Exploring Québec City with Cunard

TheMJElle_Cunard Québec City

Exploring Québec City is something I hadn’t done in years. My mom is born and raised (until the age of 18) in Québec City, and I’ve been down a few times throughout the years. Growing up going to full French schools, we went down to Québec often but as life continued on and a little thing called adulting came to be those trips became less frequent. It had been almost over a decade since I was last in town so I was delighted to make the trip down when Cunard invited me to visit their Queen Mary 2 was berthing for a couple days in the Port de Québec.

Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 through historic buildings in Place Royale, Vieux Québec.

I was really excited to have the chance to share Québec City with Peter. It was only a quick weekend away but it was enough to light the travel fire under us to say the least. The weekend was mainly focused around the Cunard Queen Mary 2 visit with some time afterwards dedicated to exploring Québec City, more specifically Vieux Québec and landmarks like the Château Frontenac and Quartier Petit Champlain. The trip reignited not only the love I have for my French Canadian background, but the love I have for Canada’s history being that so much of our beginnings are in Québec.

Québec City is filled with so much culture, history and nature making it a perfect trip for a weekend or cruise destination. Whether you like to eat, explore or learn there is something for you to do in Québec City. I’ve taking some of my favourite moments from our time exploring Québec City and I’m sharing all you need to do to help you plan your next trip!

Cunard Cruises

Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 in Port de Québec.

Cunard is a British-American luxury cruise line currently with 3 ships traveling worldwide: the Queen ElizabethQueen Victoria and Queen Mary 2 which I had the pleasure of visiting while exploring Québec City. RMS Queen Mary 2 is actually a very special ship for a few reasons; she’s the only ocean liner that carries passengers, the only transatlantic passenger ship, the largest ship in Cunard’s lineup and actually their flagship succeeding the Queen Elizabeth 2. RMS Queen Mary 2 also is allowed to hold the Royal Mail Service (RMS) title because of her postbox on board.

Me on the top deck of Cunard’s Queen Mary 2, Citadelle de Québec in the background.

A table for 2 at the Princess Grill aboard Cunard’s Queen Mary 2.

Me inside the Queen Mary 2’s iconic The Verandah on Deck 8, which recently has been changed to the ship’s Steakhouse.

I have to be honest and say I had never really been a fan of cruises, not that I had ever been on one but the idea of being “confined” to a ship for a week or more at a time wasn’t something I thought I could do. But after spending just a couple hour touring the Queen Mary 2 with Cunard I could probably just move aboard forever. Yes, I’ve been converted! There are over 10 restaurants, bars, cafés and lounges to feed your every food and beverage craving including the Britannia Restaurant, Sir Samuel’s Godiva Café and the Laurent-Perrier Champagne Bar. Oh, and that’s just food and drink. The Queen Mary 2 has shopping, theatres, pools, fitness, spa and even an planetarium (the first at sea). Oh, and there’s also a kennel onboard with iconic fire hydrant and lamp post for guests traveling on the transatlantic crossing with their pets.

Table shot of our Laurent-Perrier Rosé inside the Queen Mary 2’s Champagne Bar on Deck 3.

Peter and I caught in action, enjoying our Laurent-Perrier Rosé inside the Queen Mary 2’s Champagne Bar on Deck 3.

To make pets feel more at home during their transatlantic trips, Cunard has a New York fire hydrant and Southampton lamp post aboard the Queen Mary 2.

Every single Cunard staff member aboard the Queen Mary 2 was extremely friendly and courteous beyond belief, like literally Titanic level vibes. And I noticed this treatment not only to us, being a media tour group, but to every passenger aboard. I also had the chance to chat with a few passengers travel on the Queen Mary 2 and not one person had a complaint about their trip. Between all these special fun facts, activities, positive first-hand accounts and the fact that Cunard is taking the Queen Mary 2 to Canada and New England more than ever before, do I even have to ask you what you’re waiting for?

Port de Québec

View of Port de Québec from Cunard’s Queen Mary 2.

Playing a major part in the foundation of Canada, Port de Québec is the oldest port in the country. It’s been a main east coast port for the country known mostly for it’s freight until the 20th century, where it’s now more famously known for it’s multiple cruise ship visits year round. The Port de Québec is home to the Québec Naval Museum, Cruise terminals, Marché du Vieux-Port and plenty of paths and nature to explore.

Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 berthed at Port de Québec.

Vieux Québec

Vieux Québec is truly one of the gems of our country. If you’re looking to plan a trip exploring Québec City, you want to plan to spend some time there. Vieux Québec is the historic area of the city and is made up of two main areas: Haute-Ville and Basse-Ville. Within each of these areas are so many historic sites, buildings and parks to explore.

Petit Champlain

View of the top of l’Escalier casse-cou.

Me enjoying my morning coffee in Petit Champlain.

