You Have One Day in Québec City, Québec? Here’s How You Could Spend It!
If you only have one day in Québec City, the capital city of the province of Québec, this is the post for you! Whether you’re just stopping in the city to break up the drive to or from Atlantic Canada, or starting or ending a cruise, there’s plenty to do, eat, see, and drink!
24 hours in Québec City is not enough time to see all of the sights this historic city has to offer. However, with the right planning, you can explore the city efficiently. That’s where we come in!
We spent a few days in Québec City with our travel friends and fell in love with the city. It was our first time in Québec City and we were blown away by just how “European” it felt… even though we were still in Canada. It was late summer, so we did and saw a lot!
So, this itinerary covers what to do in Québec City, Québec in one day – from breakfast options to evening activities!
Québec City Tours
The beautiful, historic city is a popular destination to explore. As such, there are plenty of great tour options to help you discover Québec City in different ways!
From walking tours exploring the city’s rich history to boat cruises of the famed waterway, check out these Québec City tour options:
Breakfast at Restaurant La Bûche
Address: 49 Rue Saint-Louis, Québec, QC G1R 3Z2
To start off your Québec City one-day itinerary, you’ll need a nice breakfast. For this, we’d recommend Restaurant La Bûche.
Located on the beautiful Rue Saint-Louis – just a short walk from the heart of Old Quebec (Vieux-Québec) – this is a spot where you can sit down for a hearty breakfast.
Styled like a Québécois sugar shack, the place is full of Canadian vibes… including lots of nods to maple syrup.
Inside, the place is bustling with activity. We didn’t have a reservation, but we showed up early on a weekend morning and were seated right away (four people). You can make a reservation online, though, if you have a schedule to keep!
They have an indoor space and a covered outdoor patio where we sat. It was nice to enjoy the good late summer weather.
The menu is packed with Quebec classics for all meals, and their brunch menu is no exception. Eric had the “Fat Guy Omelette” which was loaded with meat and came with potatoes, toast, and fruit.
Lisa had the crepes with strawberries and maple syrup (yum), and our friends also went sweet with waffles and crepes.
The food was good and the portions were generous for the price. For the popularity of the place, the service was good and orderly for a weekend!
Oh, and they do bottomless coffee – to the point where we didn’t want more refills (and we love coffee).
Overall, we really liked Restaurant La Bûche. It definitely leans more as a tourist stop but it’s a solid choice for breakfast due to the early opening hours, central location, food variety, and price.
They also make a point of having mimosas at the ready, should you be into that with your brunch!
If you are looking for alternative breakfast/brunch spots, Café La Maison Smith Des Jardins (known simply as Smith Café) is a local chain we really liked with great pastries, sandwiches, and coffee.
Getting Around Québec City, Québec
While Québec City has a number of neighbourhoods/areas to check out, as a day visitor, you’ll likely only explore Old Quebec and the surrounding areas.
The “Old Town” area isn’t huge, so you can see lots of sights by getting around on foot. However, it is divided into Upper Town and Lower Town – and the terrain between the two historic areas is very hilly. The Citadel & Château Frontenac are at the highest point in the city for a reason!
To explore further (Montmorency Falls), public transport (Réseau de transport) operates buses and La Société des traversiers operates the ferry to Lévis. Biking would be good option in Old Québec given shorter distances and narrow streets. However, some hills may make cycling more challenging.
Morning Activities: Explore Historic Vieux-Québec
Now that you’ve got some breakfast fuel and coffee in your body, it’s time to explore. There is so much to do and see in Québec City that you’ll never get it all done in one day.
That said, with a bit of planning (and this Québec one-day guide), you’d be able to explore many parts of the historic Old Québec (known as Vieux-Québec) in a morning.
So, for a morning in Québec City, we’d suggest exploring the top sights in the historic Upper Town (around the Château Frontenac), and then some of the top sights in Lower Town (Place Royale).
A combination of these two areas would be a strong mix of the best Québec City attractions to check out on a walking route.
Don’t worry, we’ll get to explore the Plains of Abraham, the Citadel, and other cool, walkable areas of the city in the afternoon.
Our Tip: We did this historic walking tour and it was the best way to learn about the sights and get our bearings for later exploration. It covered Upper & Lower Town in great detail – all in one morning!
Wherever you have breakfast, head for the Château Frontenac (you can’t miss it) to get the most out of Upper Town.
This elevated area – up on the cliff overlooking the St. Lawrence River – is known as Upper Town for a reason!
