A few weeks ago I had the chance to visit one of the most beautiful and historic cities in North America, Québec’s provincial capital, Québec City. This gorgeous city is one of the oldest New World settlements on the continent dating back to the early 1600′s. Founded in 1608 by French explorer Samuel de Champlain, Québec City boasts of spectacular views of the mighty St. Lawrence River, quaint Old World styled cobblestone streets and storefronts, romantic citadels, and even an enormous and powerful waterfall known as Chute Montmorency. One might think that a city as old has Québec City is and as large as it is (the metro area is home to over 750,000) would be quite the undertaking to visit and explore. However, I found it to be one of the most accessible places to visit in a short period of time.
Getting To Québec City
Prior to visiting Québec City, I spent a few days in Montréal, the largest city in the province about 160 miles southwest. I didn’t have a car during my Canadian excursion so I was largely dependent on other forms of transit (bus and train to get around). Fortunately, it’s really easy to travel between Québec and Montréal by train. For just $40 you can take a 3 hour train ride on the VIA Rail (www.viarail.ca) that will take you from one downtown to the other. Of course, if you’re not interested in taking the train you can rent a car or book a flight too. (Just be aware that parking fees are not cheap in Québec)
Where To Stay In Québec City
There are lots of different options for lodging while visiting Québec. There are dozens of hotels, chateaus, and inns throughout the city and situated conveniently near most of the tourist attractions and shopping centers. If you’re looking for a really nice place to stay, there’s the gorgeous, century-old Château Frontenac that runs for roughly $300 per night during the summer. However, for budget travelers like me, hostels are a great option for staying in Québec City for less. I stayed at the HI-Québec City (www.hihostels.ca) for about $30 per night. This particular hostel is clean, friendly, and offers tours and activities around the city in case you aren’t in the mood for planning.
What To Do In Québec City
As I hinted at earlier, there is an awful lot to do in Québec City. Many of the best attractions are within walking distance of La Cité-Limoilou, the historic borough located along the banks of the St. Lawrence River and home to Vieux-Québec (Old Québec). In this area you’ll find the fortification walls that make Québec the only fortified city in North America north of Mexico. For just a few dollars you can even tour the fortress that lies behind these centuries-old walls.
Nearby you can catch a free tour at the parliament where Québec’s National Assembly convenes to discuss the political affairs of the province, see the incredible Fontaine de Tourney, or relax in the Plaines of Abraham, an enormous park located between the St. Lawrence and downtown. There’s lots of shopping and restaurant options in Old Québec as well. While there are far too many to name, you’re bound to find some great souvenirs to take home and some incredible dining experiences.
Of course a trip to Québec City isn’t complete without paying a visit to Montmorency Falls, the largest waterfall in Québec. These falls measure 275 feet tall and 150 feet wide, making them almost 100 feet taller than Niagra Falls to the Southwest. The falls are several miles away from Old Québec and thus are difficult to get to on foot. However, I found that one of the easiest and most enjoyable ways of getting out to the falls is by bike. You can rent a bike for the day for $35 from Cyclo Services (www.cycloservices.net) and take a paved trail all the way to the falls. One you arrive, you can lock up your bike and take your time enjoying the splendor this powerful attraction has to offer.
Things to Be Aware Of
Québec City is a very French city that deeply values its roots. Many of the locals aren’t keen on using English to communicate so if you don’t speak French (like me), it’s especially important to be polite and respectful and to make an effort to learn some basic phrases. Food prices are significantly higher in Québec City in comparison to other parts of the world. You can expect to pay similar prices to what you might find in Europe. Although cheap lodging can be found relatively easily, cheap eats are harder to come by (unless you don’t mind eating Tim Hortons and Subway every single day). Québec is very hilly and you will walk a lot. The city’s elevated position above the St. Lawrence River made it an ideal place for the French to establish a fortress in the New World. Unfortunately this also makes it quite a workout to get around so bring a comfortable pair of shoes. You have to pay for parking pretty much everywhere. Not once did I see the words “parking” and “gratuit” together. That’s because free parking simply doesn’t exist. If you have to have a car, so be it, but avoid it if you can.
Overall, Québec City is a great place to visit. I really enjoyed my time there and I hope that you will too. If you’ve ever been to Québec City before, you know how beautiful it is. Feel free to share your experiences in Québec City in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!