Petit Champlain is a small neighbourhood in the Basse-Ville area of Vieux Québec and is the oldest commercial area in North America. It’s main street is Rue du Petit-Champlain and the area is most famously known for l’Escalier casse-cou (Breakneck stairs), a set of extremely steep stairs and the city’s oldest stairway. L’Escalier is a huge tourist attractions drawing in thousands if not millions of people yearly.

Place Royale

Notre-Dames-des-Victoires, the oldest church in North America (sad to see the broken window).

Me in the middle of Place Royale, in front of Notre-Dame-des-Victoires.

The bust of Louis XIV inside Place Royale.

Another big historic and tourist site in Vieux Québec is Place Royale and is just a hop away from Petit Champlain. It’s a small town squared boarded by Rue de la Place, Rue Notre Dame, Rue des Pains Bénits and Rue Sous Le Fort and is considered to the birthplace of French America. The main feature of Place Royale is no doubt Notre-Dame-des-Victoires, one of the oldest churches in North America, and the bust of Louis XIV directly across from it.

Rue Saint-Jean

Me in front of la Porte Saint-Jean, on Rue Saint-Jean by Place d’Youville.

Rue Saint-Jean is one of the oldest streets in Québec City. My mom actually lived on Rue Saint-Jean in her late teens before moving to Toronto. Rue Saint-Jean stretches from Côte de la Fabrique in Vieux Québec and runs into the Saint-Jean Baptiste neighbourhood before turning into Chemin Sainte-Foy. Rue Saint-Jean runs through the Fortifications (Ramparts) de Québec into Vieux Québec and has it’s own gate called Porte Saint-Jean. Rue Saint-Jean especially within the fortifications is known for it’s restaurants, cafés and boutiques.

Château Frontenac

View of Vieux Québec’s Château Frontenac and Citadelle de Québec from Cunard’s Queen Mary 2.

What the CN Tower is to Toronto’s skyline, it’s safe to say the Château Frontenac is that for Québec city’s. The Château Frontenac‘s first of many wings, the Riverview Wing, opened in 1893 and since then has seen many prestigious guests from King George VI and Queen Elizabeth to Ronald Reagan. But to me the most important events and guests the hotel has ever seen was in 1943 for the Québec Conference during World War 2 where Sir Winston Churchill, William Lyon Mackenzie King and Franklin D. Roosevelt held the talks which lead the war to an end. Naturally, the history geek in me was extremely overwhelmed with excitement.

Me (literally in awe) inside the Salon Rose, the room where the Québec Conference of 1943 was held.

Peter overlooking the Château Frontenac aboard Cunard’s Queen Mary 2.

Château Frontenac has over 600 rooms and plenty of amazing amenities for guests likes fitness facilities, indoor pool and outdoor terrace. Not looking to stay the night? You can still plan a visit to Château Frontenac either for a guided tour, a meal at one of their 3 restaurants or drinks at their wine & cheese bar. Even if you don’t plan on going inside, if you’re exploring Québec City I definitively recommend a quick stop even just outside of Château Frontenac to experience the grandness and architectural beaut first hand!

The most stunning chandeliers inside Chateau Frontenac’s Grand Ballroom, reminiscent of a more modern Versailles.

Eats

In full disclosure, I really didn’t get a proper “eats trip” in while I was in Québec City just given the shortness of our stay and fullness of our itinerary, but that just means I’ll have to be back soon! Peter and I have always been big foodies (and coffee snobs) but with our eating restrictions over the last year we’re really into where we eat when in another city.

One thing I will call out, is I didn’t find Québec City to be as plant-based friendly as Montréal. A big part of that is due to the fact that traditional Québecois cuisine is by no means vegan friendly, I mean hello poutine! But again, this is us not having that much free eating time so I promise that I’ll put together a more robust Québec City eating guide the next time I visit the city! With that being said, here are some recommendations I’ve put together based on our time there.

J.A. Moisan

J.A. Moisan on Rue Saint-Jean in Old Québec, the oldest grocery store in North America.

I might be a bit biased with this pick but if you’re in Vieux Québec looking for a boutique fine foods grocer with speciality items, J.A. Moisan is the place for you. J.A. Moisan is actually North America’s oldest grocery store, it’s proving that you don’t have to look hard for a bit of history in Québec City. Located on Rue Saint-Jean, J.A. Moisan has everything you could need from basic groceries, deli counter, speciality sweets and coffee. Whether you’re a foodie or a history geek, or both, this is a great pit stop in Vieux Québec.

I mentioned above that my mom lived in Vieux Québec in her late teens, well she lived above this store! Those tiny windows above the store was where she’d sit daily with them open watching over Rue Saint-Jean. Actually back then her friends owned the store downstairs and lived in the other apartments above, and I’ve heard endless stories of her taking her friend’s keys for late night snacks (and beers) from the shelves. So, this is probably where my bias might come from but like I said between the history and selection it’s worth the visit. The apartments above that my mom lived in have been converted into an adorable bed and breakfast with 4 rooms available for bookings, and it’s central location to Vieux Québec must-sees it makes it a great place to stay if you’re looking for a local’s experience staying in the city.

