Quebec City is somewhat the antithesis of Montreal. First, political institutions (Parliament is here), second, the bulk of the economy. In Montreal (4 million inhabitants) the American-style skyscrapers, the underground city and bilingualism, the effervescence of the neighborhoods and the night scene; in Quebec (800 inhabitants) the cobbled streets, the fresh air and the visceral attachment to French, the nostalgia for Place Royale and the beautiful escapes to the languor of Île d'Orléans.
Exploring Quebec City means going back in time in search of the origins of the Belle Province, in the footsteps of Jacques Cartier and Samuel de Champlain. It is to sublimate the link to France, while noting the uniqueness of Quebec and the scale of America. A city that arouses many favorites ...
Château Frontenac, icon of Quebec
Wherever you find yourself in the historic center, its extravagant turrets and green copper roofs catch the eye. Inaugurated in 1893 in the wake of the Trans-Canada Railway, in place of the former residence of the French governor, the Chateau Frontenac is nothing very old, but it is an icon. You can sleep there, eat there with a view of the St. Lawrence, have tea, or even take a guided tour.
Right at his foot, the Dufferin terrace plays the Croisettes du Nord. This long boardwalk strewn with benches, at the top of Cap Diamant, takes place in a belvedere above the river and the lower town. On the one hand: the parade, its statue of Champlain, its horse-drawn carriages and the dairy bar under its retro kiosk - “America's most romantic city” writes American magazines with all their power… On the other, winter has come: the starting point slides from the terrace (with their long family sledges)!
Beyond, the sympathetic Governors walk, 100% pedestrian, climbs up the stairs (310 steps!) Towards the citadel and the Parc-des-Champs-de-Bataille, constantly keeping an eye on the Saint-Laurent.
Upper Quebec City: a journey through time
Revamped by the British in the 1820s, the citadelle (star) has not lost all raison d'être: the Royal 22e Régiment, to which its museum is dedicated, plays there every day at 10 a.m. in summer (except in the event of rain), a Changing of the Guard in the very codified English style… in the company of the Batisse mascot-goat (11th of the name)! Just behind, the Plains of Abraham saw the beginning of the end of French America in 1759 (museum)…
From the citadel, fortifications (17th-19th) run north, still almost entirely encompassing the upper town for 4,6 km. Just outside the Porte Saint-Louis, the Parliament of Quebec recalls that the city is the capital of the province.
On the opposite side, the heart of the High City weaves its charming network of cobbled streets and alleys modeled by the past strength of religion: cathedrals Catholic (Notre-Dame-de-Québec) and Anglican (Sainte-Trinité), Ursuline monasteries (museum) and Augustines, seminar notably hosting the Museum of French-speaking America. So many reasons to reflect on the past before going, in winter, to relax place d'Youville, outside the walls, where a vast rink in the open (free)!
The crazy charm of Quebec's Lower Town
If the Upper Town evokes a medieval European fortified city, the Lower Town, in the district of Little Champlain, seems resolutely to plant its roots on the Breton coast, with its gray stone buildings reminiscent of those of Saint-Malo. Royal way to reach the sector: the funicular rolling down from the Dufferin Terrace. A must. But we can also go down byDaredevil staircase...
A secular district (as opposed to the Upper Town), commercial and popular during the colonial era, Petit Champlain can only be visited on foot, along its cobbled streets colonized by restaurants, craft shops and souvenirs. At the center of all things, the Place Royale is watched over by the oldest church in Canada: Our Lady of Victories (1690). It is in winter, at nightfall, that the sector delivers its most beautiful image, when the giant snowflakes and the thousands of candles of the garlands decorating the trees light up.
At 102 rue du petit-Champlain, the Petit-Champlain fresco, recently restored, portrays life in the neighborhood once. Parc de la Cetière, the enormous fresco of Quebecers (420 m2!) Restores 400 years of history, from Champlain to singer Félix Leclerc.
Québec gourmand, from poutine to gourmet dinner
Upper Town or Lower Town? Quebec City is establishing itself more than ever as a gastronomic benchmark in North America and both neighborhoods collect restaurants. So where to take a break?
For example, in the time capsule of Les Anciens Canadiens, 34, rue Saint-Louis (Haute-Ville), old Quebec regional cuisine is available in vegetable or pea soups, pot of baked beans, pie (pie) of caribou or game. There is even poutine, a national Quebec dish consisting of fries topped with melted cheese and "brown sauce" ... For dessert, a Proust madeleine: sugar pie, maple syrup pie, of course, served with its churned cream.
On the Old Port side, the very chic "Boreal restaurant" Légende, at the Hôtel des Coutellier (255, rue Saint-Paul), distils bistronomic tapas-style cuisine made from 100% Quebec products (mushroom tartlets with cricket flour included !). The star of the dessert: lactaires with mousse! Other great restaurants in town: Initiale at 54, rue Saint-Pierre (Basse-Ville), with pine butter and pig pork bread or, further on, Le Fin gourmet, which scrupulously draws up the list of its local suppliers. Yum !
