by Kathy Arnold, The Telegraph, October 26, 2018
For atmosphere, few ports match Québec City. Founded in 1608, North America’s only walled city sits beside – and high above – the mighty St Lawrence River.
The “Cradle of French America” boasts cobbled lanes and steep-roofed houses, gourmet restaurants and cosy cafés, unusual shops and contemporary museums of art and culture.
A port of call, embarkation and disembarkation, the Port of Québec welcomes lines, such as Celebrity Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Cunard, Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, MSC, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line and Seabourn.
The terminal and three main berths are in the Old Port; less than two miles south, Berths 103 and 104 are used occasionally.
This is a walking city, but with cobblestones and steep streets, always wear sensible shoes.
See the Lower Town, then ride the funicular up the bluff to the Upper Town. Or, for more distant sights, use the local leBus to get to the Citadel, the Museum of Fine Arts and the Plains of Abraham, or the hip St Roch district.
Jean Lesage International Airport is 10 miles out of the city, so take a taxi or Uber. Rental cars are unnecessary during your stay in Québec City.
One of the world’s most recognisable hotels is the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac . High on the bluff in the Upper Town, it has dominated the skyline for 125 years. Super comfy, oozing history and with grand views over the St Lawrence, this is a favourite for special occasions.
Also in the Upper Town is the Monastère des Augustines, a plain, practical and affordable hotel in what was originally a 17th century monastery.
Elsewhere also in a 17th-century building, but down in the Old Port, is the luxurious and stylish Auberge Saint-Antoine with museum-quality artefacts in the rooms.
What to see and do
What can I do with one extra day in Québec City? The old heart of Québec City is a Unesco World Heritage Site – and no wonder. Nowhere else in North America matches it for history, a dramatic setting and sheer romance.
Start in the Basse Ville (Lower Town), where the bust of Louis XIV surveys the Place Royale. Admire the 17th and 18th-century stone houses, and spend time in the Musée de la Civilisation, with its exhibitions about the First Nations, as well as the French, British and other Europeans, who “discovered” this New World.
Shop in the Quartier Petit-Champlain, then ride the funicular up to the Haute Ville (Upper Town); enjoy great views over the St Lawrence. Video the Changing of the Guard at the massive Citadelle fortress and relive the past on the Plains of Abraham, where the 1759 battle between the British and French changed world history.
Stroll along the battlement walls; or see the sights from a horse-drawn carriage. And mingle with locals on streets such as Rue Saint-Jean, where Épicerie J A Moisan is North America’s oldest grocery store. Do practice your French, but note that breakfast is déjeuner, lunch is dîner and dinner is souper in Québec.
What can I do with two or three days?
First-time visitors are bowled over by the unspoiled beauty of the province of Québec, so why not rent a car and head off to the countryside? Just 15 minutes away are Montmorency Falls; more than 270 foot high, they are even taller than Niagara Falls. See them from a cable car, a suspension bridge or, for added thrills, a 1,000-foot-long zipline.
Then potter around the Île d'Orléans. For foodies, this island in the St Lawrence scores high, with farm stands, fun little restaurants and family-run shops that let you taste their artisan-made treats. For chocolates, don’t miss the Chocolaterie de l'Île d'Orléans; for blackcurrant liqueurs, taste and sip at Cassis Monna & Filles; for authentic ciders, it has to be Domaine Steinbach.
Alternatively, head south by train or car for Montréal. If driving, follow the Chemin du Roy, the 300-year-old route and stop in historic villages along the St Lawrence. Montréal itself is one of North America’s most sophisticated cities, with foreign flavours adding to the Franco and Anglophone cultural blend. The Pointe-à-Callière Museum takes you back to Montréal’s 1642 founding; the Jacques Cartier Bridge illumination is pure 21st century; restaurants are top-notch, as is the shopping, especially the local fashion designers. Look over the city from Mont Royal; rent a bike and pedal along the St Lawrence. With 100 festivals a year, there’s always a party going on. The biggest include the International Jazz Festival, the Canadian Formula 1 Grand Prix, plus circus and comedy festivals.
What can I do with a full week?
Drive up to the Saguenay Fjord. Cruise lines often visit, but this 65-mile-long natural wonder, with its 1,000-foot-high cliffs, deserves more time. In La Baie, watch the Fabuleuse Show: 400 years of history told in song and dance. Along the Route des Artisans, stop by art galleries, glassblowers, clothes designers and more. Where the fjord meets the St Lawrence is home to whales galore. Learn all about them at Tadoussac’s interpretation centre; see humpbacks, minkes and belugas on whale-watching cruises.
More active? Go sea kayaking; hike spectacular trails. To return to Québec City, follow the St Lawrence through picturesque villages.
Eat and drink
Québec’s French heritage guarantees good food. Best of all, a new generation of younger chefs are revamping grand-mère's recipes, while keeping a farm-to-table ethos. Try local scallops, duck and venison, cranberries and foraged mushrooms, partnered by local ciders (try the ice cider) and even Québec-grown wines.
Don’t leave Quebec City without…
Shopping like locals at Simons, a 175-year-old family-owned fashion store. The Boutique Métiers d’Art exhibits local arts and crafts; Brousseau Inuit Art Gallery has authentic works. At the Farmer's Market near the port, buy real, Québecois maple syrup. Shuttles from downtown run to the 265-store Laurier Québec shopping centre.
Need to know
Flight time from the UK
Between 11 and 13 hours, with changes in either Montreal, Ottawa or Toronto with Air Canada; Air Transat flies weekly in season.
Before even booking a holiday, British visitors should obtain an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) to enter Canada. Apply online .
This is one of North America’s safest cities; take the precautions you would at home.
Best time to go
Thanks to the fall foliage, the dazzling colours of the trees along the St Lawrence and the coast, Québec City is often pigeonholed as an autumn destination, but spring is pretty and summers are warm. Extra layers are needed for spring and autumn evenings.
Major museums are closed on Mondays; shopping malls are open 7/7; some smaller shops close on Sundays.
Check Québec City’s website for deals and multi-attraction passes.