Strolling through the streets of Old Quebec City, you may feel as though you have stepped into a European fairytale. Old Quebec City is a UNESCO World Heritage Site preserving many of the buildings and public spaces that were first built there over 400 years ago. Around every corner, you’ll find winding cobblestone roads and quaint cafes and shops. Old Quebec City is a beautiful destination for those who love history, food, and the arts. This guide will show you the perfect self-guided walking tour of Old Quebec City.
Is Quebec City a Walking City?
One of the best ways to experience Old Quebec is on foot. Quebec City is a walkable city. Through a self-guided walking tour of Old Quebec City, you will see everything you would miss while driving. If you have a car with you, plan to park it in one spot for the day and walk around.
This walking tour features the best attractions in Old Quebec. For the ultimate walking tour of Quebec City, combine this self-guided Old Quebec City walking tour with my self-guided tour of the prettiest streets in Old Quebec. Get ready for a fun-filled day exploring Old Quebec.
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What to Know About Walking in Old Quebec
Old Quebec City contains a series of hills, similar to San Francisco but much smaller in scale. This historic area is divided into lower Old Quebec and upper Old Quebec by the Cap Diament escarpment, and you will want to visit both. Be prepared to walk up and down hills during this walking tour.
What to Pack for Your Self-Guided Tour of Quebec City
- Good sturdy walking shoes – you will be walking on cobblestone and hills and these shoes are perfect for walking
- Camera – to capture the city’s beauty, this camera is the closest one to mine and I love it
- Phone – loaded with offline maps or data plan to bring this map with you, this is the phone I have
- Water bottle – to stay hydrated, plan to stop at cafes if you don’t bring a beverage
- Backpack or purse – to carry around your items during the tour
Self-Guided Walking Tour Quebec City – Old Quebec
One of the best ways to experience Old Quebec City is by foot, and this self-guided walking tour highlights some of the must-visit spots the city has to offer. Strap on your walking shoes, and let’s get to exploring!
Place des Canotiers
The first destination on this Old Quebec City walking tour is Place des Canotiers. Place des Canotiers is a beautiful public square where you can experience some of Old Quebec City’s rich history firsthand. Located along the Saint Lawrence River, Place des Canotiers was originally built as a destination for sea freight to dock in the early 1900s.
Cruise liners still dock at Place des Canotiers, but the public square’s main purpose has evolved into a gathering place for locals and tourists to enjoy. For beautiful views of the square, river, and city, climb the staircase to the top of the belvedere before you leave.
During my visit, I had fun running through the water fountain and relaxing along the St.Lawrence River.
After enjoying a visit to the Place des Canotiers, make your way over to Place Royale. Place Royale has an extensive history back to 1608 when Samuel de Champlain founded the City of Quebec there. The architecture of the square is very reminiscent of buildings you might find in France or Britain, making it an exceptionally charming location on this self-guided tour of Quebec City.
Place Royale is notable for being home to Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church which was erected in 1688, known as the oldest church in North America. Enjoy a hot beverage and a pastry with a beautiful and historic view at Cafe La Maison Smith’s adorable patio.
Rue du Petit-Champlain
Without a doubt, one of the most picturesque locations on this Old Quebec City walking tour is Rue du Petit-Champlain. Rue du Petit-Champlain is a gorgeous cobblestone street in Old Quebec City remaining essentially unchanged since its construction over 400 years ago. Situated near the St Lawrence River, Rue du Petit-Champlain is the perfect destination to explore on foot.
Rue du Petit-Champlain is full of cafes, shops, murals, and historic architecture that are amazing to experience in person. Rue du Petit-Champlain is significant for being the home of the oldest commercial district in North America, Quartier du Petit Champlain. To learn more about Rue du Petit-Champlain, read my Rue du Petit-Champlain + The Most Beautiful Streets in Quebec City Tour.
