The Historical Romance of Old Quebec City

If ever a place looked like a movie set, it’s Old Quebec City in springtime. Pristine stone walls brightened by jewel-tone doors and kaleidoscope window boxes seem to have been plucked from a historical romance. Buildings don’t appear to have withstood a day in the elements, let alone hundreds of years.

In reality, Quebec City, aka Vieux Québec, was established in 1608 by Samuel de Champlain, making it one of the oldest cities in North America. And because it retains its original ramparts, this exceptional example of a fortified colonial city was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985.

History makes the historic district of Quebec City an interesting place to explore on foot, but it’s the old-world European ambiance that makes it so romantic–and such a delightful choice for a wedding anniversary.

For even more weekend getaways, check out our list of romantic getaways in Canada.

Facing Château Frontenac from Terrasse Dufferin, Quebec City's boardwalk.

Old Quebec City Hotels

HISTORIC HOTEL: Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac

Arriving at the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac is a bit of a production. Liveried doormen stand guard at a front door that opens up on a private driveway, well sheltered from city streets.

Château Frontenac lobby.

Designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1980, Château Frontenac was the first of a series of Chateau-style hotels often referred to as “Canada’s Castles” built by railway companies in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to encourage luxury tourism.

Today, the image of Château Frontenac dominating the Cap Diamont promontory is one of the most recognizable images of Quebec, but the hotel interior is full of jaw-dropping beauty too. And the amenities are pretty special too, including an indoor pool and whirlpool.

Château Frontenac painted ceiling

After the grandeur of Le Château Frontenac’s public spaces, our room was a bit of a disappointment. By comparison, it seemed a little bland and lacking in the period furnishings or architectural detail seen elsewhere.

Château Frontenac guest room

The bathroom made the most of a small space, and the marble tile was attractive, but again, it lacked any wow factor. Also, the toiletries provided were skimpy and somewhat masculine, not what I expected in luxury accommodations.

Not that we wasted any time staring at the room decor, not when our view from the 12th floor was so spectacular. We could see for miles and miles, over spikes and spires and flags waving in the wind in Old Quebec to the Laurentian Mountains on the horizon.

Château Frontenac scenic view


Le Germain is a luxury hotel located in the heart of Quebec City’s historic Old Port district. The hotel features 60 guest rooms and suites, all designed with a modern, minimalist aesthetic that blends seamlessly with the surrounding historic architecture.

Each room is elegantly appointed with high-end furnishings and amenities, including comfortable beds with plush linens, Nespresso coffee machines, and luxurious bathrooms with rain showers and heated floors. Some of the rooms also offer stunning views of the St. Lawrence River or the Old Port district.

Le Germain hotel also offers a variety of services and amenities to enhance guests’ stays, including a fitness center, valet parking, and complimentary breakfast featuring local and organic products. The hotel’s lobby bar, KRWN, is a popular spot for cocktails and light bites, while its signature restaurant, Le Boulevardier, serves up classic French cuisine with a modern twist.

Things To Do In Old Quebec City

What I most loved about our stay at a Canadian castle was its location. From the hotel, we could exit right onto the Terrasse Dufferin, the boardwalk along the St Lawrence River. And with 37 National Historic Sites of Canada in Quebec City, it almost didn’t matter which way we went, we were bound to run into something noteworthy.

Quebec City ramparts on a sunny Spring day.
Built in 1620–1665, the Ramparts of Quebec City are the only remaining fortified city walls in North America north of Mexico. They were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985.

Without an agenda, Dave and I wandered aimlessly, stopping to take photos and wine and dine. We stopped a lot.

Horse-drawn carriages in front of the Quebec City Ministry of Finance.
A relic of the past, horse-drawn carriages await passengers in front of the Ministry of Finance, just outside Château Frontenac’s private driveway. They have since been banned or disbanded in most Canadian cities.

Exiting Château Frontenac through its front door and tunnel driveway placed us on Rue Saint Louis, in front of the Ministry of Finance and a little park where horse-drawn carriages line up.

