Let's sweep away the usual comparisons: Québec City isn't just Paris or Brussels transplanted in North America. On the surface, the European-inspired architecture and French language pattering at your eardrums could fool you, but Québec City is as distinctively French and uniquely Canadian as cities come. If you're still in doubt, perhaps these three not to miss Québec City sights will convince you how truly incredible the capital of la belle province is.
Old Québec (Vieux-Québec)
If every North American city had a district as magical as Old Québec, European tourism would be in trouble. The charms of Québec City are no secret to most North Americans, and it's right here in Old Québec where the city's reputation among travellers takes hold.
Shadowed by the world-famous Château Frontenac, a nineteenth century hotel that romanticizes the city on nearly every postcard, Old Québec embodies all of the trappings of a worthy historical district: street-side cafés rooted on cobblestoned alleys, open squares invaded by artists and performers, and neo-Gothic church facades hiding vast caverns of arches and pews.
But don't think Old Québec is just another pretty face. Enter La Citadelle, North America's largest military fort, or the Musée de la civilisation à Québec for a taste of what the city—and the former colony of New France—went through to stand as it does today. It turns out that beauty sometimes does come at a price.
After spending some time trotting around Old Québec, escape the city buzz at Île d'Orléans, a tranquil island on the St. Lawrence River, located just 15 minutes away from downtown Québec.
Ever since French explorer Jacques Cartier first made landfall, Île d'Orléans has retained much of the rural character of its humble colonial beginnings. Heritage homes interspersed with orchards, rolling hills, and farmsteads welcome visitors to the island's traditional French Canadian villages, each still kept afloat by its agricultural products ranging from fruits and wines to maple syrup and potatoes.
Getting around Île d'Orléans to experience Québec City's quieter moments couldn't be easier— simply cross the Pont de l'Île d'Orléans, about 7 miles (11.5 kilometers) northwest of Old Québec, and drive along Chemin Royal, the riverside ring road that links the island's six villages.
Parc des Champs-de-Bataille
To fill your lungs with fresh air in Québec City, hop south of Grande Allée into Parc des Champs-de-Bataille, the city's most famous public park. But it's not just greenery and horticulture that draw people here.
Roughly translated to Battlefield Park in English, Parc des Champs-de-Bataille isn't your typical soulless green space. Centuries ago French and British forces clashed here—repeatedly—forever shaping the history of Canada and North America.
Even if imagining centuries-old military battles at your feet doesn't awaken your inner general, Parc des Champs-de-Bataille is also one of the venues for the renowned Quebec Winter Carnival. If you ever find yourself in Québec City in February, be sure to join Bonhomme Carnaval, Canada's most famous winter mascot, to celebrate winter with snowshoers, cross-country skiers, and ice sculptors on the Plains of Abraham, a historical area at the heart of Parc des Champs-de-Bataille.
Which of these three sights are you most interested in adding to your Québec City itinerary? Drop us a line in the comment section below!