I finally arrived in this great city with sunshine after some dreary days in Montreal. I took the train on Via Rail Canada from the central station. It took three hours and was so easy. The train station had some good breakfast options and there was a beverage and snack service on the train itself. I highly recommend this way of getting here. I really liked Quebec City. I loved the old architecture but enjoyed seeing some of the new growth and experiencing some of the best new restaurants in town!
Quebec City is made up of various neighborhoods which are fun to explore:
St. Roch: This is a gentrifying area of Quebec, outside the walls. I stayed here at the Hotel Le Vincent, at 295 Rue Saint Vallier Est., which is a small boutique hotel. The area around the hotel has some great new contemporary architecture which is in contrast to the older French architecture in other areas. The restaurants are some of the best in town. So I highly recommend staying here, exploring the old city during the day and eating some great food in the neighborhood ar0und the hotel.
St. Jean Baptiste and Montcalm: This is another area outside the walls. The main street is Rue St. Jean which extends from the Old Town. Along St. Jean are many shops, restaurants, cafes and bars. I enjoyed exploring the area off Rue St. Jean with its colorful homes and old architecture.
I would recommend going to the Musee de Beaux Arts in the Parc de Camps-de-Bataille. The museum was impressive and is built around two buildings, one of which was an old prison. I was exposed for the first time to some Canadian painters of the 1940’s to 1960’s. I then saw a really wonderful Caillebotte exhibit featuring Gustav and his brother. I had a great afternoon. There is a lovely restaurant in one building and a nice café in the other.
The museum is opposite the Old Upper Town. Start at the Fairmont and walk west along Rue St. Louis and the Grand Allee Est. You will walk by galleries, restaurants and cafes many of which have outdoor seating. It is a spectacular walk. Make sure to stop in at Gallery Brousseau and Brousseau to see some great Inuit sculptures like they have in the Musee de Beaux Arts. They are at 34 Rue St. Louis.
On the way back, walk through the Parc de Champs de Bataille to the Citadelle. Then walk along the river on the Promenade des Governeurs to the Old Upper Town.
Old Upper Town: What a charming place. It is filled with great architecture. You are immediately transported to a town in France. To me, this is the highlight of a trip to Quebec City. It has museums, narrow winding streets with extraordinary architecture with some dating from the 1600’s, it has military structures, churches and other great buildings. Make sure to visit the Citadelle, the Fortifications of Quebec, The Terrasse Dufferin which is the promenade along the riverfront outside the Chateau Frontenac. You will find wonderful restaurants and cafes with many having outdoor seating, shops, boutique hotels and of course the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac. Tours are available of this famous hotel. I find that the restaurants are a little on the “quaint side” and somewhat touristy.
Exploring Quartier Petit Champlain: From the Old Upper Town you can walk down or take the funicular to this lower area. This was the area where the artisans lived in the 17th century and dock workers in the 19th century. There are several streets of small shops and restaurants. This is the prime tourist area especially when a cruise ship is in port so plan you schedule accordingly. The Place Royale is a really attractive square.
I walked to the Musee de la Civilisation, 85 Rue Dalhousie: It is an interesting museum primarily on the culture and environment of Quebec, but they do have other exhibitions as well. For example, I saw a very good exhibition on Rome. It had some very interesting exhibits and recommend you try to go.
Walk along Rue St. Pierre to Rue St. Paul. This is another street with many restaurants, galleries and antique stores. The antique stores focused primarily on Quebec antiques and folk art. There were some great stores. Walk across Rue St. Andre to the Marche du Vieux Port. This was a market with shops selling pastries, cheese, maple syrup as well as seasonal fruits and vegetables.
If you want to see the best view of the Old Upper Town, take the ferry to Levis just below Chateau Frontenac. It costs $6 and is cheaper than taking a boat tour. Mornings are best as the light is on the city rather than behind it later in the day.
Other things to do in Quebec City and Quebec:
There are many things to do in the area and at different times of the year. Winter Carnival or Carnaval de Quebec is held in January and February.
There is an Economusee network where you can visit artisans making pottery, blowing glass, weaving, making chocolate, bread, honey, cheese, beer and wine, and jewelry. The products are for sale, but there is an educational component plus a cultural component as well.
Le Massif de Charlevoix: A great side trip would be to take the high end train from Quebec City to Le Massif de Charlevoix with a stopover in Malbaie. The train is sleek and there are gourmet meals served which is of course part of the experience. It was started by Cirque du Soleil co-founder Daniel Gauthier.