4 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Went to Quebec City

Chateau Frontenac and Dufferin Terrace in Quebec City, Canada.

I did plenty of research before heading over to this most-French of all North American cities but there were still some things that we weren’t quite prepared for. Below are four surprises we encountered in Quebec City. Consider yourself forewarned!

1. Quebec City is hilly. VERY HILLY.

It is not a good city for the mobility impaired as many streets are steep and quite a lot of the city is connected by staircases. Sometimes, very long staircases. I counted the stairs from the river to the Plains of Abraham and got to 356 which was about halfway up, before we veered onto a side path.

Tons of wooden stairs from Plains of Abraham to the St. Lawrence River in Quebec City, Canada.
Probably 600 stairs from Plains of Abraham down to the St. Lawrence River.
Steep staircase in Quebec City, Canada.
Stairs leading to the port area…

Despite this, you can still rent bikes and have a good time biking the river pathways or taking the ferry to Levis (the little town across the way) and biking along the river there. The hills aren’t everywhere; but they are almost everywhere.

A beautiful hillside in Quebec City, Canada.
Sometimes there aren’t stairs, just hills. Lots of hills.

2. You Need More Than Two Days Here

View of Dufferin Terrace from Governor's Promenade in Quebec City, Canada.
View of Dufferin Terrace and Chateau Frontenac from the Governor’s Promenade.

A lot of what I read made it sound like you could see the city in two days. But even with a packed itinerary, there is no way you can do the city justice in that amount of time.

View of the St. Lawrence River from atop a hill in Quebec City, Canada.
View of the St. Lawrence River from the top of, you guessed it! A hill.

For one, you can NOT come to Quebec City and not visit Ile d’Orleans and that is a full day in and of itself. The island is a 15 minute drive from the city but counts as a “day trip” because there is so much to see and do there.

Just swinging on this pretty swing on Ile d’Orleans that totally wasn’t on someone’s private property.
We biked 15 miles to this Boulangerie (bakery) on Ile d’Orleans only to find out it was fermee (closed). Doh!

We stayed for five full days and that felt like enough. Four days could have done in a pinch, but we needed extra time to eat all the food.

Eating an ice cream cone from Cow's creamery in Quebec City, Canada.
Our extra time in Quebec City allowed us to come back to Cows for seconds. “The best ice cream in Canada” says the sign. Truth!

Also, when you’re in Canada it’s mandatory to eat poutine at least once. We had this ubiquitous late night food made up of potatoes, gravy, and cheese curds at the aptly named chain restaurant, Poutineville.

Sweet potato poutine on the left and a more homestyle “mashed” potato poutine on the right. Slightly different tastes; both equally bad for you.

3. French is the Default Language, But Nearly Everyone Speaks Some Amount of English

I didn’t realize how bilingual it was and thought that I would have more opportunity to practice my French. Lucky for us everyone speaks pretty decent English because my French is way rustier than I thought.

Not the most edifying example of English here, but it’s all I had as a visual.

4. Last But Not Least: In Quebec City, Jams Count as a Liquid!

We tried to take back an unopened jar of strawberry preserves that we bought on Ile D’Orleans but it was confiscated and thrown away by airport security. They consider that jams and jellies are liquids and there is a 100ml limit. So if you’re not checking a bag, just open the jam and enjoy it while you’re there.

I never will know the sweet taste of Tigidou confiture de fraise (strawberry jam).
Tigidou jam shop in Quebec City, Canada
But I can enjoy the sweet memory of their delightfully rustic store!

There you have it – a few things that I wish I’d known in advance. Hopefully my list will help you plan a better trip to this interesting, bilingual, glute-busting city!

Did I miss anything? Tell me in your comments!

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2 Replies to “4 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Went to Quebec City”

  1. A useful guide with an interesting Photo-story. Thanks. Bliss

    1. Thanks! I’m glad you found it useful. 🙂

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