Get your camera ready - this is one picturesque, quaint, UNESCO World Heritage listed, walled city! Here is a guide to seeing some of the key locations of Old Québec on foot.
In just a few days, it’s possible to get an overview of the main sites of Québec’s old town, as it’s rather compact. This Northern American, but very European, Canadian city is certainly steeped in history. But, I won’t get into talking about past wars between the French and the English here.
Wars aside, Québec for me, was really about the intriguing, stone alleyways laid in the 1600s, vibrant window shutters that contrasted with cascading effervescent flowers, wooden doorways leading to mysterious courtyards, murals, artisans, open-air cafes, street musicians, restaurants, ancient churches, charismatic piazzas and overflowing charm. Not to mention, the old town’s prime location and pleasant aspect on the Saint Lawrence River.
If you’re looking for a self-guided walk – you might like to follow my footsteps of my afternoon in Old Québec.
I started at Parc L’Esplanade, on the corner of D’Auteuil and Saint-Louis, and followed one of Québec’s busiest and most colourful streets, Rue Saint-Louis.
This stretch is full of restaurants, cafes and bars and the road culminates at one of the city’s central points, Places D’Armes. Standing here majestically is the regal, Chateau Frontenac, which is now a Fairmont hotel.
At Place D’Armes, you’ll find the tourist office, where you can get maps and information.
From this square, you have scenic views of lower Québec town, which is an intriguing kaleidoscope of cobbled pathways and colourful architecture. The panorama extends over the local landscape, particularly the Saint Lawrence River, which runs all the way to Montreal. Québec features in many cruise ship itineraries - so chances are you’ll see a huge vessel at dock.
Québec’s funicular (cable car) can take you downtown. However, it is not far, or hard to walk, so I took the steps to Rue Cote de la Montagne. Descending the road you’ll find a charming pedestrian passageway through the Quartier Petit Champlain. This is where many of the city’s boutiques and high-end shops are located, allowing plenty of opportunities for window-shopping or a chance to indulge yourself in a souvenir spree.
At the end of Champlain, you can either divert down to the wharf, if there is a big ship at port. Otherwise, you can make your way directly up Rue Notre-Dame to arrive in one of Québec’s most popular tourist squares.
Place-Royale is a time-warp to Paris, a constellation of open air eating venues, the Musée de la Place-Royale and Notre Dame des Victoires, one of North America's oldest churches.
Take a wander down to the end of Rue Notre Dame to see an epic wall mural, art galleries and no doubt some street musicians. Winding your way back up Cote de Montagne up to Port Dauphine, you’ll meet the city wall again. Following away from the old town, on Rue des Remparts, you will come across canons, a visual reminder of the defenses used to protect the city in wartime. Further along, you’ll get a chance to see a difference aspect of Québec, the wider commercial region, industrial area and port.
After making your way though a tunneled walkway, you’ll arrive in Artillery Park, another major historical landmark in Québec. It feels kind of desolate here – but I guess that's what an old war stronghold might feel like.
It is not far from here to Rue Saint-Jean, where you will find a mecca of shops, cafes and restaurants, if you are feeling like an energy boost or a rest after your circuit of Québec thus far.
As the sun is going to set, make your way back to Rue St-Louis, and venture further into Parc Esplanade.
There are some memorable vistas, if you walk along the wall towards the Citadelle. As dusk descends, lights on the city’s walls illuminate their antiquity, whilst the grandeur of buildings also twinkle in the distance, like a true European fairy tale – in Canada.
Sally Watson is an Australian freelance travel writer, journalist, photographer and editor of Wing Woman Adventures. Instagram: @wingwomanadventures Twitter: @wingwomanADV Facebook: Wing Woman Adventures
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