Visiting Quebec City offers some unique opportunities not found anywhere else in North America. Canada’s oldest city is a tale of two cities, where the old meets the new. Much of our visit was spent in Old Quebec City, which had its earliest beginnings in 1608. Split into Upper Town and Lower Town, each of these sections offers a slice of the past. We began our visit by exploring Upper Town, in Quebec City, which is home to the original walled portion of the city. The notable French influence is obvious in much of the architecture and makes Upper Town a romantic destination for any couple’s travel.
We want to thank Quebec City Tourism for their assistance in hosting our visit. Rest assured all opinions are our own.
A View from Above
Exploring Upper Town, in Quebec City, means visitors will experience a variety of amazing views. One that is most easily recognizable is Château Frontenac. This massive hotel is one of the most photographed structures in North America. Visible from all around Upper Town, this hotel reminded us of a castle perched on a cliff. Its imposing presence was quite a departure from our lodging.
Hotel Manoir d’Auteuil
We were staying in one of the boutique lodging choices that are scattered all around Upper Town. When we first arrived at Hotel Manoir d’Auteuil, the quaint charm was immediately apparent. The welcoming staff made us feel like the most important guests in the hotel. Seeing their interaction with other guests showed that they treat everyone like VIPs. The romantic atmosphere is elevated even higher by their amazing daily breakfasts.
A River Runs Through
A walk along the boardwalk, behind Château Frontenac, gave us an opportunity to view the ferries traveling across the St. Lawrence River. Since we already had plans for a cruise along this waterway, we decided to forego a trip on the ferry. Had we taken one, it would have carried us to Levis, which is the city along the opposite shore. Had more time allowed, we would have enjoyed seeing the Old City from the perspective of the other shoreline. Perhaps we will get to it on our next visit.
Montmorency Falls: An Easy Excursion from Upper Town
To aid in getting our bearings, Quebec City Tourism planned for us to enjoy a city tour. It began with a short excursion to Montmorency Falls, which is an amazing natural attraction. After seeing this beautiful site firsthand, we made our way back to Quebec City. Jacques Baillargeon, our adept guide, pointed out a wide array of stops for us to explore during our stay. As he moved from Lower Town to Upper Town, we realized that it would be impossible for us to explore everything, in just four days.
Pivotal Moment in Time at Musee du Fort
Quebec City is the oldest established metropolitan area in Canada. With over 400 years under its belt, there is way too much history to take in with our limited time. While we wanted to learn as much as we could about this amazing city, we decided to focus on one of the most pivotal times. To do this, we had to transport ourselves to a time roughly two decades before the American Revolutionary War. Toward the tail end of the seven years war, France and England clashed over control of the Quebec region.
Our visit to Musee du Fort took us on a sight and sound show through the most notable events of that time. By progressing step-by-step through the timeline, it helped us grasp the actions of the parties involved in the conflict. By the end of the program, we were eager to see the actual sight of the main event.
Plains of Abraham
Our visit to the Plains of Abraham included a stop at the museum and a short walk through the grounds. Inside the museum, we would continue our education on the turning point in Quebec City’s past. All of the artifacts and exhibits were so interactive that we had to remind ourselves of the series of events that happened 250 years ago. Not only did we find some cool displays, but this place also has an audio-visual presentation for visitors to enjoy. By the time we left this space, we had a solid understanding of why Quebec City has a heavy French influence in a country with ties to England.
Visiting Immersion Quebec
Since we still had a little more time for education, we made a visit to Immersion Quebec. This place is so much fun. Imagine a combination of virtual reality and entertaining classroom studies, and you get an idea of what our experience was like. Here we went beyond the defining moment in time that we had studied at earlier stops. Our virtual tour began in the earliest days of the region and took us on an introduction to the peoples who have inhabited the area. While we have experienced VR on other occasions, this place takes it to a new level.
Notre-Dame de Quebec Basilica-Cathedral
Every corner we turned, in Upper Town, seemed to bring a new wonder into view. Being engulfed in so much history was awe-inspiring. Every structure we passed was surely filled with an array of stories from the past. Passing along Rue de Baude, which is one of the oldest streets in Quebec City, we came to Notre-Dame de Quebec Basilica-Cathedral. One of the oldest churches in Canada, it was originally constructed in 1647. Twice it has been rebuilt due to fire, the first being from the siege of the city during the Seven Years’ War. We haven’t visited very many cathedrals, so you can imagine the awe we experienced in this beautiful space.
Sunshine and French Bread
All of this education can sure build up an appetite. Upper Town, in Quebec City, is a fantastic destination if you love food, and we fall into that category. We had seen so many delectable dishes, during our planning phase. Now that we were there, it was time to taste all of these delights in person. All of the flavors were everything we had imagined, but oh the bread is so out of this world. Usually, we are satisfied to have the bread not ruin a sandwich, but in Quebec City we found it to be the star of the show.
Does French Quebec Have Fast Food?
