What to Do in Quebec City’s Quartier Petit Champlain

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Posted October 30, 2017

Quartier Petit Champlain is an unmissable quarter of the city, with cobbled streets, stone facades, and baskets teeming with flowers marking local shops and bistros.

Quartier Petit Champlain is an unmissable quarter of the city—in 2014 Rue de Petit-Champlain was named the best street in Canada. With cobbled streets, stone facades, and baskets teeming with flowers marking local shops and bistros, you'll feel like you're stepping back in time. After all, this is the oldest commercial neighborhood in North America. You'll mostly find independent and one-of-a-kind establishments lining the narrow streets. And there's also an element of artistry, since 45 of the stores and restaurants belong to a local cooperative of artisans. The winter months are equally inviting, as more that 15,000 light bulbs zigzag between buildings, lighting the streetscape. And if you're feeling adventurous, make sure to climb all 59 of the Breakneck stairs, first built in 1635. Below, a starting off point on what to see and do during a visit to the neighborhood.

Escalier Casse-Cou

Several stairways connect the Upper and Lower Towns, but the Escalier Casse-Cou is probably the most well known. Linking Côte de la Montagne to the picturesque Petit Champlain, it earned its name — “breakneck stairs” — because of its steepness (which isn’t as scary as it sounds). It’s a must-do for tourists, but even locals succumb to the romantic viewpoint it provides over the cliff, the historical buildings and the cobblestone streets of the Old Port.

Lapin Saute

As the name suggests, rabbit is the focus at this local gem of a restaurant. Lapin Saute has 32 seats and is popular year-round: in the summer, they open up their outdoor terrace and add 20 additional seats, and in the winter, they turn on the roaring fireplace. The décor is casual and welcoming and the menu features local ingredients and produce wherever possible. Try the simple yet celebrated rabbit poutine, with Perrod cheddar and a two-mustard sauce, or order their signature cassoulet, made with confit duck leg, braised rabbit, duck sausage, and braised bacon.

Maison Smith Cafe

The elegant stone building that houses Maison Smith Cafe fits in seamlessly with its surroundings, a few steps from the Church or Our Lady of Victories (the city's oldest church, which dates back to 1688). The interior is light-filled, with welcoming chalkboard menus and ample seating room both inside and out. Wherever possible, the cafe uses local ingredients in their cakes and baked goods. Maison Smith is known for its hot chocolate and specialty coffees, which are all served in mason jar mugs. There's also a range of sandwiches and free Wi-Fi, for those looking to get some work done. In the summer, there are often long lines for the ice cream and gelato, which includes unusual flavors like almond brittle and brambleberry crisp.

Metiers D’art du Quebec

There's always been a focus on craft and artisans in the province of Quebec, and Metiers D'art helps to maintain that. For those seeking a tactile experience, there is a standalone shop that showcases the nearly 1,000 professional artists and artisans under their umbrella. And since 1980, the shop has hosted the tented Plein Air festival, a vibrant market space in the Old Port that runs for two weeks in August. It's free of charge, and more than 100 talented exhibitors come to show off and sell their glass, metal, textile, paper, and ceramic works. You'll find every possible souvenir here, from jewelry to home goods.

Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac

Fairmont's Le Chateau Frontenac is such a Quebec landmark that the hotel runs tours for those who aren't staying there. After a grand refurbishment at the end of 2014, the décor in the 611 rooms has been updated with modern amenities like in-room climate control and movies and video games, but the aesthetic remains classic and regal. This is, after all, a hotel that was visited by Sir Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt in the 1940s. The views of the St. Lawrence River and the UNESCO World Heritage Site city are paramount. Chateau du Spa is the best in the area; top treatments include the lemon granita full-body exfoliation followed by a shea butter body wrap. Restaurants on-site range from a farm-to-table buffet and 1608 Wine and Cheese Bar to the top-tier Champlain Restaurant. Whenever possible, herbs and vegetables come from the hotel's rooftop garden. One must-order at Champlain: the old rum foie gras with peach compote and oyster mushroom chips.

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