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Welcome to Quebec City

Quebec City

Small cafés and cosy restaurants, charming boutiques, lively terraces, elegant squares, theatres and museums, street buskers and mimes all contribute to the charm and ambience of historic Old Quebec, cradle of French civilisation in North America and still predominantly European in spirit. Perched on top of Cap Diamant, overlooking the St. Lawrence River, Quebec City was first settled by the French in 1608, named from a native Algonquin word meaning 'where the river narrows'. The cultured ambience, lively spirit, high safety rating, and a comfortable blend of past and present make this provincial capital city worthy of its status as one of the top destinations in the world.

Despite having been ceded to the British in 1759, the city's population of more than half a million are today 95 percent French-speaking, lending a definite 'joie de vivre' and culture to the atmosphere. About four million visitors are drawn to Quebec City each year, to savour this French charm, the famed Quebec gourmet scene, and the beauty of the historic Old City where winding cobbled streets are lined with 17th and 18th century stone houses and churches, bewitching parks, elegant squares, and numerous monuments. The city is included on UNESCO's World Heritage List and is one of the only fortified cities in the Americas.

Many interesting sights and tourist attractions in Quebec City are located in the walled Old Town on top of the hill, including dozens of small shops and boutiques and attractive historical buildings. There are also interesting neighbourhoods to explore in the more modern Upper Town and Lower Town, which are connected by stairs. The Old Town is compact and easily walkable. If you get tired or cannot navigate the steep stairs between Upper Town and Lower Town, take a scenic ride in the Funiculaire, or hire one of many horse-drawn carriages for a quaint view of the historic sights.

There are many things to see and do in Quebec City, Visit the National Museum of the Arts, the Franco-American Museum, or the Capital Observatory, which is one of the tallest buildings in Quebec and offers panoramic views of the city. You can take a ferry to Lévis, which offers memorable views of the Chateau Frontenac and the Old Town, or take a sunset cruise on the St Lawrence River.

Children will enjoy a visit to the Chocolate Museum, or a spin around the ice rink in Old Town. Villages Vacances Valcartier has waterslides and go-karting in the summer.

Just a few kilometres from downtown, the surrounding nature of Quebec City presents numerous opportunities for outdoor activities and recreation, like horseback riding, canoeing, hiking and skiing.

Information & Facts


Summer is undoubtedly the best time in Quebec City, unless you are specifically after enjoying a cold, white winter. June, July, August, September and October are the only months of the year when the city is free of snow, with the annual average snowfall measuring 14 feet (4m). It has been known to snow right up to early May. Temperatures drop well below freezing from late November to early April, exacerbated by a strong wind chill. Summer days, by contrast, are usually pleasantly warm and sunny, ideal for outdoor activities. Summer nights can be cool though. The city usually revels in an 'Indian Summer' for a few weeks in early October, making autumn another popular season for visiting.

Getting Around

Walking is the easiest and most effective way to explore the compact Old City of Quebec, where most of the sightseeing opportunities are. Many visitors also enjoy hiring a bicycle and making the most of the city's system of cycle paths. If you prefer to save your feet, take a bus. Public buses are run by the Reseau de transport de la Capitale (RTC), operating between 6am and 1am (there are a limited number of night buses at weekends). Tickets are bought on boarding with exact change or in advance from newsagents, which is cheaper. Transfers are free if a transfer slip is obtained on the first bus. One-day passes, valid for two, can be bought at weekends. Taxis can be hired at ranks and the airport, ordered by telephone, or hailed in the street in the centre of the city.

The official languages are English and French (predominantly in Quebec).

The currency used is the Canadian Dollar (CAD), which is divided into 100 cents. One-dollar coins are also known as loonies (due to the picture of a loon, a type of bird, on the coin), and two-dollar coins as toonies. Banks and bureaux de change will change money and travellers cheques, as will some hotels, but the rate will not be as good. Major credit cards are widely accepted and ATMs are plentiful. US Dollars are largely accepted, though due to fraud, larger notes might not be and change is usually given in Canadian dollars.

Canada covers six time zones, from GMT 8 in the west to GMT -3.5 in the east.

Once the setting for bloody battles between the British and French, the Plains of Abraham today serves as Quebec City's 'green lung', a playground and peaceful arboreal retreat, and venue for a variety of fairs and events. The park is to Québec what Central Park is to New York, covering 108 hectares and planted with 6,000 trees. It also features monuments and interpretive centres. In winter locals and visitors alike, as well as several ski-trails enjoy a giant skating rink. Summertime is ideal for strolling the fragrant gardens, jogging or rollerblading, and picnicking.

