With an ancient wall surrounding the oldest part of the city, Québec City sustains the look of a provincial European village that keeps watch over the powerful St. Lawrence River. For a short visit, book a hotel or B&B within the walls of the Haute-Ville (Upper Town) or in the quieter Basse-Ville (Lower Town). Start: Château Frontenac.

1. Château Frontenac

As soon as you're done unpacking, head to Château Frontenac -- its peaked copper roofs are visible from everywhere. Tours of the historic hotel are available, and it has a posh bar and pretty cafe. The long promenade alongside the hotel, the Terrasse Dufferin, offers panoramic views of the St. Lawrence River and Basse-Ville (Lower Town). In winter, an old-fashioned toboggan run is set up on the steep staircase at the south end.

Head down to Basse-Ville either by the funiculaire, the glass-encased outdoor elevator, or the staircase called L'escalier du Casse-Cou. They're right next to each other. Both routes end at the top of rue du Petit-Champlain, a touristy pedestrian street of shops and restaurants. Walk down rue Sous-le-Fort and make the first left turn to reach:

2. Place-Royale

This small but picturesque square was the site of the first European colony in Canada and is surrounded by restored 17th- and 18th-century houses. The church on one side was built in 1688. A visit to the Centre d'Interprétation de Place-Royale is an option here.

Past the Centre d'Interprétation, at the end of rue Notre-Dame, turn around to view a trompe l'oeil mural depicting citizens of the early city. Continue past the mural and turn right to walk toward the river. Turn left on rue Dalhousie and walk to:

3. Musée de la Civilisation

A city highlight. This ambitious museum, filled with fascinating exhibits, can easily fill 2 or 3 hours. Don't miss the permanent exhibit, "People of Québec . . . Then and Now," which explores the province's roots as a fur-trading colony and gives visitors a rich sense of Québec's daily life over the generations.

Leaving the museum, turn left on rue Dalhousie, left on rue St-Paul, and walk to rue du Sainte-au-Matelot.

4. A Bounty of Bistros

Within a block of the corner of rues St-Paul and du Sault-au-Matelot are some of the city's best bistros and casual eating places. Almost any of them will do for a snack or a meal, but our top choice is L'Echaudé, 73 rue du Sault-au-Matelot (tel. 418/692-1299). It offers excellent value for classic French dishes and puts out sidewalk tables in summer.

5. Rue St-Paul & Antiquing

The northern end of rue St-Paul is great for browsing for antiques and collectibles.

Turn right at rue St-Thomas and cross rue St-André.

6. Marché du Vieux-Port

This large market is open year-round, and offers produce and other agricultural products for sale.

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.