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Postcards from Old Quebec

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More from Our Three-Day Trip to Quebec City:
Intro and History | Fortifications and Citadel | Two Views of Quebec | The Château Frontenac
The Montmorency Falls | The Plains of Abraham | Two Great QC Hotels | Final Images

Protected by its original fortifications, Old Quebec has survived the centuries in a state of picture-perfect preservation. In 1985, UNESCO declared the entire historic district to be a World Heritage Site. This section of town is the main reason Quebec is able to lure so many visitors, and it certainly doesn’t disappoint.

Photos Old Quebec

Old Quebec is split between the Upper Town, which sits atop Cape Diamond, and the Lower Town, whose narrow alleys run between the rock and the Saint Lawrence River. Both sides are equally picturesque.

Because our hotel was located there, we started our exploration in the Lower Town. In the past, this was the realm of the city’s French merchants and artisans, and today its cobblestone streets are home to galleries and souvenir shops. Lower Town is at its most lively in the Quartier Petit Champlain, at the foot of the promontory. Bistros and boutique shops compete for the attention of thousands of tourists, who are an almost overwhelming presence during the summer months.

Photos Old Quebec

Moving between Lower and Upper Town isn’t something you’ll want to do frequently, so time your transition wisely. Over thirty sets of staircases connect the two halves of Old Quebec, including one so steep that it’s become known as the “Breakneck Steps.” If you’re feeling lazy, you can skip the workout entirely; a funicular will whisk you up to the Dufferin Terrace, just in front of the Château Frontenac.

Once standing atop Cape Diamond, we discarded our erstwhile plans to visit the various museums of Upper Town, such as the Musée du Fort, the Ursulines Museum, the Musée de l’Amérique Francophone. These are probably worthwhile, but we were busy with another type of museum: the streets of Old Quebec. Without any sort of itinerary, we wandered around aimlessly, allowing ourselves to be enchanted by the city’s ancient charms.

With its churches, cobblestone streets, and chateau-style stone buildings, Old Quebec feels trapped in the past, almost as though it had fallen victim to some sorceress’s spell of eternal sleep. Well, here’s hoping that this beauty is never kissed awake. Progress is normally a good thing, but would be a shame if Old Quebec ever changed. Even a little.

Locations on our Map: Funicular | Breakneck Stairs

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June 9, 2016 at 3:55 pm Comments (0)

Two Views of Quebec City

Add to Flipboard Magazine.
More from Our Three-Day Trip to Quebec City:
Intro and History | Fortifications and Citadel | The Château Frontenac | Old Quebec
The Montmorency Falls | The Plains of Abraham | Two Great QC Hotels | Final Images

It doesn’t matter which angle you’re admiring it from, Quebec City is stunning. We had a chance to see two of the best views of the city: from the water, during a short ferry trip across the St. Lawrence River, and from the sky, in the 31st-floor observatory of the city’s tallest building.

Quebec City Panoramas

There are a number of excursions you can make on the Saint Lawrence River, including a trip to the Montmorency Falls. But if you simply want a view of the old town from the water, the cheapest and quickest option by far is a round-trip ticket on the ferry that runs between Quebec and the town of Lévis, on the other side of the river. It’s just a few bucks each way, and the ferry runs constantly.

From the terminal, you can’t really see much of Quebec City, but that changes almost immediately as the boat pulls into the water. The buildings of Old Quebec are stacked along the promontory of Cape Diamond, so the perspectives shift dramatically as the boat gets farther from shore. It’s like watching a life-size diorama unfold, until you’ve reached Lévis and can see the entire thing. We rode the ferry during the morning, but it must be even more spectacular in the evening, when the sun is setting behind the city.

Quebec City Panoramas

For a totally different perspective over Quebec City, head through the Old Town and past the impressive Hôtel du Parlement, built in 1877, until you’ve reached the Observatoire de la Capitale. At 221 meters in height, this government building is the tallest in the city, and has a 360° panoramic view on its top floor.

From so high up, you get a real sense for the layout of Quebec City. You’ll see how the Saint Lawrence River narrows at Cape Diamond, and be able to better appreciate why Jacques Cartier chose this position for his new city. You also can see the Appalachians to the southeast, and the plains out to the north, past which is a sparsely populated region of mountains and lakes.

Locations on our Map: Ferry Terminal | Observatoire de la Capitale

Rent A Car In Quebec City

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June 2, 2016 at 12:52 pm Comments (0)

A Trip to Quebec City

Add to Flipboard Magazine.
More from Our Three-Day Trip to Quebec City:
Fortifications and Citadel | Two Views of Quebec | The Château Frontenac | Old Quebec
The Montmorency Falls | The Plains of Abraham | Two Great QC Hotels | Final Images

Montreal might be Quebec’s largest and most important city, but it’s not the capital of the province. That would be Quebec City, three hours to the north along the St. Lawrence River. The only city in Canada or the USA which has retained its original fortifications, Quebec City makes for a perfect getaway from Montreal.

Quebec City

The name of the city is officially “Quebec,” and this is how most natives refer to it. “City” is often appended to the name to help differentiate it from the province, but for locals, it’s just “Quebec.” At first, it confused us when people in Montreal would ask if we’d be “going to Quebec.” Weren’t we already there?

Quebec City was “discovered” by French explorer Jacques Cartier, who built a fort on the site in 1535 during his second voyage to the New World. But it wasn’t until 1608 that Samuel de Champlain founded a permanent settlement here. The town would grow slowly, and although it never experienced the kind of population boom that hit Montreal, it’s remained an administrative capital since its inception.

The British claimed Quebec in 1763, at the end of the Seven Years War, but the city’s heart has remained steadfastly French. In comparison with Montreal, where a significant proportion of the population speaks English, 95% of Quebec City’s population is francophone. And there are far fewer ethnic minorities here; in fact, this is the least diverse major city in all of Canada. Immigrants and industry were drawn to the booming port city of Montreal, and as a result, Quebec City has maintained a small-town feel, despite a healthy population of 700,000.

Quebec City is located where the St. Lawrence River begins to widen, on its approach the Atlantic Ocean. With Cape Diamond, its large natural promontory overlooking the river, the location is of utmost strategic importance, and was a natural spot for Champlain’s settlement. Most of the city’s historic sights are found in the walled confines of Old Quebec, which has both a “High Town” atop the promontory, and a narrow “Low Town” squished between Cape Diamond and the river.

Old Quebec doesn’t seem to have changed much in its 400 years of existence. We arrived on the morning bus from Montreal and, by the end of the ten-minute walk to our hotel, Le St-Pierre Auberge we’d already fallen in love. With its ramparts, gates, stone buildings, cobblestone streets and European architecture, Quebec City is beyond picturesque. And the locals know it. One lady we encountered during our initial explorations told us that Quebec is “la plus belle ville d’Amérique du Nord.” We found it hard to disagree.

Cheap Flights to Quebec City

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May 31, 2016 at 5:48 pm Comment (1)
Postcards from Old Quebec Protected by its original fortifications, Old Quebec has survived the centuries in a state of picture-perfect preservation. In 1985, UNESCO declared the entire historic district to be a World Heritage Site. This section of town is the main reason Quebec is able to lure so many visitors, and it certainly doesn't disappoint.
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