Although the Old City, defined as the area within the fortifications, can be crowded and feel touristy, the place still has an allure. Postcard-pretty with narrow, cobblestone streets lined with centuries-old buildings brightened by flowerboxes, the Old City divides into an Upper Town (Haute-Ville), situated atop the Cape Diamond (Cap Diamant) cliffs and a Lower Town (Basse-Ville), strung along the waterfront.
In the Upper Town stroll the Terrasse Dufferin, a wooden boardwalk behind the castle-like Chateau Frontenac. Overlooking the St. Lawrence River, the terrace attracts guitar-players, jugglers, dancers and other street performers. Nearby at the Place d’Armes, a small park, step into an open carriage for a horse-drawn ride around the old city, a particularly pleasing treat for young kids.
To reach the oldest section of the historic area, the Lower Town, ride the funicular, an enclosed car that descends at a 45-degree angle or walk the Breakneck stairs (casse-cou), called that for their long-ago loose stones. The Royal Square (Place-Royale) features centuries-old stone buildings that rate amongst Vieux-Quebec’s most appealing. At the Place-Royale Interpretation Centre (Centre d’interpretation de Place-Royale) learn about Champlain an early Quebec via a 3D film.