Québec City is a luxurious place to visit with its swanky hotels, classy bistros and enticing boutiques — but the French-Canadian capital is also feasible on a budget. If you save money by not spending in the old town, you’ll find plenty to do, from epic bike rides to ice skating to eating Québec’s specialty foods, especially poutine.
Here’s how to travel to Québec City on a budget.
Québec City was built long before cars were invented, so you can park your vehicle for the whole trip or not bring one at all. Instead, tie up your shoes and walk along the lovely cobblestone streets of Québec City’s old town. A free walking tour can teach about the significance of this historic city, though don’t forget to tip. While in Vieux Québec, don’t miss Rue de Trésor, where you can gawk at local artists’ work.
Outside Vieux Québec, the city has plenty of gorgeous parks that won’t cost you anything. There’s Parc des Champs-de-Bataille which includes the Plaines d’Abraham, where a bloody battle in 1759 forged the linguistic identity of Canada as we know it today. Other great parks include Parc Chauveau, a 120-hectare wilderness within the city limits, and Domaine de Maizerets, a park with an arboretum and butterfly house.
In a city with as much history as Québec City, it’d be a shame to miss out on learning how this Unesco recognized fortress came to be. Fortunately, there are deals to be found at several museums that tell the history of French Canada and that of the Indigenous peoples who’ve inhabited this land for centuries.
Many of the city’s museums are free on the first Sunday of every month, and others aren’t too expensive. Musée du Fort, which has a huge model of how the city looked in 1750, costs $9 for adults, while Musée du Civilization, one of the most popular museums in Canada, costs $15 for visitors aged 18 to 34.
Eat local specialties
Walking around Vieux Québec and looking at menu prices can be intimidating, but you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to eat Québec’s prized cuisine. Go to Paillard and grab a croissant or pick up a baguette from any bakery (they’re all good) and some local cheese, sausages and wine for a picnic. Then, take your food and a blanket up to the Pierre-Dugua-de-Mons terrace, which has probably the best view over the city.
Of course, you can’t leave Québec without getting poutine, which shouldn’t cost you too much. Casse Croûte Chez Gaston is a local favorite, but Chez Ashton — Québec City’s version of McDonald’s — will do anytime (it’s 24 hours).
Another great strategy for eating on a budget in Québec City is to look for lunch prix fixe specials. Le Lapin Sauté, one of the city’s best restaurants, does one.
Drink with the locals
Again, get out of the old town to find lower prices and head to local neighborhoods like Saint-Roch or Saint-Jean-Baptiste for a wander, a meal and a drink. Some great options include Nina Pizza, Le Bureau de Poste and Noctem Brasserie or L’Anti for a night out.
Avoid peak season
In the summer, Québec City’s old town is teeming with visitors snapping photos of everything in sight. Aside from general busyness, peak season can also lead to higher prices, especially for accommodation. Instead, go to Québec City in the winter. Fluffy white snow all over the place is majestic, and the cold isn’t so bad when you’re warming up with a hot cup of chocolat chaud or Caribou — a red wine drink mixed with whisky and maple syrup.
If you go during summer or shoulder seasons, you can still get a taste of Québec winter by skating on a 2,460-foot skating rink in the Méga Parc mall for $6 or $11 with skates rental.
Bookworm around town
Quebeckers love their books, and the capital city does a great job celebrating literature. You can visit a Victorian library with 20,000 English-language books at the Morrin Center — all for free. Maison de la Littérature, housed in a Methodist church built in 1848, is also free to peruse.
Take public transport
Québec City is not a car city, and you’ll save yourself plenty of headaches if you don’t drive around its tiny streets and across its busy bridges. So take a bus to get around. A single ride is $3.50, or a day pass will cost you less than $9. Québec City also has an e-bike-sharing program, àVélo, which gives you a boost when you pedal, so ride around one of the city’s many trails, including bike paths along Boulevard Champlain and the St-Charles River.
Speaking of the river, ferries across to the town of Lévis are like a mini-cruise perfect for photos of the walled city and cost just $3.85 each way.
Another fun way to get around is via Québec City’s funicular (fun is right there in the name!) that takes you down from Dufferin Terrace to the Old Port for $4 per ride.
In the summer, Québec City’s residents flock to the Baie de Beauport — a beautiful sandy beach with plenty to do, from sailboat rentals to volleyball. Another beach at Parc de la Plage Jacques Cartier isn’t as sandy, but it’s perfect for a meander and photos of the Pierre Laporte Bridge. Or, if you just want to submerge your feet, you can hang out at Festibière, a bar with Adirondack chairs on top of a shallow pool.
Go to a festival
Going to a music festival might sound like the opposite of an affordable activity, but taxpayer dollars in Québec help fund the arts, which keeps prices down. For instance, though it’s sold out this year, Festival d’Été lasts 12 days, and hosts top international artists like Rage Against The Machine, Maroon 5, Luke Combs and Halsey — all for $130 total. Or Quebec’s Magic Festival in May has 500 hours of free shows over 7 days and continues to host events through the summer.
Daily costs (in CDN)
- Hostel room: $10–$50 (dorm bed)
- Basic hotel room for two: from $130
- Self-catering apartment (including Airbnb): from $90
- Public transport ticket: $3.50 for 1 ride, $ 8.85 for a day pass, $16 for a weekend pass, $31 for 5 days
- Coffee: $3–5
- Poutine: $6–20
- Dinner for two: $40–100
- Beer/pint at the bar: $8–10