Québec City was founded in 1608 and is one of the oldest European settlements in North America; it’s also the only walled city in both Canada and the United States. The Old Town is the heart and soul of the city and it has a European feel to it. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The best way to visit the Vieux-Québec is to get lost in its narrow cobblestones streets and admire the old homes, churches and the world-renowned Château Frontenac hotel. Guided tours of the hotel are available and are a good alternative for those who can’t afford to stay there or didn’t reserve early enough to get a room.
For a trip back in time, head over to the district of Petit-Champlain and the Place Royal, birthplace of Nouvelle France or French Canada. The historic Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church (dating back to 1688) is the oldest stone church in North America. The fresco representing 400 years of history is not to be missed. For more history visit the Musée de la civilization which has interesting exhibits.
The Old Port has always played an important role in the city and it still does today. There is a market, a bike path, a park and sometimes shows are presented which makes it’s a nice place to visit. Also, during the summer months, cruise ship are now calling regularly in Québec City.
The streets around Vieux-Québec, Quartier Petit-Champlain and Place Royal are lined with excellent restaurants, bistros, cafes, art galleries and other specialty stores. La Rue du Trésor is an open-air art gallery and is a good place to buy an interesting souvenir. Many street performers entertain tourists and passersby in the hopes of earning a few dollars. If you enjoy the show or take pictures with the living statues, if you can, be generous. That’s how they make a living.
Another nice area for a stroll is the Dufferin Terrace. We like to walk-up but there is also a funicular if you prefer. The terrace overlooks the St. Lawrence River and from this vantage point you will be rewarded with an amazing view of the river and the surrounding area. Across the river you can see the town of Lévis.
Visiting the Fortifications de Québec should be on every visitors list. This UNESCO and National Historic Site is impressive with 4.6 km (2.8 miles) of walls surrounding a star-shaped Citadel. To learn about the history and importance of this site, a guided tour is recommended. Walking around on top of the walls will reward you with beautiful views of the city, the St. Laurence River and the Plains of Abraham, site of the historical battle of 1759 between generals Wolfe and Montcalm. These days people flock to the Plains for outdoors activities, concerts and celebrations.
Excellent restaurants and nice hotels are located around Parliament Hill. The Parliament, seat of the provincial government, is open to the public and guided tours are available. Other points of interest in the area include the Fontaine de Tourny and the Observatory that offers a 360-degre view of the city.
Those are some of our favorite places around the city but there are many other interesting sites to visit and things to do in the city or in municipalities nearby. It’s possible to see a lot in one day but staying for a long weekend is preferable, as this would give ample time to go see the Montmorency Falls, the tallest in the Province of Quebec and 30m (98-feet) taller than Niagara Falls. Staircases allow visitors to get a closer look from different vantage points. During the winter months the waterfalls freeze for a stunning look; they are transformed into a giant ice sculpture. A feast for the eyes!
The only way to enjoy the long cold winter is to embrace it, and that’s what the city has been doing every year since 1955 by organizing the Quebec Winter Carnival with a parade and activities that will cater to the young and young at heart. Amateurs of snowboarding and skiing congregate on the slopes of Mont Sainte-Anne located approximately 40 km (25 miles) from Québec City.
Fall is also a good time to visit for those hoping to see the colorful foliage or for those wishing to escape the crowds. The countryside is lovely anytime of the year where 19th century farmhouses, homes and churches remain fix in time. L’île d’Orleans and Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré fit the bill.
Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré is also the site of an important pilgrimage shrine, dubbed the “place of miracles” where devoted Catholics come to worship and almost a million visitors come to admire the church.