Our second stop on our epic summer #IDontRoadTrip was in beautiful Québec City, the only remaining walled city north of Mexico City and one of the oldest European settlements in North America. If you’re leaving from the Greater Toronto Area, expect a full day’s drive (8 hours without stops).
It’s quite something to be immersed in the rich history of Old Québec, overlooking the immense St. Lawrence River. We spent just one night, so had to pack in as much as we could, so I’ve got some great recommendations for maximizing your family time in Québec City!
First, let me warn you that if, like us, you drive a manual car, you better be pretty comfy with first gear if you’re going to drive into Old Québec. Upon arrival at our hotel as the driver, I renamed the street Clutch Burn Hill, and quickly vowed to never drive there again. Expedia.ca helped us out with our gorgeous hotel there — Hotel Clarendon, the oldest continuously operating hotel in Old Québec.
Built in 1870, it is clean, beautiful and stunning to walk through. Rooms are beautifully decorated (the attention to detail is so gorgeous), and there is free wifi. Valet parking is available ($25/day) and well worth it, since parking is at a bare minimum in this area.
The bathroom in our room was quite aged-looking, with rusty fixtures, and mould in the tile. It looked like it needed to be completely refreshed, as the rest of the room was not worn like that. Our view was of a messy courtyard and a brick wall, but give the location, some rooms would have spectacular views.
There’s a Keurig in the room, too.
The hotel has a beautiful restaurant and is just a couple minutes’ walk from absolutely everything you want to see in Old Québec.
From Hotel Clarendon, you’re just a few steps from some of the most stunning sites in Old Québec, like the Notre-Dame de Québec Basilica-Cathedral. What a beautiful church.
Sites like Chateau Frontenac (above) opened in 1893, a stunning hotel, are must-sees in the area, and easy to walk to.
There are many museums and attractions in the area, and I highly checking out some of these places:
La Citadelle de Québec
Funiculaire du Vieux-Québec
Parc de la Chute-Montmorency
Musée de la civilisation
Village Nordik du Port de Québec
Musée du Fort
Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec
Musée des Ursulines de Québec
Aquarium du Québec
Observatoire de la Capitale
L’Îlot des Palais
Commission des champs de bataille nationaux
Lieu historique national des Fortifications-de-Québec
Centre d’Interprétation de la Côte-de-Beaupré
(You’ll find some great coupons and offers HERE.)
We opted for walking through Old Québec on our own, and the kids absolutely loved taking the Funiculaire down into the foot-traffic-only section of the city. Similar to a train, only running up and down the escarpment, a funicular has been at the spot since 1879. It’s the only one of its kind in North America, so a really fun thing to experience.
Although there are many toursist-y souvenir shops in the area, there are also beautiful shops filled with local artisans’ work, and items reflective of the area’s rich fur trading history.
We loved looking at the beautiful architecture, bright doors and trims, and all the flowers everywhere. It’s truly a beautiful place to spend a day. We saw street performers, perused beautiful shops, and stopped to read about the history of the buildings — it’s just a really wonderful place to visit.
(As a bonus to our kids, there were tons of Pokemon and Pokestops around here. Pokemon Go was a hot activity on our road trip!)
We had dinner at a restaurant a lot of friends recommended: Cochon Dingue. Maybe it was the lack of air conditioning on that roasting day, or maybe it was the surly server’s disinterest in sharing what the “must-have” menu items were, but we were wholly unimpressed by this place. It was certainly a beautiful location, in an old building with interesting architecture, but the food was uninspiring.
The kids ate from the rather bland kids’ menu (our mistake. . . kids’ menus are notoriously boring), and we had a “Famous Seafood Potpie” and one of their “Homemade Maple-Smoked Ribs”.
The potpie was very small, and was mostly pastry. (The pastry was not greasy, however, so that was a positive.) There wasn’t much seafood to be found in it, and the side salad was, as you can see, small and unexciting.
Ryan felt the ribs were “nothing great”, and the caesar salad was wilty. Overall, not the greatest experience. I wanted to love the place, I really did, and for half the price, I think we would have enjoyed it a lot more.
All that to say: I’d recommend you skip this particular place and opt for somewhere else. There are countless restaurants in the area. When I was last there, I had cheap and cheerful crepes on a patio — ask people in the shops where they’d eat, that’s always going to garner better results than relying on tourist-y options.
Our kids loved Bec & Bonbon, an adorable candy shop filled with all kinds of different treats, and happily walked around and learned bits of history for hours.
Since they’re both in French immersion, they loved practicing their French while in Québec. We found everyone in Québec City so kind, and patient while our son (who just finished his first year in French immersion) communicated. That said, everyone speaks English, so there’s no need to feel stressed about that.
Our kids are 6 and 9, and after a day of walking, they had no more energy for walking tours, so the following morning, we hopped on Bus Rouge to enjoy a few hours of easy touring. There are a 12 stops, where you can hop on and off the tour, taking in some beautiful sites around the city and busses come by every 30 minutes.
It’s a great option to maximize sight-seeing, and we loved the commentary (available in different languages).
TIPS FOR TAKING A BUS ROUGE TOUR
• Take the tour on your first day in Old Québec, so you know where you may like to return for a more detailed look around
• Bring your own headphones/earbuds to plug in. The ones they provide are pretty uncomfortable, especially for kids.
• If you choose to sit on the open air upper deck (like we did, so fun!), make sure you wear sunscreen and a hat
• Do listen to the commentary, it’s full of fantastic tidbits of info
Au revoir, Vieux Québec!
When we left Old Québec, we had to grab a quick lunch before heading to our next destination: Moncton, New Brunswick. And what’s a visit to Québec without a stop at fast food staple Chez Ashton? The kids love the poutine there. There are tons of these around. They’re not the best poutine out there, but, like any fast food joint, it sure hits the spot sometimes!
We all really enjoyed our visit, and look forward to our next adventure in Québec City.