Quebec City is by far one of the safest and calmest destinations I’ve ever traveled to. Located at the narrowest point on the St. Lawrence river, Quebec or Kébec (an Algonquin word meaning “where the river narrows”) is known for its grand architecture including the Château Frontenac and La Citadelle de Québec among hundreds of other landmarks.
In my opinion, the best restaurants and boutiques can be found on Rue Saint-Jean. (Saint John’s Street) As popular tourist area, Rue Saint-Jean boasts tons of small shops and restaurants. In fact I’d say that there are just as many places to eat as there are places to shop! The narrow street is highlighted with historic architecture on either side. Closed to vehicle traffic, Rue Saint-Jean is a great place to start your Quebec City adventure. With crêperies to find in the morning, pizza places open during the day and pubs by night, there’s something for everyone! Safety is always a concern when traveling, but I have to say, I don’t think Quebec City knows what crime is! In fact, Quebec City has one of the lowest crime rates in Canada making it a great destination to bring the family. Having traveled there many times, I find the local shops to be very friendly to travelers. One thing that I will note is that checking the conversion rate of the American dollar to the Canadian dollar prior to traveling is important. It may seem obvious but I made the mistake of traveling to Canada without exchanging; it wasn’t until I had gotten there that I realized that their dollar had more value! My first morning, I crossed the street and headed to a crêperie and proceeded to order an extensive breakfast of eggs, strawberry crêpes along with a frappé. When I went to pay with my American currency, the waiter proceeded to stare at me as if I was handing him rocks! Thankfully I had some smarter friends with me who had indeed exchanged to Canadian currency.
One of the best things about traveling there is that the city forces you to experience the local culture with its array of restaurants. You won’t find many chains in the old city. You also won’t have to worry about finding places within your budget. During a couple of my stays in Quebec, I stayed in the Palace Royal right in the heart of the old city. It’s just a few steps away from Rue Saint-Jean. For a quick breakfast I’d usually head down Saint-Jean and find a place down there. I would definitely do this if you’re with your family. But if I was looking to sit down and relax for a little while, I’d head in the other direction and go to Bistro L’Accent. Located at 810, avenue Honore-Mercier, I could see it from the hotel lobby. Even though they serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, I only went there for their crêpes. I do sometimes switch things up and get chocolate chip crêpes but their strawberry crêpes are the best at Bistro L’Accent. For around $11 you can get 3 good-size crêpes with a choice of one fruit. They also have eggs, pancakes, and huge omelets all for around the same price. The restaurant is covered in windows giving you a view overlooking avenue Honore-Mercier creating a great atmosphere. The serving staff is very good about keeping drinks refilled and getting food to you quickly. You won’t need to know French to order but with almost everywhere in Quebec, just speak slowly and more times than not, they’ll understand what you’re ordering. After breakfast, head out the front door and take a walk up to the right and check out the huge fountain at the top of the hill. At night you can go back to that fountain and find it lit up with pink lights! You’ll get a great view of Quebec from this vantage point.
After heading back down the hill, take a right at the Palace Royal hotel and continue straight ahead onto Rue Saint-Jean where you’ll find all the shopping one could ever ask for. Saint-Jean is always bustling with people but also carries a stress-free feel. The cobble-stone road weaves you around great architecture and landmarks. If you’re thinking of doing your shopping later, continue up Saint-Jean for a little while until you come to a traffic square. You’ll know you’re there because the Château Frontenac will be straight ahead. Make your way to the front of the Château and step onto the boardwalk. In the winter, Quebec holds a winter carnival where they freeze this boardwalk and send people on luges down a ramp and across the boardwalk. If you continue down the boardwalk, you can actually find the ramp a ways down where they send the lugers down. Off to the left you’ll see an amazing view of St Lawrence. Remember to bring your wind-breaker at a minimum as it is always windy up there.
Skipping ahead to lunch time, there’s one place that I recommend that is great to bring the family and has an awesome atmosphere. That place is Portofino located at 54, rue Couillard. If you’re children will put up with it, try out their specialty pizzas all of which are under $30! Everything is hand-tossed and tastes incredible. Portofino is located right in the center of Rue Saint-Jean. Now, a lot of people know about Portofino so depending on the time of day, you may need to wait a bit. The restaurant has a fairly large capacity but isn’t exactly spacious. Portofino is a great place to go if you have a large group because of the fun atmosphere. If you’re looking for something that isn’t exactly plain but also isn’t “out-there”, try the Pizza Sole which has Tomato sauce, mozzarella and parmesan cheese, fresh tomatoes and fresh basil.
High-level cuisine can also be found in Quebec City. L’ Astral sits 540 feet atop Loews Le Concorde Hotel and rotates! Within 90 minutes, you’ll enjoy a full 360 degree view of Quebec City. The restaurant rotates extremely slowly meaning you won’t have a roller-coaster stomach! L’ Astral is located at 1225 Cours du General-De Montcalm and will require some transportation if you’re near Rue Saint-Jean. Business casual is recommended and L’ Astral guests get 2 hours of complimentary parking. I’d also recommend getting reservations in advance. (Call: (418)-780-3602)
Their lunch menu includes entree’s such as Angel Hair Pasta with Speck Ham for $19 to Grilled Beef Tenderloin for $26. Their fall dinner menu includes entree’s Grilled Salmon with Endive Salad, Mache, Sunflower Sprouts, Peanuts, Grapefruit and Fir Shoots for around $33. Or their Grilled Dry Aged Angus Steak or Tenderloin for around $40. For a personal evaluation, I went with a group and we had a buffet with a myriad of chicken and vegetables and it was incredible. The view alone makes this restaurant worth it. The service was also great at L’ Astral. If you have the budget to make it their, I’d definitely make the elevator trip to the top of the Loews Le Concorde Hotel!
As I mentioned in the beginning, Quebec City is very family friendly and safe. It really isn’t terrible expensive or difficult to get around either. If you do decide to stay in a hotel near Rue Saint-Jean, you’ll truly be all set. Everything you’ll need is within walking distance. If you do feel like taking a drive, make your way to the Plains Of Abraham which is essentially a huge park filled with tons of little gardens which make for great photographs! Either day or night, there’s always things to do in the city even if it’s just walk around. The night life on Rue Saint-Jean is very nice and lively. Plenty of pubs open for the adults and plenty of restaurants open for families. Quebec City is a great place to travel!
Ryan Foss is the President & CEO of ExpertVaca.com