A Canada and New England cruise is a great way to explore one of the most beautiful areas of North America’s coastline and many of these voyages begin in the capital of Canada’s Quebec province. A fortified city, it boasts its own citadel, a captivating old quarter and a lot of history, making it an interesting place to explore, especially if you have a little more time in the city before your cruise embarks.
Founded in 1608 by the explorer Samuel de Champlain, Quebec is one of the oldest cities in North America and its name is derived from an old Algonquin Native American world ‘Kebec’ which means ‘where the river narrows’. It’s certainly an apt name, as the city indeed lies at the point where the St Lawrence River narrows after beginning its journey in the Gulf of St Lawrence. Owing to its fortified nature and strategic location, Quebec played an important role in the French and Indian Wars when the French and British battled for control and also during the American Revolution.
Quebec’s one of Canada’s most historic cities, so there’s certainly plenty of cultural attractions to keep you occupied during your time there.
Old Quebec is the city’s most popular tourist attraction and contains a number of structures which date back to the century of its founding. The upper town is walled, which makes Quebec the only walled city north of Mexico in the vast continent of North America. The lower town contains a number of 17th century and many 18th century buildings, and it’s where you’ll find the historic Notre-Dame des Victoires church, which dates back to 1687 and is one of the oldest churches in North America. Old Quebec is a treasure-trove for architectural enthusiasts, and it’s possible to identify 11 different architectural styles if you know where to look. For the rest of us, it’s enough to wonder at the craftsmanship and perhaps familiarity of some of the British and French architectural influence we may recognise from back home or from when we’re on our European travels.
The Citadelle de Quebec is another must-see cultural destination if you’re looking to immerse yourself in the city’s history. The museum within tells the story of the city’s military history throughout French, British and Canadian periods and the citadel is an active garrison, so it’s possible to take a guided tour and perhaps see the changing of the guard ceremony. Other architectural highpoints are the Saint Anne de Beaupre Basilica and the 17th century Basilque Cathedral Notre-Dame-de-Quebec, with its beautiful golden interior.
When it comes to natural wonders, Canada’s a country with a lot of them and there’s certainly much to see in and around Quebec too.
If you’re going to get only one taste of the outdoors during your stay in the city, make it Montmorency Falls. At 275 feet, they’re higher than their more famous cousins Niagara Falls and are understandably a breathtaking sight. You can view the falls by way of one of two hiking and rock-climbing paths or if you’re feeling less adventurous, by cable car. If you’ve still not had your fill of waterfalls, around 45-minutes out of the city you’ll find Les Sept Chutes – a hiking trail which, if your French translation skills are good, you’ll have realised involves the viewing of seven different waterfalls.
The St Lawrence River is a constant within the city and there are a couple of outdoors attractions which showcase its beauty perfectly. Dufferin Terrace is an elevated promenade which offers panoramic views of the river and Old Quebec too, and if you don’t fancy the climb down, the funicular’s a fun way to get to the lower town. The Parc de vla Plage-Jacques-Cartier meanwhile, offers a slightly more grounded view of the river and is a great place to unwind and avoid the crowds.
Shopping and fun
For an authentic and historic shopping experience, be sure to visit Marche du Vieux-Port Farmer’s Market located in the lower town of Old Quebec. It’s open all-year round, though is especially busy in December during the Christmas market season and offers all manner of cheeses, liqueurs and ciders.
If you want to take in a performance in the day or in the evening, head over the Agora in Downtown Quebec, which often offers free performances and firework displays. For some old-school theatre ambience, be sure to visit the Theatre Capitole, while the city’s main theatrical venue, Grand Theatre de Quebec, offers a host of performances from international stars in more contemporary surroundings.
It wouldn’t be Canada without a snow-bound experience and, providing you’re in the city at the right time of year, you can ‘enjoy’ an exhilarating toboggan ride from the top of the Dufferin Terrace. Faster than it looks, it’s great fun but not for the faint-hearted!
By Simon Brotherton