Destinations

72 hours in Québec City: what to see, eat and do

With sweeping views of the Saint Lawrence River, cobblestone streets and castle walls, Québec City is full of old-world charm — but that's not all. The Canadian city's food and brewery scene is garnering global attention.

Compact, beautiful and steeped in history, it's easy to see why Canada's Québec City has become a firm favourite among the weekender set.
The reality is, you could spend much longer than three days milling about, culture-hopping, picking out the perfect poutine and soaking up the French-Canadian charm — coined Québécois — that makes this pocket of the world shine.
However, should you find yourself with just 72 hours in this historic city, here's how best to spend it.
Whether you've visited the region before or are experiencing it for the first time, the history of Québec never gets old. Stop and admire the ramparts, which date back to the early 17th century, as you wander down Rue des Remparts on the outskirts of the old town — they're the only original defensive walls in North America that have been preserved.
It may be early, but sightseeing calls for sustenance so make a pit stop at Paillard for a pastry. An institution in these parts, be sure to get in early before the crowds. The old town isn't short on stunning architecture. Séminaire De Québec, Notre-Dame-des-Victoires and Fairmont Le Château Frontenac are all worth working into your plans. The latter looks even more impressive in real life — no surprises it's the most photographed hotel in the world.

If you're here to sample the local produce, pay 1608 a visit (or make a mental note for another day). The wine and cheese bar serves up a variety of top local cheeses by the board. Head down to the lower town via the Escalier Casse-Cou staircase that connects the old and new worlds, or alternatively take a cable car. The shopping district, Quartier Petit Champlain, is an ideal way to while away the afternoon.
The beauty of Québec City's size is that you're close enough to head home and freshen up for dinner, or have a cheeky nap after a full day on your feet. If you can, time your walk to dinner in line with a sunset stroll through Esplanade Park. Dinner has to be at Battuto. You won't be able to miss it, just look for the crowds at the door. Expect a smart seasonal menu and well-executed Italian fare.
On day two, head to Saint-Roch or more specifically Café Saint-Henri, a favourite local hangout. The house specialty here is the coffee — they brew and sell their own blends — and artisanal doughnuts. From there, dip in and out of the vintage stores along Rue Saint Joseph. Vinyl aficionados should definitely head to Retro Bordella.
If you're missing your daily dose of architecture, Église Saint-Roch is recommended, followed by a picnic in the park (weather permitting) at Jean-Paul-L'Allier Garden. Pick up some local fare from Fromagerie des Grondines, Croquembouche Boulangerie Patisserie and La Place depuis 1982. When it comes to regional fare and home-made treats, you're spoiled for choice.
Keep the pace slow by kicking back at Kraken Cru with some oysters and seafood where fine dining food meets a pub vibe. You may be ready for bed, but it wouldn't be a true night out in Québec City without a quick maple pale ale nightcap at Korrigane brewery. And if you're favouring a late-night snack post-pub, it has to be poutine at the no-frills but excellent Casse-Croute Chez Gaston.

On your last day, head into Limoilou and join the locals at Café La Maison Smith for an Île d'Orléans-roasted coffee before you make your way to Article 721 to scout the local designer scene.
If you have time, l'Île d'Orléans is a 15-minute drive from downtown Québec City and a great region to sample local produce. Two must-visits: Cassis Monna & Filles, a fifth-generation family setup that produces blackcurrant liquors and compotes; and Confiturerie Tigidou where you can smell the aroma of freshly cooked jam emerging from the barn as you pull up.
If you're still feeling peckish on the way back into town, swing by Chez Boulay to cap off your trip with a Nordic-inspired feast using wilderness products from Canada's North. A memorable last meal indeed.
Main image: @reburndesigns
Presented by Gourmet Traveller and Destination Canada.