Though Québec City has fewer nighttime diversions than exuberant Montréal, there are more than enough to occupy visitors’ evenings. Apart from theatrical productions, which are usually in French, knowledge of the language is rarely needed to enjoy the entertainment.
If you want to stroll around and take in the nightlife options, there are three principal streets to choose from in Upper Town: rue St-Jean inside and outside the walls, Grande-Allée outside the walls (where a beery collegiate atmosphere can sometimes rule as the evening wears on), and avenue Cartier in the Montcalm neighborhood. In St-Roch, the hot spots are on or near rue St-Paul.
Happy hour is locally known as cinq à sept (meaning 5–7pm) and specials are often written on a chalkboard out front as “5 à 7.” Many venues offer specials that start earlier or go later; some start after 10pm and include discounted late-night food menus.
The Performing Arts
Cirque du Soleil got its start just outside of Québec City and has a history of creating free public performances for major celebrations such as the 450th anniversary of Jaques Cartier’s discovery of Canada (in 1984) or the 400th anniversary of the founding of Québec City (in 2008). The last event launched a spectacular 5-year, five-chapter aerial show called “The Harbor of Lost Souls,” with one of five chapters performed every summer—again, for free, most evenings—through 2013. The troupe returned in July 2014 to its temporary outdoor stage on the Port de Québec but began charging admission. To confirm dates or buy tickets for 2015, visit www.cirquedusoleil.com.
Classical Music, Opera & Dance
The region’s premier classical groups are Orchestre Symphonique de Québec (www.osq.org; tel 877/643-8131 or 418/643-5598), Canada’s oldest symphony, which performs at the Grand Théâtre de Québec, and Les Violons du Roy (www.violonsduroy.com; tel 418/692-3026), a string orchestra that is celebrating its 31st year. It features a core group of 15 musicians and performs at the centrally located Palais Montcalm. The notable Opéra de Québec (www.operadequebec.qc.ca; tel 877/643-8131) is also in its 31st year.
Concert Halls & Performance Venues
Many of the city’s churches host sacred and secular music concerts, as well as special Christmas festivities. There are also a number of outdoor amphitheatres with full summer schedules. Look for posters on outdoor kiosks around the city and check with the tourist office for listings.
Colisée Pepsi -- This 15,000-seat arena is home to the Remparts, a popular junior hockey team. The stadium also hosts events such as monster truck extravaganzas, boxing matches, and occasional rock shows. It’s a 10-minute drive northwest of Parliament Hill. 250 boul. Wilfrid-Hamel (ExpoCité), north of St-Roch. www.expocite.com. tel 800/900-7469 or 418/691-7110.
Grand Théâtre de Québec -- Classical music concerts, opera, dance, jazz, klezmer, and theatrical productions are presented in two halls. Visiting conductors, orchestras, and dance companies perform here, in addition to resident companies such as the Orchestre Symphonique de Québec and Opéra de Québec. 269 boul. René-Lévesque est (near av. Turnbull), Parliament Hill. www.grandtheatre.qc.ca. tel 877/643-8131 or 418/643-8131.
Le Capitole -- Big musical productions such as “Sweeney Todd” and “The Beatles Story,” along with live musical performances, keep this historic 1,262-seat theater on Place d'Youville buzzing along (productions are in French). More intimate shows are put on in the attached Le Cabaret du Capitole. 972 rue St-Jean (at Place d’Youville), Parliament Hill. www.lecapitole.com. tel 800/261-9903 or 418/694-4444.
Palais Montcalm -- Renovations have made this venue bigger and more modern, and it’s now a hub of the city’s cultural community. The main performance space seats 979 and presents a mix of dance programs, plays, and classical music concerts. More intimate recitals happen in a 125-seat cafe-theater. 995 Place d’Youville (near Porte Saint-Jean), Parliament Hill. www.palaismontcalm.ca. tel 877/641-6040 or 418/641-6040.
Bars & Nightclubs
In addition to regular bars and nightclub, look for boîtes à chansons (literally, “boxes with songs”), which are small clubs that feature casual evenings of music from singer-songwriters. They’re a regional specialty and popular throughout Québec.
Vieux-Québec: Haute-Ville (Upper Town)
Le Jazz Bar -- On Friday and Saturday nights, jazz duos and trios take the stage in this cozy nook within the historic Clarendon Hotel. You can order food from the Le Charles Baillairgé menu, if you like. 57 rue Sainte-Anne (at rue des Jardins). www.hotelclarendon.com/jazz-bar-en. tel 888/222-3304.
Pub St-Alexandre -- Roomy and sophisticated, this is one of the best-looking bars in town. It’s done in British-pub style: polished mahogany, exposed brick, and a working fireplace that’s particularly comforting during the 8 cold months of the year. Bartenders serve more than 50 single-malt scotches and 250 beers, along with hearty bar food (croque monsieur, steak-and-kidney pie, fish and chips). Check the schedule for the occasional live music—rock, blues, jazz, or Irish. 1087 rue St-Jean (near rue St-Stanislas). www.pubstalexandre.com. tel 418/694-0015.
