Quebec is one of the most beautiful cities in North America. Founded in 1608 by Samuel de Champlain, this fortified city has a rich history, architecture and culture, which can be discovered and enjoyed on foot.
Old Quebec The Old City is one of the most popular areas for both tourists and locals, not only because of its charm but also because of its many restaurants, pubs, hotels and boutiques. St-Jean Street is the main entrance to the Old City. This street is at the heart of the social and cultural life of the city, with Place d'Youville and the Palais Montcalm Theatre on the south side and
A little further down is the historic St-Jean Gate, where one can find many small shops, boutiques, pubs and restaurants. The Magasin Général L.P. Blouin, an old-time general store specializing in souvenirs and collectibles, is a popular stop. Restaurants and pubs abound, but the
City Hall is on Côte-de-la-Fabrique, where the strip of restaurants and boutiques continues. This street leads to the Place de l'Hôtel-de-Ville, the Petit Séminaire de Québec and the Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-Québec. The Rue du Trésor, where local artists show and sell their works, is a few steps away and leads to the
Place Royale and Vieux-Port The Terrace ends with long stairs on both sides: one set goes down to the Vieux-Port and
Plains of Abraham The other set of stairs goes up to the
On the east end of the Plains, the
St-Louis Street and the Grande Allée St-Louis Street runs parallel to St-Jean Street and is equally filled with restaurants and boutiques.
Further west is the entrance to the
St-Louis Street becomes the Grande-Allée west of the Parliament Buildings. The Grande-Allée is synonymous with entertainment. This is where most of the clubs in the city are located, and there are also plenty of restaurants. In summer, the establishments open their terraces and people go from one club to the other, dancing the night away.
René-Lévesque Boulevard and Cartier Street Parallel to the Grande-Allée but further south is René-Lévesque Boulevard. This is where Québec's Grand Théâtre and Music Conservatory are located. A few blocks West is Cartier Street, another popular entertainment and dining district. With restaurants like
Suburbs There are many suburbs around Quebec, and most of them are much more than bedroom communities. In the West end, Sainte-Foy has several great restaurants like
On the St Lawrence River, Beauport's picturesque Royale Avenue leads to the
Quebec (keh-BEHK) is Canada's oldest city, founded by Samuel de Champlain in 1608. Its name was an adaptation of the Algonquian word meaning "the river narrows here"—Champlain chose this spot for the settlement because the high cliffs and narrowing of the St. Lawrence River offered excellent natural and strategic defenses.
While regarded as the center of New France, the growing North American empire of the French, the colony struggled. The harsh climate combined with the rough terrain failed to attract great numbers of French families to the New World. Further, many of the colony's few settlers were migrants—Couriers de bois—who would come in from the wilderness with furs they had gotten in barter with Native Americans. These men had no interest in taking up permanent residence in Quebec, and often ended up marrying Iroquois or Huron women.
At one point, King Louis XIV had French women sent to New France as wives for the men who inhabited the fledging settlement. These filles de roi exemplified the state of the colony in its early days. In 1666, 58 years after its founding, the population was only 547. Only with increased incentives and persuasion was France able to increase the number of permanent residents to 1,500 by the end of 1690, and to 34,000 by 1730—120 years after the creation of New France.
In the 18th century, the city of Quebec finally began to grow. With a larger population, industry and trade flourished. Couriers de bois continued to bring pelts and furs into the marketplace to trade for other goods, which they could take back into the wilderness. Stores and workshops were built on the river's edge in the Lower Town.
This market area was Place Royale, still one of the Lower Town's most popular landmarks, along with the Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church. The latter is noted for having its altar shaped as a fort. It was completed in 1688 and stands on the site of Champlain's very first settlement. Meanwhile, the Upper Town gradually began to take its current shape. Houses and schools sprang up within the city's walls as French citizens began to put down roots in Canada. Today, the Upper Town is full of gourmet restaurants, fine hotels like the Château Frontenac, and numerous shops and boutiques. You will also find the Quebec National Assembly here.
