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RANGE Magazine’s Guide To Quebec City

Bienvenue au Paradis: A culturally rich Canadian destination full of poutine and plenty of history.

by Glenn Alderson

Imagine, it’s a warm summer’s night and you’re standing in a massive field with 80,000 other music fans. On stage is one of the biggest artists you’ve ever seen in your life — let’s say it’s Elton John — and you look back behind you to see a sea of flashing red badges, all blinking in unison like a galaxy in the middle of outer space. 

It’s Saturday and, just as your weed gummies are starting to hit, Elton breaks into “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting” — naturally! — but all you can think about is that in the very field you’re standing is where the British army defeated French troops back in 1759 during what is now referred to as the Seven Years War. That field is called the Plains of Abraham and the music festival you’re at, Festival d’été de Québec (FEQ), is the reason why you’re there, in Quebec City, singing “Rocket Man” at the top of your lungs surrounded by a constellation of half-cut French Canadians. 

Founded in 1968, FEQ brings music and culture to the people of Quebec City in the form of what is now an 11-day festival with hundreds of artists of all genres, appealing to music fans of all shapes and sizes. Undeniably one of the biggest and best outdoor music festivals in North America, FEQ has invited everyone from Paul McCartney, Mariah Carey, The Who, Metallica, Tyler Scott, and yes, even Elton John to grace their main stage on the historic Plains of Abraham over the years. 

This summer, from July 6 to 16, FEQ will see genre-spanning headliners including Green Day, Lana Del Ray, Lil Durk, Weezer, Foo Fighters, and Imagine Dragons. And that’s just on the main stage; other notable 2023 acts include Feist, Alvvays, The Smile, Cypress Hill, Lamb of God, and countless others at various outdoor and indoor stages around the city.

Outside of FEQ, Quebec City retains enough cultural cache to make it an absolute stand-out tourist destination any time of the year. Shaped by its rich history, the capital city has been developing ever since the infamous battle which left control of the city to the British, eventually allowing them to take control of Canada the following year. However, much like the rest of the province, Francophone culture remains strong and its inhabitants are very proud of everything it has to offer. From neighbourhoods like Old Quebec, Montcalm, and Saint-Roch, there’s something about Quebec City that is unlike any other place in Canada. 

So the next time you’re looking for an experience unlike anywhere else in Canada, we highly recommend adding Quebec City and the following hot spots to your travel itinerary. 

BOISSONS

MacFly Bar Arcade (422 Rue Caron)

Don’t forget your quarters when you go to MacFly Bar Arcade (422 Rue Caron), one of the most visually stimulating dive bars, perfect for knocking back some tequila shots and cheap pints from an array of locally brewed beers while you clink the night away on their impressive selection of vintage pinball machines.

Want something a little more sophisticated but still vibey and chic? JJacques (341 Rue Notre-Dame-des-Anges) is one of the coolest cocktail/oyster bars you’ll ever see. Granted, you might have to look a little harder than usual to find this back alley speakeasy bunker-styled joint, but walk in through their unsuspecting back-alley entrance and you’ll know the search was worth it when you sample their locally sourced, seasonal dishes and designer cocktails with a side of juicy oysters on the half shell. 

 

Disques Disques 

French remains the primary language spoken in Quebec, which makes it a notoriously insular province when it comes to the music created and marketed within, but the record stores in Quebec City know no boundaries when it comes to the hot wax flying off their shelves. 

Le Knock-Out! (832 Rue Saint-Joseph E)

Three of our favourite places to go digging in the crates are Le Knock-Out! (832 Rue Saint-Joseph E) which offers a great selection of new and used vinyl with friendly staff and a foosball table in the back; Musique chez Sonny (664 Rue Saint-Jean), a genuine rock and roll boutique that understands you need to know and respect the musical greats who came before to understand where we are today; and finally, Explosive Groove Disquaire (1201 b 1re Av.), a clean and refined vinyl lover’s paradise that deals in fresh grooves and deep cuts – everything from jazz, soul, funk, world, reggae, hip-hop, psych, rock, folk, and everything in between. 

