Quebec with a French feel
With 400 years’ history, “the old capital” boasts a blend of styles: European architecture, a North American ambience and relaxed local vibe. A surprising cocktail to enjoy summer and winter.
Founded in 1608 by the French explorer Samuel de Champlain, Quebec is one of the oldest cities in North America. Its name comes from the Algonquian word “Kebec” meaning “where the river narrows”. It is a tribute to the legendary St. Lawrence River that separates Quebec from its peaceful neighbour Lévis, almost one kilometre away. In winter, in the distance you hear the blocks of ice covering the river cracking under the pressure of the current or a boat passing by. While the noise is impressive, the sight of the Saint Lawrence, entirely covered in smoking ice, is striking. In summer, the inhabitants stroll along the banks and enjoy the richly deserved rise in temperatures after months of icy cold.
On the banks of the river, Quebec sets out its beautiful historic centre, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985. Overlooked by the Château Frontenac, a superb hotel that has become the symbol of the city, Lower Town presents an array of elegant residences, built along cobblestone lanes. Adorned with boutiques, cafes and terraces, these narrow streets attest that the gentle scent of France really is in the air in La Belle Province’s capital. As you walk around its Place Royale, you will often forget that an ocean separates the Canadian city from France itself. Quebec also counts many churches, including the stunning Notre-Dame-des-Victoires. To admire the old town and measure the scope of the Saint Lawrence River, there’s nothing like taking a walk around the ramparts, along the fortifications that protect Upper Town. There is a superb view from Terrasse Dufferin boardwalk.
However, no discovery of Quebec would be complete without stopping in one of its many restaurants, where you can enjoy excellent international cuisine as well as a must-have meal of poutine (chips with gravy and cheese curds). Quebec’s deliciously hearty “national” dish is perfect for braving the winter temperatures, building up strength for a getaway to the surrounding nature, or tackling the Quebec Winter Carnival, the oldest winter carnival in the world.
When to go
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© Text and photography courtesy of EnVols