, this was the first parish church in North America and the first in the country to be elevated to the rank of minor basilica, by Pope Pius IX in 1874. It has been restored several times over the years in order to maintain the marvelous architecture still admired to this day. The inside chancel lamp was donated by Louis XIV and completing the church's impressive adornments are stained glass windows, paintings of the Virgin Mary that date back to the French regime, the bishop's original throne, and a stunning gold-plated baldaquin canopy suspended above the altar.

Between 1654 and 1898, over 900 people were buried in the crypt below the church, including twenty bishops and four governors. It's also rumored that Samuel de Champlain himself is buried nearby; archaeologists have been searching for the grave for over 50 years. In 2014, when the church celebrated its 350th anniversary, a holy door was installed (the only one of its kind in North America, and one of eight across the world), which will be open on Jubilee years.

Why You Should Visit:
Breathtaking at every turn and filled with quaint charm, gorgeous stained glass – a photographer's paradise.

Tip:
See the basilica during the day, but consider the laser light show in the evening. The line to get in is very long, so buy your tickets online and pick them up at the office the night of the performance. Not the cheapest 30 minutes, but worth it if you want to see a magnificent building shine in a whole new way.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 7am–4pm; Sat: 7am–6pm; Sun: 8am–5pm (winter); Mon-Sat: 7am–7pm; Sun: 8am–7pm (summer)
Entry is free for self-guided visits; it is also possible to visit the crypt with guided tours for a charge
8
Rue du Trésor

8) Rue du Trésor

This year-round open-air gallery is one of Québec City's most famous, displaying plenty of artists and artwork – from picturesque watercolors of local scenes to abstract etchings of something completely indefinable. The artists will talk to you all day long, but there is no pressure to buy – but since prices are good, you can actually take a little something back home. The gallery was created in the 1960s by a group of art students to exhibit their work, and some of those original students are still here.

Rue du Trésor is one of the oldest streets in the city and has been around for three centuries. At the time of the French regime it was along this street that the colonists would pass in order to reach the Royal Treasury, where they paid their taxes – just another example of how QC's street names have remained unchanged for centuries.

Why You Should Visit:
This quaint little street packed with artists is one of the more atmospheric in Quebec City. The art can be hit-or-miss but the street itself is worth seeking out.

Tip:
Do not take photos of artwork as the artists are very protective of their work being copied, and rightfully so. Note, also, that not all vendors take credit cards.
9
Ramparts of Quebec City

9) Ramparts of Quebec City

Thanks go to Lord Dufferin for not knocking down the 17th-century fortification walls around Quebec City – the only ones remaining in North America. Built by the French and augmented by the British several centuries ago, the Canadian Government spends millions to refurbish them and keep them pristine.

There are several places where visitors can view the walls for free and investigate their construction. One of the best places to view the high stone wall, the earthworks, and two city gates (Porte St. Louis and Porte Kent, dating back to 1694 and 1879, respectively) is in the area of the Parliament Building. Visitors can walk on the green earthworks pushed up against the wall or climb up to the bridge on the city gates to see the thickness and height of the encircling walls. Particularly at Porte Kent, there are several black cannons on view. The defensive wall continues to the Citadel where there is an admission charge to visit the fort.

Why You Should Visit:
If you are used to living in the modern city with all the skyscrapers, this makes for a nice change. The views from the top are flabbergasting.

Tip:
Wear good walking shoes, bring water and some goods along, and try to avoid midday in summer as it can be hot and sticky.
Do also try to get a guided tour of the site, and be sure to climb up and walk along the top of the wall for great views.
10
Citadelle of Quebec (La Citadelle de Quebec)

10) Citadelle of Quebec (La Citadelle de Quebec) (must see)

Often called “the Gibraltar of the Americas” on account of its strategic location, the star-shaped Citadelle of Quebec, built between 1820-50, is the largest British fortress in North America and forms part of the the city's ramparts. Though it never saw any action, the Citadelle continues to be the official residence of the Royal 22e Régiment, the only Francophone infantry regiment in the Canadian Forces Regular Force. An on-site museum, completed in 2014, commemorates the regiment's centennial anniversary, starting with the early days and Québec's most important battles and continuing up to the modern day involvement in Bosnia and other UN missions. One exhibit is dedicated to the war heroes of the 22e Régiment who fought in World Wars I and II, summarizing their duties, showing personal artifacts, and in one case showing a spy's various identity cards.

