Describing Old Québec City using “quaint and charming ” could be considered trite. You must try to capture the sound of the horse drawn carriage on cobble-stone streets, the beauty of the sculptured shop facades, the exuberance of summer planter boxes spilling over with geraniums and inpatients, the many colorful painted shutters accentuating mullioned windows on old stone buildings, the order of angles of a mansard roof line, the French street and business signs announcing “rue” this and “table d’hote saisonniere” (seasonal menu) that. One must love the vowels and the syllables of a French speaking city. One must see the joy in setting out on foot on a lovely spring day to shop and wander or in winter and well bundled up, take a guided tour to explore Old Quebec City as part of your experience.
Built for defense, the walls of the city stretch to over 4KM in length around parts of this UNESCO World Heritage Treasure as the wide and mighty Saint Lawrence River flows nearby. The port, not far away is a place of call for cargo, cruise ships and pleasure boats. Standing as iconic sentinel is the most noticeable landmark, the Hotel Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac while in the oldest part of the city the elegant Auberge Saint-Antoine) beckons to visitors for a completely different type of luxury stay.
There is a podcast tour of the city available if you like to go it alone. Visit mcq.org/place-royale for instructions to download the “Place-Royale” points of interest tour. You’ll discover the place the first indigenous inhabitants called home, then the “discovery” by Champlain, subsequent settlements and battles fought here with anecdotes about the buildings events, points of interest and even a costume work shop.
Something fun to do is hop the ferry at Place-Royal for a trip to Levis across the St. Larwence and back. The Round trip is about 45 minutes and gives you a different perspective of the Old City.
If you dabble in food history and you like to trace a city’s evolution through it’s cuisine, or if you just appreciate good food, there is a perfect restaurant for that in upper town called Anciens Canadiens at 34 Rue Saint Louis, serving typical French Canadian fare and hard to find traditional dishes like meat pies and maple duck.
Lovers of cigars should seek out J. E. Giguere ( 61 Rue de Buade) It does not have too many of the most expensive Cubans but some very good ones ($50 for a single Romeo y Julietta Churchill), some decent mid-level cigars to an affordable range of Puerto Rican, Dominican Republic, Honduras, and others. There are a few other shops from here to Quebec City, but this one, the oldest cigar shop in Quebec established in 1907, is open 7 days a week.
For classic dining, Cafe de la Paix restaurant at 44 Rue des Jardins has a lovely French menu featuring seafood, and wild game in season along with thoughtful wine list featuring a smattering of Canadian wines. When you ask a local where to find the “ new, hot restaurants in town” including the larger area of Quebec City they will likely reply, “Non, we don’t really have new, hot in Québec. We have classics and the owners sell to long-time employees who continue to run them.” To that I second what French Master Chef Paul Bocuse once said at dinner, “Vive la Cuisine Classique.”
If you are a fan of winter, you will love the Winter Carnaval de Québec, beginning the very last days of January or first of February until mid-February. On going events range from the silly (Bain de Neige-Snow Bath), the sexy or quirky (Ice Hotel- Hotel Glace- with spa and sauna and rooms for rent), the incredible (International Ice Carving competition), to the raucous fun of the D.J. hosted outdoor dance parties. You’ll be sure to meet Bonhomme from the North Pole who is presented with the keys to the city by the mayor of Québec City for the duration of Carnaval. The larger-than-life mascot presides over all the festivities and lives in his magnificent Ice Palace created from 300 tons of ice while there. But there is so much more to this fantastic event so find out online.
Travel to the Old City of Québec is relatively easy. There is a great train system in Canada, a nearby international airport and of course cruises lines come to this port of call regularly in season. When you arrive there is so much to delight you that you should book several days here.
Go to Quebec Region for a complete listing of year-round events and travel ideas.