The city of Quebec is often described as a place to see Europe without actually going there. The old, walled city is beautifully maintained and quaint. This year, the city is celebrating its 400th anniversary with numerous activities year-round. There is much to do in and around the Old Town, so here are my choices for Quebec’s top 10 attractions.
1. Chateau Frontenac – This huge hotel dominates the Old Town because of its size and location, on a cliff overlooking Lower Town and the St Lawrence River. Even if you do not stay here (it’s rather expensive!), have lunch or a drink on the terrace.
2. Place de Louis – this small (by European standards) square is one of the focal points in the Lower Town. Its most prominent occupant is the Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church which dates to the late 17th century. Also known as Place Royela, this section of the Lower Town is on the site of Champlain’s first settlement here in 1608. Today it contains the largest surviving 17th and 18th century buildings in all of North America. It is truly the heart of the city.
3. The Citadel – These fortifications harken to the legendary battle between the British, lead by Wolfe and the French forces, dug in here under the command of Montcalm. They seem impossible to breach but the British won this battle in 1759 and changed the direction of the entire country. Located high above the St Lawrence River on Cap Diamant, this formidable assemblage of buildings and walls now contains the summer residence of the Governor General of Canada. Visitors can see military quarters and a military museum in the complex.
4. Montmorency Falls – Just a few miles outside the city, this waterfall is 275 feet high, a hundred feet higher than Niagara, although much less spectacular. They make a popular excursion from the city, often coupled with #5 below.
5. St Anne-de-Beaupre Basilica – This church is popular with pilgrims and legend says a visit has healing powers. It also contains the only copy of Michelangelo’s Pieta, whose original lies in St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.
6. City Gates – Both St Jean and St Louis Gates are the major entrances into the Old City. They date to the 17th century and are well-preserved reminders of a time when the city was threatened by outsiders.
7. Plains of Abraham – This open space, now a public park, was the scene of the battle for Quebec (mentioned earlier) between the English and the French in 1759.
8. Parliament Building – This complex, just outside the Old Town, is the seat of government for the Province of Quebec. The elegant buildings are attractively landscaped and are a reminder of the pride of the Quebecois.
9. Dufferin Terrace – Combined with the Promenade of the Governors, this walkway which originates near the Chateau Frontenac (see above) provides a pleasant stroll with excellent views of the river and area around the city.
10. Notre-Dame des Victoires – This church dates to the late 17th century and occupies a prominent location on the Place Royale (see above) in Quebec City Lower Town.