 

Bon Appetite 

Quebec is Canada’s culinary capital and Quebec City is at the heart of some of the most exquisite and life changing gastro experiences you will ever know. Yes, the poutine is amazing — which is why it has its own section in our guide! — but if you’re looking for a meal that you will remember forever, look no further than Pied Bleu (181 Rue Saint-Vallier O). A classic French deli by day and blue-collar bistro by night, Pied Bleu is bold and adventurous in the way they treat their dishes. It’s not unlikely that you’ll see owner Louis Bouchard Trudeau working the front of house, drinking wine and chatting with his regulars. The internationally renowned pork butcher, who is also the chef, knows his meat. If you’ve got an appetite and you’re willing to trust him — and trust us when we say you should — ask for the Lyoner Tour to experience a chef’s selection of some of the best dishes of the day. It starts with three salads but it’s all meat from there and whatever happens next is entirely up to them — just don’t plan on doing anything that involves moving for the rest of your evening. 

Don Vegan (97 Rue du Sault-au-Matelot)

If you’re looking to take a break from meat after getting your tastebuds enlightened at Pied Bleu, Quebec City is also home to one of the most upscale but accessible vegan restaurants, Don Vegan (97 Rue du Sault-au-Matelot). Order a spicy whiskey sour (Le Don), the beet tartare and their shiitake mushroom DONplings and you’re off to a great start. Check your veggie cliches at the door because eating vegan doesn’t have to be boring. A great selection of mains, including a variety of risottos and other pastas make for a well rounded meal that will have you leaving full without a tummy ache.  

Brunch is stressful, we get it. But if you’re looking for a classic Quebecois way to start your day, Restaurant La Bûche (49 Rue Saint-Louis) is a place that you won’t mind putting our name on the list for and you won’t be waiting long, if at all. This place has all the fixings for a hearty brunch with a really fun menu full of classics and unique French favourites like Lapin Frit et Gaufres (fried rabbit and waffles), with maple syrup — of course! 

 

Top 3 Poutine Joints In Quebec City

Poutineville (735 Rue Saint-Joseph Est)

Poutineville is your one-stop shop for designer poutine. You can personalize it however you’d like but if you’re feeling adventurous we recommend trying the “Hangover,” complete with house fries, fresh curds, cheddar cheese, bacon, Italian sausage, seasoned ground beef, 911 sauce, fried egg and BBQ sauce.

Chez Ashton (multiple locations)

Chez Ashton is unique to Québec City; a no-frills fast food environment with bad lighting but the poutine is fantastique. Do yourself a favour and order the Poutine avec Saucisses, topped with sliced hot dog weiners! There’s one fairly close to the Plains Of Abraham (54 Côte du Palais) perfect for FEQ first-timers stumbling home after a full day of music.

Chic Shack (15 Fort St)

Steps away from the Notre-Dame de Québec Basilica-Cathedral, have a post-religious experience at the Chic Shack with their excellent house made poutines, gourmet burgers and milkshakes in a historical building of its own.

 

BONNE NUIT 

Le Monastère des Augustines

(77 Rue des Remparts)

If you’re looking to find god, this just might be the place to crash. An actual monastery turned wellness hotel, put away your phones, zip your lips and enjoy the sounds of your friends chewing toast at their meditative silent breakfasts. (From $130/night)

Chatueau Frontenac 

(1 Mue des Carrières)

One the fanciest hotel in Québec City, Chateau Frontenac is the icon of the city and one of the most photographed hotels in the world. Get your selfie sticks ready! (From $616/night)

Auberge Saint-Antoine (Relais & Châteaux)

(8 Rue Saint Antoine)

Both the restaurant and the hotel at this beautiful locale in the city’s old port exude a grand sense of refined elegance. A boutique-hotel with tons of charm, rumour has it that lots of the bigger names performing at FEQ stay here when they perform at the festival so you never know who you might run into in the elevator. (From $450/night)

 

Journée au Spa

If you’re in the city for FEQ, we know how hard live music can be on the bod, so treat yourself to a relaxing afternoon at Strøm spa nordique / Vieux-Québec (515 Bd Champlain). But you don’t need to be suffering from a bang-over enjoy a good soak. Boasting really unique architecture and design with hot tubs, cold baths, steam rooms, saunas and a salt scrub room along the banks of the St. Lawrence River, .

If you’ve been to Montreal, you’re only getting a fraction of the rich Quebecois culture that makes the province one of the coolest places on the planet. Whether you’re there for Festival d’ete or their legendary Winter Carnival (home of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man’s freakier french cousin, Bonne Homme), there is so much to love about Quebec City. 

Festival d’été de Québec runs July 6 to 16 | TICKETS & INFO