Stunningly beautiful and very romantic, Quebec City—in 1985—became the first North American city to have its historic core declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a consistent winner, receiving many of the most prestigious destination awards offered internationally. So, take an easy drive from southern Ontario to see what draws 4.7 million visitors per year to this Canadian jewel.
On the highest peak of land in Quebec City, the Citadel offers some of the best views of Old Quebec City. Home to Canada’s elite 22nd Royal Regiment, the Van Doos, the Citadel is still an active military base with a daily changing of the guard and guided tours provided by Parks Canada staff. It houses the Governor General’s summer residence, where President Roosevelt and Prime Ministers Churchill and MacKenzie King met to plan D Day.
Rue du Petit-Champlain District
At the lowest point of Old Quebec City, Petit-Champlain is North America’s first commercial district. Beginning as a prosperous business hub in the early 1600s, it went full circle by becoming a slum area for Irish immigrants escaping the Potato Famine of the mid-1800s, through to today’s bustling neighbourhood centered around a co-operative of local artists offering Quebec-inspired handicrafts, art, and fashion. The best way to catch your first glimpse of Petit-Champlain is from the heights of the steep Breakneck Stairs. No explanation needed here.
Located in Quebec City’s Old Port and built over the site of Samuel de Champlain’s second Habitation, Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church is situated at the geographic heart of New France and today’s Canada. Built in 1688 and dedicated to military victories over British attackers in 1690 and 1711, it is the oldest stone church in North America. Situated by picturesque Place-Royale, a historic square of shops, restaurants, and museums, it provides a stunning glimpse of New France.
Aux Anciens Canadiens Restaurant
It’s hard to believe that this building was the largest home in Quebec City when it was built in 1675; originally known as Maison Jacquet, it is now the city’s smallest and oldest house. It temporarily served as a military headquarters for General Montcalm during General Wolfe’s siege. It was also home to the author Philippe-Aubert de Gaspe, who wrote “Les Anciens Canadiens” after whom the current restaurant is named. Having travelled across the province several times with my wife, who cooks French Canadian meals, we’ve yet to find a better restaurant for traditional Quebec cuisine.
Chateau Frontenac and Environs
Apparently, the most-photographed hotel in the world, the Chateau Frontenac opened its doors to well-heeled travellers in 1893. Walking into the hotel’s foyer is like being transported into the late Victorian era, with its luxurious interior and elegant shops. Take some time to have a drink in one of the hotel’s bars or the restaurant, and from its windows observe street performers in front of the Champlain Monument. People-watch as locals and visitors stroll by on the Dufferin Terrace, or better yet, go out and enjoy the street life that makes Quebec City so hospitable.
All photos by Mark Edward Harris – All Rights Reserved
This article was originally published in Star Touch