5 Ways to Experience Quebec City Like a Local

A big village with jovial locals, good food, and a cornucopia of festivals and activities, Québec City entices you to step outside, even on the coldest days. Our insider, Pamela, shows you how to experience the city like a local.

Beyond the old city walls and the towering majesty of Château Frontenac, Québec City is where history, culture and the great outdoors happily comingle.

The best way to experience the city is on foot. Start by visiting the old city, then explore some of the local neighborhoods. Wander down quiet streets and discover unique architecture and cozy cafes. Stay at HI Québec, or a B&B like Maison Historique James Thompson or B&B de la Tour.

Montmorency Falls

Montmorency Falls has been a part of Quebec City’s history and culture since the 17th century. A favorite among locals and tourists alike, hike along the paths, try Via Ferrata or Ice canyoning, or spend some time staring at the majesty of water plunging 83 meters.

Rent a bike in Old Quebec and ride to Montmorency Falls – a 10.5mi (17km) journey, one way – or take bus #800 from Place D’Youville and get off at stop #3473 des Rapides (US $2.85 per direction).

Montmorency Falls in autumn. Photo credit: Pamela MacNaughtan

Old Quebec

Old Quebec is at the top of most itineraries. Cobblestoned streets, cafes with sidewalk patios, a 24-hour clock (the rest of Canada uses the 12-hour clock), and commas instead of full-stops on prices; all add to the illusion that you’re exploring a city in Europe, rather than Canada.

Everyone should start in Old Quebec. Wander down the Dufferin Terrace boardwalk and visit Maison de la littérature, a church that’s been converted into a gorgeous library.

Take a historical walking tour or a food tour of the old city. Wander along the fortifications and stand at the docks on rue Dalhousie to take a photo of Château Frontenac, standing majestically over the city.

Chateau Frontenac from rue Dalhousie in Quebec. Photo credit: Pamela MacNaughtan

Culture of Quebec

The culture of Quebec City centers around its history and language and contributes to the city’s ‘big village’ vibe. 

Spend time visiting the museums and galleries dedicated to telling the story of New France, starting with the Musée du Fort or Musée Place Royale. Attend festivals like Carnaval de Québec or Fêtes de la Nouvelle France, both of which embrace the city’s love for culture, history and the outdoors. Enjoy the various urban pop-up spaces and street performances, which are scattered throughout the city in the summer months.

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Quebec for Foodies

Food and drink are another integral piece of Québec City’s culture. While Old Québec has plenty of restaurants, some of the best food is found in the more local neighborhoods.

Poutine is an essential experience, and Chez Ashton is a top choice. Enjoy a smoothie from Blender bar à jus in the neighborhood of Saint-Jean-Baptiste. Venture into Saint-Roch for lunch at Deux22 or comfort food at La Cuisine. At night, go Brasserie Griendel in Saint-Sauveur or Le Projet in Sainte-Jean-Baptiste for craft beer and eats.

Day Trips from Quebec

Take a day trip from Québec City to embrace the outdoors. Instead of going to Île d’Orléans, take the ferry across the Saint-Lawrence river to Lévis. In winter, go to Hôtel de Glace at Village Vacances Valcartier.

Hotel de Glace in winter. Photo credit: Pamela MacNaughtan

Wendake

Take the shuttle from Old Québec to Wendake and learn about the Huron-Wendat people and their role in Québec.

Wendake. Photo credit: Pamela MacNaughtan

After outbreaks of various European diseases decimated their population and struggles with colonial powers attributed to the deteriorated the Huron-Wendat Confederation of the Great Lakes, hundreds of Huron-Wendat people left the region and journeyed to the north-east section of their territory (now known as Quebec).

Located 11mi (18km) from Old Quebec, Wendake is dedicated to preserving (and sharing) their culture, language and traditions. One of the best Aboriginal tourism destinations in Canada, Wendake will take your experience in Quebec to the next level. It’s a must-do.

Start with a visit to Onhoüa Chetek8e Traditional Huron Site. Take a guided tour through the Long House and learn about aspects of early aboriginal life in Québec; stopping at Nek8arre Restaurant to try sagamité (a traditional red bean and corn soup) and bannock. From here, continue to peel back the layers of Wendake with a visit to Musée Huron-Wendat, followed by an evening of traditional storytelling while huddled around a fire inside a Long House at Hôtel-Musée Premières Nations.

On hot summer days or the early days of autumn, canoe down the St. Charles river. Explore Kabir Kouba, a 28m waterfall that cascades into a 42m deep canyon, on your own or take a guided tour and learn about traditional leather work in Wendake.

Attend a Pow Wow (held each year at the end of June) and feel the warm embrace of the locals. Dine at Sagamité Restaurant for traditional aboriginal foods with a flavorful modern upgrade.

How to get there: A shuttle leaves Old Québec (rue Sainte-Anne, in front of the Tourist Information office) three times a day. The cost is US $8 ($10 CAD) per adult. Call 418-847-0624 to make a reservation. You can also take bus #801 in front of Hôtel Palace Royale to Terminus Charlesbourg, then bus #72 from T. Charlesbourg to stop #4088 A. Duchesneau.

Want to know more about Canada? Check out our podcast. We discuss when a traveler becomes a snack; the perils of wilderness adventure, a culinary tour of the provinces for foodies, and we speak to World Nomads photography scholarship mentor Richard I'Anson.

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