Travel

Travel Spotlight… Quebec City, Canada

Canadian charm with a French accent.

3 months Discovery Channel

Quebec City is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Nestled between gorgeous natural landmarks, peppered with castles and old war ruins, and boasting some of the best modern and old-school shopping and dining locations in Canada, there is plenty to see and do in the city, regardless of whether you have a weekend or a month. We explore some of the very best ways to spend your time wisely.

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See: Place Royale is the town square where Quebec was founded, in 1608. It has retained a lot of this charm.
Eat: Local Quebec City Food Tours offer a food tour of Old Quebec, hitting five of the area’s best restaurants.
Drink: Be sure to try an ice cider, or cidre de glace as it’s known in its birth place of Quebec. Described as a cross between ice wine and hard cider, it be found in bars and restaurants all over the city.
History: Dufferin Terrace has old fortifications, battle fields, and Russian canons. It’s a nice walk too.
Relax: The Morrin Centre was once a prison, and is now a library where you can enjoy a Victorian-style high tea.
Adventure: There are many hiking trails which overlook the St Valley River and the picturesque valleys.
Shopping: The Old Port Market in Old Quebec is a quaint local marketplace.
Art & Culture: Maison de la Littérature is the local artistic hub.

LIVE LIKE THE ROYALS OF OLD

If luxury is your thing, you should avoid the more modern five star hotels and instead wine, dine, and recline like the kings and queens of old in the Château Frontenac castle.

That’s right – it’s an actual castle. There’s a wine bar, a massive spa (not necessarily historically accurate, but I’m sure you’ll overlook this anomaly as you are soaking your tired body while sipping wine from the bar), and you get your very own quarters, just to add to the authenticity.

There are river views too, because every castle should overlook a waterway.

GO CHASIN’ WATERFALLS

Nothing puts life into perspective quite like a massive, roaring waterfall – the type of natural creation that you can’t help but respect – and fear. The Montmorency Falls is a short walk from the city centre but seems like it is a world away – a massive 83 metre waterfall that towers over even the Niagara Falls – dwarfing that landmark by a good thirty metres.

If you aren’t afraid of heights, there is a suspension bridge you can cross that offers panoramic views of the entire region; you can ride the cable car up to the edge of the cliff then walk a short way to access this beauty. If that feels like cheating to you, there’s a massive 487 step staircase you can climb, just in case you need to feel like you earned the view. There is also a 300 metre zip line for the truly adventurous. Don’t look down though!

BATTLE WITH HISTORY

War buffs will adore Quebec City, as there are numerous historical sites that take you back to the days of battle, without any of the blood and gore.

The Citadelle of Quebec and Museum offers a historical deep dive into Canada’s past, with many interactive elements. There’s an active fort, and the daily changing of the guards (remember, Canada is part of our Commonwealth, adding to the ye olde feel of this place) so not only can you immerse yourself in the history, you can make believe you are actually in the past. Or maybe that’s just me….

The Plains of Abraham is a colonial battle site, one of the most instrumental battle grounds in the Seven Years’ War. These days it is a little more serene, with beautiful gardens to stroll or picnic in, and an ice rink. The Chateau St. Louis offers guided tours of the remains of a number of ancient forts and a chateaux that was built in 1620. Obviously it has seen better days, but these ruins will bring you face to face with the region’s bloody history, as will the Fortifications of Quebec: the defensive walls that once protected the city from invaders. There are ninety minute guided walking tours which offer a crash course in the area’s war history, or you can stretch out and explore the Battlefields Park, a 103 hectare meadow that was the site of the 1759 battle between the British and the French.

Finally, you should hit up the Naval Museum of Quebec, which sits on the Saint Lawrence River and offers up a small, but vital collection of local naval relics. 

SHOP ’TIL YOU DROP

Quartier Petit Champlain is the best place to hit for a selective of quaint, independent shops selling local wares, and boutiques. The place is ‘steeped’ in history (more on that clever pun later) as the oldest remaining shopping distinct in North America. Many of the buildings are untouched, and a series of Parisian umbrellas line the main street, adding to the continental feel of the area. To top it off, the area contains Quebec City’s oldest stairway, a dangerously steep set named Breakneck Steps. As the name obviously suggests, proceed with caution.

For more modern shopping, and a tonne of variety, you should head to the Galeries de la Capitale, a massive mall with over 300 retailers, from high-end fashion, to smaller variety shops, and big chains. This is no regular mall either, with a fully-blown amusement mall in the middle (The Mall of America in Minnesota is the closest comparison to this) with a Ferris wheel, a skating rink — where actual hockey games are often played — and rollercoasters. To top all this off, the mall has a movie theatre which boasts the largest IMAX screen in Canada.

Image: Wiki Commons

EXPERIENCE MARINE LIFE UP CLOSE

One of the biggest aquariums in North America happens to be in Quebec City, the aptly-named Aquarium du Quebec which hosts over ten thousand marine creatures in both indoor and outdoor spaces. You’ll want to reserve most of the day for this trip as there is forty acres of space to traverse, not to mention the adorable and impressive daily walruses shows. The (also aptly-named) Awesome Ocean exhibit lets you walk through a tunnel deep under the ocean as you witness the underwater world much in the way of a deep-sea diver. In fact, keep your eyes peeled and you may well see actual divers in the water.

Image: Aquarium du Quebec

Outdoors you’ll feel like you are criss-crossing the universe as you move from a fully-immersive wetland into the Arctic Sector, which contains walruses, seals and even polar bears. There are four different climates within this world, for each of the seasons, adding to the surreal quality of this aquarium.

Posted by Nathan Jolly | Images sourced from Shutterstock