For a European weekend in North America, Quebec is your best bet. Smaller and quainter than Montreal, which also may mean less accessible (as a lot of people will only speak French), Quebec boasts wonderful eating and beautiful neighborhoods and sites.
1.) Old Quebec–Vieux Quebec is much more expansive than Montreal’s old quarter, though equally touristy. Be that as it may, it’s hard to not snap pictures of the charming walled city, or the Chateau Frontenac, said to be the most photographed hotel in the world. We went for a walk around the neighborhood and passed the Chateau for the Terrace Dufferin which offers incredible views over the St. Lawrence River. It connects to a walkway outside the city’s citadel, and we walked the perimeter under a canopy of trees, staying out of the way of many a Quebecois jogger out for their morning run.
2.) Marché du Vieux-Port–We left Old Quebec’s expensive restaurants for lunch, heading instead to the Marché du Vieux-Port, or the Old Port Market. Vendors and farmers there sold fresh produce, maple candies, and even ice cider (ask the woman for samples!). For lunch, we split two things from La Tomaterie, not knowing what exactly either dish was except that one was millet based and another tomato and eggplant.
3.) La Cuisine–For dinner, we drove to La Cuisine. Our Airbnb host Philippe praised its carrot salad and the gardening cans they used to serve beer, so things seemed promising. The restaurant serves up homey comfort food and Quebecois dishes in a trendy atmosphere, modeled like an open kitchen, complete with old TVs and Sega games. After sharing bites of our dishes, I think we agreed that the French onion soup with grilled cheese was the best. It’s a fun place to have dinner and stay for a drink after.
4.) Parc National de la Jacques Cartier–On Saturday we drove out of the city and headed north half an hour to Jacques Cartier National Park. The drive itself merited the trip between the quiet highway and mountains covered with trees, but the park was incredible. We hiked Les Coulées and got a great view from the top before heading back down the way we’d came. Mountains, trees, and river would make this an ideal place to canoe or visit with the foliage. Though it was chillier and the trees were a bit more barren, it began snowing when we reached the top, and this got us excited for the season ahead (although I’ll be taking these words back in less than two months). For the more adventurous, Philippe recommended Les Loups, a longer and more difficult trail.
5.) Petit Champlain–Rounding out our visit on Saturday night was a funicular ride down from the Chateau to the Petit Champlain neighborhood, the most idyllic and European of the city’s quarters. Christmas lights beckoned in the upcoming winter and some visitors poked around the quiet streets, though most shops were closed by the time we got there (although, one wood carving store was open, and while I was afraid it would be a tourist trap, and it may still have been, they had some surprising deals, and May bought a carved bird for only five Canadian dollars). We grabbed dinner at Cochon Dingue. The options in Petit Champlain were pricier and more for a tourist crowd, but the food didn’t disappoint, and their desserts in particular were a hit. May’s maple blueberry pudding was sweet and blended the flavors well, and with a coffee you can get three different dessert samples which is fun. After eating, we walked around some more and visited the Place Royal before taking the funicular back up before it closed at 11. This square with its church was particularly beautiful late at night without other visitors around.
Here are some of my other picks:
- Nektar Cafeologue–coffee
- Baguette et Chocolat–touristy but has good enough coffee in the old neighborhood
- Le Billig–crepe place
- Chez Ashton–poutine chain
- Notre Dame–beautiful cathedral
- Chateau Frontenac–the iconic castle hotel with a Starbucks downstairs
- Rue St. Jean–funky shops
- Rue St. Joseph Est–more shops
- Rock & Livres–great bookshop on St. Joseph
- Funniculaire–take it down to Petit Champlain
- La Place Royal–quaint square in Champlain
- Jacques Cartier National Park