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Canada: Destination Guides

The ultimate student guide to Québec City

Québec City’s old city walls, stone buildings and palace-like hotels sit on top of the cliffs overlooking the St. Lawrence River, offering a magical combination of old and new.

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Québec City is a place unlike any other in North America. As the only walled city on the continent, it offers visitors and residents an incredible insight into French-Canadian history and a great quality of life. This compact city is ideal for walking around due to its endless cobbled streets and hundreds of stone buildings in a historic European style, which together forms the UNESCO World Heritage Old Town. From royal plazas to quiet back-alley bistros, Québec City is a Canadian gem that preserves its colonial heritage and combines it with modern, lively urban living.


The quality of dining, drinking and entertainment in Québec City is equal to its architecture and history. The surrounding regions provide a constant stream of high-quality produce that is transformed across the city’s many restaurants and cafes. In the summer, you’ll be able to spend your evening on a bistro terrace while music, acting and other performances flow through the streets and town squares.


The city is primarily French-speaking, though many residents are bilingual. This strong French-Canadian culture is at the heart of this city’s vibrant culture, but also means that most university courses in this city are delivered in French.


When you aren’t busy enjoying the city and its surrounding regions, you’ll be taking classes or conducting research at a selection of world-class universities. With hundreds of degrees to choose from and an international airport linking it to the rest of Canada and the wider world, Québec City is an excellent option for international students.


What is Québec City like?


Location and demographics

Québec City is the capital of its home province, Québec (sometimes referred to as French Québec). It’s found along the Saint Lawrence River that stretches from the Atlantic Ocean for over a hundred kilometres before narrowing and passing through Québec City. 


Sat on top of a range of imposing cliffs, it has always been an important place for trade and cultural exchange. Today the city’s eight million residents represent a range of communities from diverse backgrounds while continually attracting new residents from around the world.


Culture and history 

The area in which Québec City now stands had been the home of Iroquoian tribes for many years. French settlers arrived in 1608 and established one of the earliest European settlements on the continent. It thrived as a centre for wood and fur industries, before being taken by the British in 1763.


In 1867 Québec City became a part of modern Canada. Despite these changes, the strong French culture that the city began with continued to thrive. Today French is the official language of Québec, but many residents also speak English along with various other languages.


Find out why Canada is such a popular destination for international students


Which universities are in Québec City?


Students choosing Québec City for their studies will be able to enjoy the city’s combination of UNESCO World Heritage architecture, rich history, and prestigious universities. The language of instruction at universities in Québec is mainly French, so you’ll want to check the language of your chosen course before applying.


Laval University (Université Laval) is ranked in the top 500 universities in the world according to the QS World University Rankings 2023It’s a research-focused institution that prides itself on offering a creative and innovative approach to higher education, supported by high-quality teaching and facilities.


The University of Québec (Université du Québec) is rated within the top 600 universities globally according to the QS World University Rankings 2023. It welcomes over 4,000 students from nearly 100 different countries worldwide. The university’s researchers are well-respected, and it’s the highest-rated university in Québec province for research funding (Research Infosource 2021).


Québec City is also home to the National Institute of Scientific Research, as well as the National School of Public Administration. These institutions offer high-quality university-level degrees and other training options. 


Discover more universities in Canada.


What does Québec City offer international students?


What transport is available? 

You’ll find Québec City a great town to travel around on foot, with the old town’s cobbled streets and funiculars providing a magical environment to explore. The city is also served by several trains and buses that connect to two train stations and two bus terminals. This central transport network means that you’ll always be able to get into the centre quickly.


What’s the entertainment and food like?

Québec City leans into its historic roots, and during your downtime, you’ll be able to find many restaurants and bistros serving classic French-Canadian cuisine. The city is surrounded by rich agricultural regions like Côte de Beaupré and Île d’Orléans, which you can explore through a restaurant menu or in person during a weekend break.


Galleries and museums like the Museum of French America and Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec add more to the entertainment and cultural options available, allowing you to dive into the heart of the region’s history and culture. The city is also home to a wide range of shops, boutiques and cafes hidden around every corner.


Discover the top five things to do in Canada


What about accommodation in Québec City?

As a student in Québec City, you’ll be able to select from accommodation options that range from university-led, self-catering student residences to private accommodation blocks and serviced apartments in the city centre, as well as individually rented accommodation. Your university in Québec City will be able to provide additional support to help you find a suitable place to live.


If you need financial aid, why not review the top scholarships in Canada?


How much does it cost to live in Québec City?


General cost of the city

Québec City is a strong contender for the position of the cheapest major city to live in across Canada. It’s cheaper than Montreal, the other major city in Québec, and significantly cheaper than places like Vancouver or Toronto. You’ll be able to take your student budget far in Québec City.


Discover more about the cost of living in Canada


Student budget

As a single international student living in Québec City, you might typically spend an average of CAD 250 and CAD 600 per week. This includes rent, utilities, food, transportation, and other living costs. Your budget will vary depending on your living arrangements, lifestyle, activities, and where in Québec City you decide to live.


Find out what tuition fees in Canada cost


Financial requirements

The Government of Canada asks international students to demonstrate that they can access a minimum of CAD 10,000 per year before starting their studies in Canada. This is equivalent to CAD 833 per month.


Explore how to find a graduate career in Canada and the top five graduate jobs


What are the main attractions in Québec City?


Québec City has attractions unlike anything else you can find across North America, and the city has an international reputation for its fairy tale atmosphere and historic treasures. Self-guided or professional walking tours allow you to see the best of Québec’s Old Town buildings. For example, the Hotel du Parlement houses the provincial government, and the world-famous luxury hotel Le Chateau Frontenac, and La Citadelle (the biggest fort in North America). 


Québec City has no shortage of sights, and beyond the epic architecture, you’ll also find quaint boulevards and squares, like Terrasse Dufferin, where you can spend a day wandering among shops, cafes, and boutiques.


Out of the city, the province of Québec is home to several excellent national parks like Parc National de la Jacques-Cartier and the Saguenay St. Lawrence Marine Park. These magical landscapes offer activities including whale watching, forest and river hiking trails and epic mountain skylines, some of which are just 30 minutes from the city.


Québec City is the beating heart of French-Canadian culture and offers visitors a window into an old European past while having a modern approach to commerce, culture, and cuisine. Students looking for French-inspired culture, or French language university courses, in North America, won’t need to look any further. Explore more study options in Canada with our course matcher tool

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