Exploring Old Quebec City and the quaint Quartier du Petit Champlain feels totally bizarre. At least it did for me! I have lived in France and Europe for several years. And yet here I was, in North America surrounded by European charm. If you only have one day to explore Quebec City as we did, then discover my recommendations on where to go, what to see, and what to do below!
From the ruelles (little streets) to the stone buildings and towering Chateau Frontenac, Old Quebec packs in a ton of things to do and see in a fairly small space. With that being said, I found it surprising how much we were able to visit in just one day in Old Quebec (Vieux Québec).
P.S. The best way to explore Old Quebec City in one day is a self-guided walking tour!
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1 Day in Old Quebec City Itinerary
When I was first searching for things to do in Old Quebec, I knew I wanted to do a walking tour of only the top sights including attractions, lookouts, restaurants, shops, hotels, and if I had time, nearby parks.
Click around my handmade interactive map! I’ve included the highlights of what to see in Old Quebec (based on our own itinerary).
Start at the base of Rue du Petit Champlain
To optimize your time as much as possible, you should start your walking tour at the bottom of Rue du Petit Champlain.
It’s perhaps one of the busiest streets, and you’ll soon see why! Start here and slowly make your way up to Escalier Casse-Cou (Breakneck Steps).
Don’t forget to loop around to visit Umbrella Alley—a popular Instagrammer’s street with colorful hanging umbrellas.
Rue du Petit Champlain is THE nook for Europeanesque buildings, boutiques, and whimsical bistros. When we visited, the whole area had fall and Halloween decorations which gave me magical Harry Potter vibes.
Eventually, you’ll reach the Breakneck Steps. Get your camera ready beforehand so you can quickly turn around to take a shot once at the top!
Continue up past Mary’s Gourmet Popcorn. On your way up, take notice of the old, abandoned restaurant on your left; the original menu is encased and has fancy French writing. Grilled salmon back then cost only $1.00!
Follow the crowd up the stairs that cut through to the top of the cliffside at Chateau Frontenac.
Château Frontenac & Terrasse Dufferin
The Chateau Frontenac is very much the iconic landmark of Quebec City. What once was the historic site and residence of the governor is now the prominent and luxurious Fairmont Le Château Frontenac hotel.
When you climb up the stairs (or take the funicular), you’ll reach the Terrasse Dufferin. The Terrasse Dufferin affords magnificent panoramic views. Just remember to bring a jacket because the wind gets bone-chilling up here!
Promenade des Gouverneurs
Skirt the Terrasse Dufferin on down past the Ice Slides. As you walk, take notice of the ruins of Fort St.-Louis which are visible under glass floors on the promenade. Continue up the promenade boardwalk that will take around the side of the mountain. After 10-15 minutes of walking, you’ll reach the Citadel and Plains of Abraham.
History buffs can take their time to visit the Citadel or continue walking down the streets to reach more shops and plazas, eventually reaching the Parliament Building.
Hotel du Parliament – Parliament Building
The Parliament Building in Quebec City is an impressive building that houses Quebec’s provincial government. The plaza out front features a small park with a central square and statue.
A crowd usually forms here as there is a bevy of shops, restaurants, and entertainment surrounding this area. From here, slowly take your time to visit the nooks and crannies of the Old City.
Sights to see in the area are the Parliament Building, Parliament Hill, Notre Dame de Quebec Cathedral onward up the bustling Rue St-Jean to the Fortifications of Quebec Artillery Park.
Fortifications of Quebec Artillery Park
You can take guided tours of this national historic site if you like, but we came here just before sunset to get wonderful views of Old Quebec.
The many towers, gates, bastions, and stone walls of the fortifications are reminiscent of Quebec’s French colonization and immigrant history. There are several signs spotted around that give you a peek into Quebec’s past!
Finishing off your walking tour of Old Quebec
There are so many plazas, boutiques, and historic sites as you explore Old Quebec on foot. From the fortifications, you can walk back down Rue St-Jean past the Hotel du Ville on around to Chateau Frontenac once again.
From here, you can revisit the Lower Town of the charming Rue du Petit Champlain again. (We went twice – once in the day and again in the evening when the cute street lights were lit up).
BONUS: Parc de la Plage Jacques-Cartier
If you have extra time, either in the morning or in the evening, go visit the Parc de la Plage Jacques-Cartier. It’s outside of Old Quebec, so you’ll need transportation to get there. It’s a wonderful spot to walk, hike, or run in nature.
There’s a long stretch of beach and a 1-2 km hike up some stairs that offer panoramic views of the St. Laurent River. It’s well worth a visit! But if you are more interested in visiting the history and European charm of Old Quebec, you might not have time to carve out for this park.
Sidenote: For overlanders and fellow van lifers, this park offers free hot showers and washrooms.
Old Quebec & Petit Champlain Restaurants & Hotels
It was extremely challenging to find the best lunch spot in Old Quebec because there are just so many good places! How do you choose?
We ended up coming across an all-inclusive Quebecois menu at Aux Anciens Canadiens and we can’t recommend it enough! If you like a cozy interior, old-timey charm, and simple yet nourishing food, you’ll enjoy this restaurant.
Other notable restaurants in Old Quebec and along the Rue du Petit Champlain are:
- Le Lapin Sauté
- Le Pape Georges
- Cochon Dingue
- Bistro St-Malo
- Le Chic Shack
- La Bûche
As for hotels in Old Quebec, you have quite a range of options as well! Here is an interactive map to help you search for the best hotel.
Here are some suggestions and quick links for the best boutique hotels in prime locations in Old Quebec City:
- Hotel le Priori
- Auberge Saint-Antoine
- Hotel Chateau Bellevue
- Manoir d’Auteuil
- Le Germain Quebec
- L’Auberge aux Deux Lions
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Just like this guide, spending one day in Old Quebec City is short and sweet!
Despite only having 10-12 hours to visit, the narrow winding streets and proximity of attractions make visiting Old Quebec in one day very feasible.
Of course, if you have more time to visit, then do! If you have 2 or more days to spend in Quebec City, consider a day trip to the Chutes de Montmorency.
Have you ever visited Quebec City? If not, now is it on your bucket list?