As the city grew in size, so did its economic and military importance. The French knew they needed to create a strong system of defenses to protect the capital of New France from the enemy British, ensconsed to the south in the American colonies. What they constructed was the Citadel. Perhaps the most famous of Quebec City's landmarks, it stands 106 metres above the city on Cap Diamant. It was assumed that an attack would come from the river, the city's most vulnerable point, and that is where the cannons were aimed.
Unfortunately for the French, the British surprised the French. General James Wolfe and 4,500 British soldiers scaled the steep cliffs leading to the Plains of Abraham, under cover of darkness from September 12-13, 1759. The French commander, Lieutenant-General Louis de Montcalm, ordered his “army” (a combination of French regulars and poorly-trained militiamen) to meet the enemy. In a battle that lasted 15 minutes, the British routed the defenders. They battered the city with cannon fire until the French army retreated to Montreal, where they would be defeated a year later and New France would fall to the British.
The surrender of Quebec was followed by a period of military occupation and martial law until 1763, when a peace treaty was signed in Paris. With New France now secured as British North America, immigrants arrived to occupy existing cities and to build new ones. The large influx of British, Scottish and Irish immigrants into Quebec City created considerable tension, but it also fostered the international flavor the city still retains. A mingling of cultures over time has resulted in a unique lifestyle and atmosphere.
With the British came order and wealth, and the city grew in leaps and bounds. New sectors of the city were built with their own architecture and character. Agriculture flourished and trade routes extended deeper into the heart of the continent and into the American colonies. But beneath all the British influence remained the "French identity." Citizens refused to give up their language or their culture to the English speaking authorities.
This patriotic fervor has only increased over time. In 1774, the British passed the Quebec Act, which allowed the French citizens to practice Roman Catholicism and to use French civil law. Still, French-speaking citizens struggled to preserve their culture. During the debates on Confederation in 1867, Quebec representatives refused to join unless guarantees were made to protect the identity of French-speaking people in the newly formed Dominion of Canada.
Quebec City has continued as a hotbed of political activity for those who feel that the French influence in Canada is not strong enough, or that the French are poorly represented and inadequately supported by their government. But despite its strong French identity, Quebec remains a city rich in diverse cultural flavors, styles and history. It is a city of passion. Its residents are not only passionate about their politics, but about their desire to enjoy life to its fullest.
Quebec may be a small city but there's always plenty to do, even during the cold winter months. Its rich history and culture are effervescent, making residents and visitors want to enjoy their city even more.
Music and theater Culture is behind each and every stone wall in Quebec City. There are plenty of theaters, presenting a wide variety of shows. The Grand Théâtre is at the heart of the city's entertainment life. It's home to the Music Conservatory, the Quebec Symphony Orchestra, the Opéra de Québec and the Trident Theatre, which features plays throughout the year.
The Périscope and Bordée theatres, though of smaller stature, are also much appreciated and often present alternative plays. The Palais Montcalm is one of the most beautiful theatres in the city, standing atop Place d'Youville and featuring a wide range of events from classical music to humour. Le Capitole, also located near Place d'Youville, is a richly decorated theater offering musicals like "The Elvis Story." Le Capitole also has its own hotel and cabaret, for more intimate entertainment.
Quebec City's beautiful churches are well-known, in part for the wonderful concerts hosted. The Violons du Roy, a famous string orchestra, performs regularly in local churches. The Salle Albert-Rousseau, located in Sainte-Foy, is the choice of many artists who wish to perform in a smaller state-of-the-art theater. Pop artists who attract large crowds usually head for the Colisée de Québec, a large arena where the NHL Nordiques hockey team used to play. Finally, artists who wish to perform under the stars can do so at the Agora du Vieux-Port, a popular outdoor theatre.