A five-minute walk brought us to the Old Quebec Funicular, a short railway that took us from Upper Town to Lower Town. The roundtrip fare is a bargain when you consider the other option, steep hills or steps such as the infamous “Breakneck Stairs.”

Quebec City Funicular
Open since 1879, the Old Quebec Funicular links the Upper and Lower Town, $2.55 per person each way.

Quebec City’s Lower Town includes the port, the Museum of Civilization, Notre Dame des Victoires church, and Petit Champlain district, the oldest commercial district in North America.

Quebec City Mural - Place Royale - Quebec
Mural in Old Québec’s Place-Royale recounts the story of Québec City. Look closely to spot 15 historic figures and nearly a dozen of Québec’s leading writers and artists.

Strolling through Petit Champlain, we found many one-of-a-kind boutiques and souvenir shops, and even one or two that remind visitors of Quebec’s role in North American fur trade history.

Mouche à feu - fur - Quebec City

Everywhere we went, we found talented street performers.

And since we explored at our own pace, we were free to stop, listen, and be entertained, whether it was by a guitarist in period attire…

Historic Musician - Quebec City

…or a Dog and Drummer busking duo.

Dog and Drummer Busker - Quebec City

Walking Tours: Quebec City Tourism lists many different ways to get to know the area on foot, from classic walking tours to food or ghost tours. Or you can sign up for a guided tour by bus, bike, cruise, horse-drawn carriage, or even in a hot air balloon. 

Independent sorts may want to check out self-guided tour itineraries; options include virtual reality immersion in Québec or a brisk walk on the Plains of Abraham where French and British troops faced off.

Rasberry Martini - Ristorante Il Teatro - Quebec City
Cheers! Rasberry Martinis at Ristorante Il Teatro are yummy.

Old Quebec City Restaurants

Breakfast/Dessert:  Breakfast? lunch? dinner? Sweet or savory crepes are perfect anytime, but we dropped in at Le Casse-Crêpe Breton on Rue Saint-Jean at breakfast time and went with a hearty ham, egg, and asparagus combination.

Crêperie le Petit Château - Quebec City
58 kinds of crepes and live music at Crêperie le Petit Château.

BRUNCH: 58 kinds of crepes on the menu–we shared lobster and lemon curd crepes–and live music at Le Petit Château Restaurant, neighboring Château Frontenac.

Ristorante Il Teatro - Quebec City

EAT/DRINK: While away an hour or two or three just on cocktails and appetizers–do try the carpaccio and foie gras–at Ristorante Il Teatro on Rue St-Jean.

Le Lapin Sauté Restaurant - Quebec City

EAT: When in Quebec, you have to sample poutine, the fast-food dish that originated in the province. Traditionally made with french fries topped with gravy and cheese curds, variations abound.

At Le Lapin Sauté on Rue du Petit Champlain, we savored a Rabbit Poutine which adds shredded rabbit meat. The restaurant itself is adorable, looking like it was pulled out of a Beatrix Potter storybook, with its outdoor garden and rabbit motif.

L'Oncle Antoine - Pub - Quebec City

PUB: Open even when little else is, L’Oncle Antoine on Rue St-Pierre serves a limited but satisfying menu–pizza and French Onion soup are popular– and a decent roster of bottled and on-tap local craft beers. Do peek in regardless to see the barrel-vaulted stone cellar of one of Quebec’s oldest houses (dating back to 1754.)

Window Box - Quebec City

Quebec Getaways

Extend your Quebec getaway, here are nearby travel guides:

Old Quebec City On The Map

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  • Sandra Foyt

    Sandra Foyt is a storyteller, road trip junkie, and award-winning travel photographer. A veteran of many cross-country road trips, she drove Route 66, the Lincoln Highway, the Fossil Freeway, the Extraterrestrial Highway, and even “The Loneliest Road in America.” Sandra is based in Upstate New York, with family homes in California and the Caribbean. Her work is influenced by tropical colors and warm relationships. And she believes that the best travel photography connects us across time, place, and culture.

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