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Where to eat, drink and explore in Quebec

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The birthplace of French North America, Quebec City is known for its 18th and 19th century buildings and cobblestone streets, as well as the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, which sits atop Cap Diamant and watches over the city and the St. Lawrence River.

I fell in love with this place nine years ago when I took a whirlwind guided tour of historic Old Quebec and nearby Île d’Orléans – and decided to make this laid-back city my home forever.

With the ambiance of a large village, Quebec City has a vibrant food scene, a zest for arts and culture, and popular annual events, including the Festival d’été de Québec, the outdoor music festival of the summer. So whether you’re looking for a lively weekend or a relaxing getaway, the city has something to offer. Here are five places I recommend in my current hometown.

For the culinary experience: BO Asian Cuisine (954 rue Saint-Jean)

This elegant restaurant opened last year within the Diamant, the theater for the performing arts, and the decor is dramatic enough: white veils billow around the ceiling, contrasting with the brushed gold bar, the navy blue walls and the velvet seats, intended to create a wave of calm inspired by the monsoon regions of Asia. The oriental concept carries over to the menu, which includes popular dishes like kou rou (pork belly served on mashed carrots) and kaoya (peking duck on a Chinese crepe with grilled camelina vegetables). Reservations recommended.

For chic cocktails: Alphonse Kitchen & Cocktails (19 rue des Jardins)

The recently opened Alphonse is a trendy place to eat and drink in the upper town of Old Quebec.

Formerly the Desjardins bank, this recently opened restaurant, with its floor-to-ceiling windows and contemporary decor, has become a trendy place to eat and drink in the upper town of Old Quebec. Menu favorites include the roasted pepper and onion burrata, and the roasted Brussels sprout Caesar salad. Cocktails are highly recommended, especially La Nouvelle-France, made with gin, Labrador tea syrup, lime and sparkling wine. In the summer, the dining room and outdoor terrace fill up quickly, so book ahead.

For a meditative experience: The Augustinian Monastery (77 rue des Remparts)

The entrance to the Augustinian Monastery, now a wellness retreat, boutique hotel and museum.

Founded by the Augustinian nuns upon their arrival in 1639, this monastery is an integral part of the history of Quebec. The Augustinians established the first hospitals in the province, and the records you will find here trace the evolution of health care since those early days. Beyond the museum, Le Monastère today also includes a wellness retreat, a health-conscious restaurant, and a 60-room boutique hotel. Stay the night (and enjoy a silent breakfast in the restaurant) or purchase a day pass for a wellness class, meal, and guided tour of the museum.

For a taste of Quebec terroir: JA Moisan (685 Saint-Jean Street)

A local institution, JA Moisan is one of the oldest grocery stores in Canada, having opened its doors in 1871. Although this grocery store was renovated during the pandemic, it retains its historic Victorian charm. Slip into the navy blue button-back banquette with coffee and croissant, or shop for local Quebec produce, ready meals, cheeses and pastries to enjoy at a nearby park. A cooler offers more than 200 Quebec beers and ciders and at the back, a wine cellar with bottles from here and elsewhere.

For the nearby countryside: Ile d’Orleans

A 15-minute drive from Old Quebec, Œle d'Orléans is home to vineyards, farms and artisans.

About a 15-minute drive from Old Quebec, Île d’Orléans is a popular choice for a day trip. The six villages are best explored by car or bicycle; you can rent these, as well as scooters, right on the 34 kilometer long island. Spend the day touring wineries, stop at Chocolaterie de l’Île d’Orléans for chocolate covered ice cream and find the best lobster rolls at a little food shack called Chez Mag, or unforgettable fries and burgers with duck fat at La Roulotte du Coin. Pop by Cassis Monna & Filles for blackcurrant liqueur (or the estate’s restaurant), or the Espace Félix-Leclerc museum for a glimpse into the life of the famous Quebec folk musician. This island is mainly a summer destination, with businesses generally open from May to October, but the Microbrasserie de l’Île d’Orléans operates year-round.

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