Guided walking tours of the three-mile (5km) long city wall that surrounds the old city of Québec trace the evolution of the city's defence system across three centuries. The walls are set with interpretation panels. Quebec is the only fortified city in North America and this fact contributed to its being named a World Heritage City. Visitors can also view the Esplanade Powder Magazine.

A panoramic bird's eye view of historic Québec City can be had from the cabin of the Funicular that travels at an angle of 45º from Louis Jolliet House in the heart of the old city to Dufferin Terrace. The funicular has been an attraction in the city since the original steam driven version was erected in 1879.

The little island in the St Lawrence River, just 15 minutes from downtown Québec City, is an historical treasure trove containing 600 heritage buildings. Algonquin natives called the island 'windigo', meaning 'bewitched corner', before French colonists arrived in 1535 and named it for the Duke of Orleans. The island is the ancestral home of more than 300 Quebecois families and still has more than 7,000 inhabitants. A perimeter road called The Royal Way, which extends across the Taschereau Bridge to the mainland, connects all the six villages on the island. Visitors enjoy cycling or driving around the island to marvel at panoramic views of the river and explore sites like the oldest church in 'new France'.

Quebec City's Lower Town (Basse-Ville) is the charming 'old quarter' of the city, full of narrow, winding streets, historical stone buildings, and an overwhelming array of trendy cafés, bars, and boutique stores. The oldest urban district in Canada, Lower Town has a distinctly European feel to it, and recent efforts to gentrify the area have been undertaken with appropriate sensitivity and class - resulting in postcard-perfect photo opportunities lying in wait on every street corner. Lower Town is also home to many of Quebec City's most celebrated sights and attractions - including the Place Royale, and Petit Chamblain, with its must-see Funicular. Lower Town, the heart and soul of Old Quebec, is a beguiling, enchanting neighbourhood - and all visitors to Quebec City should anticipate spending a lot of time walking its streets, and soaking up its unique atmosphere.

Just to the east of Québec City lies the spectacular Montmorency Falls, plunging 272 feet (83m), one and a half times higher than Niagara Falls. Besides a beautiful setting, the park also boasts historic buildings and a variety of fun activities. A cable car runs up to the historic Manoir Montmorency manor house, dating from 1781, where there is a restaurant, view terrace, interpretation centre, reception rooms and boutiques. A suspension bridge hangs directly across the falls, providing a breathtaking view, and a second bridge gives access to the east side of the falls where there are numerous viewpoints and trails.

Billed as 'the museum of human adventure' this very popular contemporary institution in the heart of the Québec historic district is characterised by its innovative and daring outlook. Using interactive technology its thematic exhibits cover all aspects of the human experience, from fundamental issues to major social problems of our times and various aspects of daily life.

Montreal's Old Port (Vieux Port de Montreal) is actually fairly new, having had a major face-lift to make it the most popular site for visitors to the city, drawing five million of them each year to throng the bustling wharves. In the 19th century the port of Québec on the St Lawrence was one of the most important in the world, with thousands of ships and sailors passing through. There are still plenty of boats in evidence but nowadays they are mainly tour boats, ferries and even amphibious buses, which offer sailings along the St Lawrence or around the port. Ferries cross to the Parc des Iles, site of the Expo 67 world's fair, which lies in the St Lawrence and offers family outdoor activities like picnic facilities, swimming, skating or skiing in winter. The Old Port itself is a thriving arts and entertainment venue where something is always happening. It also offers a huge open-air skating rink, Imax cinema, and a Science and Technology Center with interactive displays. The port also has a vibey cafe culture. The clock tower offers excellent views across the city and contains an exhibition that traces Montreal's history. Around the port are the city's original 17th-century fortifications, while characters in period costume conduct guided tours through the streets and alleys pointing out the points of historic significance.

Just outside the old city walls stands the imposing 19th-century Parliament Building, inspired by the Louvre in Paris and designed by the architect, Eugene Etienne Taché. Although it is the working home of the 125-strong National Assembly, the buildings are open to visitors for guided tours, offered in English or French, which highlight the historic value of the unique building as well as informing visitors about the organisation and proceedings of the Québec National Assembly.

The site of the historical Place-Royale complex was used in ancient times by the First Nations for trading, until the leader of the first Quebec French settlement, Samuel de Champlain, constructed a formal fortified fur trading post in 1608. The trading post flourished and grew into a thriving town, constructed largely of wood, until in 1682 it was destroyed by fire. Reconstruction was in fire-resistant stone, the buildings that still stand today. Known as the market square, the site once again became a hub of activity, until the end of the 19th century when its importance declined. By 1950 the Place-Royale was a neglected, decaying area. The Government then initiated a restoration programme that has turned this historic site, known as the 'birthplace of French America', into one of the city's main attractions. It features a clutch of interesting museums, living history demonstrations and tours of historic buildings.

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