Quebec City Guide
Few cities in North America have such a pronounced old-world feel as Quebec. The Old Town has everything you would expect to see in Europe – elegant period houses, ancient churches and old-time administrative buildings sitting on cobbled streets and tree-lined avenues. Declared a UNESCO world heritage site, this charming district is the best place where to start exploring Quebec.
Charming, historic Quebec
The Old Town, filled with open-air restaurants and cafés where you can relax and recharge on a sunny day while being entertained by street musicians and performers. The best place for a stroll is the Terrasse Dufferin – an airy boardwalk overlooking the St. Lawrence River and the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac. The magnificent Château Frontenac is one the most picturesque buildings in Quebec and it feels even more refined on the inside than on the outside. The château’s bistro, café and restaurant are open to the public for drinks and meals.
From the boardwalk, take the funicular to the Old Lower Town and you will find yourself in the Petit Champlain Quarter. After only a few minutes here you might forget you are in a big city. Minus the crowds of tourists, the place looks very much like a village – bouquets of potted flowers adorn the windows and cast-iron balconies of quaint stone houses. Walk down any of the narrow cobbled alleys and you find plenty of little shops, galleries and street-side cafés worth exploring.
Quebec is one of only two cities in North America with preserved city walls. Take a walk up on the walls and you get a feel for how old the place is – the sturdy fortifications with their towers and cannons are reminiscent of medieval Europe. A short walk from the fortifications will take you to the Battlefields Park, one of the only urban national parks in Canada and a fantastic place for recreation. Park attractions include the National Museum of Fine Arts and the Plains of Abraham, the historical site of a decisive 18th-century battle between the French and the English.
A lesser known fact is that Quebec is the site for religious pilgrimage. Situated right outside of the city, the Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré Shrine is famous for a miraculous statue of the eponymous saint. Built in the 20th century, the basilica, which attracts about a million pilgrims annually, is adorned with stained glass windows, frescoes and 18th-century art.
Modern attractions in Quebec
Even though located in the Old Town, the Musée de la Civilisation is a highly modern attraction with numerous interactive elements which enhance the experience of seeing artefacts from around the world. This multidisciplinary venue displays permanent collections dedicated to local culture, ethnography and history while also hosting visiting exhibitions which explore ancient and modern cultures.
There's a lot to do in Quebec along the banks of the St. Lawrence River. The harbour has been a bustling commercial hub for centuries and today many cruise ships dock in it. Those who enjoy cycling can make use of the bicycle lanes running along the river front. The Quebec Aquarium, which is located near the Riverside, is one of the best venues in the city to visit with family. Home to thousands of marine creatures, the aquarium, not only shows fish and marine mammals but also has inhabitants such as polar bears and seals.
Winter fun in the city
While summers are hot and humid, winters in this part of Canada can be harsh.
Excellent winter sports facilities and deep snow attract many to Quebec. The ski slopes on Le Massif de Charlevoix, a mountain looming over the city, are particularly praised. Don't want to leave town? wellcCross-country skiing is also practised in the Plains of Abraham park.
In winter, Quebec looks a lot like a Christmas postcard and some truly exciting seasonal attractions come into their own. The Quebec Winter Festival is the highlight of the annual calendar and an event that reveals how much locals love their snowy winters. Ice sculptures, ice bars, eateries, a castle and even an ice hotel pop around the city during the festival. That's the only time of year when you can have a drink served in a glass made from solid ice in an establishment also built from ice.
Not everyone has the courage to join the locals who dance in bathing suits at temperatures way below zero but you can try maple syrup lollies. These delights are prepared by pouring hot syrup onto a block of hardened snow. Snow slides, amusement rides, a night carnival and plenty of winter sports, such as dog sledging, are some of the other exciting festival entertainments on offer. To avoid disappointment reserve your holiday accommodation well in advance as, during festival time, hotels and vacation rentals are booked to full capacity.