Parc des Champs de Bataille (Battlefields Park)

sights / Historic

Parc des Champs de Bataille (Battlefields Park) information

Lonely Planet review

One of Québec City’s must-sees, this verdant, cliff-top park contains the Plains of Abraham (www.ccbn-nbc.gc.ca), the stage for the infamous 1759 battle between British General James Wolfe and French General Montcalm that determined the fate of the North American continent. The park, named for Abraham Martin, a Frenchman who was one of the first farmers to settle in the area, is packed with old cannons, monuments and commemorative plaques. The park is a big draw for locals, who come for outdoor activities such as running, in-line skating, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, as well as the frequent open-air concerts in summertime at the Kiosque Edwin-Bélanger. On warm days, the tree-lined ‘plains’ also make a good spot for picnics.

The area became an official park in 1908 and has been the site of many modern historical events as well: ‘O Canada’, the Canadian national anthem, written by Sir Adolphe Routhier with music by Calixa Lavallée, was sung here for the first time on June 24, 1880.

The gateway to is the Discovery Pavilion , which houses a museum as well as a branch of the excellent Québec City tourist office, Centre Infotouriste. The main draw here is the fine multimedia history show entitled Odyssey . This year-round, permanent exhibition leads you through a series of three small theaters, where the history of the Plains of Abraham is depicted through clever audiovisual presentations and generous doses of good humor. There’s a fine exhibit at the end devoted to the French and British colonial military, with displays depicting the lives of soldiers in the New World and a nicely done section on their uniforms, which describes the significance of the designs and colors.

There’s no charge to wander through the park. If you’d like to explore the grounds on your own, you can pick up a bilingual tourist map ($4) at the Discovery Pavilion. However, if you want to get the whole experience – and are visiting in summer with four hours to spare – consider purchasing a day pass (adult/teenager/child $14/10/4) at the information desk on the lower level of the Discovery Pavilion. This three-for-one pass includes admission to the Odyssey show, the 40-minute Abraham’s Bus Tour , in which an actor in period costume points out historical sites of interest with some colorful asides, and a visit to Martello Tower 1 , the only one of several British-built defensive towers that’s still regularly open to the public. Despite its small appearance, the tower is jam-packed with fascinating exhibits that delve into the engineering history of the structures and describe living conditions for the soldiers based here.

History buffs can seek out a couple more British defensive towers in the surrounding area. Inside the park,Martello Tower 2 opens to the public only during staged events, which operate primarily in summer and vary year to year. For info about current offerings, inquire at the Discovery Pavilion. Martello Tower 4 is in the St-Jean-Baptiste neighborhood between Rue Félix-Gabriel-Marchand and Rue Philippe-Dorion. It’s closed to the public but worth a quick look from the outside if you’re passing by. (Oh, and in case you’re wondering, Martello Tower 3 was torn down in 1905 to make way for construction).