Québec City might have historic buildings reminiscent of France, but this is Canada — a vast natural wilderness — and the French-Canadian capital also shows off its green side with stellar city parks.
Steps from Vieux Québec, you’ll find grassy hills with epic views over the city and the St Lawrence River. Just beyond and easily accessible by bike, there are vast wooded parks with centuries-old trees, hundreds of bird species and history in the form of canons and colonial architecture. Whether you’re looking to rest your legs amidst a busy day of sightseeing or spend a full day picnicking with friends, here are Québec City’s best parks.
See a piece of history at Parc des Champs-de-Bataille
On September 13, 1759, thousands of British Army and Royal Navy soldiers attacked the French Army in front of its Québec City fortress on the Plaines d’Abraham. The Seven Years’ War battle resulted in victory for British General James Wolfe and is one of the reasons why Canada is predominantly English-speaking today. More than 260 years later, the blood-stained, 98-hectare (242 acre) battleground is a park where you can wander past manicured gardens, artillery and plaques detailing the area's history.
Hit the water at Baie de Beauport
Did somebody say beach day? A short bike ride along the Corridor du Littoral path from Vieux Québec is a popular city beach that draws crowds on hot summer days. Go for a swim, take a kitesurfing class or rent a kayak or paddleboard for a day on the St Lawrence River's waves. Afterward, relax on the sand or have a drink at the bar.
Get lost in the labyrinth at Domaine de Maizerets
Just north of Beauport Beach is this beautiful 27-hectare (67-acre) park with plenty to do — all for free. Inside the arboretum, there are 15,000 trees, shrubs and perennials, as well as a hedge labyrinth and a butterfly house to see local and international species. Domaine de Maizerets also has a few historic buildings worth visiting, including the Château Ango des Maizerets, a former Catholic seminary built in 1705.
Go hiking, skiing or snowshoeing in Parc Chauveau
Québec City’s biggest park stretches 120 hectares (297 acres) and is your best shot at wooded wilderness within the city limits. There are plenty of trails for hiking or cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in winter — walking along the St Charles River in autumn amongst the multi-colored trees is truly a breathtaking experience. If you want to get your heart thumping, test your bravery at Arbraska zipline aerial park.
See the cascades at Parc de Chute Montmorency
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably heard of Montmorency Falls — a massive 83m (272ft) waterfall that gushes into the St Lawrence River. But Montmorency is also an attractive provincial park, with plenty of easy trails as well as a gondola and zipline right across the whitewater. If traveling with kids, stop by the playground close to the entrance.
Take a break in St-Roch at Jardin Jean-Paul-L’Allier
Before the 1990s, St-Roch was a working-class neighborhood known for its high crime rate. Today, it’s one of the trendiest places to be in Québec City, with plenty of bistros, venues and hip shops. What happened? The city’s urban planners credit the installation of Jardin Jean-Paul-L’Allier in 1993 for kicking off the transformation. In the garden, take a break from exploring the neighborhood by dipping your feet in the pond and frolicking amongst the flowers.
Go for a stroll in Parc Cartier-Roberval
In 2006, archeologists made a fascinating discovery in this city park when they uncovered forts built by Jacques Cartier and Jean-François de la Rocque de Roberval between 1541 and 1543. Today, the park is perfect for a shaded stroll amongst the sugar maples, red oaks and white pine, with some trees dating back 200 years.
Pack a picnic for Parc du Bastion-de-la-Reine
For the best view of Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, head up to the Pierre-Dugua-De-Mons Terrasse alongside this park. Don’t forget to bring wine, cheese and sausages for a picnic. While you’re in the area, check out La Citadelle, North America’s largest fort established in 1750.
See thousands of plants at Jardin universitaire Roger-Van den Hende
Students from the Université de Laval are hard at work cultivating the 4000 plant species at this lovely botanical garden, open from May to October. Don’t leave without taking a picture of the butterfly covered in living plants.
Check out the art at Parc du Bois-de-Coulonge
Southwest of the city is an arboretum with lush gardens and a playground for kids. But what really makes this park stand out is Villa Bagatelle, a 19th-Century British home with asymmetrical English-style gardens. The villa has since been turned into an art center with various expositions.
Ride a bike to Parc de la Plage Jacques Cartier
Make it a mission to cycle along the St Lawrence River and end up at Jacques Cartier Beach Park. The 3.7km (2.3-mile) wooded area has plenty of trails and picnic benches as well as a rocky beach. Keep an eye out for seabirds, and take your snaps of the Pierre Laporte Bridge in the distance.