Steeped in history, yet decidedly contemporary, Quebec has all the charm of a European town, along with the clean, cosmopolitan vibe of Canadian big-city life.
Quebec City is located in Canada’s Quebec province, at the confluence of the St. Charles and the St. Lawrence River, and is the capital of the Quebec province. As of 2011 the city’s population stood at about 516,000. Though not as widely populated as nearby Montreal, Quebec is still a large city that is highly popular with tourists.
Roughly 95 percent of Quebec’s population speaks French, and only about a third also speak English. When visiting, it’s best to brush up on your French—you will navigate the city much more seamlessly.
Quebec’s history goes back over 400 years. Like other Canadian cities, the city had humble beginnings as a wooden trading post, and slowly grew into a thriving metropolis. From its cobblestone streets and Old World architecture, to its walled perimeter, to its 37 National Historic Sites, Quebec is a place that takes pride in its past.
There is so much to see and do in Quebec. The city itself offers so much charm and character that simply walking the streets and admiring the architecture can be a great way to spend a day. However, Quebec also offers historic sites, galleries, museums, festivals, cultural attractions and parks and gardens—enough to keep visitors coming back time and again.
Musee de la Civilisation: This intriguing museum explores the history and politics of Quebec City in an innovative and informative way. It also features traveling art and history-related exhibits loaned from other prominent museums around the world. The museum offers one tour in English per day—a convenient audio tour that works automatically so that you can go at your own pace.
Musee National de Beaux Arts: Located near Old Quebec in National Battlefields Park, the Musee National de Beaux Arts is housed in a beautiful building that itself is a work of art. The museum mainly features contemporary works by prominent Quebec artists, although it does also display traveling exhibits from other museums. The museum is surrounded by pleasant parks, which makes the walk over a treat.
Museum of French America: Located in a seminary that dates back to 1663, the Museum of French America is Canada’s oldest museum. Through art, rare books, artifacts and journals, it chronicles the rich contributions made by the French to North America, and showcases how French culture shaped Canada’s history.
Old Quebec: Like all “old” sectors of cities, Old Quebec is replete with charm and character. However, there are a few quirks that make it wholly unique. Firstly, the upper portion of Old Quebec, called “Haute-ville,” is the only city north of Mexico that is still walled off. Secondly, the architecture in Old Quebec is very eclectic; no less than 11 architectural styles are represented throughout the city, ranging Colonial to contemporary styles.
Quartier du Petit Champlain: This small, yet charming area of Quebec has the distinction of being the oldest commercial district in North America. Today, it’s the perfect place to browse quaint, inviting shops and boutiques and dine on traditional Canadian fare in cute, out-of-the-way restaurants.
Place Royale: This historic square has a decidedly European feel, and is the perfect place to experience Quebec as it once was. This isn’t just a quaint spot with charming old stone houses, sidewalk cafes and cobblestone streets—it’s a place where history comes alive. Pipe players liven street corners with music, a mural that depicts 400 years of Quebec history, and, during the Festival de Nouvelle France, costumed entertainers make visitors feel like they have taken a step back in time.
La Citadelle de Quebec: This active military garrison was built between 1820 and 1850, and features a museum that showcases 300 years of Quebec’s military history. The fort offers an extensive tour for visitors, which is entertaining, informative and worth the price. Night tours are available in summer and fall. During summer months, visitors can see the changing of the guards.
Montmorency Falls Park: The main attraction at this park is the stunning falls, which, at 275 feet, are higher than Niagara Falls. Visitors have the option of hiking to the falls on scenic trails, viewing them from a cable car, or taking a guided tour.
Parc de la Plage Jacques Cartier: This tranquil park is a hidden gem, even for some locals. Located on the St. Lawrence River, this picturesque park offers a wide walkway perfect for jogging, biking, or taking a stroll with your dog. If you’d rather just relax, you can sit on the beach and enjoy the lake view.
Le Parc du Bois-de-Coulonge: From 1870 to 1966, this park was the residence of Quebec City lieutenant governors. Now it is open to the public, and features beautiful gardens, pleasant walking trails, a children’s playground, and wooded areas and heritage buildings to explore.
Quebec City Summer Festival: Held every summer since 1968, this 11-day music festival is one of the most expansive of its kind, with stages in three different locales, and more than one million spectators each year. The festival features performances from an eclectic assortment of well-known bands and musicians from around the world.
Quebec City Winter Carnival: Winters in Quebec are notoriously chilly, but that doesn’t stop people from celebrating. Each year revelers gather for the city’s Winter Carnival festivities, which include parades, a masquerade ball, free public banquets, races, tournaments and outdoor sporting events.
If you’d like to see the best of Quebec City, SmartFares can help you find the best quality accommodations at the lowest prices.