Quebec City isn’t just for seniors

If someone from the east coast of the United States tells me they are headed to Canada, their age is usually a good rule of thumb for determining where to go. Millennials and Gen Z? Montreal. Anyone older? Probably Quebec City. While the largest city in the province of Quebec is famous for its arts, restaurant scene, nightlife, and even being a little naughty, the provincial capital has a quieter reputation.

It’s not just the Americans, however. Quebec City is only a couple of hours from my home in Montreal and I can’t remember the last time, if ever, a friend went there for a weekend. My memories come from a mandatory school trip to see a historical reenactment in the Plains of Abraham, the battlefield where the French lost a great battle in the Seven Years War. The city is more the place where your aunt and uncle go to visit Frontenac Castle, take bad pictures of the old town and visit Montmorency Falls.

That’s why when Auberge Saint-Antoine extended the invitation to experience the hotel and the city, it felt right to give this beautiful Montreal city sometimes to look down on another chance. Should Quebec City be a weekend for Generation Z and young millennials? That’s what I was hoping to find out.

In my quest to prove myself ignorant, I dragged my best friend from Montreal who works at Ssense with me, which is to say she is chic and trendy and always on top of where to eat, shop and hang out. Less than three hours later we drove to Auberge Saint-Antoine and immediately sat down in one of the turquoise velvet chairs in her lobby bar, Artefact.

To get us in the mood for the start of our busy 48 hours, we both ordered cocktails. The mizzle swizzle, an elegant, yellow-green-looking drink from their signature menu, is what my friend ordered. I took a sip because I couldn’t resist and it was a bit fruity from the melon but well balanced with the herbaceous taste of the chartreuse and the smoky mezcal. I remained faithful to the classic: “A cosmos for me”.

Courtesy of Auberge Saint-Antoine

The hotel is located in Old Quebec, near the harbor, with cobbled streets and historic monuments overlooking the St. Lawrence River. Most of the things we did were less than a 20 minute walk from the hotel which makes it super convenient. (Keep in mind that if you will walk, the city is divided into what they call the Upper Town and the Lower Town, making some of the routes a little steeper than others.)

We decided to start our visit with some vintage shopping, as TikTok’s favorite hobby is a great way to get to know a city. We left the hotel and headed to the neighborhood called Saint-Roch. Known for being one of the trendiest areas with many boutiques, bars and restaurants, we ended up spending a lot of our time here. The first shop we tried is called Friperie Kappara, a boutique that also has a branch in Montréal, so we were thrilled to try it out. Although this position is smaller, the same eye-catching pieces can be found. Current favorites like 2000s fashion and colorful ensembles dictate the selections at this boutique. The next one we tried is called Friperie Babelou, which includes two different boutiques within a couple of buildings from each other. The first one we stopped at is more curated and focuses on specific period pieces. The very well dressed employee welcomed us as if it were her private archive clothing collection, showing us the new arrivals and providing an intimate description of all her favorite pieces in the boutique. It was almost as if she once wore them herself, although she was clearly born much later than most clothing. The other shop was less personal but much larger and had a selection that went with its size but required a little more research. We left Friperie Babelou with a 70s dress jacket for me and a gorgeous vintage silk dress for my friend that she wore that same night to go out. Finally, the last one we stopped at is called Boutique Lucia F. The boutique’s one-of-a-kind vintage pieces looked like an episode of Mad Men. There were also colorful 60s dresses and eclectic 80s jumpsuits.

Cobblestone streets of Quebec City.

Francesco Fontaine

After this we decided to take a look at the Café Saint-Henri, a café-shop not too far from the area we were in. It is located in the corner space of an industrial building where half of the walls are glazed which soak the space in natural light. With the curvy light wood counter, sage green glasses and hipster barista, this place was the epitome of a trendy coffee shop, which seemed fitting. After our coffee we went home to shower and change and went back to the same neighborhood for dinner.

With rough concrete walls, soft lighting, and friendly waiters, you know Izakaya Honō is the place to be as soon as you walk in. The popular restaurant is built around sharing, sharing food, sharing a table, sharing a conversation, all small but cozy tables perfect for the Japanese dish menu to share. The best part of the service here besides the aesthetics of the staff was the pace at which the dishes arrived. It’s not an exact science, but each round it felt like we had space and time to eat and talk, but we were never left in the lurch in waiting.

The historic Chateau Frontenac in the old town of Quebec City.

Getty Images

A college friend living in the city, determined to show us the fun side of Quebec, invited us out. We met him at Le Drague Cabaret Club, where we ended the evening. This is the main gay club in the city and is spread over several floors. That night the club offered a drag queen show, multiple bars, and a two-level dance floor. This place was full and with so many different types of people. And I have to admit that what they say about people in Quebec City is true, they are much friendlier.

Given the late night, our next morning started late so we decided to order breakfast in the room. Wrapped in robes, we sat on the private terrace overlooking the St. Lawrence River and talked about all the fun we had the night before and all the things we didn’t necessarily want to remember from the night before.

Chambre Luxe Terrace Room at Auberge Saint-Antoine.

Francesco Fontaine

Finally, after recovering, we decided to visit Orlean Island, which can be reached in less than 20 minutes from Quebec City. This island is filled with small farms, lavender fields and vineyards and it seemed like the perfect and discreet way to cure a hangover. After passing one scenic field after another, we stopped at La Midinette, a bakery located in a historic mansion with restored, social media-friendly interiors. Famous for their pizza, we grabbed a couple of slices, some coffee and a takeaway croissant as just across the street is a rocky beach which is the perfect picnic spot.

After returning to our temporary home and getting changed, we started our evening with a speakeasy called JJacques. Of all that we have experienced, this place was probably my favorite and reason enough to return for a weekend in the future. The scene is set from the entrance, as you enter through a random door in the back alley of a main road. Inside, the space reminds me of a very intimate bar you might find in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. Dark brown dimly lit curtains on every wall, unpretentious people and even nicer drinks.

After a few drinks we went to our reservation at Bistro L’Orygine where we had a five course meal with wine pairing. The menu is mainly based on local products and they also offer the tasting menu with vegan and non-alcoholic wine. The menu changes according to the season and the products available. After eating too much, we returned to our hotel for a not so early curfew as we were exhausted.

A little vintage shopping, picnicking on a farm and going out are not really groundbreaking ideas, but they are certainly more appealing to me and my friends than historical reenactments or tourist trap bistros or walking tours of preserved historic centers. . And while I’m sure I’ll enjoy these things someday, for now I’m happy to know that I can enjoy Quebec City in my own way.

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