As a travel blogger who is passionate about learning and integrating herself in new cultures, visiting my home country often comes second after the more exotic, foreign destinations. Canada really is a huge country, and it is quite expensive to travel within it, so my travels here have unfortunately been few and far between.
Since my family lives on the east coast, and I in Ontario, I have driven through Quebec and passed by Quebec City many times. Despite that, I only remember stopping there once; I must have been about thirteen!
It was well past time to make a real stop, and the chance came up when my weekend cleared up suddenly a couple of weeks ago. Spontaneous decisions are my thing and random trips are my favourites, so you can imagine how excited I was! With the intent of keeping things within budget, I started planning and this is how we made a budget-friendly (and romantic) weekend getaway in Quebec City happen.
Ideally when you book your trip to Quebec City, you will have more time than me to plan it out. We had a very limited choice in choosing accommodations that fit our budget because it was so last minute. Summer is a great time to visit the city since much of it involves walking, but there are also a lot of other tourists so things book up quickly.
If you have a choice, Old Quebec is the place to be. This is where you will find the prettiest streets, the best views and the cosiest cafés. Prices at chain hotels are quite steep, and this includes the beautiful historic Chateau Frontenac, but stay in the smaller “auberges” (guesthouses) and it will save you precious amounts! They have an authentic, charming feel that will leave you delighted, no doubt. Airbnbs are becoming more and more popular in the region and also a great option.
We chose a very basic bachelor apartment on Airbnb that was just on the edge of Old Quebec. Walking distance to everything was our priority, and although we would have preferred staying in Old Quebec, we ended up close to the art gallery (Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec), which was perfect due to its proximity to the park of the Plaines d’Abraham.
Food and drinks
Oh the temptation! Everything we ate in Quebec City was so tasty and tempting it was hard to say no. The food is mostly reasonably priced, even in Old Quebec, but it adds up quickly if you want appetizers and drinks as well. Try having breakfast at your hotel or Airbnb in the morning and bring some snacks when you head out for the day. It’s much easier to say no if you’re not hungry!
That being said, make sure you don’t miss out on the amazing food offered throughout the city. We had a small breakfast in the mornings, and then opted for small appetizer sized plates throughout the day. This gave us the chance to try a variety of delicious eats and have some drinks too. Try your hand at the seafood, the local craft brews and last but not least the famous local delicacy: poutine (fries topped with brown gravy and cheese curds – trust me, it’s amazing!). We had the best eggs benedict ever for brunch at the Bistro 1640, delicious oysters at L’Atelier and great local brews at Bar l’Inox!
What to do
Old Quebec is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that should not be missed. As one of the prettiest and oldest cities in Canada, your trip is not complete without at least a day spent walking the streets of old Quebec. Walk around the many stairways and pedestrian bridges, and enjoy the fairy tale feel surrounding you! Look up the internet to find out if there are any festivals happening while you're there. We got lucky and happened to show up on the weekend of the tall ship festival!
Buskers performing anything and everything, from musicians to opera singers and painters to acrobats, there is never a lack of entertainment in the streets of Old Quebec. Imagine yourself sitting on a terrace, drinking a glass of wine, while being serenated by a harp player. This is what you can expect in the summer months especially!
La Citadelle de Québec is an active military base, which is open to the public for guided visits. Every day at 10 a.m. (weather permitting), the ceremony of the changing of the guards occurs on top of the hill. For a small fee you can witness this ceremonial exchange of duties between the fully dressed guards.
Les Plaines d’Abraham is a park to the south of the Citadelle. Walk around the trails, enjoy a picnic on the many tables set up, or listen to the occasional live bands playing on site for a quieter moment following the hustle and bustle of the touristy Old Quebec. If you feel energetic still, head down the staircase “Escaliers du Cap-Blanc” and cross the street to get to the shoreline. You will find tiny secluded beaches here where you can dip your toes in the water!
Le Parc des Chutes-Montmorency is only about 12 km from Old Quebec, and well worth a visit. No romantic getaway is complete without a bit of exercise and sweating, and you’ll get just that going down and back up the 487 stairs! Completely worth it though, the Chutes-Montmorency are an impressive 30 meters taller than the Niagara Falls! Go here early in the morning to avoid the crowds and get the best views. You only have to pay for parking, the park is free. There is also a gondola to go up and down the cliff if you cannot or prefer not to do the stairs.
We visited on a bright, sunny weekend and had a large water bottle, hats, sunscreen and sweaters for the cooler breeze of the night air. Bring these items in a small backpack (or large purse) and you’ll be ready for the day ahead. Don’t forget to bring your camera as well; there will be lots of photo opportunities throughout the day.
If you’re visiting in winter, Quebec tends to get very cold. Actually most of Canada does. So dress appropriately, with lots of layers!
There is so much more still for me to uncover in this beautiful city, but for an impromptu weekend getaway, I'd say not bad! What do you think?
Let us know in the comments what is your favourite thing to do in Quebec City!
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