More economical ? In summer, nothing beats a good picnic at Battlefields Park, especially with the free concerts at the Edwin-Bélanger kiosk.
The Saint-Laurent, the most beautiful boulevard in Quebec
On Parliament Hill, the hideous Marie-Guyart building (aka Complexe G), a rare skyscraper to fly over the rooftops of Quebec, has at least one advantage: from its 31st floor, theObservatory of the capital perfectly places the historic center in the context of Saint-Laurent, which unfolds its wide aquatic boulevard as a backdrop.
Seen up close, Magtogoek, the "walking path" (the Algonquins used to say), looks even bigger. A real American river, XXL, rolling indomitable gray waters, hidden in winter under a smoking crust (a sign of extreme cold) that the icebreakers of the Coast Guard are struggling to crush. At the foot of Quebec, the St. Lawrence narrows, passing quite quickly from a dozen kilometers wide to 1 km.
There, all year round, from the Petit Champlain district, the NM Alphonse-Desjardins and the NM Lomer-Gouin ensure the Quebec-Lévis crossing, to the opposite bank. It is mainly taken to take advantage, for 12 minutes, of the panorama of old Quebec dominated by the silhouette of Château Frontenac. All this for $ 3,60 each way.
With a little luck, in winter, we can take the opportunity to observe the ice boat crews training for the great carnival race ...
Getaways near Quebec: Île d'Orléans and Montmorency Falls
At the gates of Quebec, this long country island (32 km by 5 km wide) stretches its spine over the course of the St. Lawrence. Inhabited from the middle of the 17th century, now connected to the north shore by a bridge, Orleans Island forms a poetic parenthesis. "To endure the difficult and the useless, there is around the island, forty-two miles of quiet things", sang Félix Leclerc ... At the beginning of summer, we go to pick strawberries and, in fall, we come back for apples, pumpkins and the colors of Indian summer - superb in these places.
Along the royal road, traced around the perimeter of the island since 1744, the stone villages, with centuries-old bell towers, hide at the end of discreet alleys old manors with Norman airs: Saint-Pierre and its 1717 church, with a stove in the center of the choir and benches with private doors (!), Sainte-Pétronille drowned in the woods, Saint-Laurent where schooners that cruised on the river were manufactured until the 1940s, Saint-Jean where their captains resided - the river, majestic, slipping under their windows.
North shore, opposite, stand out the powerful Montmorency Falls, flown over by a footbridge and a zip line, a cable car and a via ferrata! In winter, daredevils come to climb the cascades of ice that form there.
Musée de la Civilization and Wendake pow-wow: meeting the first Quebecers
Lower Town, the superb museum of civilization (MCQ), with original and daring exhibitions, crosses time to meet the first Quebecers and their descendants - by evoking, in particular, the coureurs des bois and the First Peoples through a kaleidoscope of sometimes surprising everyday objects. Also not to be missed: the exceptional collection of Inuit art at the Musée des Beaux-Arts.
To break the ice, you might as well go see yourself on the side of Wendake, capital of Huronne-Wendat reserve (2 inhabitants) - in fact a quiet residential area inserted into the urban fabric of Quebec. There is the traditional Huron site Onhoüa Chetek8e, which reconstructs a village from the time of colonization, certainly touristy but opening an interesting door on the feelings of the main concerned. There is also the beautiful Huron-Wendat museum, the Notre-Dame-de-Lorette church (1865) and, of course, a lot of craftsmanship.
The best: come between mid-June and mid-July, when the big one is pow-wow, the most famous in Quebec. On the program: dance and drum competitions from nations from all over North America, Wendat gastronomy and various activities.
Enjoying maple taffy in spring: a Quebec pleasure
There is never a lack of good reasons to come back to Île d'Orléans. On weekends, around mid-March, when the mercury finally rises above 0 ° C during the day, families head to the sugar bushes huts for a sugar part.
Native Americans were already bleeding maple trees with their tomahawks to collect their sap in birch bark containers. The French colonists refined the process with torches (small pipes) and boilers (metal buckets) to collect the translucent liquid and produce, by heating it for a long time, the right syrup - then maple sugar.
The tradition has continued, as a way of celebrating the return of spring and the memory of the pioneers. We find ourselves in a good mood around a traditional, generous meal while, outside, we line up for the tire. Poured over the snow, the hot and sticky syrup, immediately set, is a delight for children - and adults! A pure happiness.
