Hidden Romantic Things to Do in Quebec City
You don’t have to stay overnight to enjoy some of the city’s historic hotels (though the allure of retiring to a room upstairs adds intrigue to any date). Step back 400 years to a time when Québec City was an old French village at Auberge St-Antoine, located in the city’s Old Port area. The hotel’s Café-Bar Artefact (pictured) integrates the original stone floor and a cannon found on the property from the 17th Century. Stroll around the grand Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, which is more than 125 years old, and has long served as a playground for celebrities and politicians. Both hotels display items excavated from their sites, including primitive keys, locks, and old love letters to early settlers’ pottery and glassware.
Statues, murals, and installations throughout Québec City celebrate its vibrant history and people. Create your own walking tour to see the nearly dozen original art installations in different neighborhoods: Visit the old train station, Gare du Palais, then sit down in the nearby Place de la Gare (450 Rue de la Gare du Palais), a public square decorated with the “Dreaming the World” poem-inscribed chairs, created by one of Québec’s most renowned artists, Michel Goulet. The chairs are organized in pairs and inscribed with poetry by 40 Québécois authors, dating from the city’s founding to the present. Leonard Cohen’s poem excerpt is just one: “Hold me close and tell me what the world is like. I don’t want to look outside. I want to depend on your eyes and your lips.” Swoon!
(Click here for Frommer's' self-guided walking tours of Québec City.)
One of the city's oldest surviving houses, built in 1675, is now a beloved restaurant, Aux Anciens Canadiens (34 Rue Saint Louis). In intimate rooms featuring period décor, explore hearty and beautifully plated local Québécois cuisine such as wild bison tenderloin and maple syrup caramel bread pudding. Le Monastère des Augustines (77 Rue des Remparts) is a 17-century monastery that has been uniquely updated with modern interiors that honor the Augustinian sisters’ original dedication to healing body and soul—the tranquil environment gives couples a setting in which to deepen connections. Choose hotel rooms with pristine, monastic-style design (pictured) or contemporary rooms with luxe comforts; the artisanal restaurant, devoted to healthy eating, includes silent breakfasts and sustainable cuisine. Its wellness center does spa services and meditation sessions.
The Catholic Church's lasting connection to Québec City is undeniable. At almost every turn, you'll glimpse church steeples or ecclesiastically etched archways. Notre-Dame De Québec (16 Rue De Buade) is a must-see; the cathedral’s frescoes, stain-glass windows, and gilded, neo-Baroque interior details are awe-inspiring. The Holy Door, granted by the Vatican in 2015 during the Jubilee of Mercy, is rarely open but people can peer through to the carvings inside the Sacred Heart chapel. Also wander hand-in-hand along its soothing Jubilee Garden pathway. Attending a church choral or classical concert or a bell-ringing ceremony at Québec’s churches is an unheralded way to enjoy these stunning sanctuaries: On Wednesday nights, at the oldest Anglican cathedral outside of the British Isles, the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity ( 31 Rue des Jardins), outsiders are invited to learn how to ring the bells.
A five-minute cab ride from the old walled city brings you to Saint-Roch, an eclectic neighborhood of artisanal food-and-drink venues and a bohemian vibe. Enjoy a secluded, romantic stroll around Jardin Jean-Paul-L’Allier (pictured) to admire its cascading waterfall, lush flower beds, and beautiful sculptures. The Paul and Virginie Statue of young lovers caught in a kiss (they're the French Romeo and Juliet) is the perfect spot for your own embrace. At night, a motion-sensitive light path guides you along rue Saint-Joseph, lined with funky boutiques, specialty food shops, and lively bistros. After dinner, duck into Noctem Artisans Brasseurs (438 Rue du Parvis) to taste some of Québec’s best craft beers and enjoy a late-night tête-à-tête with your cheri/e.
The glacial valleys of Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier, 30 minutes outside of Québec City, is the perfect setting to let romance bloom. Take a guided canoe or tandem kayak tour down the winding, breathtaking Jacques-Cartier River. Have a picnic lunch on the banks of the river, called “Lahdaweoole” by the Huron People, meaning “the river that comes a long way.” For gorgeous views overlooking the river valley, hike up the scenic Les Loups, aka The Wolf Trail. In the winter, experience the wonder of the season, Canadian-style, by snowshoeing through the frosted sugar maple trees and black spruce yellow birches to a fireplace-warmed hut. Couples seeking a secret nest will find it here.
Québec is a cycle-friendly city, with around 400 kilometers (248 miles) of paths to use. Rent a bike at Cyclo Services (289 Rue Saint-Paul) and choose a route from one of its six suggested tours. One worthy trip: Ride along the St. Lawrence to the Promenade Samuel-De Champlain. This five-mile route takes you from Côte De Sillery, a beautiful residential neighborhood, to the Québec Aquarium (1675 Avenue des Hôtels). Around the halfway mark, you’ll come to the lovely Café 47: Comptoir Urbains on the water, the perfect spot for an iced coffee on a hot day. Go upstairs to the lookout to revel in the sight of the glimmering river.
While ice wine dates back to Roman times, it did not truly develop until a German winemaker began production in 1794. It became part of the Canadian repertoire in 1972 by accident as a result of an unexpected frost. Farmers now take advantage of long, cold winters to allow grapes to remain on the vine after temperatures drop, when freezing air causes the juice to thicken and sweeten. Try a range of Québec’s ice wines at the aforementioned Marché du Vieux-Port farmers’ Market (160 Quai Saint-André). Also consider toasting your date over refreshing ice cider, a uniquely Québécois libation also made from late-harvest fruits. Back on romantic Île d'Orléans, more ice cider tasting rooms can be seen on a self-drive tour: One of the best, Cidrerie Verger Bilodeau (1868 Chemin Royal, Saint-Pierre), ferments one of the most extensive ranges around, including one type made in the French Champagne method.