Our first lunch, in the Upper Town section of Quebec City, was scheduled at Café-boulangerie Paillard. Our research had suggested this would be similar to one of the quick, yet healthy, options we find in the U.S. (Kind of a Canadian version of Panera.) We were excited to be exploring the city, so we didn’t want to fill up too much time waiting for meal preparation. The idea behind this unique eatery is certainly something a little out of the ordinary.
The founder of this small Canadian chain had a long career in the catering field. After 50 years, he had learned a key ingredient for success, good bread. This can be hard to find, so he traveled to France to learn how to make it. Instead of enjoying a well-deserved retirement, he convinces one of France’s premier bakers to travel to Quebec City. There they would train native bakers who would use this new talent to produce some amazing treats for customers, like us.
It’s All About Freshness
Paillard is certainly a busy spot at lunchtime. Passing through their big red doors, we discovered a bustling atmosphere inside. Diners were congregated in small groups, heavily engaged in conversation. In the middle of the room, a musician sat playing melodies on an accordion. The smell of fresh-baked bread filled the air. It was an almost surreal moment. The menu was packed with so many delectable sounding dishes that we had to step back and let others pass us in line. Finally, we decided on our choices and placed our orders.
Crystal chose the Swiss Quiche and I selected the Roast Beef Sandwich. By picking the combination meals, we each received a side salad. Each meal also came with one of their famous macarons. As we dove into our meals, we see why they say it’s all about the bread. Paillard runs so efficiently that it almost feels like fast food, but the taste reminded us that it is far more than that.
Burgers Quebec Style
While we were enjoying all of this amazing bread, we also know that we could not survive on bread alone. We’ve always enjoyed a good burger, so this was another dish we wanted to find. Fortunately, our visit to the Fort Museum put us right by one of the premier spots for one of these handheld masterpieces. Le Chic Shack has uncovered the plan for a perfect burger. Most of their signage may be in French, but the diagram of a good sandwich is a universal language. Just looking at that beautiful assembly of flavors reminds me of the amazing taste that came with every bite. Oh, did I mention that they drizzle their house-made chips with maple syrup?
When visiting a new destination, we try to uncover rituals and habits common with the locals. It’s fun discovering new foods and activities that help expand our personal horizons. Upper Town, in Quebec City, was a chance to sample our first taste of Poutine. This Canadian dish is a carb-rich combination that combines French fries, fresh cheese curds, and gravy. The combination may sound a little unusual, but the flavors blend so well together. After this first taste, we would find other opportunities to sample it again. We quickly discovered that there is no “one way” to make this dish, as each place puts its unique twist on it.
How’s the BBQ in Quebec City?
Being from Kansas City, you know we always keep our eyes peeled for a chance to sample some local barbecue. Upper Town, in Quebec City, is home to Faite á l’os, a Canadian smokehouse. Yeah, that’s what they call a BBQ joint in Quebec. Personally, we don’t care what they name it, we just wanted to see how it stacks up to the versions we have tasted in the U.S. After an evening of sampling a wide range of dishes, we are happy to report that this place rocks the ‘Cue. While some items were a distinct departure from what we are used to, everything they serve is made with an eye on achieving perfection. Be advised that they only serve barbecue during the evening meal, but it is some of the best we have ever tasted.
Head Over Heels for Chocolate
With all of these amazing cuisines tempting us, you would think there was no room left for sweet treats. That’s one of the benefits of doing the majority of our exploring by walking. Knowing that the hilly terrain was helping us burn calories gave us the assurance that a few desserts wouldn’t derail our diets. Throughout the city, we found a plethora of options that tempted our sweet tooth. On one of the main shopping thoroughfares, we spotted Chocolata Vieux-Quebec. This place is so dedicated to delivering delicious chocolaty treats, that even the decor looks like dripping chocolate.
After exploring the options, we found that they offer so many unique choices. We were quite familiar with chocolate-dipped soft-serve ice cream cones, and have tasted these creamy treats at plenty of locations. The long list of custom sundaes tempted us with flavors like; Banana Split, Caramel Pretzel, and Quebec produced Maple Syrup. Their designer chocolates reminded us of some we sampled at a shop in Tulsa, Oklahoma. What really stood out was a sweet version of pizza, that is often referred to as “Beaver-tails”. Made with a flat pastry base, the toppings range from simple to sublime. Upper Town in Quebec City is definitely a place that does sweet treats right.
Exploring Upper Town in Quebec City
Upper Town, in Quebec City, holds so many amazing sights, sounds, and tastes. The memories of our explorations will certainly remain with us for many years. Besides all of these places that we have highlighted, we also visited tons of boutique shops. As a matter of fact, on our first evening in town, we found that many of the shops were open until around 9:00 pm. This definitely made strolling extra special. We highly recommend a visit to Quebec City to see the most European city in North America. The stories you will bring home with you will fuel fun conversations. Who has some great memories of this area that they’d like to share with us? Drop us a comment below, so we can check them out!