Cap Tourmente in autumn: admire the geese and the colors of Indian summer
The twin towers of the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, the main pilgrimage site of the Belle Province, moved away and, soon, the bow of the Île d'Orléans was passed. Opposite, at Cape Tourmente, on the flats (estrans uncovered by the tide) of the north coast of the St. Lawrence, the geese landed in whole squadrons.
At the end of August, beginning of September, the first frosts enveloped the tundras of the Canadian Far North: for snow geese and barnacles, the hour of the great migration has sounded. Direction Delaware, Carolinas and Louisiana - 4 km trip, at least. Along the way, the birds allow themselves a few stops, their favorite here where, for two or three weeks, they rake in a constant hubbub the bulrushes (rushes) and spartines (grasses) from the banks of the river to replenish their strength. At the height of the movement, at the beginning of October, they numbered 000 to 40 at the same time, streaking the sky with their big V. In all, around 000 million large snow geese pass each season!
As a backdrop, freighters pass silently on the St. Lawrence and the boreal forest ignites. TheIndian summer, all gold and red, is in full swing.
Quebec Winter Carnival: the largest winter carnival in the world
The Quebec carnival is quite simply the oldest and largest winter carnival in the world, already organized at the end of the 19th century. In 2019 it celebrated its 65th edition in its current form, under the leadership of Man carnival - looking like a snowman.
We then bring out the red costumes, the arrow belts (Amerindian-Quebec heritage) and the long red or blue trumpets (deafening) to welcome with fanfare the night parades on the Grande Allée. The carnival is washed down there with caribou, this cocktail of red wine and whiskey enhanced with maple syrup and spices.
Facing Parliament, the Bonhomme's ice palace is at the center of the activities: snow sculpture competition, workshops to try it out, logging logs, big slides, snow bath (glagla!), outdoor Jacuzzis, fatbikes, concerts ... It is also, of course, the time of the famous and thrilling ice canoe race on the Saint-Laurent. Record to beat: 23 min to the bank of Lévis and back.
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Tourism in Quebec city
Tourism in Quebec
How to get there ?
Air Canada serves Quebec via Montreal from Paris and Brussels at prices starting at around € 400 round trip. From Geneva, count instead 600 € minimum. Otherwise, Air Transat offers direct flights to Quebec from Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Nantes and Toulouse at similar base fares, or to Montreal from Bordeaux, Brussels, Basel-Mulhouse and Nice.
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When to go
Quebec is all year round! The sugar season in March in the maple groves, summer by the lakes, the colorful follies of the Indian summer from the end of September and the migration of geese in October, winter sports and carnival to end the cycle ... We will just avoid the period from April to mid-May, when the mercury rises and we are wading in the sloche (melted snow), and that extending from the end of October to the Christmas holidays, quite gray.
- HI Auberge internationale de Québec: 19, rue Sainte-Ursule. Phone. : (418) 694-0755. Of the various youth hostels in the city, this is the most popular. Perfectly located in the Upper Town, it combines good comfort (choice of dormitories or private rooms), good equipment and concern for sustainable development. Offers free guided walks. Otherwise, there is also the Auberge de la Paix, near the Augustines Monastery, more convivial and festive, but overall less comfortable and less well-kept.
- Gîte Au Beau Milieu: 464, rue Saint-Anselme. Phone. : (418) 905-4636. You have to get away from the historic center to find this nice gîte, full of character, in an old workers' house in the Saint-Roch district "in the middle" of buildings. The blue room has its own bathroom, the pink and green, upstairs, share theirs. Friendly welcome from Danyel.
- Hotel du Monastere des Augustines: 77, rue des Remparts. Phone. : (418) 694-1639. You can sleep there in the old cells of the nuns, redone but having kept wrought iron beds and period furniture, or in the rooms redone with a much more modern look (but without TV or telephone).
- The Château Frontenac: 1, rue des Carrières. Phone. : 00 800 0441-1414 (from France). Now managed by the Fairmont chain (Accor), the iconic Château Frontenac celebrated its 2018th anniversary in 125. Most of the rooms have been recently renovated, but the cheapest rooms are small (and with sloping ceilings).
- Auberge & Restaurant Les Ancêtres: 1101, chemin Royal, Saint-Pierre. Phone. : (418) 828-2718. It is both an excellent restaurant that honors local products and a beautiful inn facing King Saint-Laurent, with spacious and cozy rooms dotted with antique features (fireplace, beams, exposed stone, etc.).
- To Anciens Canadiens: 34, rue Saint-Louis. In a superb historic house, good local cuisine: pot of baked beans, caribou or game pie (pie) and, of course, poutine and sugar pie.
- Restaurant Légende: at the Hôtel des Coutelliers, 255 rue Saint-Paul. This “boreal restaurant” distils bistronomic tapas-style cuisine based on 100% Quebec products (mushroom tartlets with cricket flour included!). The star of the dessert: lactaires with mousse!