French explorer Samuel de Champlain wasn't the first person to grace his presence among the territory of Quebec City, but he definitely deserves credit for seeing the potential and possessing the vision that eventually blossomed into the eclectic metropolis its now known as today. For starters, the prime location next to the shores of the Saint Lawrence River was ideal for transporting goods, not to mention keeping a lookout of passerbies. Champlain also laid down the blueprint for construction of the Chateau St. Louis, the former official residence of the governors who ruled the region throughout the following centuries and now serves as a National Historic Site in Canada.
Perhaps what Champlain didn't foresee was how quickly Quebec City would evolve into not just one of the most important cities in North America, but a historically significant metropolis, bursting with opportunity and scenic beauty around every corner. This capital of Quebec has survived multiple invasions, changes in hierarchy as well as a rapidly evolving cultural foundation to progress into a traveller's dream. For a holiday that's nearly infinite in its stimulating and enlightening options, it's time to experience all the charm, history and possibilities that come standard during a trip to Quebec City.
Educate Your Senses
Even if you know nothing about the origins of Quebec City, it's hard not to be impressed by all the iconic landmarks and captivating museums that share the chronicled secrets of this city's origin to the masses. Spending the day getting acquainted with the pristine biography of how this wonderful municipality came to be is not just educational, but awe-inspiring as well.
Mosey Through Museums
To become officially introduced to the history of Quebec City, take a tour of all the engaging museums that are abundant in the area. The Morrin Centre is where to go for getting familiar with the cultural background of the area, and taking a public tour of the grounds offers visitors a chance to inspect everything from the first college institution in Quebec to the 200-year-old prison that still features empty cells explore. The Museum Of Civilization is ideal when you have an afternoon to kill, and is essentially a time capsule of historical arts and culture in Quebec City, with a variety of exhibits that illustrate what life was truly like for the initial settlers in the land. Lastly, if it's pure artistic stimulation you desire, a trip to the National Museum of Fine Arts of Quebec is ground zero to ponder over essential collections of all types of French art.
Of course, you don't need museums or public tours to tell you all the history that has taken place in Quebec City, you can always go see it for yourself. Old Quebec is a neighbourhood in the area that was the initial blueprint for what the city has turned into today, dating back to the early 17th century. Strolling around the area will almost make you feel like you've time travelled, as some of the first constructed buildings in Quebec City, such as the Notre-Dame-de-Québec Basilica-Cathedral, Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, the Jesuits Chapel and St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church are still pristinely preserved despite being erected more than hundreds of years ago. It's also a great area to take a horse-drawn carriage ride along the banks of Saint Lawrence River, or find exquisite dining and shopping opportunities scattered throughout the neighbourhood as well.
Channel the Past
When you begin to think of all the monumental icons and moments that have walked around the very sidewalks and paths you're currently wandering, it's easy to see how chills in your bones could arise. You might just get that feeling touring the grounds of Montmorency Falls Park, which was the site of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, one of the most critical battles in the French and Indian War. Taking a trip to Artillery Park may include a few double takes, as the tour guides of historic preservations such as 18th century military bases Dauphine Redoubt and the early 20th century ammunition facility Dominion Arsenal are all dressed in costume and are hard to get to break character.
While the abundance in educationally enlightening options are nearly infinite, it takes some observing and encountering of the scenic natural beauty to truly start to get a feel for what Quebec City is all about. After you've seen all the sights of the city and absorbed some intriguing knowledge of its origins, make sure properly be introduced to the region by exploring all these incredible nature attractions.
Park Your Ambition
Roughly 40 kilometres north of Quebec City is the National Park Jacques-Cartier, one of Canada's most majestic nature reserves. Peering from the banks of the Jacques-Cartier River will provide campers with a view of evergreen rows of trees, vibrant shades of green that tower over the freshwater streams as the looming Laurentian Mountains overshadow all the picturesque terrain.
Visitors staying at the National park Jacques-Cartier can practically engage in any natural activity their heart desires, such as kayaking along the river channels, hushing a herd of huskies while dog sledding in the winter or even rock climbing opportunities for the more active campers. National Park is also renowned for their wildlife preservation, so if you're trying to spot some native animals such as Canadian moose or even a black bear, this place is definitely your best bet.
Fall in Love
A majestic natural amenity that rests a mere 13 kilometres away from downtown Quebec City, Montmorency Falls is 84 metres of crashing cascade that roars swiftly into the Montmorency River. The waterfall was discovered and named by none other than Samuel de Champlain, in honour of the Montmorency family, one of the most famous families in France's history. Panoramic views are available all around Montmorency Falls, and can either be obtained by hiking up the cascade or taking an aerial cable car to view the natural glory from up above.
