1. Where to Stay
Spend a night at the museum in the Auberge Saint-Antoine (from $179), where the towering lobby was once a seventeenth-century gun battery and 750 local artifacts are displayed throughout the 95-room hotel. The rooms are bigger than most Manhattan studios, and come with river-facing terraces.
Book a loftlike suite at Auberge Le Vincent (from $159) in the Saint Roch neighborhood, a once-scruffy corner of town that now mirrors the indie bars and brunch spots of the Lower East Side. Your room will have exposed brick walls, glassed-in showers, flat-screen TVs, and floral-free bedding.
Prepare your palate at the Auberge J.A. Moisan (from $107), a B&B perched above J.A. Moisan, the oldest grocery store in North America. Soak in a claw-foot tub and fantasize about tomorrow’s breakfast: berry-heaped waffles, fresh croissants, and pâtés—all from the shop downstairs.
2. Where to Eat
Get a panoramic view of the St. Lawrence River from your table at the Relais & Chateaux restaurant Panache, once a nineteenth-century maritime warehouse. The farm-to-table philosophy is so prominent that the chef doesn’t allow a freezer in the kitchen.
Have a classic bistro experience—chalkboard menus, clinking glasses, and all—at Café du Clocher Penche (203 rue St-Joseph est; 418-640-0597). The pommes frites go well with any of the 200-plus wines on the list, many of them organic.
Québec’s premiere star chef Daniel Vézina has a TV show, three cookbooks, and a line of gourmet products. Dress up for a meal at his posh Laurie Raphaël, but don’t deny yourself the maple-syrup cotton candy.
3. What to Do
Begin your caloric adventure on Rue Saint-Jean, the city’s premiere gastronomic boulevard. Shop for saucisses, pâtés, local ice-cider, and other diet offenders at the Épicerie J.A. Moisan, where the intrepid can sample local savories like caribou soup, emu cassoulet, or goose confit. Cross the street to Épicerie Européenne and browse its vast selection of artisanal cheeses, terrines, pâtés, and specialty hams. Take your finds to the Plains of Abraham—a 266-acre expanse where the British defeated the French in 1759—and picnic at a spot along the river across from Park Joan d’Arc.
Sample a leading contender for the city’s best croissant at Paillard Café-Boulangerie. The organic stone-ground flour is imported from France, and bakers were trained at Le Boulanger de Monge in Paris. The macarons here also rival those at their much-celebrated Left Bank cousins.
Just fifteen minutes from downtown Québec City is Île d’Orléans, a pastoral, storybook islet complete with stone cottages, vineyards, and orchards. Rent an electric bicycle from Ecolocyclo ($26/per half day) and farm-hop your way around the island, stopping at Ferme Leonce & Fils for strawberries and Ferme François Blouin for blueberries. Balance the fruit with cheese made from a seventeenth-century recipe at Fromage L’Isle D’Orleans, a glass of wine at Vignoble Isle de Bacchus, and foie gras at Canard Goulu.
Try not to eat the exhibits at the Choco-Musée Érico, a museum and artisanal chocalaterie. See artifacts relating to the international history of chocolate and sample one of several rotating gelatos, like anisette and hibiscus-flower sorbet.
4. Insider’s Tip
Fight the power by consuming raw-milk (unpasteurized) cheeses that are illegal in the United States. Emboldened eaters should try Tomme de Kamouraska, a washed-rind sheep cheese from the Kamouraska region; Bastido, a goat’s-milk cheese from St-Raymond-de-Portneuf at Épicerie Européenne; or browse the aisles at J.A. Moisan for Pied de Vent (a semi-hard cow’s-milk cheese) and Le Bleu d’Elizabeth (an organic blue cheese).
5. Oddball Day
Parka season may last well into May, but Québec City welcomes the sun on La Baie de Beauport, a sandy ribbon along the St. Lawrence reopened in 2008 after a $19 million restoration. Rent kayaks, canoes (both are $8.60 per hour), or catamarans ($47.50 for two hours) from Baie’s École Nautique (418-380-5556). The water isn’t safe for swimming, but windsurfing is fine and École Nautique rents boards for $30 a day. Take a private or semi-private sailing lesson from school director Paule Samson, or try learning to kite surf during a one-on-one lesson from École Big Air for $47.50 an hour. Have a late picnic supper with supplies from Baie’s only cantina, Le Fast Good. Pick up ham-and-gherkin panini, Toulouse sausages, and Québec’s ultimate artery-clogger, poutine (frites doused in gravy and drizzled in cheese curds), till 9 p.m.
Québec City Tourism’s website is a thorough and frequently updated travel guide for all that’s happening in the city and surrounding area.
North America’s oldest newspaper and Québec City’s only English paper, the Chronicle-Telegraph, provides local news about politics, events, arts, and entertainment.
For English speakers, Ville de Québec offers basic but helpful information (including maps) about the city’s history, attractions, museums, and festivals.
The Québec Travel Photo blog offers a visual tour de force shot by native photographer Jonathan Houle.