Image: The Chateau Frontenac
Mathieu Belanger  /  Reuters file
The Fairmont Chateau Frontenac stands high on a bluff overlooking the St. Lawrence River in the heart of Old Quebec. Quebec City will celebrate its 400th anniversary of foundation in 2008.
By
Special to msnbc.com
updated 6/4/2007 12:42:43 PM ET 2007-06-04T16:42:43

Honeymooner alert: if Paris is too pricey for you, Maui too sandy and Niagara Falls too kitschy, choose Quebec City. With the castle-like Chateau Frontenac looming up over the skyline, horses and carriages clip clopping down the cobble-stoned streets, and sweet sidewalk cafes seemingly on every corner (perfect for canoodling over a carafe of red wine), there are few places in the world as gosh darn romantic. Really. Even a short 24 hours here is sure to set your heart a-flutterin’.

8:30 a.m. - 9:30 a.m.: Grab a quickie breakfast crepe at Le Casse-Crepe Breton , stuffed with eggs, sausage and whatever else your vacationing stomach craves (heck, you could even start the day out with a nutella crepe; at this 18-hour-a-day eatery, very few orders raise an eyebrow).

9:30 - noon: Dragons, 17th century printmaking, the cartoon character Tintin’s take on Peru, the peoples of Quebec, Audubon’s birds—head to Quebec’s quirky, innovative Musee de la Civilisation to immerse yourself in these and other wide-ranging topics.

Morning Alternative
Wait for the Americans to invade at The Citadel . Built by the Duke of Wellington after the War of 1812, it’s stood ready and happily untested all these years, occupied by the 22nd regiment, the only French speaking unit in the Canadian army. Get there before 10 a.m. if you’re visiting in summer, to witness the impressive changing of the guard ceremony. Afterwards, walk over to the Parc de l'Artillerie , where costumed guides will lead you around the officer’s quarters, mess and a foundry. If you still have time to kill before lunch, make your way to the café- and shop-lined Rue St. Jean.

Noon - 1:30 p.m.: Order up a steaming bowl of moules (mussels), perhaps a slab of pate or a steak frites, and a half carafe of red wine at the picture-perfect bistro, Le Cafe du Monde . Only the view through the huge plate glass windows will betray the fact that you’re not actually enjoying this meal on the Left Bank of Paris.

1:30 - 6 p.m.: Stroll the oldest street in North America (well, at least that’s what the Québécoise claim), the Rue du Petit-Champlain, turning off when you’re near the Verrerie Mailloloche for properly old-timey glass blowing demonstrations. Double back to explore the Maison Chevalier , a historic house built in 1752; today it houses a small museum. Other important 17th, 18th and 19th century bas ville (lower city) plazas and buildings that you’ll want to hit include: the Royal Battery, the Place Royal, the Eglise Notre Dame de Victiores, the Maison Lambert Dumont and the Old Port (with its well done interpretation center).

Afternoon Alternative
Get active—how you do it will depend upon the season. In winter, a toboggan run is created down the stairs at the Terasse Dufferin. Or try Dog Sledding on a half-day expedition from Adventures Nord du Bec ; its base of operations is only about half an hour from the city. If you’re visiting in the warmer months, head to Parc de la Jacques Cartier , for spectacularly scenic canoeing, fishing or hiking.

7 p.m. - 9 p.m.: Try to reserve a kitchen-view table, so that you can watch chef Daniel Vezina whip up the innovative, fusion cuisine that’s become his signature at restaurant Laurie Raphael . Using classic French cooking techniques, he marries many of the hearty ingredients of French Canada—caribou, venison, maple syrup and the like—to lighter, healthier sauces and vegetables, often from the Asian palette. A true foodie experience.

9 p.m.  - on … Ramp up the evening slowly. Start with a serene moonlit amble on the Terrasse Dufferin; the view of the river and the lower town are sumptuous here, even at night. Stop into the Chateau Frontenac to explore its famous lobby and down a drink at its clubby bar. Then head to the bustling Grand-Allee or take in the slightly less party-hearty scene on the Rue St. Jean; both venues offer live music, convivial pubs, and opportunities for dancing.