Other than the highlights mentioned below, there are lots of statues, historic sites, pretty buildings, and more to see, so feel free to stop anywhere you like between these main sites.
Keep in mind that the season you visit in may change what you do/see, but not by that much.
If it’s winter, just bundle up well and you’ll be fine exploring. The city was made to be enjoyed in all seasons!
Address: 1 Rue des Carrières, Québec, QC G1R 4P5
The one, the only: Château Frontenac. Considered to be one of the most photographed hotels in the world, this iconic building is worth checking out.
Built back in 1893, this National Historic Site is a beautiful example of Châteauesque architecture. From the outside, it makes for a beautiful photograph beside the Dufferin Terrace. On the inside, you’ll find history oozing from every corner.
Location: Beside the Château Frontenac
When exploring Upper Town, a great place to start is over at the famous Dufferin Terrace.
Commissioned to be the current size and length by Governor General Dufferin in 1879, the current terrace location has a significant history to it (more below).
These days, it’s a beautiful place for a long stroll and to take in the incredible views of the St. Lawrence River and the countryside in the distance.
We loved taking in the views – both during the day and at night!
The many coloured pavilions are great for some shade, and you can check out historical artifacts (like cannons) and other attractions (like the Château Frontenac or the Toboggan Run in winter).
Saint-Louis Forts and Châteaux National Historic Site
Address: Dufferin Terrace, Québec City, Québec G1R 6C7
If you want to go underground to learn about history – literally – check out the Saint-Louis Forts and Châteaux National Historic Site.
Located under the Dufferin Terrace, this historic site has over 200 years of history.
The ruins were the place where both French and British Governor Generals established their residence, seat of power, and relations with the Huron-Wendat for many decades.
Nowadays, it’s run by Parks Canada and you can tour the site and learn a lot about it.
We really enjoyed the information and the fact that you can walk in/around the ruins at your own pace. The artifacts are neat and the explanations are in-depth.
You can actually look down at the ruins through the glass domes on the Terrace, but walking through is much more immersive. You can also do a guided tour of the ruins if that’s more your style!
Québec City is situated on the traditional land of the Huron-Wendat (Wendake-Nionwentsïo) Nations. We’re grateful to have been able to visit and learn about the area’s rich history.
Notre-Dame de Québec Basilica-Cathedral
Address: 16 Rue De Buade, Québec, QC G1R 4A1
Continuing along and slightly down the hill from the Terrace area, Notre-Dame de Québec Basilica-Cathedral is worth a visit even if you are not religious.
With roots dating back to 1647, this historic church turned cathedral is also loaded with history. On top of that, it is the site of the only “Holy Door” in North America.
Many famous figures are buried below – including Frontenac himself. It’s a working place of worship, so you can stop in to admire the interior and the organ, and stop by for Mass if that’s your thing.
Montmorency Park National Historic Site
Address: Côte de la Montagne, Québec, QC G1K 4E4
As you head down the hill towards Lower Town, there’s one more stop you might want to make: Montmorency Park National Historic Site.
Another National Historic Site, this green park also offers stunning views of the river and has a few statues or historical plaques to read.
You’ll find lots of trees, a statue of Jacques Cartier, and some really nice photo opportunities – like of the city looking back towards the Old Post Office Building.
You can also access the walkway over the Prescott Gate if you want to take the stairs up to the Terrace, down to the curved street (Côte de la Montagne), or snap a photo of the beautiful architecture.
Now that you are in Lower Town (whether you took the stairs and walked the historic Escalier Casse-Cou (Breakneck Steps) or took the historic Funicular), there is lots to see in this area as well.
It is known for its beautiful, historic houses and a history which is shaped by its proximity to the river.
There is a lot to see and do down here, too, so here are just a few points of interest that we explored to get you started!
Rue du Petit Champlain
Location: Rue de Petit Champlain
It would be silly to spend 1 day in Québec City and not explore its (arguably) most famous attraction – Rue du Petit Champlain.
Located in Lower Town, this street is known to be one of – if not the – prettiest streets in Canada.
From the cobblestones to the colourful storefronts, flowers, and ambiance, it’s like stepping back in time… or taking a trip to a European city.
We walked through here several times – there’s quite a bit to take in every time you walk through.
There are lots of shops and galleries to check out, as well as places to stop for a drink or a bite to eat. We even ate lunch here one of the days at a small cafe.
Old Québec Funicular
Address: 6 Rue du Petit Champlain, Québec, QC G1K 4G8
Known in French as the Funiculaire du Vieux-Québec, this famous funicular was originally built in 1879. It’s been renovated a few times over the years and is open year-round.
