No matter where you have traveled in this big wide wonderful world, there is always another destination on your bucket list. For me, Quebec City, Canada, was one of them.
Quebec City extends back thousands of years with its first inhabitants being the First Nations people of the region, North American indigenous people. The arrival of French explorers in the 16th century eventually led to the establishment of Quebec City, in present-day Quebec and is the capital of the province of Quebec. The city is one of the oldest European settlements in North America, dating back to 1608.
Quebec City sits on the St. Lawrence River in Canada’s mostly French-speaking Quebec province. It was the location of the decisive battle in 1759 between the British and French forces that resulted in Canada once being ruled by the British Empire. In 1982, it adopted its own constitution and became a completely independent country.
The area experiences four distinct seasons: summers are warm and occasionally hot; winters are very cold, windy and snowy; spring and fall, although short, bring chilly to warm temperatures. Late spring and early fall are prime times for visiting French Canada. If visiting in November, it is not unusual to see snowflakes, plus the beginning of the Christmas decorations.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the historic Old Quebec, or the Vieux-Quebec, as the locals call it, has undergone extensive restoration through the years. There is a lot to see in the district divided between la Basse-Ville (lower town, by the river) and Haute-Ville (upper town, on the hill).
It is advisable to begin your tour by taking a double-decker bus to get the overall feel of the city. Next, start your walking tour down by the river, where Samuel de Champlain established the first French settlement in 1608, walk to Petit-Champlain Street and have coffee on Place-Royale before climbing the hill to the Musee de l’Amerique francophone. The museum, set in the Seminaire de Quebec, which housed the first university in Canada, celebrates French culture. Right next door, explore the Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Quebec, the most important Catholic Church in the province. Don’t miss climbing on Quebec’s old walls, as these ramparts are the only ones of their kind still standing north of Mexico.
Around every corner you will find something new and enticing to explore. Wander along cobblestone streets and narrow alleyways into the square in front of the Notre Dame church. Visit quaint little shops and restaurants along the way or pub-hop, exploring the local beers and specialty “poutines” — fries, gravy and cheese curds!
French is the majority and sole official language of the province, and about 80 percent of the population are native francophones. The people are very friendly and most speak English as well.
No Quebec hotel is more photographed than the Fairmont Chateau Le Frontenac, a five-star castle-like hotel inaugurated in 1893 and named after the Comte de Frontenac, one of the first governors of Nouvelle, France. Conceived by an American architect, the castle and its impressive central tower sits on top of Cap Diamant, a cape formed by the confluence of a bend in the St. Lawrence River to the south and east and the much smaller St. Charles River to the north. The long walkway in front of the hotel, the Terrasses Dufferin, overlooks the St. Lawrence River and offers panoramic views of Old Quebec. Every winter, a big wooden slide appears and is a must for kids and adults alike. Do not hesitate to enter the Chateau as you will find shops, cafes, one of the best restaurants in the province and a beautiful wood-paneled bar perfect for cocktails.
Every half-hour or so a ferry links Old Quebec to Levis, a cute little town across the St. Lawrence River, where you will discover some of the best views of Old Quebec and the Chateau.
There are many land tours visiting Eastern Canada as well as New England/Canada Cruises. Some cruises start or end in Quebec City, giving you more time to explore this charming and beautiful area.
You will find Quebec City is a city with a romantic ambiance, reminiscent of Paris. It is known for its rich history, European architecture and fortifications. It’s actually a piece of Europe located in Canada. Yes, it is old world charm at its best!