Québec City – what a great way to spend a day! Although it involved us waking up pretty early and being gone for a solid 13 hours, I’m so glad we decided to book the day trip (through Viator, as usual) because it was totally worth it. I immediately got a great, European vibe from Québec City (the added City is to eliminate confusion between the city and the province, since both are named Québec) and could see myself going back there in the future.
The trip itself was nothing out of the ordinary – we traveled by bus from central Montreal (the tour company offers hotel pickups, but there were no hotels near our apartment, so we caught an Uber to their office to get the bus there), with one 20-minute stop along the way. The drive takes a little more than 2.5 hours and the scenery outside the windows wasn’t too amazing, but it was a nice, sunny day and our driver was very pleasant and informative. Once we arrived in Québec City, we picked up our tour guide (the driver was only our “guide” driving between the two cities) and did a fairly quick walk through the lower part of Old Québec City. Walking around with a group and a tour guide isn’t always my favorite thing to do (I like to explore on my own and at my own pace), but it really is useful on a quick day trip like this because you learn about all the highlights from someone who really knows what they’re talking about. Perfect when you only have a limited and specific amount of time to explore! We spent 20-25 minutes walking around a bit of this part of the city and learned about the funicular (which Scott and I talked about using, but didn’t end up doing), the Place-Royale, and more. It was unfortunately a pretty quick stop as we had to get back to the bus to head over to our next destination, Montmorency Falls. But never fear – we would be returning here later in the day!
But first, here are a few photos from this first part of the tour:
Getting a peek at the Le Château Frontenac (the castle-looking building at the top of the photo), a luxury hotel that I wouldn’t mind staying in someday
Notre-Dame-des-Victoires, one of the oldest churches in North America, dates all the way back to the beginnings of Canada as a country in the 1600s
After that quick taste of Old Québec City, we were back on the bus for the 20(ish)-minute drive to Montmorency Falls. This was really more of a photo stop as we had just about 20 minutes to spend here once we arrived. Although I knew that was how the tour worked from reading reviews about it, it was still a bit disappointing as there are all sorts of things to do if you have time (a great-looking restaurant at the top, a cable car, zip-lining, etc.), but I’m happy we at least got the chance to see the falls. As waterfalls go, they aren’t particularly large or expansive (though they are taller than Niagara Falls), but I think it’s always a great experience to see things like this in person. If nothing else, you can get a few great photos out of it! I would definitely recommend visiting, whether it’s part of the day trip we did or, more ideally, on your own because I think you could easily spend a half-day looking around, eating at the restaurant (or having a picnic nearby), and just enjoying the area, especially when the weather is as nice as it’s been for us.
Get a taste of what you can expect from the falls from my photos below!
After that quick stop, it was back to the bus to head back into Old Québec City to continue our tour, though this time it was a driving tour on the bus rather than on foot, and it was more focused on the upper part of the city, which lies behind a fortified city wall. Our guide did a very nice job of sharing the history of Canada and of Québec City, including how the British took Canada from the French and how the Price Building inspired the construction of the Empire State Building in New York City. Who knew??
After the bus tour (which took ~45 minutes), we had three hours to explore on our own, which was just about perfect for us. The day trip included an optional boat trip on the St. Lawrence River, but we didn’t feel like paying the additional $35 USD each to do that, so we had the full three hours. Only a handful of people in our group booked the boat ride, which confirms what I read in the reviews – the boat tour is fine, but it takes away from valuable time needed to explore Old Québec City. I’ve done plenty of boat tours in my travels and I would agree that they’re always fine, but have never amazed me, so I’m glad we chose to keep the time for ourselves.
The first thing we did was get some lunch! The free time we had (whether with or without the boat tour) is the only time in which we could eat lunch, so we found a nice Italian place in the lower city called La Pizz – it was great! The food was tasty, the terrace we ate on was nice (shaded and just the right amount of breeze), and the service was very good. Scott had some linguine carbonara and I had a lasagna and we shared a sample of crostinis to start – so good! I couldn’t figure out the name at first because the name I thought was the restaurant name actually wasn’t, but thanks to Scott’s excellent sleuthing skills, we figured it out. Definitely give this place a visit if you’re looking for good Italian food in Old Québec City!
After lunch, we made our way to the upper part of the city (no funicular for us – we just hoofed it up the sidewalk) to get a closer look at the Frontenac, which is a pretty imposing building. Apparently rooms start around $500/night, which isn’t too bad if you’re only spending a night or two there. We didn’t go inside, instead choosing to go to the nearby Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Québec (yes, another church). This one is the seat of the archdiocese of Québec and has, in some form, stood in its current location since the mid-1600s. It has unfortunately been severely damaged by fire twice, so the current building isn’t that old, but it’s still an impressive building and should be part of your Québec itinerary. And there’s no entry fee, so feel free to come and go as you please.
After the cathedral, we continued wandering through the upper part of the city, found a place to get a delicious soft-serve ice cream cone (which I had been totally jonesing for), and soon enough, it was time to meet the rest of our group at the designated spot to get back on the bus.
Check out the pictures from our afternoon explorations below:
This is the only picture I took from the bus (since taking pictures from inside a vehicle almost always results in bad pictures) and it’s a former church that currently serves as a weekend flea market and will become condos in the near future
This is the oldest house in Quebec (dates back to 1675) and currently operates as a restaurant
We had an uneventful trip back to Montreal and then had a nice walk back to our apartment, where I started working on this entry before crashing. And now we’re nearly ready to leave to head to the airport to catch our flight home. So there’s one more post to come! Spoiler alert – the highlight of today was definitely poutine. 😀