It’s not only a cool historic attraction but it’s also super functional since the elevation change between Upper and Lower Town is quite dramatic!
The funicular rides at a 45-degree angle, which means you get great views of the city and river below.
Keep this in mind for later since our lunch stop is back up in Upper Town… you may want to ride back up (it’s $5 CAD, one way).
Considered the birthplace of French North America, Place Royale is a must-see while in Québec City.
This picturesque spot – around the corner from Rue du Petit Champlain – is the exact spot where explorer Samuel de Champlain founded the City of Québec in 1608.
It’s where he established the first permanent settlement… it happened right here!
Today, the historic architecture once again takes you back in time. The open square is a great photo spot, and a few shops, restaurants, and cafes (like Cafe Smith) line the perimeter so you can take in the setting at your own pace.
A feature of the square is Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church, the oldest stone church in North America – with roots dating back to 1688!
Our Tip: Umbrella Alley is located between Place Royale and Rue du Petit Champlain. It makes for a great photo spot with the Château up on the cliff in the distance!
Museum of Civilization
Address: 85 Rue Dalhousie, Québec, QC G1K 8R2
If you want a bit of a leisurely stop where you can learn at your own pace, the Museum of Civilization might be for you.
This popular attraction is located just a short walk north of Place Royale and is home to a number of temporary and permanent exhibits. From the history of Québec to modern topics like nature, art, and Indigenous relations, there’s something for everyone here.
There’s also an onsite restaurant/cafe if you need a break… but we worked in a break or two for you in this itinerary already! You can get your ticket for the museum here or you can buy it on the spot.
Our Extra Tips: The streets around the museum (like Rue Saint-Pierre) are packed with art galleries featuring many local artists and Place des Canotiers is a riverside greenspace nearby with awesome views!
Lunch at Chez Ashton
Address: 54 Côte du Palais, Québec, QC G1R 4H8
It’s lunchtime in Québec City and if you’ve been on foot the whole morning, you’ll surely have worked up an appetite.
Luckily, there’s a spot we really liked back in Upper Town that will fill the void: Chez Ashton.
Located just off of the busy Rue Saint-Jean, Chez Ashton is local establishment serving up fast food.
And since you cannot visit Québec without trying its famous dishes, one dish in particular – poutine – is the thing to try here!
Inside, Chez Ashton is set up like a fast food place, with ordering at the front and a bunch of tables around.
We just got the L’Authentique Poutine Ashton, which is just fries, cheese curds, and gravy. Simple. Perfect. Not healthy. Delicious!
We got a larger poutine and at it outside by the old Fortification Walls (more on that below), but you can definitely eat inside if you like.
Of course, you can find a nicer sit-down lunch spot if you want. There are plenty of restaurants and cafes with lunch options.
Chez Ashton was great for us because the poutine was cheap, authentically Québécois, and very tasty!
Afternoon Activities: Explore the Plains, Citadel, & More!
After lunch, it’s time to explore more areas of the city that aren’t right in the oldest parts. This will give you a well-rounded impression of the city during a short visit.
The area southwest of Old Québec is the green space known as the Plains of Abraham.
This stretch of land (and the streets/areas surrounding it) is packed with things to see and sites to explore.
So, this afternoon portion will have you explore the city in this direction with the Plains and the Citadel as a rough starting point.
Our Tip: From lunch, climb the stairs at St. John Gate (part of the Historic Fortifications) to walk up along the old walls all the way up to the Citadel!
La Citadelle de Québec
Address: 1 Côte de la Citadelle, Québec, QC G1R 3R2
Occupying the highest natural point in the city, the Citadel – known as the La Citadelle de Québec – is definitely a place where you could spend a few hours.
From the beautiful views of the world below to the over 300 years of history in this location, there’s lots to take in. Fun Fact: The Citadel is the largest British fortress in North America!
These days, you can visit the Citadel and the Museum (Musée Royal 22e Régiment) which is located inside.
The Citadel grounds are also home to several events, including day and night tours, and a Changing of the Guard ceremony. Surrounding the Citadel, there are lots of green spaces and walking paths to enjoy!
Plains of Abraham & Museum
Address: 835 Wilfrid-Laurier Ave, Québec City, Quebec G1R 2L3
Another important place in Québec’s history (and North American history, to be honest) is the Plains of Abraham.
Located just to the southwest of the Citadel, this rolling urban park is impossible to miss.
Named after the farmer who owned the fields, the Plains are famous for the battle between British and French troops in 1759.
The French lost, would eventually give up New France to Britain, and the continent would be forever changed.
