Top 5 hidden gems in Old Quebec
Top 5 hidden gems in Old Quebec
Alright, you are planning a getaway in beautiful Quebec City. As a professional tour guide in Quebec’s Capital, I say ”Thank you!” Thank you for choosing my city for your weekend getaway, vacation, family reunion or business trip. I’m a 100% sure that you will live memorable experiences here and that you will fall in love with the Quebecois joie-de-vivre. If you are like me when traveling, you will want to explore and go off the beaten path. How about I tell you that it is possible to go off the beaten path and still stay in the Old City? Just like it is possible to find local treasures next to the Eiffel Tower in Paris, let me share with you my Top 5 hidden gems to discover in Old Quebec.
Disclaimer: I’m a native French speaker. English is not my first language. I learned English at school, but I mostly learned it by watching to The Simpsons and listening to rock/metal music. So, I might have made a few mistakes in this blog post. If I did, please tell me, its the best way I can improve!
What is considered Old Quebec?
Before I even start with my ranking, we need to clarify what is Old Quebec and what is not. What you see inside the blue line on this map is considered the Old City (Old Quebec, Vieux-Quebec in French), which is also the protected UNESCO Heritage Site. The Old City also consists of the Upper Town (Haute-Ville) and Lower Town (Basse-ville). The ugly orange line I’ve made on Paint represents a cliff called Diamond Cape. That’s what makes the difference between Upper and Lower Town. Famous sights in the Upper Town include the Dufferin Terrace, Château Frontenac, City Hall, Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Québec, Fortifications, etc. In the Lower Town, you can visit the Petit-Champlain neighborhood, Place Royale, the Old-Port, Museum of Civilisation, etc.
1- Morrin Center
Formerly a prison, then a university and now Quebec City’s English-language cultural center, the Morrin Centre is a spectacular 200-year old building filled with history and scary prison-related stories. It also contains a Victorian-era library containing 25,000 books (that really looks like the library in the Harry Potter movies), an old chemistry lab and is home to Canada’s first learned societies. It’s even possible to experience a traditional afternoon tea, with period costumes and etiquette lessons. Furthermore, it’s one of the key locations of Louise Penny’s detective novel “Bury Your Dead”. I like to include the Morrin Center on my tours as it’s the perfect place to talk about English, Irish and Scottish heritage of Quebec.
2-Monastère des Augustines
The historical monastery and hospital of Hôtel-Dieu, one of the most important landmarks in Old Quebec, have been wisely renovated over the past couple of years and turned into a unique combination of museum / hotel / healthy restaurant / well-being centre. The Monastère des Augustines tells the story of the Augustine Nuns, who were pioneers in health and science. When the hospital opened its doors in 1639, l’Hôtel-Dieu was then the first hospital North of Mexico. During the recent renovations, the entrepreneurs behind this project wanted to follow and respect the values of the nuns who shaped the health system here in Quebec. Over there, history meets wellness and modern comfort.
3- Maison de la Littérature
Located just next to the Morrin Center, this library is more than just a library. The Maison de la Littérature is a center for literary creation, a performance center, it has exhibits, and more. If you want to meet professional and amateur authors, it’s the place to go. Located in the former Wesley Church, this building experienced a significant architectural transformation over the last few years. I love to go there between my tours because it’s always calm and peaceful. It’s the perfect place to grab a book and rest my tour guide feet! Pro tip: on the right after you pass the main entrance for the Maison de la Littérature, you can find the cleanest restrooms in the Old City. Never know when it can be useful!
4- Parc du Cavalier du Moulin
This peaceful oasis of greenery in the heart of Old Québec is sadly the only remaining part of the first French fortifications built in the 17th century. The park stands on little hill known as Mont Carmel that provides it with natural defense. As for the mill and the cavalier in the park’s name, they refer to the windmill that used to stand here during the Fresh Regime. I often include this park on my Photo Tour has it provides great views over the Old City. I’m also a 100% sure I’m going to be the only tour guide over there! However, the park is closed from November 1st to April 15th. Pro tip: this park is the perfect place for a picnic!
5 – My tours! If you want to see them all (and more!), book a private tour!
On my tours, I love to mix the top sights of Quebec with some extra secret gems. To a certain point, a private tour IS a gem! On a private tour, it’s easy to be flexible and go off the beaten path. I also love to adapt the tour to the guest’s needs and interests. Providing tours that are adapted to my guests is the reason why I run private tours. It is so meaningful and rewarding. I guess you can really tell that I love my job!
Will I be showing you the secrets of Quebec City during your next stay here? I hope so! You can contact me or book a tour using the contact form below.
See you in Quebec City!