What's great about Quebec City is that you don't have to travel to the outskirts of the Canadian wilderness to get a chance to see all wakes of wildlife. One such opportunity lies at the Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area, just a mere 50-kilometre drive away from downtown. The trip is clearly worth it, as the area is home to more than 325 bird species, 30 types of mammals, 22 variations of forest stands and an estimated 700 overall plant species. Only here can visitors hear the simultaneous sounds of wood ducks, northern harriers and pileated woodpeckers while gazing out onto purely undisturbed natural wilderness.
Capture the Culture
Quebec City has way more than just a renowned historical and natural presence, by being home to a thriving downtown, nightlife and eclectic cultural scene. From exploring the diverse neighbourhoods to mapping out your weekend festivities, here's your guide to honing your holiday with a little Quebec City culture.
Sit Back and Relax
One of the more overlooked qualities to Quebec City is the sheer array of spa and relaxation facilities that have sprouted throughout the area in the past few decades. Institut Payot is a recently opened downtown spa and treatment centre where couples can find ample chances to receive professional massages or snack on truffles and champagne while laying back in an outdoor hot tub. Spa Des Neiges is located right off of the Saint Lawrence River, where nothing will help loosen you up for your Quebec City holiday quite like an outdoor thermal bath, even when the weather outside is frightful.
Are You Not Entertained?
Whether your tastes specifically lie in the soothing sounds of a Quebec symphony or you're trying to maneuver your way to the dance floor, this city certainly has your musical aspirations covered. If you're in pursuit of finding a venue that hosts a wide range of talented performances, the Salle Albert-Rousseau near Laval University is where to go for arts ranging from stand-up comedy to one-act plays. For a more sophisticated melodic evening, head over to the historic Grand Théâtre de Québec, which is home to the Quebec Symphony Orchestra, featuring frequent concerts performed all throughout the year. If it's more of a pub or bar venue setting you're interested in, head down to Le Sacrilège for more DJ-centred tunes while the Pub Saint-Alexandre is the spot to find the best up and coming jazz and blues musicians in Quebec City.
Know the Neighbours
From the go-to shopping districts to sipping on the finest cup of joe in the city, every neighbourhood in Quebec City seems to possess its own charm and character. For a more trendy and artistically creative scene, walk around Saint-Roch, where you can spend an hour just taking in all the stores and pubs along St. Joseph Street, or take a picture under the vibrant murals painted under the bridges of the Dufferin-Montmorency expressway.
Saint-Jean is a neighbourhood that balances its historic roots with more modern upgraded amenities, and is the place to go to spend one hour admiring the iconic Saint-Jean-Baptiste Church, and St. Matthew's Church buildings or buying your supplies and ingredients for an outdoor picnic at J.A. Moisan, the oldest-operating grocery store in North America. You can also embrace your inner weirdness by taking in the confines of Montcalm, a neighbourhood that's currently possessing a thriving arts scene, evident by the massive murals, paintings and sculptures that are practically unavoidable with every turn of the corner.
Relish the Nightlife
Obviously the most tasty and perhaps the most authentic dynamic to your Quebec City holiday will be cherishing the local cuisine. If you're looking to go all out and get the best dining experience money can buy, then make sure to make your reservations in advance at Restaurant Patriarche. This fancy establishment rests in the heart of Old Quebec, and is managed by head chef Stéphane Roth, arguably the primary reason the restaurant has a Five Diamond Rating from AAA. Be sure to bring your appetite, as you ease your way through multiple courses such as the Foie gras symphony or Bavarian peppered pidgeon.
For an excellent restaurant that's more appealing to your budget, consider grabbing brunch at Le Cercle, where you can also take in the art gallery and occasional live music as you dig in to eclectic culinary flavours.
After the food has settled and the drinks have slowly accumulated, it's time to truly take in the Quebec City nightlife. An essentially mandatory stop on your pub checklist should be at L'Oncle Antoine, a cellar-designed bar in Lower Town that's housing can be traced all the way back to the mid 18th century. They have an extensive collection of locally crafted microbrews, and for an authentic taste of Canadian liquor, make sure to order a glass of the maple whiskey.
For a rip-roaring night of dancing and live music, Pub Saint-Alexandre offers a selection of more than 250 beers as well as 40 kinds of single malt scotches, not to mention some of the most grooving live bands in the area.
The clubs don't get any more trendy than Dagobert, a massive three-story bar and venue in the Montcalm District, where you can spend time on one floor getting down to the spins of local Quebec City DJs and another floor taking in the ambiance in the cocktail lounge.
As you can see, your activity and attraction options know no boundaries during a holiday spent in Quebec City. Best of all, it's easy to find a vast variety of rental housing options that can range from cozy cabins closer to the Canadian wilderness or accommodating luxury condos that are stationed more toward the downtown region of the city. From comprehending the origins of 17th century French settlers to finding your groove on the nightlife dance floors, you'll have no shortage of ways to make your Quebec City holiday a trip for the ages.