Today, you can walk the Plains – part of the larger Battlefields Park – and take in the historical artifacts (like cannons), the nature trails, and other features (like the View Point Saint Laurent River).
If the battle interests you, you can visit The Plains of Abraham Museum. It’s located close by and features lots of interactive exhibits that bring history to life.
Another place to check out in/around the Plains is The Joan of Arc Gardens. These beautiful gardens are worth a wander through when in bloom. We really liked them.
You will also find some Martello Towers in this area, built by the British and leftover from the events around 1812. You can actually go inside Martello Tower 1 if you are interested.
If you walk all the way down to the Terrasse Grey, you get nice views of the river. You’re also towards the end of the Plains, which means you can swing back northwest into the city to easily reach the next place (Ave Cartier) if you want to explore there and have your break!
Our Tip: Near the Terrasse Grey, the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec is right on Grande Allée Ouest and features works by Québécois and Indigenous artists!
Location: Ave. Cartier
Close to the museum – and known for the famous street “lanterns” – is Av. Cartier, another area to check out.
This street is full of places to eat, little shops, places to grab a drink, and much more.
It’s a nice change from Old Québec because it feels a little more “normal” – as in, it’s a place where locals would hang out!
We stop at a cafe and our friends got some coffee. In fact, it’s the location of the afternoon break below!
(Late) Afternoon Break
Depending on how long you spend around the Plains of Abraham and other places listed above, you may want to take a little afternoon break before heading back to the heart of Old Québec for dinner and evening activities.
For this, we always like to give two options: Café Les Cousins for coffee or grabbing a drink on Grande Allee E (Street).
Café Les Cousins
Address: 1029 Av. Cartier, Québec, QC G1R 2S3
If you’re in the mood for a coffee or other hot drink (and maybe a little something to eat), then a stop at Café Les Cousins is in order.
Located right on Ave Cartier, this place has both indoor seating and a front patio.
Inside, there’s a huge counter filled with sweet baked goods as well as more savoury options. There is also a wide selection of hot drinks, with a lot of caffeinated and non-caffeinated options.
We went inside with our friends, and if we hadn’t been full from the lunch stop, we definitely would have gotten a small treat from this local establishment!
Grande Allée Est
If you were looking for something a little stronger than coffee, you could stop by this stretch of Grande Allée Est near the Joan of Arc Gardens.
Along this lovely stretch of city street, there are plenty of places – indoor and outdoor – where you could grab a drink.
Many of the places around here are bars, breweries, or brewpubs so keep an eye out for ones that might interest you.
Tip: Lisa almost spoiled her dinner by getting ice cream at Chocolats Favoris – but it was good ice cream.
Read More: Canada Packing List – For All Seasons!
Dinner at Maison Livernois or Bistro Hortus
It’s dinner hour in Québec City, and after a full day of exploring, you’re bound to be hungry.
Luckily, there are so many places you can go to grab a bite to eat. From upscale pub food to classic French cuisine – and lots of other cuisines – there is no shortage of great dinner options.
Since we had some really nice dinners during our stay, we couldn’t decide which of the two places below we liked better, so we’ll describe both – Maison Livernois and Bistro Hortus – below!
They are a stone’s throw away from each other so you can check out both and see which one you like.
Address: 1200 Rue Saint-Jean, Québec, QC G1R 1S8
The place we went for dinner the first night we were in town was Maison Livernois.
Located right at the corner of Old Québec where Rue Saint-Jean meets Côte de la Fabrique (Street), Maison Livernois was a popular place for a delicious dinner.
It’s a bit more on the pub-side of things, but the menu was varied from burgers to salads and much more.
They also have Québec craft beers on tap – some from QC, some from Montreal – so that was nice to try locally-made beers!
We had the duck burger and the cheeseburger while our friends also had the duck burger and the rabbit (served on a salad). Everything was excellent.
The portions were large and the fries and salad that came with the burger were awesome. It was one of the best burgers Eric’s had while eating out during our travels… so that’s saying something.
Overall, we would definitely recommend it. Prices weren’t outrageous for being right in the Old City.
And with a large patio out front, there was lots of space, but the indoor seating also looked really neat with the exposed old stone walls and timbers.
The staff were very nice and were happy to speak French and English so that made for a nice experience overall!
Address: 1190 Rue Saint-Jean, Québec, QC G1R 1S6
The other place we really liked for an authentic Québec dinner was Bistro Hortus.
Located right off of Rue Saint-Jean (on the ground floor of the popular Hôtel du Vieux-Québec), this restaurant had both patio and indoor seating and definitely delivered!
