Visiting Quebec City with a tourism guide certainly is interesting for the historical aspect of your journey. But completing your venture in the province of Quebec’s capital with insights about its best kept secrets allows you to go off the beaten tracks and experience one of North America’s oldest cities just like a locals do. Here is a list of seven things that are not likely to end up in your tourism guide, but that you must do while you are in Quebec City.
1. Go for a drink in the sky…
Quebec City does not have many skyscrapers for heritage purposes. However, if you really want to make the most out of your trip and see the city from above, it is highly recommended to go for a drink at L’Astral restaurant, which is basically a rotating room with glass walls. Located at the top of the Loews Hotel on Grande Allée, L’Astral brings you no less than 182 meters into the sky!
It takes about 90 minutes for the restaurant to complete a full rotation, meaning you will get to enjoy a 360-degree view of the city while tasting your drink, which comes with a little free snack of chips and lemon stuffed olives. L’Astral can easily be accessed from the inside of the hotel through a panoramic elevator which will give you a superb outlook on the old town area both when you enter and leave the restaurant
2. Cross the river and go get a frozen goodie!
On a hot afternoon or at the end of a busy day, one of the best ways to relax is to allow yourself a treat. Quebec City’s little sister, Lévis, is home to one of the most appealing ice cream places in the region: Les Chocolats Favoris. However, to get there you will have to cross the St. Lawrence River. This can easily be done by using the inexpensive ferry service: the view of Quebec City from the river is absolutely stunning!
Once on the other shore of the river, run to Les Chocolats Favoris (32, avenue Bégin) and ask for your ice cream cone to be dipped in the thick, top-quality dark chocolate they serve. While you are there, enjoy a little walk in Old Lévis: its hilly streets, its picturesque houses and the view it provides of Quebec City are good reasons to stay there a little beyond the gulping down of your frozen treat!
3. Enjoy the alcohols of the “cradle of French civilization in North America”
The Île d’Orléans, often referred to as the “cradle of French civilization in North America”, is an island located on the St. Lawrence River that is visible from Quebec City’s Dufferin Terrace (at the foot of the Château Frontenac). Accessible by car in less than 20 minutes from downtown Quebec City, the Île d’Orléans offers a cornucopia of products from the heartland as well as an exquisite paradise for lovers of scenic beauty.
While driving to the island, you will get to see Quebec’s illustrious Montmorency waterfall, which is 83 meters high. Once you are on the island, you should visit the Ste-Pétronille Vineyard: try their white wine called Le Voile de la Mariée, sit down on their terrace and enjoy some food from the Panache Mobile right there! Before you leave, don’t forget to go to the Domaine Steinback, reputed for its apple ciders, and to Cassis Monna & Filles, famous for its blackcurrant alcohols.
4. Go out!
Even though Quebec City houses many night clubs where young people crowd up and dance until the early hours of the morning, it also has many bars that are accessible to people of all ages and styles. L’inox will surprise you with the different kinds of beer it brews: the Kermesse, made with coriander, and the Viking, served with fresh cranberries, are two seasonal beers that you have to try if they are available at the time of your trip.
Located on the Grand Allée just like L’inox, Les Voûtes de Napoléon offers a memorable experience! Its fantastic décor made of stone walls, its dynamic crowd as well as the singers and musicians it hires every night will conquer your heart for sure. Old Québec’s mythical rue St-Jean also features great spots for ambiance lovers: Le Sacrilège has an amazing terrace with trees and La Ninkasi often features live concerts, serves great Quebecois beer and has a big patio on its second floor.
5. Grab your caffeine dose at some amazing local businesses
While Quebec City is home to many international coffee shops, its local cafés have everything to charm tourists in their quests for caffeine! If you find yourself in the Ste-Foy area, make sure to stop by the Espressolab. Located a few steps from North America’s oldest francophone university – namely, Université Laval – the Espressolab uses coffee beans roasted in Vancouver that make very tasty, delicious lattes. Its modern furnishings and nice baristas will make your overall experience even greater!
If you end up being somewhere in the old town, do not miss out on the Café Chez Temporel, on rue Couillard: its ancestral décor, its comfort food and its great coffee and hot chocolate will certainly satisfy your taste buds!
Also, rue Ste-Jean is home to two other great coffee shops: Brûlerie St-Jean and Chez Paillard. The former is a fantastic two-storey place filled with beautiful woodwork whereas the latter is a French bakery that is famous for its bread and sweet goodies. Rue St-Jean also features the best hot chocolate in town: made by the Chocolaterie Érico, the rich, creamy “chocolate espresso” will make you melt!
6. Meet the lower town for its boutiques, bars, restaurants, and cafés
Tourists going to Quebec City often spend most of their trip wandering in the old town since it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that has plenty to offer. However, too few end up walking down the streets of the lower town, especially those of the Nouvo St-Roch. Having invested almost $400 million in the renovation of this part of the city, Quebec’s administration has achieved its primary goal: completely revitalizing St-Roch.
Its numerous quality boutiques, bars, restaurants and coffee shops show that things are now lively in the Nouvo St-Roch. Try out Le Cercle: this restaurant has an extensive wine list, serves inspired food, and features live concerts at night! Also, get your coffee boost at the Brûlerie St-Roch (same concept at upper town’s Brûlerie St-Jean) or at Le Nektar, which offers an impressive array of beans of various origins. If you want to try out some amazing Quebecois beer, head to La Barberie microbrewery: sit down on its cool terrace, taste fabulous products and enjoy the company of its sympathetic staff!
7. Don’t forget Limoilou!
If many tourists do not visit the lower town while they are in Quebec City, many more do not make it to Limoilou, even though it is right next to the Nouvo St-Roch. And that’s a shame! Limoilou’s 3ème avenue (3rd Avenue) features great boutiques, restaurants, bars, and coffee shops.
Not so far from 3rd Avenue is an amazing poutine restaurant called L’Intuition: located on the 18ème rue (18th Street), its 115 varieties of Quebec’s distinctive fast-food meal will make you salivate just by looking at the menu!
Now that you know some of the spots that locals regularly enjoy but that tourists often miss out on, why don’t you add some of these stops to your Quebec travel? Mixing the touristy stuff with some of the city’s best-kept secrets sounds like a plan, doesn’t it?
Quebec Panorama – Wikimedia Creative Commons
Château Frontenac – Bernard Gagnon – Wikimedia Creative Commons
Guest Author Bio
Alexandre Duval blogs on different topics including travel. He is also currently completing his master’s degree in political science at the University of Quebec in Montreal.