Though French-speaking Canada is an ocean and more than a few kilometers from their European counterparts, the architecture of Quebec City was largely established by descendants of the Old Country. There’s the same appreciation for wine, and the culinary gene and sharp tongue towards innovating classic comfort meals has been passed down to la belle province. The city has a history, a long and rich one reflected in the colorful architecture of the Old Town; a history of necessity that has culminated into a culinary style that is now beginning to make its mark around the world.
Formally, it is called Québec City, but many of the people who live in the province merely call it Québec – it’s to honor that before everything else, there was the fortified city walls that still stand today. Quebec is located three hours north of Montreal by car and serviced by Jean Lesage International Airport, which offers flights to and from around Canada as well as a few international flights.
Old Quebec, Quebec City – photo by culturedchaos
Every trip to Quebec City should begin with a walk around the Old Town, which has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a sprawling network of narrow cobblestone streets laden architecture up to four centuries old at the base of the city. This is the heart of it, an excursion worth days of wandering, replete with unique restaurants serving the best of French-Canadian cuisine, cafés with terrasses that jut into pedestrian walkways, handfuls of historical monuments at every turn, linked together for easy passageway by a 130-year-old funiculaire, an electric gondola that takes walk-weary travelers from the Upper Town to the Lower Town. Wear comfy shoes. Despite its compact layout, this walled city is steep with uneven plains, and visitors will want to wander for hours just to take in the many historical sites and the port until sundown when the streetlights illuminate the city castling soft lights under the stately brick buildings. In the Lower Town, where gathers many of the oldest buildings, one may find the ancient Notre Dame des Victoires church, which was completed in 1723, the Musée de la civilisation, and Petit Champlain, the oldest commercial district in North America and foot of the aptly named Breakneck Stairs. Above, the original city walls that border the Upper Town, the Hôtel du Parlement, finished in 1886 in the Second Empire style, La Citadelle which sees a changing of the guard ceremony most mornings, and the Plains of Abraham Battlefield Park, where everything began.
Montmorency Falls, Boischatel – photo by moruciite
Chute-Montmorency is a 15-minute drive from downtown. The namesake of this park and its main attraction is the Montmorency Falls, a captivating 275-foot high waterfall at the Montmorency River which feeds into the Saint Lawrence River. Staircases surrounding the cliffs allow hikers several vantage points of the falls, and there’s even a long aerial tramway that takes passengers from the top to the base. However, the best view comes to those who are unafraid to conquer their fear of heights: a 50-meter suspension bridge over the crest of the falls offer a divine perspective of the rushing waters and the surreal drop underneath.
Quebec's Museum Of Civilization, Quebec City – photo by The Travel Authority
Scanning around the old brick and mortar of Old Quebec, the stand-out building might just be the one that looks like it was built within this century. The home of la Musée de la Civilisation was built by internationally renowned architect Moshe Safdie (who also designed the Habitat 67 in Montreal) and features exhibits that reach far back into time and across the globe. Visitors who want to learn about the history of the area can sift through the unique and comprehensive displays of the settlers and the pre-existing aboriginal communities of Quebec; while video game nostalgists can rediscover the beauty and significance of Pong at the Ubisoft-sponsored exhibit on the history of video games. From the Belle Époch period in Paris to the burgeoning artistic scene in 21st century Haiti, this museum allows its visitors to travel continents and ages in one beautiful building that links modern and antique.
Le Lapin Sauté, Quebec City – photo by Robin
Don’t call this a French restaurant, because that would be doing Le Lapin Sauté an injustice. It’s as good as any of the better known upscale offerings from their linguistic counterparts across the pond, but the kind of heaping plates that are pumped out at this well-known eatery are purely Québecois. Their cheese of choice is La Sauvagine from La Fromagerie Alexis de Portneuf based north of the city, among their most popular dishes is the rabbit poutine, and the Crème Brûlée is infused with maple – and, actually, so are the fried eggs, crêpes, pork chops and smoked salmon. Located in the cozy historic Petit Champlain district of the Old Town, Le Lapin Sauté feels like a 20th-century cottage with its laid back country decor and plates heaping with well-crafted game meat. In the winter, the restaurant is a rustic, intimate hideaway with 32 seats and a warm fire; in the summer, the terrasse is pushed out, transforming the dining atmosphere into a lively and festive outdoor feast under the tasteful street lights. Their signature protein is incorporated in a variety of inventive dishes: rabbit mac’n’cheese, rabbit benedict, rabbit lasagne, and more! But those who are emotionally attached to these long-eared mammals can instead, opt for the less adventurous but similarly delicious meats, like duck and some standard fare. In fact, a popular go-to of the hungry diners is the "Tout lapin tout canard", which fills a big plate with rabbit and duck confit, rabbit rillettes, duck sausage and foie gras and smoked duck breast. After a meal at this place, any diner is sure to hop away happy.
Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac, Quebec City – photo by Susan - saf affect
The grandest of the grand hotels in Canada, the Château Frontenac was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1893 as a luxury hotel to attract wealthy travelers and now stands as a landmark institution. The most photographed hotel in the world, the Frontenac can be seen from nearly every vantage point in Old Quebec and stands as the centrepiece of the skyline. Visitors can take tours around the ballroom, courtyards, the artwork and antique furniture strewn around the complex and see the famous Rose Salon where Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Mackenzie King met during the Quebec Conference of 1943. Six hundred and eighteen rooms are scattered around the 18 floors of this gorgeously restored historic building, all keeping with the elegant decor of the exterior, but its modern amenities are competitive with the most luxurious hotels in the world. After all, there’s certainly room enough to fit a 15-meter indoor swimming pool and whirlpool and an upscale restaurant serving traditional Quebecois fare. For a historic weekend in Quebec, there’s only one place to sleep.