Quebec City attractions reflect the rich past that makes this city unique and so significant in North America. Just strolling the Old Town, you'll see bastions, fortifications and architecture that date back to as early as the 1600's.
But Quebec City attractions are more than a history lesson. Quebec offers modern shopping, including interesting work by local artisans, and eating in Quebec City is an attraction in itself; be sure to be adventurous.
Highly recommended is to a guided walking tour of the Old City if possible. There are so many tidbits that you'll miss - like a wall mural or cannonball lodged in a tree - without an expert at hand. A more comprehensive sightseeing tour of Quebec City by motor coach is another option.
The star-shaped fortress is one of Quebec City's most distinctive features. Dating back to 1820, La Citadelle de Quebec is a relic of British occupation and today serves as official residences of the Royal 22e Régiment, the Governor General of Canada, a museum and popular tourist attraction.
The Citadel is still an active military base, so visitors are not allowed to wander willy nilly without a guide. Tickets to enter are $16 (as of 2019) and include a one-hour guided tour of the grounds that runs down Quebec City's history and the Canadian military's role in preserving it. Guides tend to be young and passionate about the subject matter.
During the summer months, visitors can watch military traditions, such as the Changing of the Guard each morning at 10 am.
As the Citadel is the highest point in Quebec City, the views are panoramic and unparalleled, so bring your camera.
Fortifications of Quebec
Québec City is the only remaining fortified city in North America, which has led to its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Guided walking tours of the 3-mile (5 kilometer) long city wall surrounding the old city of Québec give insight into the city's military history.
Once intended to keep assailants at bay, three fortification gates provide lovely and prodigious entryways into the old city.
A self-guided tour of the fortifications is easy and you can even walk most of the way on top of the walls - something almost impossible to keep kids from attempting - though this can be precarious, especially in winter. A small interpretive centre outlines a history of the walls and their preservation.
Plains of Abraham
If you grew up in the Canadian school system, you'll have heard many times about the Plains of Abraham and the critical role this expanse of land played in the history of Canada.
The site of many French / British battles, including the pivotal 1759 Battle of Quebec, the Plains of Abraham sit high at the edge of the St. Lawrence River. The 108-hectare green space was christened National Battlefields Park in 1908 and today serves as both a historic site - with informative tours and historic monuments and plaques - and green space to enjoy.
Winding paths through the park lead to a modern art museum at the west end, another is steps from the Dufferin Terrace in front of the Chateau Frontenac, and another takes you to the Plains of Abraham Museum that showcases multimedia exhibits of the battles.
Musee National des Beaux-Arts du Quebec
Located at the southwest end of the Plains of Abraham, the Musee national des beaux-arts du Quebec holds the most important collection of paintings and sculpture by Québécois artists. The museum comprises works from three main eras: early religious, European-influenced modernist through the mid-1900s, and figurative and abstract art from the mid-20th century onward. Inuit and sculptural works supplement the museum's collection.
Museum of Civilization
Quebec City's Museum of Civilization is a gorgeous and fascinating complex of buildings in the heart of the lower city. Three permanent exhibitions focus on life in the province of Quebec through its centuries of European habitation, pay tribute to the province's First Nations peoples, and explore the Qeubecois' relationship to the land by way of a National Film Board of Canada production.
This small but picturesque public square is famous as the birthplace of French America. Two-thousand years before Europeans even landed on Canada's shores, natives would stop here to trade fur, copper and fish. Place-Royale remained a hub of activity into the 1800's, despite being worse for wear from fire and war. Today, it is restored and one of the Quebec City's most visited and photographed attractions. It is also where you find the utterly quaint Notre Dame Basilica.
Eugène-Étienne Taché (1836-1912) took his inspiration from the Louvre in Paris in designing the Parliament Building (Hotel du Parlement) in Quebec City. The quadrilateral building that surrounds an inner courtyard is home to Quebec's elected government representatives. Visitors have the chance to attend parliamentary proceedings, join a free guided tour or eat at Le Parlementaire Restaurant.
The Parliament Building is just outside the gates that lead to Old Quebec, so it is easy to add to your sightseeing itinerary. The gardens are delightful in the summer. In the winter months, the building is a nice respite from the bitter cold.
Sitting majestically over Old Quebec City and the St. Lawrence River, the Chateau Frontenac has been beautifully restored over the years to highlight its exquisite 19th century architecture.
Opened in 1893, the Chateau Frontenac is one of several chateau-style hotels built to accommodate train travelers in Canada along the cross-country rail route. Similar hotels include the Banff Springs and the Manoir Richelieu, which are today owned by Fairmont Hotels & Resorts.
Even if you don't stay at the Chateau, pop by for a look around, cocktail or tour.
Eglise Notre Dame des Victoires
Erected in the late 17th century, the Eglise Notre Dame des Victoires is one of the oldest Catholic churches in North America. Like so many of Quebec's architectural treasures, the cathedral was ravaged by battle and fire throughout the centuries and has been rebuilt twice. Visits are free and guided tours are offered for a small fee from May to October or by reservation at other times during the year. The church is still active so attending mass is an option.
Sitting high on the St. Lawrence, at the foot of the Chateau Frontenac, the Dufferin Terrace offers gorgeous, airy views across the waterway to Levis and of Old Quebec. In summer, the terrace is alive with performers and artists. In winter, a gigantic ice slide is installed and for two bucks, you can drag an old fashioned wooden toboggan up a steep climb and ride down at breakneck speed.
Its waterside location means breezy conditions and in winter, painfully so. Bundle up and arrive at dawn for delicious views over the river. Don't forget your camera.