We made a reservation to make sure we got a spot, because it was one of the recommendations of our local tour guide.
After drinks – which included a local red beer and an alcohol-free gin – we shared the “Fou du Bio” which was a sharing platter appetizer made of Québec cheese, spreads, meats, vegetables, and more. It was delicious.
For mains, Lisa had the Salad with Goat cheese, and Eric had the Salmon, both were excellent. Our friends also liked what they had – the salad and the vegetarian lasagna.
We were too full for dessert, but then we did end up ordering the Maple Fudge to share. It was made with local maple syrup and it was sweet and perfect!
Overall, we’d also recommend this place. The prices are a bit higher, but the quality and local ingredients really shine through in everything they do. The staff were also very helpful and friendly so that made for a nice experience.
The patio was a nice atmosphere with the hustle and bustle of the city nearby and the indoor seating also looked really cool/cozy so we could have been happy with either!
There are lots of amazing dinner options. Bistro 1640 is popular, and we also liked Il Teatro. Aux Anciens Canadiens is old and famous for their Québécois cuisine. As a general rule, try to make a reservation if you have somewhere you need to be!
Now that it’s the evening in Québec City, this one-day itinerary is coming to an end. However, if you still have some energy after a day of exploring, you should check out what Québec City has to offer once the sun goes down.
What you end up doing will depend on your energy level, your interests, and what you’re planning on doing the next day, but there are different options to suit different travellers!
For this Québec City itinerary, we’re offering three options for things to do in Québec City at night. This way, you can choose which idea works best for you!
The options are: Join a Ghost Tour, Go for Drinks & Live Music, or Stroll the Dufferin Terrace!
Québec City Ghosts & Crimes Walking Tour
Address: 44 Chau. des Écossais, Québec, QC G1R 4H3
Last, but certainly not least, if you’re interested in some of the darker history the city has to offer (there’s a lot), then you might want to check out this Ghosts & Crimes of New France Tour.
Led by a costumed tour guide and starting outside the Morrin Centre – a former city prison – this tour takes you around to the oldest parts of the city and dives deep into the creepier details through the art of storytelling.
It should come as no surprise that a city as old as Québec City has a ghost story or two!
Drinks and Live Music
No matter where you are in the world, going out for drinks is always a solid idea. Québec City is no exception!
With a vibrant nightlife scene, there are plenty of places to go out and have a drink, socialize, and/or potentially listen to live music.
One of the best places to check out a lively street was Rue Saint-Jean. There are many pubs and other places with patios where you can have a drink.
Pub St-Alexandre and Chez Murphys are right next to each other and have lively front patios, large indoor pub spaces, and often live music heard from the street. And yes, you can go to an Irish Pub in Québec.
In fact, Québec has very deep roots with Irish immigrants (still to this day) so it’s actually very “Québécois” to go to an Irish pub!
We had drinks across the street at Cochon Dingue one night. They have a decent drink menu if you’re looking for one.
Of course, there are other areas where a drink is in order. We went for drinks in another neighbourhood (Saint-Roch) which is not located in the Old Town.
We went to La Barberie – Microbrasserie which is very popular with lots of craft beer and a larger patio and indoor space. We really liked it there and would go back in a heartbeat.
If you don’t care for beer, Louise Taverne & Bar à Vin is an upscale place for wine in Lower Town.
Stroll the Dufferin Terrace
Address: Dufferin Terrace
We’ve already mentioned a walk on the Terrace during the day – but you should also come back at night.
At night, the Terrace transforms into a place to check out city lights, the twinkling lights across the river in Lévis, and more beautiful lights illuminating the Château.
The history that has occurred on this spot, in particular, is unmatched in most places in Canada. There’s something really beautiful about walking the large promenade and taking in the evening air.
If you listen closely, you might even catch a busker playing a tune or two on guitar or piano. There are plenty of benches for a nice sit under many of the historic pavilions so we’d recommend it!
For those planning a trip to Canada and looking for more helpful guides on Québec specifically, check out our other detailed guides:
- Our List of Things to Do and See in Québec City (coming soon!)
- Where to Stay in Québec City: Our Accommodations Guide
- Things to Do in Montreal
- How to Spend One Day in Montreal
- Where to Stay in Montreal
And there you have it – our detailed guide on how to spend one day in Québec City, Québec!
Following this day itinerary would definitely help you see many of the top sights in Québec City – but there’s so much else, too! Follow your interests and you can’t go wrong.
As always, Happy Waddlin’,