If you want to experience a beautiful European-style city without crossing the Atlantic, you should put Québec City on your bucket list. Designated as a UNESCO World heritage site, this charming city of a half a million people situated high on a bluff overlooking Canada’s St. Lawrence River has narrow cobblestone streets downtown,
gorgeous views, buskers, an abundance of bistros and boutiques, five centuries of history and French panache. Almost everybody you will encounter in this French-speaking city speaks excellent English. Americans are definitely welcome and, currently, the U.S. dollar has favorable buying power vis-à-vis the Canadian dollar.
Dating to the early 17th century, Québec City shows its French and British colonial heritage as well as its Canadian side with the only walled city in the U.S. or Canada, historic fortifications, a bustling old port with quaint shops and modern cruise ships, the ultra-impressive Chateau Frontenac Hotel (built by the Canadian Pacific Railroad in 1893) and great restaurants, shops, museums and a lively arts calendar.
Before You Go
Québec City is accessible by highway, air, train, boat or car. The nearby Charlevoix region
is accessible by train, car and boat from Quebec City.
- Québec City Jean Lesage International Airport (YQB) has frequent commercial airline service to Canadian, U.S. and international destinations.
- The nearest cruise port is right downtown in the Old City riverfront.
- Via Rail, the national passenger train system of Canada, serves Québec City with many trains per day and connects with Amtrak at Montreal.
- By car, Québec City is on Canadian Autoroutes (freeways) 40 and 20 east and west and from the U.S., Autoroute 55 connects to Vermont’s I-91.
When You Are There
- Enjoy a meal at a sidewalk café in season. We liked 3 Brasseurs but there are scores of good ones.
- Have dinner at an upscale restaurant like Le Grafifiti.
- Tour the city on Le Bus Rouge (hop on-hop off) or via a horse-drawn carriage.
- Explore the city’s rich history and culture.
If You Only Have Two or Three Days:
Must-sees for a short stay are:
- Parliament Hill (Québec Provincial Parliament).
- The walled Old City (La Citadelle fortifications and museum European-style shops, galleries, restaurants, and the imposing Chateau Frontenac Hotel).
- Taking the funicular or walking down to the Old Port from Dufferin Terrace in front of the Chateau Frontenac and exploring shops, galleries, bistros and history.
If You Have Several Days, enjoy:
- Place Royal
- Jacques-Cartier National Park, 32 miles north.
- Montmorency Falls Park and its gorgeous falls, taller than Niagara.
- A round-trip train trip down the St. Lawrence River to Baie St. Paul in the Charlevoix region. The scenery along the river is spectacular and the Charlevoix area is beautiful with summer touring and winter skiing. While in Baie St. Paul, explore Rue Saint-Jean-Baptiste, eat at the Mouton Noir, presided over by French chef Thierry Ferré, with a spectacular terrace overlooking a river, visit galleries in summer. Stay at Aux Portes du Soleil or the Germain.
Ginny O’s Tips For Dressing The Simply Smart Travel Way For Quebec City and Charlevoix
Quebec City is an urbane and cosmopolitan place where you can spice things up, wardrobe-wise, with interesting colors, festive sweaters and blouses for women and comfortable jackets and slacks for men. Ties not needed. Be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes and dress for the weather.
In Charlevoix, there is more of a small town atmosphere so casual is fine
This Destination At A Glance
Mobility Level: Moderate, if you want to walk the city’s steps and hills (recommended). Those who cannot/don’t care to walk a lot can take taxis and horse-drawn carriages almost everywhere in the Old City.
When To Go: Year-round. Summer, fall and winter festivals are popular. Summer is beautiful and winter, though cold, is a bustling time in Quebec City, Museums are open and the city bustles with winter-hardy Québec folks and tourists.
Where To Stay: The Fairmont Chateau Frontenac is the best upscale choice overlooking the St. Lawrence, Nearby are many large and small hotels, including the charming Hotel Grande-Allee a ten minute stroll from the Frontenac.
Special Travel Interests: French Canadian culture, Canadian history and year-round outdoor activities.
Editor’s Notes: Orenstein is a syndicated travel writer who lives on Florida’s West Coast. He and his wife Virginia enjoy simply smart travel and writing about it. They can be reached at jorenstein@SimplySmartTravel.com. Check out their travel ideas, articles and blog at www.SimplySmartTravel.com and like them at facebook.com/SimplySmartTravel.