La Maison Smith

La Maison Smith on Rue Saint-Jean.

I slipped in coffee snob above, so you know the first thing I did once my trip to Québec was confirmed was Googled coffee shops. But just like any good traveler knows, a planned trip is never a good trip so when it came to coffee I figured we’d find a cute café around our hotel. We stumbled into La Maison Smith the morning of our last day in Québec City and as happy as we were, we wish we would have stumbled in a day sooner.

Those massive croissants from La Maison Smith, I swear they were bigger in person!

We went into their Rue Saint-Jean location, but they have a few more in Québec City including one Place Royale on Rue Notre-Dame. Immediately I was pleasantly overwhelmed with the aromas of pastries and coffee while walking into a really cute (and Instagram approved) shop. My almond milk latte was perfectly crafted and was accompanied by the biggest croissant I’ve ever seen in my life, nearly the size of my face. La Maison Smith is undoubtably my go-to coffee shop the next time I’m in town, and I recommend you check them out too!

Bistro Le Sam Évolutif at Château Frontenac

Shot of Bistro Le Sam Évolutif at Château Frontenac (picture from Fairmont Hotels).

After our time on the Queen Mary 2 with Cunard and tour of Vieux-Québec we retreated for drinks at Bistro Le Sam Évolutif inside the Château Frontenac. The décor inside was literally taken from my wildest dreams with dark marble, crushed velvet and metallic tones perfectly paired into a modern yet classic vibe.

Peter’s DIY cocktail, the Negroni de Samuel (pre-DIY).

They have an extremely creative, and delicious cocktail menu accompanied by a great selection of sharable boards and appetizers. Peter had their Negroni de Samuel, their classic take on a Negroni which was a delicious DIY cocktail. I had the Lot 75, Bistro Le Sam’s version of a French 75 done with Lot 40 rye instead of gin, and I very well could have had another it was so good. Although the general clientele is obviously more tourists given it being in a hotel and it’s location, we really enjoyed the overall vibe at Bistro Le Sam and it felt like we were in a small boutique cocktail bar. Bistro Le Sam is no doubt on our list of places to hit up for drinks next time we’re in Québec City!

Pizzeria d’Youville

Pizza d’Youville is the oldest pizzeria in Québec and opened its doors in 1963. I first went into this place over 20 years ago the first time I went to Québec City with my parents and I can assure you the pizza still tastes the same, if not better. Their crust is the perfect balance of fluffy and thin pleasing all pizza lovers, their sauce is too good to be true and of course being in Québec City you know the cheese is to die for. Yes, for one time and one time only I had cheese for the first time in over a year. It was both delicious and regrettable all at the same time, but I did it in the name of being a Québecois foodie in Québec.

I admittedly got no pictures of our meal other than this outfit picture post pizza. I promise this is satisfaction, and not shame, after my a very delicious pizza!

Outside of Pizzeria d’Youville on Rue Saint-Jean. We totally shut off after our day exploring Québec City and didn’t capture a single shot of our meal.

This place is no bells and whistles by any means, Pizzeria d’Youville is only focused on cranking out amazing pizzas out of their stone oven. The restaurant itself is two floors and the décor feels like something straight out of Italy, or maybe New York’s Little Italy. The atmosphere is warm, welcoming and the perfect vibe for families or friends. Not only is the food amazing but the prices ridiculously fair, Peter and I shared a pizza, salad and bottle of wine for under $100! If you’re in Québec City and you’re looking for a classic slice of authentic pizza that won’t disappoint, this is where you want to go!

View of Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 from Haute-Ville, Vieux Québec.

Me on Deck 12 of Cunard’s Queen Mary 2.

View of View Québec and Château Frontenac from Cunard’s Queen Mary 2.

My time exploring Québec City was short but sweet and it made my appreciate Canada’s history while having me wondering why it took me over 10 years to go back to Québec City. The luxury and history experienced aboard Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 is something I’ll never forget and am hoping to experience again in the future. Québec City is so full of life, culture and history, there’s something for all types of travellers. I’m really looking forward to going back soon, and putting together a more complete guide of exploring Québec City like a true Québecois!

* Exploring Québec City with Cunard is not a sponsored post, however the trip to Québec City itself was sponsored by Cunard in partnership with Québec City tourism. Accommodations, tour of the Queen Mary 2 and some meals were provided in exchange for my coverage of Cunard and Québec Region on Instagram. My review and feedback on services and my overall experience is 100% honest and authentic as always. To learn more about my sponsored content, please visit my about me page.

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