Two Days in Quebec City (Day 1 – Upper Town)

With a historically strong US dollar against the Canadian dollar, Americans are basically getting around a 25% discount in Canada.  Now is the perfect time to go!  While Montreal is the more well-known destination, pay a visit to its smaller, cleaner, northern neighbor – the “cradle of French civilization in North America”.

Getting around Quebec City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, can seem intimidating for the uninitiated.  The only walled city north of Mexico – Vieux-Quebec – or, Old Quebec, is comprised of Haute Ville (upper town) and Basse Ville (lower town).  Get ready for a LOT of walking… not to mention climbing the hilly, cobblestone streets.  These streets are so charming, you won’t even mind!

While there are many quaint hotels within the city walls, consider staying just outside the walled city gates to find larger (“American-sized”) rooms and potentially lower prices. Locations near Avenue Honore-Mercier between Rue St. Jean and Rue St. Louis allow easy access into old town.

St. Jean’s Gate

Stay at the Hilton Quebec City, a large high-rise with unobstructed views of the Old Town, Parliament and Battlefields Park.  The Hilton is adjacent to the Congress Center, with valet or self parking available on site for CAD 20.  Another nearby option is the Hotel Palace Royal, just steps from St. Jean’s Gate.  Book an exterior view room, as rooms face both outside and into the large courtyard inside.  The Palace Royal’s underground parking garage is tricky… and dirty.  Park instead in the roomier city parking garage at Place D’Youville for CAD 18.

Place D’Youville (with Hotel Palace Royal on the right)

Rise and shine the next morning for an inexpensive, gourmet sit down (or buffet) breakfast at the Beffroi Restaurant inside the Hotel Palace Royal.  Breakfasts range between CAD 9-14.  When you’re finished, go downstairs to the convenience store located on the ground floor of the hotel to purchase city bus passes for the day.  A one-day pass will be the best CAD 8.25 you ever spent – especially if it’s raining!

The RTC city bus line #11 Place D’Youville stop is adjacent to the Marriott along Rue St. Joachim.  Be sure to take the one marked Gare Fluviale to head towards Vieux-Quebec – this leg of the ride makes stops all throughout old town.

Ring the bell to get off the bus at the grandiose Chateau Frontenac.   Walk up to expansive views of the St. Lawrence River from the boardwalk known as Dufferin Terrace.

Chateau Frontenac

Dufferin Terrace

Walk down the hill from Ch. Frontenac on Rue du Fort, turning left onto Rue De Baude and visit the Notre-Dame de Quebec Basilica on the square.

Continue down the hill on Rue de la Fabrique (which turns into Rue St. Jean) with boutiques, cafes and restaurants – bringing you back to the main St. Jean’s gate where you started.

Square at Rue de Baude & Rue de la Fabrique

Rue St. Jean

For a mid-afternoon break of coffee & pastries, don’t miss Maison Smith. There are several locations in town, including one on Rue St. Jean (in the rose building shown in above photo). They have the biggest and best croissants in town (and will even give you freshly made jam, if you ask nicely).

Once refueled, continue down Rue St. Jean towards the city gate.  Turn left on Avenue D’Auteuil, just before the city walls.  Head towards Parc de l’Esplanade, where you can climb to the top of the walled gates.

Views of Rue St. Jean below

Continuing along Rue D’Auteuil, past Rue St. Louis, turns into Avenue St. Denis and the Terasse Pierre-Dugua-De Mons.

From this vantage point are beautiful views of the Chateau and the St. Lawrence River.  There are steps to take you further to the top of La Citadelle.

Take Rue de la Porte back to Rue St. Louis for a little shopping and dinner.  Try Aux Anciens Canadiens for a nostalgic (and somewhat touristy) experience.  Or go for the modern Italian goodness of Bello.

Time to settle in and get ready for another Quebec City adventure tomorrow….

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