Paul has been a passionate traveler for over 35 years and has visited many places and countries in North America, Europe, and elsewhere.
Quebec City: A Scenic Destination Full of Surprises!
With its beautiful old buildings and European influences, Quebec City has long been an attractive destination for visitors from North America and around the world.
The capital of French-speaking Canada, the city is a great place for romance and relaxation, as well as mental stimulation. There's beauty, history, and culture in equally large measures.
Old Quebec is split into two areas, Lower Town and Upper Town, which are connected by steep cobbled streets, alleys, and staircases. Overseeing everything is the Château Frontenac, the iconic hotel that sits on a promontory overlooking both Quebec City and the St. Lawrence River.
The historic district has a very French feel, which shouldn't be a surprise given the province's history (Quebec province was once called New France), but that does make it remarkable for North America. The cobbled streets, and charming and magnificent buildings all add to the splendor.
5 Must-Sees in Quebec City
Here are five things to do that should not be missed:
- Visit the Château Frontenac
- Experience the National Museum of Fine Arts of Quebec
- Be Awed by the Montmorency Falls
- Walk the City Walls
- Explore the Basilica Cathedral Notre-Dame de Québec
I look at each must-see in more detail below.
1. Visit the Château Frontenac
The jewel in the crown of Quebec (and its most famous landmark) is the Château Frontenac. It looks like it’s been airlifted in from the Loire Valley, France, and has a reputation for being the most photographed hotel in the world.
The Frontenac is photogenic from every angle that you view it from, whether it's looking up from Lower Town, or from any position along the Terrasse Dufferi (known as the Dufferin Terrace in English). You should definitely take a stroll along the long wooden sidewalk and take in the scenic view of the expansive St. Lawrence River, as well as the Frontenac.
You can go inside the hotel without being a guest—it's fun to drink a coffee, or eat breakfast there—even if you don't want to experience the expense of booking a room for the night.
2. Experience the National Museum of Fine Arts of Quebec
One of my favorite things to do whenever I travel is to visit art museums. That meant the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec (National Museum of Fine Arts of Quebec) was automatically on my list. It didn't disappoint.
Situated in Battlefield Park, the museum's collections are housed in a complex of four pavilions, one of which was a prison before it was repurposed. The collection holds art from the 16th century to the present day. It focuses on work created in Quebec or by Quebec artists, but also has pieces from around the world. You can also see lots of excellent Inuit art.
Given Quebec City's variable weather, you'll want to have places to go when the climate is unfavorable. This museum's a great place to visit on a rainy afternoon.
3. Be Awed by the Montmorency Falls
A short bus ride from the center of Quebec is Montmorency Falls Park. Here you can find a waterfall that is 272 feet tall, which, in case you’re wondering, makes it 99 feet higher than Niagara Falls.
Experiencing the park and falls involves walking a long looping trail with a scenic stairway. There was also a suspension footbridge to cross. I'd advise taking a small backpack with some drinking water and snacks, and clothes for the variable weather.
Be prepared to be awed. The views of the falls are simply stunning and you get close enough to feel the power of the cascading water. You can end your jaunt with a ride on the park’s cable car. There’s also a zip line at the park for the more adventurous tourists.
4. Stroll the City Walls
Old Quebec is the only fortified city north of Mexico. There are fortifications and a wall surrounding the historic district. Walking the walls is an excellent way to explore the city's long history of battles and sieges.
Quebec City was founded in 1608 by French explorer Samuel de Champlain and conquered by the British in 1759. The original walls were erected in 1690, but the current ones were built in 1745.
You will see numerous cannons as you wander around. There's also a 19th century fortress known as the Citadel.
5. Explore the Basilica Cathedral Notre-Dame de Québec
Another incredible must-see historical building is the Basilica Cathedral Notre-Dame de Québec, which has stood in the same location since 1647. The cathedral has been named both a National Historic Site of Canada and is located within the Historic District of Old Québec designated by UNESCO.
The ornate Baroque interior of the church is spectacular. It also has a holy door, which is only the second outside Europe and only the eighth in the world. The cathedral provides a resting place for four governors of New France and continues to function as a religious and cultural hub.
Why Visit Quebec City?
I would recommend that you put Quebec City on your bucket list if you’ve not already done so.
There's nothing quite like Quebec anywhere else, certainly not in the US. For sure, New York has some spectacular buildings, Charleston has its own genteel charm, and New Orleans has its French Quarter—but nothing quite matches Quebec City for scenic elegance.
It’s not expensive and there’s plenty to do. The people there are friendly and cheerful, and although French is the first language, virtually everyone also speaks excellent English.
Best Time of Year to Visit
It depends on what sort of weather you desire and what you plan to do. According to tripsavvy, June through to September is the best time to go for warm, sunny days and there are also lots of festivals happening at this time
Daytime temperatures during the summer months are in the low 70s Fahrenheit, dropping in the evenings to the low 50s. You should expect some rain, but otherwise, the weather tends to be fairly clement.
Things become much colder and more challenging from December through February, but still, there are plenty of festivals and winter activities to experience. You can try skiing, ice fishing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling during these months.
© 2022 Paul Goodman