With a cliff-top position above the St Lawrence River and captivatingly picturesque old streets, North America’s oldest French-speaking city is a gorgeous, seductive place.
Québec City's dramatic setting does enhance its appeal, with picture-postcard views of the St Lawrence River (and even the Laurentians on a clear day) unfolding from the Terrasse Dufferin boardwalk high above. But its beauty is not all God-given; humankind has played a role in shaping this pretty face too. Just walking down the street here is an aesthetic treat. The city’s historic core is unlike anyplace else in North America, with hundreds of gorgeous mansard-roofed old stone buildings clustered inside a perfect frame of crenelated town walls.
A Living Museum
Québec City is one of North America’s oldest and most magnificent settlements. Its picturesque Old Town is a Unesco World Heritage site, a living museum of narrow cobblestone streets, 17th- and 18th-century houses and soaring church spires, with the splendid Château Frontenac hotel and city icon towering above it all. Even with a T-shirt shop on half the corners, there's more than a glimmer of Old Europe in its classic bistros, sidewalk cafes and manicured squares. History buffs will especially love Québec’s 19th-century hilltop Citadelle and two museums offering graphic representations of the battles between France and Britain for control of the city.
French at Heart
Québec City has something else: the heart and soul of the province, the fiercest of grips on French-Canadian identity and the French language. It is something people here have fought and died for and something they treasure deep. Québécois grow up studying English, but because the anglophone minority here is so tiny – just 1.5% of the population speak English as their mother tongue – they rarely use it outside the major tourist areas. Most city residents are fully bilingual, but if you stray into the surrounding countryside, you’ll quickly find that French is the province’s official language.
Food, Festivals & Fun
Québec City offers a fabulous dining scene and, thanks to the agricultural abundance of nearby Île d’Orléans and Côte de Beaupré, it is a locavore cuisine. The provincial capital goes to great lengths to entertain visitors. All summer long, musicians, acrobats and actors in period costume take to the streets, while fantastic festivals fill the air with fireworks and song. In the coldest months of January and February, Québec’s Winter Carnival is arguably the biggest and most colorful winter festival around. Fall and spring bring beautiful foliage, thinner crowds and dramatically reduced prices.