Québec City has an up-close-and-personal vibe to it, giving it the feel of a big village more than a grand metropolis. The city’s small-scale transport options reflect this mentality.
Weather plays a role in how locals navigate the city. In summer, the hilly streets and abundance of staircases make for good exercise. In winter, when the roads, sidewalks, and roofs fill with snow and ice, walking can feel like an obstacle course. Buses are a warm alternative, and a go-to choice for commuters throughout the year.
Parts of Québec City are under construction for a tramway that is scheduled to open in 2028 – and it’s a tad controversial among the locals. (Personally, I’m quite excited about it.) In the meantime, here are the best ways to get around Québec City like a local.
Your shoes are made for walking, your eyes for looking
The city’s layout makes it easy for able-bodied travelers to navigate on foot. This is, in my opinion, the best way to explore Québec City. In the Old Town, the houses and buildings are adorned with interesting embellishments and design details, rewarding slow strollers who stop to admire the streetscape. Never look down when walking around, since you are sure to miss something intriguing. The historic architecture can be breathtaking at times, and you may find yourself overcome with the desire to take photographs from all angles. I highly recommend snapping away – just be aware of your surroundings and avoid blindly stepping into the street and inadvertently blocking traffic.
Take care when walking around Québec City in winter
December tends to be a rainy month in Québec City, which means layers of ice begin to accrue on rooftops, sidewalks and streets. Soon, the snow arrives (this is Canada, after all), and the art of walking upright becomes more of a challenge – especially given the hilly nature of Old Québec’s streets. Québecers are a tough lot, though, and view walking in winter as ideal exercise: you’ll spot them on the streets in puffy winter jackets, snow pants and boots with spikes. When the air is especially crisp or snow is whipping around, many will don ski goggles as well. As someone who has fallen and dislocated a shoulder, I highly recommend wearing crampons in winter. (I now own boots with them built in.)
Is Québec City wheelchair accessible?
Québec City can be a challenge if you have mobility issues, especially Old Québec, where shops and restaurants often have stairs and ramps are scarce. Don’t let that deter you from visiting, though: Québecers want you to enjoy their city as much as they do, and they’ll often help when you’re in need of assistance. The fully accessible funicular is a fun way to travel from Petit-Champlain to the Terrasse Dufferin (and the iconic Fairmont Le Château Frontenac). Have your travel companion go inside and ask to use the elevators and they staff will be happy to assist.
Buses are the easiest way to get around the city for those with mobility issues, as they can be lowered to accommodate wheelchairs and others who need help boarding.
Buy your tickets and passes for the bus ahead of time
The RTC bus system in Québec City is decent, with services throughout the downtown core and into the suburbs; in recent years the city has added service to the airport as well. Buses are one of the best ways for those with mobility issues to get around the city, as many can be lowered to accommodate wheelchairs. Parents with strollers and young children find this feature helpful as well. Cyclists who need a break from pedaling can place their bikes on the bus’s bike rack in the front and catch a ride.
The cost of a one-way fare is CA$3.50 (US$2.75), and exact change is required. You can also purchase passes ahead of time: a one-day pass costs CA$8.85 (US$6.95), and an unlimited weekend pass (which starts on Fridays at 5:30pm) CA$16 (US$12.50). You can also download the RTC Paiement app (available for iOS and Android) and buy tickets digitally. Children ages six to 11 travel free when with an adult (up to three children per adult). Stops are displayed on a screen at the front of the bus, and announced as well.
Cycle like you’re training for the Tour de France
Québec City is becoming more cyclist-friendly, and there are some lovely bike paths in the city that wind around the marina and along the St Lawrence River. Québec City has recently added a system of shared electric bikes, àVélo, available from mid-May to the end of October.
Boat operator CTMA has also introduced a ferry this year that will take cyclists and pedestrians up the river from Old Québec to Ste-Anne-de-Beaupré, starting at the beginning of June.
Download the Coop app to make hailing a taxi a breeze
Taking a taxi is a go-to option when traveling to restaurants or music venues in neighborhoods far from your hotel, or when you have partied harder than your legs can abide. You can call the Taxi Coop switchboard and order for a ride – but the Taxi Coop app (for iOS or Android) makes life a lot easier. Simply set up your account, order a taxi to your location and watch on the app as your taxi makes its way to you. You can pay by credit card via the app, or by handing cash or your card directly to the driver. During busy times of the year or bad weather, getting a taxi can be a challenge.
Uber is also available in Québec City. Many locals prefer the rideshare service over a taxi, as Uber drivers can sometimes be faster.
How to find a parking space in Québec City
Driving in the Old Town can frustrate during the height of tourist season, as people tend to walk into the street without looking, and street parking can be a challenge. When you do find street parking, just enter the parking space number into the machine, pay and go on with your day. Downloading the Copilote app (for iOS or Android) will be a helpful way to top up, as many spaces are only available in two-hour allotments. If there are spaces available after 9pm, grab them as parking is free overnight until 8am.
You might have an easier time with parking garages and lots. The garage on rue Dauphin before boulevard Honoré-Mercier is your best option near Old Québec. There is a smaller parking garage across from the Musée de la Civilisation on rue Dalhousie. Quai André has a few paid parking lots to choose from as well.