Last Updated on November 8, 2021 by Jim Ferri
A walking tour of Quebec City that you’ll love…
Estimated reading time: 10 minutes
By Jim Ferri
I had been to Quebec City, previously, years ago in my college days. We stopped to visit for a few hours as we headed northward on a camping trip. I felt it wasn’t much back then, just an old European-looking city of modest interest. In fact, it made me think there wasn’t a lot of things to see in Quebec City.
I returned not long ago for a walking tour of Quebec City and couldn’t believe my eyes. That tired old town I remembered was now a magnificent Old World city. Moreover, it looked as if it had been cleaved right from the French countryside.
Fortified walls surrounded it, and mansard roofs poked up everywhere. Picturesque cobbled lanes tumbled down to the banks of the St. Lawrence River. I was soon drawn in.
Setting Out on a Self-Guided Walking Tour
I arrived at my Old Quebec City hotel in the evening. Although it was considered a hotel in Old Quebec City, it was actually outside the city walls. That was fine with me, however, since it was only a very short walk to the gate.
The next morning I wasted no time in starting my walking tour of the old city. I walked over to nearby Saint Jean’s Gate for a walk down rue St. Jean. It was surprisingly beautiful, with lampposts and many restaurants and pubs, festooned with baskets of flowers. Although it was only 8:00am, too early for shops to be open, gaggles of tourists were already wandering all about.
As would be expected, most had cameras in hand, and were marveling at the beauty of it all. Likewise, as was I, they were marveling at their luck in finding themselves in such a place.
I stopped in Creperie Au Petit Coin Breton, on rue St. Jean, and was surprised by its “French-ness” as soon as I stepped inside. However, when my order arrived, I was reminded where I was by the maple-syrup filling in my croissant.
Plucked Right Off a Movie Set
After finishing my coffee, I continued walking aimlessly about the city. I returned later in the day to delve deeper down St. Jean.
I soon came upon rue Ste. Anne, a pretty little street that ran alongside the Musée des Ursulines. The little lane, with cafés lining one side and artists and street musicians the other, looked as if it had been plucked right off a Maurice Chevalier movie set.
Just five minutes on, a block down past the tourist office on Ste. Anne, I found myself across from the Chateau Frontenac, undeniably the hotel that is the symbol of the city. I walked around it and found myself on the Terrasse Dufferin.
The terrasse is a wide boardwalk with beautiful views of the river and distant mountains. It connects the area below Frontenac with La Citadelle (still a working military garrison and home to the famous 22nd Regiment) and the Plains of Abraham.
A Guided Walking Tour of Quebec City
Two mornings later with a small group I stood on the Plains of Abraham with Steeve Gaudreault. An excellent historical tour guide, Steeve straightaway had our small group off on a guided walking tour a tour of the old city.
Standing on a promenade above the river we were all fascinated by his insights about the history of the city. While telling us about the founding of Québec, I learned that the name of the plains did not have a Biblical connotation, as I had thought.
Instead, it referred to Abraham Martin, a farmer in the area who used to graze his cattle there. Today, the entire area, including the nearby Joan of Arc Garden, is federal land known as Battlefield Park.
Steeve soon whisked us off to the garden, a beautiful park on the periphery of the battlefield. Today an annual art show was taking place.
In the middle of the neighborhood park stands a statue Joan of Arc. A smaller replica of the famous sculpture in France, it was commissioned by two American women who donated it to the city of Québec. Undoubtedly, to be politically correct in this dual-cultured nation, the Canadians placed the statue of the French heroine in an English-style garden.
A Walking Tour Rife With Quebec History
Steeve brought history alive everywhere we went on our walking tour. I soon realized there were more interesting things to do in Quebec City than I had imagined.
Dressed in the costume of one of the original settlers of Québec, he subsequently led us around Vieux Québec, the Old City, and Vieux Port on the river, melding history with the life of his character. He captivated us with his repertoire and knowledge of both Canadian and American history. I later learned that he’s also given tours in Boston and New York.
More Things to See on a Quebec City Walking Tour
Coming down to the bottom of the old Québec city, we wandered through a wonderful jumble of cobblestone streets. They were chockablock full of little shops, cafés and restaurants, all a riot of color in the summer sun.
On this walking tour of old Quebec, Steeve also took us down his “favorite street,” rue du Petit-Champlain. I had visited it the previous day and it had already become my “favorite,” as well.
The charming rue looked like another Hollywood creation, a little cobbled lane filled with restaurants and shops. Halfway along was tucked a tiny park, where I had watched a violinist perfume the air with his sweet music.
Rue du Petit-Champlain begins in the old port area at Place Royale, the historic birthplace of French Canada. It’s a beautiful street, one you don’t want to miss on your walking tour of Quebec City.
Also beautiful is the Québec Parliament building, one of the most handsome in Canada or even in the world. It’s an attractive building, stately yet welcoming, patterned after the Louvre in Paris.
Located midway between Rue Dauphine Gate and St. Louis Gate, it has a picturesque fountain in a roundabout in front, with beautiful flower gardens. Nearby are huge red planters, about four feet tall and about the same across, in the shape of flowerpots, which personalizes the space and makes it a bit whimsical, as well.
There are signs in front of the building giving an explanation of the gardens. Surprisingly, as seems to be the case all over Québec City, the signs are only in French, not in French and English as elsewhere in Canada. It’s a shame since it doesn’t allow everyone on a tour of Quebec City to enjoy this spectacular city to the fullest.
An International Treasure
The next day, I walked around the area by Parliament and the battlefields by myself. I couldn’t help but think what an international treasure Quebec City is, a piece of old France transplanted to the New World, the only walled city north of the Rio Grande.
Even though i had now walked about the city for several days, at that moment couldn’t help but wish I could stay longer. I could easily have continued my walk about the city another day or two..
Quebec City is that enchanting.
Old Quebec City Hotels
If you’re heading to Quebec City to take a walking tour, you’ll find plenty of hotels. The most famous of the Old Quebec City hotels is unquestionably the 5-star Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, which is inside the walls of Old Quebec. It is one of the most celebrated hotels in Canada, with the rates to confirm its status. In Old Quebec City, however, you can’t beat its location.
There are nearly four-dozen other hotels in Old Quebec City, including some B&Bs. They range from one- to three-stars, providing a good selection. For a good overview of Old Quebec City hotels go to the accommodations section of the Quebec tourist office’s website to view a breakdown of the different hotels.
If You Go:
Québec City Tourism
12, rue Sainte-Anne
Québec, QC G1R 3X2
Tel: (877)-BONJOUR / (877) 266-5687
Creperie Au Petit Coin Breton
1029 Rue Saint-Jean
Québec, QC G1R 1R9
Tel: (418) 694-0758
Open: daily 8:30am – 8:30pm
Musée des Ursulines
12, rue Donnacona
Québec, QC G1R 3Y7
Tel: (418) 694-0694
1 Côte de la Citadelle
Québec City, Québec G1R 3R2
Tel: (418) 694-2815