Montmorency Park National Historic Site
Montmorency Park National Historic Site is a great spot to visit for those especially interested in the political and military history of Old Quebec City. This park is a significant location on this Old Quebec City walking tour because Montmorency Park was once used as a meeting place for the Parliament of the Province of Canada in the mid-1800s.
Located in the heart of the City of Quebec, Montmorency Park is both beautiful and a great location to learn about some local history. Several monuments throughout the park educate visitors on the site’s historical significance, and you can also enjoy amazing views of the river below. Within the park, you will see cannons and an amazing view of the Chateau Frontenac.
Notre Dame de Quebec Basilica-Cathedral
From Montmorency Park National Historic Site, make your way over to Notre Dame de Quebec Basilica-Cathedral. Originally built in 1647, Notre Dame de Quebec Basilica-Cathedral has undergone many physical transformations throughout the years as the result of several military attacks. In 1759, the original church burnt down during the British siege, and later burned down again in 1922 before being rebuilt in the form we recognize today.
Many consider Notre Dame de Quebec Basilica-Cathedral the precursor to many other Catholic churches that have since been erected throughout Canada and the United States. The building itself is a beautiful example of neoclassical architecture. Its rich history makes Notre Dame de Quebec Basilica-Cathedral a must-visit location on this self-guided tour of Quebec City.
Quebec City Hall Garden
While Quebec City Hall is a beautiful building in and of itself, the gardens located along the south side of City Hall are the real highlight. Like many of the locations on this Old Quebec City walking tour, the grounds of City Hall have an extensive history. The original building on the grounds was the site of a Jesuit college and later served as barracks for British forces in the late 1700s to mid-1800s. In 1877, the original building was demolished and in 1894, construction began on the City Hall building that still stands today.
The gardens are a lovely area to stroll through and are especially pretty to visit during warmer months when the plants are in bloom. The gardens are also decorated for certain holidays throughout the year, such as Halloween and Christmas. My visit was in October, and the gardens were decorated and ready for Halloween.
Fortifications of Quebec National Historic Site of Canada
The Fortifications of Quebec National Historic Site is another location on this self-guided tour of Quebec City that highlights the city’s extensive military history. Walking through the fortifications, you’ll be in awe of the massive stone walls and military buildings that remain intact from the 1700s.
The Fortifications of Quebec National Historic Site is also home to many vantage points where you can enjoy beautiful views of the city. If you want to learn more about the history of this site and gain access to several areas that are not available to the general public, consider booking a guided tour. There are gates at Saint-Jean and Saint-Louis. Climb to the top of the Saint-Jean Gate and look over one of Quebec’s prettiest streets, or pause for a while on the grass atop the gate and have a picnic.
Another must-visit spot on this self-guided tour of Quebec City is Place d’Armes, a historic public square that many consider the heart of Old Quebec City. Place d’Armes is conveniently located near several tourist attractions and historical sites, making it a popular destination for visitors to Quebec.
In the middle of the park is an imposing Gothic fountain that commemorates the arrival of the Recollet Fathers in Quebec in the 1600s. Large trees provide ample greenery and shade throughout Place d’Armes, making this an excellent spot to kick back and relax for a bit.
Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac
Right next to Place d’Armes is the next destination on this Old Quebec City walking tour: Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac. Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac is a beautiful hotel that has been in operation for over a century. Located atop Cape Diamond, Le Chateau Frontenac offers sweeping views of Dufferin Terrace and the Saint Lawrence River.
Over the years, many celebrities have stayed at Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac, including Queen Elizabeth II and Leonardo DiCaprio! It is said that Le Chateau Frontenac is the most photographed hotel in the world, and you cannot deny the hotel provides a stunning backdrop for photos. Even if you are not staying at the hotel, plan to visit the lobby or hotel bar to see the interior of this incredible hotel.
During my visit, I visited the lobby, which is breathtaking, as well as danced out front after the sunset to live street music.
