It’s hard not to eat yourself silly in Quebec City. Luckily, there are lots of appealing ways to burn off the poutine and crepes (or at least the first few bites).
In the summer especially, the city feels like one big park. And biking and walking are the best ways to explore this outdoor wonderland. Here are a few highlights of my moveable feast.
> On Two Wheels:
Quebec City is ideally suited for biking. Even though the Lower and Upper Towns are separated by a cliff, once you get down by the river and outside the city, it’s smooth sailing.
Don’t want to bring your own wheels? I’d recommend renting at Cyclo Services, conveniently located across from the Marché du Vieux-Port farmers market. Owner Jean-Marc offered up a hearty helping of trademark Quebecois hospitality and tips about the day’s wind forecast (important to know when you’re riding against it!) before sending me on my way. (The company also offers guided tours of the city.)
I spent one lovely morning riding along this modernized route, gifted to the city by the government in 2008. It’s extremely safe; there was not one minute—from renting my bike at Cyclo Services to the end of the promenade and back—that I was not on a bike path.
The section of the route that runs along the St. Lawrence, unsurprisingly, affords beautiful views of the water. You’ll spot a train of eight steel steeds, crafted by Canadian sculptor Joe Fafard, that pay tribute to the prized Canadian horses.
The path currently ends just before two bridges, Pont de Quebec and Pont Pierre-Laporte, at a park called Station des Cageux (though the city is working to extend it). Burn some added calories before heading back by climbing the park’s observation tower, then reward yourself with a trip to Panache outpost Café de la Promenade, for a snack and a break.
This relatively easy ride, accessed first by crossing the Saint-Charles, the river that cuts across Quebec City, allows you to combine exercise with sightseeing at one of the city’s must-sees—Montmorency Falls.
While this route offers pretty viewpoints and quality stopovers, much of it runs along the highway that leads to the falls. If you’re looking for a purely scenic ride, I’d try one of the other options.
This is a great option if you have limited time, as it’s the closest to the Old Port, and you can turn around at any time.
Many locals I met described the route as the city’s prettiest ride. To be sure, there are marvelous views of the river to be had here—but since many pedestrians are enjoying the space as well, you may not be able to zip along as fast as you’d like to.
> On Two Legs:
Outside the old city walls and tourist center, Quebec City has many great neighborhoods to walk in.
Rue St-Jean starts near the main tourist center. But if you keep walking away from Old Town, you’ll soon come upon one of the most fun neighborhoods to explore: Quartier Saint-John.
The first stop here should be blast-from-the-past grocery store J.A. Moisan. Next, head toward Érico, a chocolate shop beloved by locals that boasts a small (and free) museum. I especially enjoyed the collection of “chocolate pots” (as opposed to tea pots).
These two neighborhoods are very popular places to live. Start in Saint Roch, where the main street is rue Saint-Joseph. Some of the biggest gems here are the Le Knock-Out vintage record shop, Maison Camélia Sinensis, a tea house that also offers fun workshops (“The Discovery of Tea,” for one), and funky thrift store Si les Objets Pouvaient Parler. If you work up an appetite doing all that shopping, try Le Renard et la Chouette or Le Clocher Penché Bistrot for lunch.
In the Limoilou district, First and Third Avenues are the best streets to explore. Don’t miss neighborhood highlights gourmet grocery store La Réserve, Article 721 for beautifully designed home goods, and Fun en Bouche, a choice spot that serves brunch seven days a week.
This year’s Staircase Challenge has already passed, but you can always recreate it on your own by climbing the city’s nearly 30 sets of steps connecting Upper Town to Lower Town, some dating back to the 19th century.
After tackling more than 3,000 individual stairs, you won’t feel at all bad about resuming the feast!