Festivals and carnivals During the summer, Quebec City becomes one giant theater. Artists perform in the streets, in parks, and pretty much everywhere a crowd can gather. In June, hundreds of children from several countries come to the Montmorency Historic Site, near the famous Montmorency Falls, to share their cultures through dance and music. In July, the Summer Festival brings local and international artists to town. For 10 days, stages spring up everywhere in the city: Place d'Youville becomes its own performance space, a large stage is put together in front of the Parliament Buildings and most city parks are turned into small theaters where jazz, folk, pop, rock, opera and every other imaginable genre resonates. For less than CAD10, you can purchase a pin that gives access to all shows during the festival.
In August, Quebec City goes back in time with the Fêtes de la Nouvelle-France, which celebrates the 150 years of French Regime in the 17th and 18th centuries. Peasants and seigneurs gather at Place Royale for five days of celebration. During the last week of the summer, Quebec City has its annual fair with all the rides, animals, clowns and cotton candy one would expect.
During the winter, Québécois find a way to entertain themselves despite the cold with their famous Winter Carnival. For more than 47 years, they have enjoyed many sporting, artistic and cultural activities during this magical carnival, which allows them to rediscover each year the wonders of winter. An international ice sculpture contest, a parade, an ice castle and a canoe race on the icy St. Lawrence River are some of the activities that take place during these 17 days and nights of sheer fun. Ice rinks also spring up everywhere—at Place d'Youville, for instance, people of all ages skate to classical music.
Museums and galleries Although Quebec City offers tons of outdoors activities, those who prefer to stay inside won't be disappointed. There are plenty of museums, malls and movie theaters. The Museum of Civilization is a must: it features many exhibitions on topics as varied as the beginnings of civilization, the history of clothes, naval history and humour. There are two permanent exhibitions: "Nous les Premières Nations," which presents the history and culture of the Native peoples of Canada, and "Mémoires," which relates the history of the first European settlers. The Musée du Québec, meanwhile, is a treasure of fine art. It has held exhibitions with some of Canada's most famous artists, including Krieghoff and Dallaire, as well as world-renowned artists like Rodin and Tissot.
Those interested in Quebec's history will enjoy the Musée des Augustines de l'Hôtel-Dieu de Québec, which relates the history of the sisters who founded the first hospital in North America, as well as the Musée de l'Amérique française and the Musée du Fort, which focus more on military history. The Battlefields National Park has an interesting interpretation centre, with a multimedia show on the battle of the Plains of Abraham.
Malls The Old City is filled with shops and boutiques, but there are many great malls in the Greater Quebec City area. Les Galeries de la Capitale is often the favourite because of its indoor entertainment park with rides, an ice rink and movie and IMAX theatres. Place Laurier is the largest mall with 350 stores, while Place Sainte-Foy has many upscale stores and designer boutiques.
Sports Many visitors take at least a day to swoop down the slopes or hit the links at Mont Saint-Anne or Stoneham, both just minutes east of the city. For those who prefer to watch their sports, the area's several hockey teams are not to be missed. The Remparts play in the Quebec junior league, while the Citadelles are the Montreal Canadiens' minor league affiliate in the American Hockey League. Both offer outstanding value and fast-paced entertainment.
Nightlife At night, the Grande-Allée is the place to be. This is Quebec City's busiest street, filled with restaurants, cigar rooms, cafés, pubs and nightclubs. Chez Maurice is one of the most popular clubs in the city, along with Chez Dagobert, and Le Vogue. As a general rule there are no cover charges to get into nightclubs, which means that people can go from one to the other all night long.
In the end, a walk in the Old City, especially on the Dufferin Terrace, is for some the best entertainment available in Quebec City. The view is absolutely gorgeous. Wander through the streets, watch a clown draw a smile on people's faces, enjoy the afternoon in a nice café or dance the night away.
Few North American cities combine the old and the new as effectively and attractively as Quebec. Because of this mixture, the city offers many different kinds of accommodation—from modern luxury high-rises to stately historic hotels, tiny inns and bed and breakfasts. In fact, many visitors choose to mix and match, perhaps splurging for a night at the Château Frontenac, before retreating to more reasonably priced options in or around the city.
