Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
Value for Money:
Personality Types that Like it Best
Did You Know … ?
- Samuel de Champlain founded the city, Canada’s first permanent European settlement (1608).
- Quebec City stages the world’s largest Winter Carnival (17 days, 300-plus activities, 1 million visitors).
- During three weeks at the Chateau Frontenac in 1943, the Allies laid plans for the 1944 Normandy invasion.
- Quebec City is the only fortified city north of Mexico
- The battle that ended French claims in Canada occurred at the city’s Plains of Abraham (1759).
Europe without jetlag
Quebec City, which sits on the St. Lawrence River, is a pretty place, but its prettiness is only the veneer over layers of attractions.
The real reasons travelers rate it very highly go something like this:
- With a population that is 95% to 97% French and speaks the mother tongue, and with Old World architecture all over the place, it’s like going to Europe without jetlag. It’s a Europe fix for those between big trips or lacking the time and money to deal with the euro. For others, it is a starter kit, a sampler for Europe-travelers-in-waiting.
- And, the Quebecois know about parties. The big ones are summer’s 11 days of music at the Quebec City Summer Festival and the five-day La Nouvelle France, celebrating with gusto the time when, between 1608 and 1759, this was a French colony called New France.
In winter, there are the Quebec Celebrates Christmas fest during which the city does just that, followed not long after by the best-known of the lot, the 17-day Winter Carnival which has as its centerpiece a huge Ice Palace.
Other attractions — like the broad St. Lawrence — go with the territory. From an excursion boat on the river, it is clear why Quebec City is where it is: It was the cliff (Cape Diamond) — topped now by the Chateau Frontenac, a Fairmont hotel — that drew the city’s French founders who sought a militarily defensible position on the river. Ironically, the Plains of Abraham, where the French lost to the British, are on the same promontory.
Not far down river is Ile d’Orleans, historically an island of boat builders, accessible by car and boat; it lets visitors see nearby countryside and get an idea of the land early settlers saw. It boasts the densest concentration of French-era stone houses.
Active travelers have many choices, notably cycling on the roughly 85 miles of bike paths in Quebec City and region, with varying levels of difficulty. Other choices include skiing and snowshoeing, kayaking and river rafting, golfing and fishing. And then there is the Ice Hotel west of town, for adventure of another sort.
Things to do for Venturers
- Attend Quebec City’s Winter Carnival, and keep warm, if you dare, by drinking a local and very potent drink called caribou. It is made with high-proof vodka, red wine and maple syrup.
- Rent a costume and join the locals who wander around in period dress for Quebec City’s celebration of the time when Quebec was a French colony. The summer fest, called La Nouvelle France, is characterized by reenactments, a traditional market, street theater, storytelling and big, colorful parades through Old Town.
- Take advantage of those 85 miles of bike paths in Quebec City and its environs.
- Sometime between early January and early April, overnight at the Ice Hotel Quebec-Canada, just west of Quebec City. It typically includes several rooms and suites, perhaps a chapel, art gallery, exhibit rooms and ice bar, all of ice.
- Register for a one- or two-week French language course. Or stay in town for a longer course.
- Ice skate right in the city using the 1,600-meter trail along the St. Charles River. Another option is the Olympic speed skating oval in the Quebec City area called Sainte-Foy.
Things to do for Centrics
- Each year in late July/early August, Quebec City hosts the Loto-Quebec International Fireworks Competition at the Montmorency Falls. Attend at least one night’s show. Have dinner first at the Manoir Montmorency.
- Ski at the Mont-Sainte-Anne ski resort which is close to the city.
- Repair to the Battlefields Park, which encompasses the historically important Plains of Abraham and the Des Braves Park, for a picnic, a stroll or other relaxing activities identified with great city parks the world over.
- See the Cirque du Soleil, which is hosted in Quebec City in the summer.
- Rent an audioguide for a drive around Ile d’Orleans, an island in the St. Lawrence. Stop to buy local food specialties; even pick your own apples. But, most of all, focus on a well-preserved heritage from the days of the French regime and enjoy scenery visible from the island: Montmorency Falls, Cape Diamond in Quebec City and other nearby islands in the St. Lawrence.
- Savor your meals in a city noted for fine dining, with emphasis on French cooking. Casual choices abound, too, in bistros, sidewalk cafes and more.
Things to do for Authentics
- Board an excursion boat on the St. Lawrence River for lunch and an easy way to get a look, from a little distance, at the city on a cliff. Or make that a river cruise for a romantic dinner.
- Treat yourself to a night or some nights at the historic Chateau Frontenac.
- Do some sightseeing through the historical heart of the city in a horse-drawn carriage.
- Go shopping. Rue du Sault-au-Matelot and Rue Saint-Paul are noted for their antique shops.
- Make your first visit to Quebec City aboard a cruise ship.
- Visit the Fortifications of Quebec Interpretation Centre to learn about the history of the city’s defense system.
For more information, consult Quebec City Tourism at www.quebecregion.com/en