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Hôtel du Parlement in Quebec City
TravelTraveler Magazine

24 Hours in Québec City

National Geographic Traveler contributing editor Christopher Elliott recently spent a day in Québec City with his family. Here’s what he found.

If you have only a day to spend in Québec City, the capital of the Canadian province of Québec, here’s my advice: Don’t waste a minute. It’s going to be a full day.

Ours started on a summer day with a sunrise over the St. Lawrence River. If you can climb high enough (we had a ninth-floor room at our hotel, overlooking the Vieux-Québec, the old part of the city) and are an early riser, you can watch the entire city go from pitch black to a vibrant red illuminating the tidal river. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it.

Then it’s time for breakfast. There’s no shortage of bakeries in this part of town where you can get a croissant and coffee fix, but I should also point out that only a short walk down to the waterfront, in Lower Town, is a farmer’s market and several affordable restaurants. If you’re in town with a large family, you’ll want to head over there to feed your little ones.

Check out the old walls surrounding the city on your way to the Parliament Building. You can actually walk along the top of these ancient stone barriers, which are one of the only remaining fortified city walls that still exist in the Americas, north of Mexico. Québec’s capitol, which is called the Hôtel du Parlement, sits on higher ground, affording a great view of the old city. But if you want to see more, go to the Observatoire de la Capitale, which offers a stellar view of the city, along with an exhibit on Québec City history.

We swung by the boardwalk promenade, near the Hotel Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, which offers great views of the St. Lawrence and at this time of year hosts street musicians and performers. We then rode the Funiculaire du Vieux-Québec, which runs to Lower Town, and from there, we drove to the one place you absolutely won’t want to miss when you come to Québec City: Montmorency Falls.

Rising 275 feet from the St. Lawrence, these waterfalls are higher than Niagara Falls. You can either hike to the top or take a cable car. Since we have young kids, and since we didn’t have a lot of time, we chose the more convenient option. But I could have easily spent a day exploring this natural wonder and taking pictures. Alas, all we had time for was a quick walk across the bridge to look down at the roaring falls.

Québec City is one of the most visually appealing Canadian cities I’ve ever visited, from its architectural diversity to its natural landscapes. A day isn’t enough time to see this city.

Elliott writes the Insider column for National Geographic Traveler. He’s traveling across the country with his family and blogging about the experience at Away Is Home.