Old Quebec Still, for those looking for the ne plus ultra of Quebec hotels, it begins and ends with the Château Frontenac—the grande dame of Canadian Pacific's many stately properties across Canada. One of the world's most famous hotels, the Château dominates Quebec's skyline and is the city's most famous building. Its labyrinthine interior conceals hundreds of different-shaped (and sized) rooms, lavish decor and the world-class Le Champlain restaurant.
On the upper end of the price spectrum you will also find the stylish Hôtel Dominion 1912, a boutique hotel with cutting edge interior design. Those familiar with the Hôtel le Germain in Montreal will appreciate similar attention to design detail amid a historic rather than postmodern setting. This is fast becoming one of Quebec's most sought after addresses. Along the same fashionable lines is the Capitole, which looks out over Place d'Youville and houses a theatre as well as the wonderful Il Teatro restaurant.
That said, you needn't pay through the nose to stay in one of the continent's landmark hotels. As long as you are willing to forego morning-till-night pampering, any number of moderately-priced hotels in Old Quebec will provide a romantic, historic experience. The Auberge du Trésor, on the wonderful Rue du Trésor, with its famous outdoor art market, claims to be North America's oldest—the building dates from 1679! Other reasonable options include the Château Bellevue, the Hôtel de Vieux-Quebec and the Hôtel Marie-Rollet. All offer comfortable accommodation in ancient, cozy surroundings.
Upper Town Staying in "New Quebec" means easy access to the restaurants and nightclubs of the Grande-Allée, the historic Plains of Abraham and the Musée de Québec—but you're still just minutes from Old Quebec. You'll find newer hotels here, with the modern Loews Le Concorde in place of the Château Frontenac at the head of the pack. The Hilton Quebec is another high-rise, convention-oriented hotel that appeals to business travellers and to those who appreciate modern luxury.
Smaller hotels on or near the Grande-Allée include the Manoir Lafayette, the Auberge du Quartier and the Château Grande-Allée. Dozens more B&B's and moderately-priced hotels are in the area. Each offers its own blend of old and new world charms, and many are less touristy than similar establishments in Old Quebec.
Out of town Many visitors choose to spend some or all of their visit outside of Quebec proper. Day trips to Île d'Orléans, the Charlevoix region, the Laurentian Mountains, Beauport and Montmorency Falls can be combined with stays at country inns, lavish resorts, rustic cabins or even a hotel made entirely of ice! The lack of urban sprawl and proximity of true wilderness to Quebec makes staying outside the city even more attractive—skiers, for instance, can nip into town for a world-class dinner and drinks and be back at Mont Ste-Anne in less than half an hour!
Indeed, those in search of luxury will find it in the vicinity of this world-famous ski resort, at the Château Mont Ste-Anne, or in Pointe-au-Pic at the stunning Manoir Richelieu resort. The aforementioned Ice Hotel, located adjacent to the Montmorency Falls, is based on a Swedish model and provides one of the world's truly unique accommodation experiences. Despite some curmudgeonly press (surprise: it's cold!), this stylish and fascinating spot continues to draw thousands.
Île d'Orléans is the place for intimate B&B's and small country inns. Le Canard Huppé and the Auberge la Goéliche are typical of several beautiful country inns that combine rustic accommodations with outstanding French and Quebec cuisine. Romantically inclined visitors especially should consider at least a night on this picturesque island in the St Lawrence River.
Families and anyone out for a wilderness adventure can spend a night or two at one of dozens of cabins for rent in the Laurentides Wildlife Preserve and the Jacques-Cartier Park within it. You can spend your days cross-country skiing or snowshoeing in winter, canoing or hiking in the summer and end up just minutes from your door.
From big-name chains to inexpensive nights in 300-year-old homes, Quebec offers accommodation options for every budget and taste.