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The base of this natural fortress is the site where Samuel de Champlain first established his fur trading post in 1608. Assailed time and again, Québec was besieged by the British in 1759, ultimately leading New France to fall to the English crown. The cradle of French civilization in North America, the city today is a popular port of call, a high seat of culture and university research and, of course, the capital of Québec.
Location and access
Québec, the capital city of the province of the same name, is located some 250 km northeast of Montréal on the north shore of the St. Lawrence. The two cities are linked by highways 20 and 40, in addition to rail and air connections. Québec’s tourist region covers 9,000 km2.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985, Québec City is the only walled North American city north of Mexico. Its fortifications, which are pierced by four large gates, harbour a great many historic buildings and museums such as the Musée de l’Amérique francophone and Musée des Ursulines. The Basilique-cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-Québec houses numerous works of art in addition to the tombs of four governors of New France.
At the foot of the Citadel, the immortal Château Frontenac with its medievalesque gables and turrets towers above Dufferin Terrace. Nearby lies the splendid Battlefields Park, site of the 1759 clash between the French and the British, one of the most significant military events in North American history.
… and Lower Town
A funicular connects the Haute-Ville (upper town) with the Basse-Ville (lower town), which witnessed the colony’s very beginnings. Here at the base of the cliff, the Petit-Champlain quarter and Place-Royale teem with activity, offering an museum, art galleries and craft shops, not to mention numerous restaurants and bistros. The nearby Old Port is the ideal spot to embark on a summertime river cruise.
Québec City is closer to the sea than you might think—judging by the tides, which can reach five metres at Île d’Orléans!
Along the peaceful river
Two tourist routes—the King’s Road (Chemin du Roy) and New France Route (Route de la Nouvelle-France)—hug the shoreline of the St. Lawrence, offering superb views of the south shore. Both are dotted with century-old villages, heritage houses and historic churches. Another “must” for its architectural legacy and bucolic charm is Île d’Orléans, a source of inspiration for many artists.
Nature as far as the eye can see
Québec City has the great good fortune to be set amidst strikingly beautiful natural surroundings. Close to the city lie a number of green spaces, including Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier, two wildlife reserves (Laurentides and Portneuf) and the Parc naturel régional de Portneuf. The area also offers several enchanting bike routes, particularly along the river (Corridor des cheminots) and in the Jacques-Cartier and Portneuf vicinity.
Charles Dickens (American Notes) wrote: “The impression made upon the visitor by this Gibraltar of America: its giddy heights; its citadel suspended, as it were, in the air; its picturesque steep streets and frowning gateways; and the splendid views which burst upon the eye at every turn: is at once unique and lasting.”