Old Quebec City
Travel & Leisure

Old Quebec City: History, elegance, culture and glorious dining

January 11, 2023

Recently, I travelled to Old Quebec City, one of Canada’s most historical and visually stunning towns. Old Québec City, a neighbourhood of Québec City, refers to the historic district (also called Québec City Old Town). This exceptional piece of Canadian history is bursting with food, wine, culture and an abundance of charm.

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From the legendary Chateau Frontenac that sits high above Old Quebec boasting views of Petit Champlain and the St. Lawrence River, to the bustling cobblestone streets offering little hideaway shops, cafés and bistros, to the historic forte and citadel, Old Quebec City captivates. It’s a place you’ll want to discover afoot, meandering through old streets, peeking inside ancient churches and stopping for cocktails and bites along the way. No matter the season, there is something magical about these old streets!

Here are four spots that I visited and highly recommend:

Sam's Bistro

Sam’s Bistro serves up classic cocktails with a modern twist.

Sam’s Bistro

Why I love it:

  • the cocktail and wine list
  • the glamorous ambiance

Located inside the show-stopping Chateau Frontenac, Sam’s Bistro is an ultra-contemporary restaurant and bar set in one of the oldest buildings in Canada. The dim light, elegant and modern design, upscale fabrics, and a view of the river set the scene for an elegant evening.

The design offers a nod to the glamorous soirees this building has been home to over the last 400 years – from Queen Elizabeth II, to Alfred Hitchcock, to political greats and everyone in between, these walls have hosted many memorable moments, and the new décor honours this perfectly.

Along with an incredible wine list there is also a dynamic and delicious cocktail book that features classic favourites that have been updated ever-so-slightly – the best array of cocktails to be found and certainly the most glamorous. I enjoyed a decadent charcuterie board, oysters, and cocktails while soaking in the ambiance. Try a Madame Fleur – a Fairmont signature recipe that’s an inspired riff on the classic French 75 cocktail.


Restaurant Parmesan

Restaurant Parmesan in Old Quebec City feels like being in Nonna’s basement and a family-owned trattoria in Italy.

Restaurant Parmesan

Why I love it:

  • The live accordion player that walks table to table
  • The house-made Parma ham
  • The lively and entertaining atmosphere

Every time I visit Old Quebec City, this is a must stop for many reasons, but mainly for the famous, antipasto. It’s simply the best. Luigi’s famous and in-house made Parma Ham, Felino salami, giant shrimp, fondues, imported artichoke hearts and more. The food is traditional, homemade and delicious, but the ambiance is equally the star.

The walls are lined with trinkets, Italian liqueurs, statues and countless chachkas – tablecloths are red and white checkered, candles are lit inside old wine bottles – it’s an eclectic mix of being in Nonna’s basement and a family-owned trattoria in Italy. The live accordion player walking from table to table, the friendly staff who are like family combined with the classic Italian dishes make Parmesan an Old Quebec must stop for an unforgettable evening.


Old Quebec City

Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church was built in 1688.

Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church

Why I love it:

  • The rich history
  • The neighbourhood and setting – it’s like you’re in a movie set!

Built in 1688, on the spot where Samuel de Champlain’s first outpost once stood, Notre-Dame-des-Victoires is the oldest stone church in North America. It’s also the church that Leonardo DiCaprio shot at for Catch me if you Can.

Not only is the old church a beautiful piece of history and architecture, but it is located in the most charming square in Old Quebec City. You’ll find benches, cafes, shops, bistros. Often there is a musician singing or playing an instrument. The cobblestone and narrow streets, the lights hanging above… it’s a little taste of the days gone by where life was lived much simpler.

Once you’re here you’ll want to stop for a look at the river, the marina or hop on the ferry to Lévis – it’s a quick little ride but the view of Old Quebec City and the Chateau Frontenac is well worth it. Plus, Lévis offers a lovely park and a few shops.


Old Quebec City

A stunning view of the Chateau Frontenac in Old Quebec City.

Find Alfred Hitchcock’s Room at The Fairmont

Why I Love it:

  • It’s an adventure inside a castle! Need I say more?

Did you know that Alfred Hitchcock filmed his film I Confess at the Fairmont? It was 1952, and the Fairmont was as glamorous then as it is now. If you are staying here, you’ll find his suite and a small shrine hidden on floor six and a half. Jump off the elevator at floor six and look for a small door that leads to a tiny and narrow staircase. On this half floor, tucked discreetly between floors six and seven, you’ll find the suite, as well as the movie poster and a subtle nameplate above the door.

The Fairmont is bursting with history and great tidbits of facts. Head to the basement and tour the hall of history offering old photos and interesting stats – it’s fascinating, and a great adventure for a rainy or cool day.

-Shannon Mastaler is the Lifestyle Editor for VineRoutes

-Photos taken by Paul Agius

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