Ristorante Il Teatro -- This friendly Italian restaurant directly on the Place d'Youville is open from 7am to at least 2am every day. It’s part of a complex that includes Le Capitole theater, and actors, musical performers, and theater staff often come in for a drink or a meal after shows. 972 rue St-Jean (at Place d'Youville). www.lecapitole.com/en/restaurant.php. tel 418/694-9996.
1608 Wine and Cheese Bar -- A modern re-interpretation of what once was an elegant room inside Québec’s magical castle, the hotel Château Frontenac. While not seen by press time, we can imagine 1608 is a fine spot for a cocktail and some nibbles among the well-heeled, even if you’re not staying the night. Château Frontenac, 1 rue des Carrières. www.fairmont.com/frontenac-quebec/dining. tel 418/692-3861.
Vieux-Québec: Basse-Ville (Lower Town)
Le Pape-Georges -- A cozy wine bar in a 345-year-old stone-and-beamed room that features chanson (a French-cabaret singing style), along with other music, weekend nights at 10pm (and Thurs in summer). Light fare is available, along with up to 15 choices of wine by the glass (the bar’s motto: “Save water; drink wine!”). 8 rue Cul-de-Sac (near boul. Champlain). www.papegeorges.ca. tel 418/692-1320.
SSS -- SSS may be the only lounge and restaurant in Vieux-Québec that adopts the sleek, bigger-city approach of sounding its techno beats onto the sidewalk to lure cocktail seekers. Owned by the same team behind the upscale restaurant Toast!, SSS brings French flair to American comfort foods—ribs, hot dogs, onion rings. Guests can opt for entrees or apps, dining room or bar. On busy nights, a snack menu kicks in after 10:30pm (and on busy afternoons between 2–5pm). 71 rue St-Paul (near rue Sault-au-Matelot). www.restaurantsss.com. tel 418/692-1991.
Théâtre Petit-Champlain -- Québécois and French singers alternate with jazz and blues groups in this roomy cafe and theater in Lower Town. Performances take place most Thursdays through Saturdays at 8pm. Tickets run about C$20 to C$50. There’s a pretty outdoor patio for preshow drinks. 68 rue du Petit-Champlain (near the funiculaire). www.theatrepetitchamplain.com. tel 418/692-2631.
The Parliament Hill neighborhood, on or near Grande-Allée, has the highest concentration of dance clubs. Dagobert Night Club (600 Grande-Allée est; www.dagobert.ca; tel 418/522-0393) imports DJs from Montréal and as far away as the U.K. and is a rite of passage for many locals or others just of age who pack the 1,000-person patio. Just across the street is Maurice Night Club (575 Grande-Allée est; www.mauricenightclub.com; tel 418/647-2000), a converted mansion with a couple of bars within (an older crowd gravitates toward its Charlotte Lounge). The nearby Savini (680 Grande-Allée est; www.savini.ca; tel 418/647-4747), a self-dubbed “vinothèque,” combines wine, hostesses in teeny dresses, and nightly DJs. It’s also a fine spot for late-night pizza or salad. Catering mostly to gay and lesbian clientele, Le Drague Cabaret Club (815 rue St-Augustin; www.ledrague.com; tel 418/649-7212), or “the Drag,” features two dance floors and a cabaret with drag shows on Thursday, Friday, and Sunday nights. It’s located just off rue St-Jean in the Faubourg St-Jean neighborhood, within walking distance of the other clubs.
Parliament Hill (on or Near Grande-Allée)
La Ninkasi du Faubourg -- With a tagline “bières et culture,” Ninkasi features almost all Québécois wine and spirits, including 40 local microbrews. In warm months, there’s an outdoor terrace. It's open daily from 1pm to 3am. 811 rue St-Jean (1 block west of av. Honoré-Mercier). www.laninkasi.ca. tel 418/529-8538.
Boudoir Lounge -- The hottest club in St-Roch, Boudoir has two floors and books DJs on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights and live music on Sunday nights. Local hipsters generally hop between here, Versa across the street at no. 432 (www.versarestaurant.com), and Yuzu Le Restaurant (www.yuzulerestaurant.ca) at no. 438, the concept space of the growing Yuzu Sushi empire. 441 rue du Parvis (at boul. Charest est). www.boudoirlounge.com. tel 418/524-2777.
La Barberie Microbrasserie Coopérative de travail -- There’s no better spot to hang out on a sunny afternoon with a carousel of house-made microbrews than in La Barberie’s beer garden. Get there early on weekends because seats go fast and stay occupied. This place is so laid back that midweek you can bring your lunch and heat it up on the premises. 310 rue St-Roch (at rue de la Reine). www.labarberie.com. tel 418/522-4373.
Le Cercle -- A unique gallery-bar-resto-concert venue, this spot in St-Roch can be a go-to for excellent wines, other fun drinks, tapas, good music, and eclectic, slightly avant-garde entertainment. 228 rue St-Joseph est (near rue Caron). www.le-cercle.ca. tel 418/948-8648.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.