Why You Should Visit:
To take beautiful panoramic photos of Quebec with a clear view of Château Frontenac and Saint-Laurent river.
The grounds tour is quite informative and the museum has a diversity of memorabilia from various battles and wars.
The World War II exhibit is impressive given it has something most have never seen – since all similar items were destroyed.

Tip:
Be advised that the location is an active military installation and you can't just wander away during the tour or stay behind for extra picture taking after the tour is over.
If possible, go for the Changing of the Guard – you'll see a beautiful procession including the fort's mascot, a goat. The ceremony is held from June 24th to Labour Day, daily at 10am.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am–5pm (May–Oct); 10am–4pm (Nov–Apr)
Guided tours are available in English and in French all year
11
Parliament Building (Hotel du Parlement)

11) Parliament Building (Hotel du Parlement) (must see)

The Parliament Building, house of the National Assembly of Québec, is one of the most impressive buildings in the province's capital city. Located on one of the highest spots of Upper Town, just outside the city walls, the quadrilateral building was constructed between 1877-86 by the French architect Eugène-Étienne Taché. Inspired by the Louvre in Paris, the style of building, Second Empire neo-French Renaissance, is unique in North America. The front of the building also features a pantheon representing the province’s rich history.

Incensed by the Durham Report, in which the British lord said that the French-Canadians could not be civilized because they had no history, Taché included 15 statues depicting important figures in the province's history, to show that they did indeed have a strong past. Figures include Samuel de Champlain, Louis de Buade de Frontenac, James Wolfe, the Marquis de Montcalm, and, at the very top, an indigenous family. As the province's political life continues to grow, so does the number of statues; there are 26 statues featured on the building's facade and more scattered across the grounds.

Since it is still a functioning government office, the only way to see the interior of the building is to take a free guided tour. At 45 minutes long, the tour provides a great opportunity to appreciate the unique architecture of the building, as well as gain insight into Québec's history and political scene. Make sure to have a photo ID with you, however; otherwise you won't pass the security check. In the summer, outdoor tours are also given to discover the surrounding gardens, which highlight the many trees and flowers of Québec and also give an overview of the many sculptures. All tours leave from the visitors center.

Why You Should Visit:
The building is just bursting with history. The architecture, paintings and stained glass windows are simply breathtaking.
The free tour (English/French) is conducted very well, giving one a good understanding of how the government operates.
The restaurant is outstanding and honors Quebec cuisine, with many of the ingredients being grown in the Parliament’s garden. Good prices, too!

Tip:
Note that you must have reservations to eat at the restaurant serving the Provincial Assembly when in session.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 8am-5pm, or until the Assembly sittings are adjourned (from the first Tuesday of September to June 23 – except statutory holidays);
Mon-Fri: 8:30am-4:30pm, or until the committee sittings are adjourned; Sat, Sun: 9:30am-4:30pm (from June 24 to first Monday of September – including statutory holidays)
12
Plains of Abraham / Battlefield Park

12) Plains of Abraham / Battlefield Park (must see)

On the Plains of Abraham on September 13, 1759, the French fell to the British, forever changing the course of North American history. After Champlain's arrival in 1608, there were skirmishes on and off with the British, who at the time were fighting for control of the North American colonies against the French, but it wasn’t until 1759 that the real battle took place. It was all over in 15 minutes, and five days later, Québec capitulated.

The peculiar name Plains of Abraham can be traced as far back as 1635, when Abraham Martin, a pilot of the St. Lawrence and a friend of Samuel de Champlain, was given 12 acres of land in the area. Today there is little trace of the battle on the rolling green hills of the plains that border the cliff above the river. The grandiose stone building set back from the Plains houses the park's museum and interpretation center, which offers a multimedia exhibit of its history, from the battle to its popularity with prostitutes in the 19th century and as a choice spot for duels, hangings, and the Stanley Cup playoffs. The park itself was part of the 300th anniversary celebrations and was designed by Frederick Todd. Many of the cannons that line the park were gifts from other nations to remind people that this was once a battlefield.