A self-guided tour of Quebec City wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Dufferin Terrace. Dufferin Terrace is a large open boardwalk offering scenic views of the St. Lawrence River. One of the best parts about Dufferin Terrace is that it’s beautiful to visit year-round. During the summer, the boardwalk comes alive with crowds of visitors, street performers, and firework displays. Wintertime, meanwhile, is a great time to visit if you want to try tobogganing!
Dufferin Terrace is also home to a secret hidden gem: take the staircase at the far end of the terrace, and you will find the governor’s promenade which will eventually lead you to the Plains of Abraham.
Similar to Dufferin Terrace, Pierre-Dugua-De-Mons Terrace is another beautiful park overlooking the city and river below. You can conveniently access Pierre-Dugua-De-Mons Terrace from Dufferin Terrace, making it very straightforward to visit both spots as you embark on your Old Quebec City walking tour.
The terrace takes its name after Pierre Dugua de Mons, a French man who was instrumental in the founding of Quebec. In the early 1600s, he instructed Samuel Champlain to build a trading post at the site that would later become Quebec City. The views from Pierre-Dugua-De-Mons Terrace are sure to impress, making this a great spot to visit any time of year.
Parc du Bastion-de-la-Reine
Although Parc du Bastion-de-la-Reine may be small, don’t take its size for granted: what the park lacks in size, it more than makes up for with amazing views. Located near the old city center, Parc du Bastion-de-la-Reine offers sweeping views of Quebec, including some of the other destinations on this self-guided tour of Quebec City. You will be able to spot the Fortifications of Quebec National Historic Site, Dufferin Terrace, and the Chateau Frontenac from this small but mighty park.
During my visit, I paused here for quite a while to soak in the beauty of Old Quebec. Pac du Bastion-de-la-Reine is a perfect place for a picnic if you want to have a picnic with a view.
La Citadelle de Quebec
Located atop Cape Diamond, you will find La Citadelle de Quebec, the next destination on this Old Quebec City walking tour. La Citadelle de Quebec is a large military installation, home to over 300 years of history. The walls of La Citadelle de Quebec form a unique star shape, and the strategic location of the site offers impressive views of the city and Saint Lawrence River.
Within La Citadelle de Quebec is a museum featuring exhibits that educate visitors on the 22nd Regiment, those to whom the site is dedicated. La Citadelle de Quebec is an impressive structure that history lovers’ are sure to enjoy.
Plains of Abraham
Last but certainly not least, on this self-guided tour of Quebec City is the Plains of Abraham. Plains of Abraham is an expansive public park situated atop a battlefield, the former site of the 1759 Battle of Quebec. The Battle of Quebec was a significant event marking the official start of British rule in Quebec once they defeated French troops.
Though French influences remain throughout the city, the Battle of Quebec cemented the city as a key component of the British empire. Today, the Plains of Abraham is a beautiful park containing monuments to the battle as well as playgrounds and gardens for visitors to enjoy.
With over 200 acres, you do not have to walk through the entire park. During my visit, I walked through the beginning of the park and then later drove through the rest of the Plains of Abraham.
When you finish exploring the Plains of Abraham, you have completed this walking tour of Old Quebec.
How Long Does the Walking Tour Last?
This self-guided walking tour of Old Quebec can take as long as you wish. To walk to all the sites without stopping can take about an hour. Add as much time as you prefer for stopping at each location.
During my walk, I divided the list into two days, spending about 30 minutes at each stop, but it is possible to see everything in a single day.
Old Quebec City is a unique area to explore, and embarking on a self-guided walking tour is a great way to experience the city. Every street corner is full of history, and the city is home to some beautiful public squares and parks, popular gathering places for locals and tourists alike. History lovers, shopaholics, photographers, and everyone in between are sure to enjoy a visit to Old Quebec City. The city has so much to offer, and there’s truly something for everyone to enjoy.
I hope you find this Old Quebec City walking tour helpful as you plan a visit for yourself.