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There is nothing like a European vacation. Open air cafes, lavish food options, and oh—the people watching! Of course, reality doesn’t always meet expectations, particularly when it comes down to the stress of finding time, access or money all at once. Since it’s not always feasible to jet off every time you’d like to (how many visits to Paris a year are too many visits?), might we suggest Quebec City as a wallet-friendly alternative? Between its cobblestone streets, impressive architecture, and shop signs not written in English (time to flex your high school French), it’s got all the signifiers of the elsewhere you’re craving. And thanks to a generally low cost of living, you won’t break the bank to get your fix. Read on for more reasons to explore the Great White North’s most stylish capital (and of the world’s safest cities). Bon voyage!

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Carb out on the “national dish”

Quebec is so riddled with shops offering poutine, it’s shocking to know that the French fry/cheese curds/gravy combo wasn’t popularized until the 1950s. You’ll find plenty of restaurants offering high-end versions and pricy add-ons, but why deviate from the dish’s greasy spoon roots? Snack Bar St-Jean, open from 11am-4am, offers 13 different kinds of poutine in three different sizes—making anytime right for carb o’ clock.

Put your walking shoes on

Quebec is a walking city, which is handy because it means some of the best experiences come for free. If your sweet tooth is acting up, start by grabbing an ice cream on the Place Royale. Then window shop for antiques along Rue Saint-Paul, and embellish your Instagram with a snap of the huge optical illusion street art, “Fresque des Québécois.” Still have rubber left on the bottoms of your Keds? Check here for additional (free) strolling inspo.

Become a bookworm

The only English-language library in the city is located in the newly open Morrin Centre. Even if you’re not in the market for some vacation reading material (sorry—only locals have checking out privileges) it’s worth seeing the building. Architecture and history buffs will appreciate the regularly-scheduled tours of the former jail-turned-bibliophile-paradise. And everyone will enjoy the overall Beauty and the Beast-style grandeur.

Embrace your inner nature boy (or girl)

Feel the need for green? (Not the smoke kind—although it is legal here.) Parc de la Chute-Montmorency, located 7 miles outside the city, is where Quebec keeps its natural wonders, including the truly stunning Montmorency Falls. View this wondrous water display from the stairs and bridge alongside it, or stay high and dry while getting the best seat in the house via the aerial tram.

Shop local

Who needs plastic keychains and magnets? We all know they’re bad for the environment and straight-up overpriced. Instead of schlepping home a questionably designed piece of official tourist merch, consider making a stop at Métiers d’Art du Quebec, where local artists sell their work directly to the public. Spending money on something you know you’re going to use (or eat), and directly benefiting the livelihood of a local artist? Now that’s a travel memory worth making.

Soak your cares away

Fact: Sometimes in order to really disconnect while traveling you need to put down your phone. And goodness knows you can’t take your phone in a sauna or hot tub. To that end, be sure to pay a visit to the nature-embracing Spa des Nieges. They’ve got discount deals every day of the week (including Wednesday when ladies are half off, Thursdays when students are 2 for 1, and free access on your birthday.) So you really don’t have a reason not to turn yourself into a zenned out prune.

Experience the festival free-for-all

The Quebecois festival like it’s a verb. There are cultural celebrations happening every month—so chances are you’ll find something to do, usually at a free or extremely reasonable price. Local favorites include pop fest Festival d’été de Québec in July, Québec Gourmet Table in November, and Québec Winter Carnival in February.

Cheers…we mean “à votre santé”

Start at Saint-Jean and Grande-Allée in the Upper Town. Point your feet in a direction of your choosing and start walking. Stop when you’ve hit a bar that’s to your liking, or with drink specials to your wallet’s liking. This is Canada, home of expert drinkers. You’ve got this. Don’t overthink it.

Sleep luxuriously

Sure you could take the cheapest route and go hostel (if that’s the case, Auberge Internationale de Québec, Auberge de la Paix and Auberge Maison Roy will treat you right). But if you’re looking for something a bit more private, Québec City is a great place to find boutique hotels at chain prices. For privacy and location, try Auberge Saint-Pierre, a 38-room establishment in Quebec’s Old Quebec neighborhood and within walking distance to most major sites. Particularly great if oversized showers and tubs, exposed brick walls, on-site spas, and down comforters are on your list of sexy vacation musts—even if you’re just trying to impress yourself.

Tagged: Cheap City, USA, Cheap Tips, City, Destinations, Types of Travel

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