The heart of Québec City is Vieux-Québec (the Old City). It’s divided between Haute-Ville (Upper Town) and Basse-Ville (Lower Town). The former is home to a lot of the city’s most famous sites—like the majestic Château Frontenac, Terrasse Dufferrin (Boardwalk) and more—while the latter, once home to dilapidated warehouses, is now filled with boutique hotels, trendy shops, attractive bistros and chic art galleries. What’s nice is that Lower Town, with its narrow cobbled-stone streets and old buildings, still maintains the original architectural feel.

Trompe-l'oeil mural at Place Royale
Trompe-l’oeil mural at Place Royale

The historical heart of the Old City is Place Royale. It’s not only the birthplace of French civilization in North America, but also one of the continent’s oldest settlements. Dominating the plaza is the oldest church in Québec, Notre Dame Des Victoires. If you take a peek inside you’ll see a small boat suspended from the ceiling. Information about the replica is inside the church. In Place Royale you can also see an immense tromp-l’oeil mural of people—historic figures, and nearly a dozen of Québec’s leading artists and writers—from the early city.

Notre Dame Des Victoires, Place Royale
Notre Dame Des Victoires, Place Royale
Place Royale, one of the oldest public squares in the province.
Place Royale, one of the oldest public squares in the province.

Steeped in four centuries of French, English and Canadian history and tradition, fortress walls still encase part of this beautiful historic city and UNESCO World Heritage site. Small, dense and well maintained, the Old City is as romantic as any coastal town in Europe.

Old City Walls

As the soul of New France, Québec is almost entirely French in feeling, spirit and language. Many of the chairs along the rue de Petit-Champlain (the oldest street in the city) are styled after those of famous cafés in Paris. Although the majority of the population is French speaking, many of the residents know some English, especially those working in restaurants, hotels and shops. However, knowing some French before visiting is very helpful.

Terrasse Dufferrin and the Château Frontenac
Terrasse Dufferrin and the Château Frontenac

You can spend an entire visit of the Old City on foot, walking from one Town to the other. L’Escalier du Casse-Cou (Breakneck Steps) or a ride on the funiculaire (the only one of its kind in Canada) connect the two.

L'Escalier Du Casse-Cou
L’Escalier Du Casse-Cou
Funiculaire in the background
Funiculaire in the background

My first visit to Québec was a little over four years ago, just before I married my husband, a Québécois. Despite my extensive travel around the world, I surprisingly never had visited Québec and had no idea of the gem that was in my backyard, so to speak. We got married here, I’ll tell you more about it in another post, but for now I want to tell you about an entire area, slightly beyond the Old City, that many visitors never explore. My husband, a former guide (during his university days), showed me a few jewels of the city that I might never have explored on my own.

Outside the Walls
Slightly beyond the Old City, there’s quite a bit to experience and all you need is just half a day to see it. For example, there’s St. Roch, the funky former industrial area that’s becoming known for its restaurants, great shopping and artistic edge.

Eglise St. Roch
Eglise St. Roch

Avenue Cartier, the Grand Allée (one of the city’s oldest streets), and rue St. Jean all have restaurants and shops well worth visiting. These areas bustle with trendy restaurants, eclectic boutiques, unique cafés, bibliothèques (libraries), churches, and interesting épiceries (grocery stores)—like Épicerie J.A. Moisan—that tend to attract more of the locals than tourists.

Grand Allée
Avenue Cartier, a favorite hangout for lunch and after-work for those working downtown
Avenue Cartier, a favorite hangout for lunch and after-work for those working downtown
Rue St. Jean
Rue St. Jean

Colorful and bohemian in appearance and vibe, it’s hard to miss the buzz along rue Saint-Jean. This friendly and up and coming chic neighborhood is a great place to shop, hang out, eat, people watch, or go for a stroll.

Rue St. Jean is also home to Choco Musée Érico, an old timey shop that sells gourmet chocolates and has a small room with historical information about how chocolate is made.  

Choco Musée
Musée du Chocolat

We stopped at a great little Bistro, Le Hobbit, for lunch. I loved the ambiance—exposed stone and brick walls, charming old French music (I think we heard Aznavour singing) in the background, and large windows overlooking the bustling rue St. Jean. The atmosphere was warm and cozy, the service was excellent, and the food we ordered was perfect for a light lunch.

Le Hobbit Windows
Le Hobbit

have you been to Québec City or have you tried the very popular poutine??!

5 thoughts on “Québec City

    1. Hi Fae, yes, I have a few photos of the mural in Place Royale. I will update the post to include them now! 🙂 Apologies for the confusion. No, I’m not moving to Quebec. I did say that I was “on the move again,” but I meant that I was traveling again. Although Quebec is lovely, I don’t think I could live there and brave the five months of snow! The last time we went was December 2012. Three snowstorms during the week and a half we were there. Admittedly, the Old City was still lovely. Covered in snow and decorated with Christmas lights…it was like a beautiful painting.

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