Pauline Frommer is the creator of the new Pauline Frommerguides in bookstores now. Her book, Pauline Frommer's New York, was named Best Guidebook of the Year by the North American Travel Journalists Association.

Le Casse-Crepe Breton, 1136 rue St. Jean, phone 418/692-0438.

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Musee de la Civilisation, 85 rue Dalhousie at rue St-Antoine, phone 418/643-2158; www.mcq.org/. Opendaily 9:30 a.m. - 6:30 p.m. from late June to early September, 10 a.m -5 p.m. the rest of the year. Admission $8 (U.S. $6.40) adults, $7 (U.S. $5.60) 65 and over, $5 (U.S. $4) students over 16, $3 (U.S. $2.40) children 12-16, free for children under 12. Tuesdays are free to all between June 1 and October 31.

La Citadelle, 1 Cote de la Citadelle, enter off rue St-Louis, phone 418/694-2815;  www.lacitadelle.qc.ca/.  Guided 55-min. tours are available daily and occur on the hour. The Citadel is open between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. in April and September, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in May and June, 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. July to the end of August and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in October. From November until the end of February it’s only open to groups with advance reservations.  Admission $8 (U.S. $6.40) adults, $7 (U.S. $5.60) seniors and students over 17, $4.50 (U.S. $3.60) children 7-17, free for persons with disabilities and children under 7

Parc de l'Artillerie, 2 rue d'Auteuil near Porte St-Jean, phone 418/648-4205;  www.parcscanada.gc.ca/artillerie.Open from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.from May through mid-October, the rest of the year hours vary (call in advance). Admission $4 (U.S. $3.20) adults, $3.50 (U.S. $2.80) seniors and students 17 and over.

Le Cafe du Monde, 84 rue Dalhousie, phone 418/692-4455; www.lecafedumonde.com/.

Verrerie Mailloloche, 58 rue Sous-le-Fort and escalier Casse-Cou, phone 418/694-0445; www.lamailloche.com/

Maison Chevalier, 50 rue du Marche-Champlain, phone 418/643-2158. Free admission. Open daily 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. June through August, Tuesdays through Sundays 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. September through mid-October and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays the rest of the year.

Adventures Nord du Bec, 665 rue Ste-Aimé in Saint-Lambert-de-Lauzon, phone 418/889-8001

To get toParc de la Jacques Cartierfrom Quebec City take Route 175 North. For more information call 418/848-3169.

Laurie Raphael, 117 rue Dalhousie, phone 418/692-4555; www.laurieraphael.com/. Reservations necessary.

Pauline Frommer is the creator of the new Pauline Frommerguides in bookstores now. Her book, Pauline Frommer's New York, was named Best Guidebook of the Year by the North American Travel Journalists Association.

© 2013 MSNBC Interactive.  Reprints

Photos: Quebec City: A unique Canadian hideaway

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  1. Historic railway

    Taking locals and tourists up nearly 300 feet at a 45 degree angle to Terrase Dufferin, the Quebec Funicular has been operating since 1879. (Richard T. Nowitz / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Charming Chateau

    The Fairmont Chateau Frontenac stands high on a bluff overlooking the St. Lawrence River in the heart of Quebec City. (Tibor Bogn·r / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Marvelous mural

    The Fresque des Quebecois Mural fills an entire four story wall, and illustrates 400 years of Quebec history. (Richard T. Nowitz / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Icy competition

    Ice canoe racers push and paddle their canoes along the St. Lawrence River, during Quebec's Winter Carnival. (Alison Wright / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. A cool place to stay

    Quebec's Ice Hotel is located just outside of Quebec City, and is rebuilt each winter with new and unique architecture. (Alison Wright / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Walking in the rain

    Pedestrians walk in the rain on Rue de Petit Champlain, in Quebec City. (Richard T. Nowitz / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Illuminating art

    The Gare du Palais Fountain is illuminated at night across from the Gare du Palais train station in Quebec City. (Nik Wheeler / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
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