Word of Mouth: Québec City

From Le Festival d'été de Québec to museums, bars and more

A visit to Québec City means stepping outside of the ordinary. While most on the North American continent are used to Spanish or English as the native languages, this Francophone region offers more than their distinct tongue. Only a few years back, the city celebrated its 400th anniversary. This history is evident in every step—it pervades the atmosphere and touches the senses. Positioned along the banks of the Saint Lawrence River, it’s also a place of exceptional beauty. Centuries-old stone structures meet rolling, green fields. The museums are tip-top and the food, and the buildings housing it, also wow. Even in the rain, there’s a grace to an experience within. Here are six must stop spots from the oldest inhabited walled city north of Mexico.

Le Festival d’été de Québec

In its 48th year, Le Festival d’été de Québec took over Québec City this past week. From local punk bands to headlining acts like The Rolling Stones, Foo Fighters and even, yes, Megadeth, the programming was highly diverse and equally impressive. This diversity, and the notion of discovering new acts while they’re on the stage, is definitely alluring. The other major allure happens to be the epic outdoor venues. The festival plays host to North America’s largest stage, set in the beautiful rolling fields of their park, known as the Plains of Abraham. Two other large stages lie within walking distance from this venue—each featuring performers from Dweezil Zappa to an array of world music performers. There isn’t another festival like it and it’s worth planning a trip to Québec City for. Every year sees something more—and more fun.

Fairmont Le Château Frontenac

There’s no structure that defines the Québec City skyline more than Fairmont Le Château Frontenac. More than a hotel, this exquisite building plays host to many shops—but more importantly, a bar called 1608. Situated at the lower corner of the structure, windows overlook the boardwalk just outside. Signature cocktails demonstrate care and craft—but the back bar comes complete with an array of spirits, including some fine Canadian whisky. It’s a fancier spot, but well worth the visit.

Funiculaire du Vieux-Québec

As an alternative to taking the “Breakneck Steps” down from the top of the old city into the arts district, the brief but entirely lovable Funiculaire du Vieux-Québec acts as an attraction itself. Each little traveling cart offers an eagle-eye view of the Saint Lawrence River and reveals the majesty of the city beneath. It’s inexpensive and delightful.

Café Krieghoff

One of the city’s most historic bistros, Café Krieghoff has long entertained artists and intellectuals over hearty dishes. The restaurant sits in the Montcalm shopping district, on a quaint street of boutiques known as Avenue Cartier. There’s coffee and lighter fare for lunch, but also a thorough menu of modern cuisine for dinner. Most fascinating of all, the age range of those within varies greatly and some guests have clearly been coming for decades.

Brulerie De Café De Québec

While their charming window display was what brought us in, the quality of coffee and service at Brulerie De Café De Québec truly impresses. There are 60 types of coffee beans, roasted on the premises daily. From bright cold brew to sharp espresso, the place delivers on their promise of single-origin, microlot and direct trade drinks. The space is tiny, but offers more than enough room to take up a seat, watch passersby and use the free wifi.

Musée de la civilisation

For an in depth exploration into global cultures and early societies, the Musée de la civilisation offers smart, interactive exhibitions. From permanent showcases on Québec’s original native population to an epic temporary experience pertaining to Egyptian history, the programming is top notch. And it’s all housed in an impressive, welcoming building—with plenty of outdoor seating—designed by architect Moshe Safdie.

Images by David Graver