If you're interested in doing more than just strolling and picnicking in the park, you can head to the Plains of Abraham Museum, where you can visit the Battles 1759-1760 exhibit, which features first-hand soldiers' accounts, battle paraphernalia, and immersive video.

Why You Should Visit:
The park is expansive and very well maintained. You can walk yourself around the battlefields without taking a guided tour as explanatory signs are everywhere.
There are all sorts of activities during the summer and holidays, as well as many quiet areas to just relax and enjoy the solitude of the area.
The museum offers a variety of exhibits and a short film about the famous battle – all worth seeing.

Tip:
Combine your visit with the Joan of Arc Garden and the Citadelle, and make sure to explore all the streets and shops nearby.
13
Capital Observatory (Observatoire de la Capitale)

13) Capital Observatory (Observatoire de la Capitale)

It might not look like much on the outside, but on the 31st floor of the building is one of the best views of the city. Perfect for a general overview of Québec, at 221 meters high the "observatoire" is the highest spot in Québec and offers 360-degree views of the city and its environs.

As you look out over the city at various vantage points, you will see important buildings and monuments, pointed out and explained on the easy-to-read plaques that adorn the windows. Sights like the far-off Québec Bridge are easily seen, along with the Laurentian Mountains and the St. Lawrence River. Alongside points of interest, the Observatoire de la Capitale also gives you information on the province and its history, such as the destruction of Chinatown, which took place to make way for highways to the suburbs. Temporary exhibits, including photographs of local sights, are also on view, or you could check out other interactive informational items like 3D-glasses and modern chairs associated with headphones which introduce important historical figures.

Tip:
When you get in the building the ticket office is on the right-hand side. Then you will take an elevator up to the 31st floor where you will be greeted, and then you can go at your own pace around the top floor. They have it set up that everyone goes in one direction. Restrooms are available and kids are free, which is a big plus.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-5pm
14
Grande Allée

14) Grande Allée

Québec City might be known for its historic sights, but it has a distinctive nightlife scene as well. Though the rejuvenation of the Saint-Roch neighborhood has led to new venues and interesting bars, La Grande-Allée remains the epicenter of the city's nightlife, full of historical buildings that have been converted into bars and dance clubs. Those in the mood for neon lights, thumping bass, and big crowds should head to this Allée, the city's biggest boulevard. The legal drinking age is 18 throughout the province, and this is the place where teens can be found reveling in their newfound freedom. If you're in search of an LGBTQ-friendly place, head over to Le Drague, the city's gay club, for some guaranteed fun.

Walking Tours in Quebec City, Quebec

Create Your Own Walk in Quebec City

Create Your Own Walk in Quebec City

Creating your own self-guided walk in Quebec City is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Top Religious Sites Walking Tour

Top Religious Sites Walking Tour

The first religious buildings in Canada were established by Récollets and Jesuits in 1615 and 1625 when they first arrived to "New France". Later on, the colonists brought French culture and architectural traditions. The establishment of British and evangelical society brought major developments to Quebec City. Here is a list of some of the most alluring divine attractions to visit.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.9 Km or 1.8 Miles
Old Quebec Walk

Old Quebec Walk

If you have a desire for European ambiance, Canadian or French culture, New World history and great food, Old Town Québec City has them all. The Upper Town, built on the cliff, has remained the religious and administrative center, and the Lower Town complements it to form one of the best examples of a fortified colonial city. From the cobblestone streets and venerable greystone...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.6 Km or 1.6 Miles
Historical Houses Walking Tour

Historical Houses Walking Tour

Often referred to as the cradle of New France, Québec City has one of the richest architectural heritages in North America and is particularly evocative of Europe in its atmosphere. Most of the city's architecture, however, had to be adapted to harsh winters and the lack of specialized workers and materials in the colony; as such, most houses were designed as simple and efficient before...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.5 Km or 1.6 Miles
Museums and Galleries

Museums and Galleries

Head indoors and take in some of the numerous museums during your visit. Given Québec City's remarkable history as the fortress capital of New France since the 16th century, there are many things to learn about the life of early settlers and the most important battles. The museums featured on this self-guided walk each tell the story in their own way, allowing for a a well-rounded view of...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.0 Km or 0.6 Miles