We’ve consumed a love potion and been struck by Cupid. What we mean to say is, we’ve been to Quebec City. One of the oldest European settlements in North America, this city is truly a sight to behold. The narrow streets, the old lights, the ancient fortifications. It’s a place where you can’t help but think to yourself “are we really in Canada?” The answer is yes, yes you really are.
It is hard to believe though, considering Quebec City was settled by French explorer Samuel de Champlain in 1608. Just a mere 259 years before the country of Canada was even founded! The city’s charm however has not been lost and before you know it, it will consume you. From serene accommodations to gourmet cuisine, here’s how it stole our hearts.
Where to Stay
Getting to Quebec City from the West is a bit tricky as there are currently no airlines that fly direct. So, we had two options. One to fly through Montreal and endure a ten hour layover. Or, two to fly into Ottawa and catch the VIA Rail. As major fans of train travel (thanks to our European backpacking experience) we opted for the rail.
Arriving by train is the perfect way to get your first glimpse of the city. Immediately upon disembarking at Gare du Palais you enter Old Quebec. Instantly we felt like we were back in France. Cobblestone streets and brick buildings surround the area. Not only is this the best place to arrive but it is also the ideal district to stay in. Hotels are ample and everything is within walking distance. Close proximity to the river means that you get beautiful views of the St. Lawrence and the famous Chateau Frontenac is just around the corner.
We chose to stay at Le Monastère des Augustines. Without going into too much detail (as we feel it deserves its own post, coming soon) we highly recommend investigating this property. In short, it is an experience. A working monastery, woven together with a retreat focused hotel. A place where sisters singing is heard in the distance. And where a building that dates back nearly four centuries is beautifully preserved. Stay tuned for more.
Restaurants to Try
There are TONS of restaurants to choose from in Quebec City. Over 700 to be exact. And what’s even better is almost every one of them takes huge pride in the quality of the food they prepare. It’s very hard to have a bad meal in Quebec City. So, it only made sense to focus on places that would show off Quebec cuisine. Our choices did not disappoint.
Legende Par La Taniere
Valentine’s evening took us to Legende Par La Taniere. Conveniently located immediately below our hotel, we would have easily travelled across the city for this experience. The restaurant pays tribute to the area’s ancestors through its use of indigenous ingredients and traditional cooking techniques. Boreal flavours exist within a modern bistro environment. The tasting menu is beyond well curated as each dish offers your senses an innovative experience. A 4 diamond rating with an excellent wine list. Linger if you can and check out the unique pieces of art hung throughout the space.
Le Chic Shack
If you are looking for a casual spot for lunch, check out Le Chic Shack. Best known for their burgers and milkshakes, they offer great selection and great quality. The décor is modern and trendy and the location can’t be beat. Ask for a seat facing the windows and you will have a panoramic view of the Chateau.
Located on the 28th floor of the Concorde Hotel, Ciel is dinner with a view to say the least. For our non bilingual friends, the restaurants name means Sky in French. Which is certainly not an exaggeration when you have a rotating bird’s eye view of the city below. An upscale menu keeps your taste buds excited but the best part is definitely the panoramic site lines of the St. Lawrence.
La Maison Smith
After exploring the iconic Quartier Petit-
Portofino is a popular Italian bistro that features wood fired pizza and formula one racing decor. However, don’t be deterred by the odd combination, both atmosphere and cuisine are vibrant and fun. Housed in a historic building dating back to 1760, it is always busy and always delicious.
Sights Not To Miss
Once you finish eating your weight in maple syrup and poutine, a stroll through the city will be a welcome activity. We will be the first to admit that we’ve spent a significant amount of time getting lost. Because of this however, we now love wandering the streets of old cities. And Quebec is one of the best to explore on foot. With so many historic sites just a stones throw from one another it’s easy to see them all.
The iconic Chateau is known as the most photographed hotel in the world. Majestically positioned at an elevation of 177 feet it’s elegant turrets dot the horizon. A luxurious lobby has welcomed visitors since 1893. Consequently, it is well worth exploring. However, if you only have time for one thing while visiting the Chateau, make it a trip to 1608. This upscale wine bar features stunning views and over 300 local cheeses. A massive chandelier sits above a dominant bar in the centre of the room. Cozy seating invites you to snuggle up next to the fireplace while dark wood tones emanate a 1950’s vibe.
Built in 1635 the Breakneck Steps link the Upper and Lower parts of Old Quebec and act as a gateway to the city’s oldest district. From Rue Petit Champlain, one of North America’s first commercial streets to Place Royal where Samuel Champlain erected his ‘Abitation’ you will be steeped in history. Explore Notre-Dame-des-Victoires, the first stone church built in Canada and enjoy the ancient architecture reminiscent of France. As a result of its strong ties to some of the country’s earliest days this is easily our favourite area to explore.
A trip to Quebec City is not complete without a ride on the Funicular. Also acting as a link between the top and bottom of the Old city, the funicular transports its passengers 210 feet at a 45 degree angle. You can find the entrance along the Dufferin Terrace or at the end of Rue Petit Champlain.
Fortifications of Quebec
Today, Quebec remains the only fortified city in North America as a result of the ramparts that still exist. Designated as a National Historic Site of Canada, there are four surviving gates throughout the city. These sites illustrate a historic defence system and hence showcase the principles of 18th century military design. Because of their scattered locations you will most likely stumble upon a section of the fortifications as you explore the city. However, if you are on the hunt there is a large section near Le Capitole along Rue d’Auteuil.
Plains of Abraham
Located in the heart of Quebec, the Plains of Abraham are what Central Park is to New York. With over 240 acres of land, this massive space, also referred to as Battlefields Park, offers locals an escape from the urban environment. Despite its significant role in history, the park now lends itself to ice skating, cross country skiing, jogging and outdoor concerts. It also offers more beautiful views incase you haven’t already seen enough.
While we could easily continue to write a novel on Quebec City, the above provides a snapshot of some of the treasures that make this city unique. Finally, our best advice for visiting is to eat as much good food as you can and to get lost among as many old streets as possible. If you find your way home eventually, make sure to tell us about your favourite part!