With an estimated 7.3 million native French speakers in Canada and a history closely entwined with that of France, the country is undoubtedly inspired by its Gallic roots overseas. Nowhere else is French so widely embraced as the mother tongue than in Québec, the eastern city brimming with continental charm.
While the city provides every contemporary comfort for travellers, those on holiday in Canada flock to Québec to soak up the old European atmosphere and sophisticated flair of one of the oldest settlements on the continent. Follow our guide to discovering the nouvelle France details in Canada’s Québec City.
Plains of Abraham
Appropriately, the Plains of Abraham offer a fitting introduction to Québec – being the location where France’s influence reigned supreme over the British Empire creating the city that we know today. The land is the site where the 1759 Conquest forged Canada’s cultural destiny and its 103 acres are an important place marking this historic moment. Canada car rental companies can help those visiting the city drive out to the Plains of Abraham, where activities such as historical days and recreational sports are regularly put on. The Gilmour Hill trail is a newer addition to the park, providing visitors with an easy-access route from Samuel-de-Champlain in old Québec to the city’s Upper Town.
Citadelle de Québec
Likewise, the Citadelle de Québec showcases Canada’s battle history a few decades on from the Conquest. While technically under British rule, this fortress located on Cape Diamond at Québec’s highest point was designed and overseen by French engineer Sebastien Le Prestre Vauban. Today, the men and women of the Royal 22nd Regiment bring to life the military customs from 300 years ago. An onsite museum provides yet more information on the fortress and the events that have taken place there throughout its use. While open to the public in the day, the Citadelle de Québec is used for much more peaceful purposes hosting several official diplomatic events in the evening.
Musée de l’Amérique francophone
Situated in the heart of the old city, the Musée de l’Amérique francophone traces the influence of French-speaking culture and its development in Canada. The museum houses an awe-inspiring collection of intricate religious artefacts from the important Séminaire de Québec collection, as well as heritage exhibitions charting the city from its first New France settlers to modern day. Both aim to help visitors understand the relationship between France and Canada, and the beautiful language that continues to bond them today. The museum’s sister Musées de la Civilisation, provides a more rounded interpretation of Québec’s heritage. The permanent exhibit People of Québec…Then and Now gathers together more than 500 objects to communicate the major events that helped to form the much-loved city.
Observatoire de la Capitale
The best way to see Québec City is from up high, and visitors can marvel at the landscape in all its magnificent glory from the Observatoire de la Capitale, sitting above all other buildings in the city. Offering 360° views and reaching heights of 221 metres, the Observatoire de la Capitale is the most satisfying way to explore the French mark left on Québec. Panoramic views aren’t the only thing on offer. Once you’ve taken in the scenery, find yourself immersed in the city’s rich past with an interactive multimedia exhibit.
Now you’ve had a bird’s-eye view of the city’s streets, hit the pavements to see how the French way of life still influences daily activities in Québec. The Petit-Champlain District in the old part of town is especially picturesque. Adjacent to the city’s first port, the area was established in the 1600s and is recognised as the oldest commercial district in Canada. Today the Rue du Petit-Champlain is alive with quaint boutiques, and the cobblestone street is full of visitors making their way to this historic part of the city to pick up a memento of their trip. Not to be missed is the painted mural located on the side of the house at 102 Rue du Petit-Champlain, a testament to the area’s rural origins.
Fairmont Le Chateau Frontemac
Perhaps the most persistent image of Canada’s Gallic city is the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac. Embodying French architecture from the 19th century, the grand castle hotel is a globally recognised icon, having been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and supposedly being the most photographed accommodation on the planet. The Chateau was named for Louis de Buade, Count of Frontenac and governor of the New France colony in the late 1600s, and has formed an impressive backdrop in several films since. While the view is spectacular from the outside, inside the hotel you can find a 15-minute self-guided app tour to help visitors experience stories and visuals from years gone by.
No country does gastronomy quite like France – that is until you visit Canada, and in particular Québec, where the art of classic French cooking dominates the restaurant scene.
Haute cuisine, like that served at Le Saint-Amour, is helping to preserve the world-class French standard in dining for visitors and patriots in Québec City. Awarded one of Canadian Traveller’s top ten positions for favourite eating spots, Le Saint-Amour is known as much for its inspired menu as it is for its superb wine cellar, all carefully orchestrated under the expert eye of Chef Jean-Luc Boulay.
Elsewhere in the city, Restaurant Legende promotes its culinary fare as being a “tribute to our ancestors” and a glance at the menu will explain why. It serves traditional ingredients used by the First Nations through to French-inspired flavour combinations, updated with a contemporary Canadian twist. The almond and raspberry soft cake in particular will transport you straight to any sophisticated Parisian corner bistro.
Likewise, the AAA five diamond rated Restaurant Initiale is sure to satisfy even the most discerning taste buds. Home to established master chef Yvan Lebrun, the eatery is dedicated to creating authentic dishes full of flavour. The surrounding region is also represented in its fare, with many of the items on the menu featuring produce sourced from local suppliers and artisans.
Whatever you decide to do in Québec, you’re guaranteed to feel deep cultural connections with settlers throughout the ages in this vibrant city.
Image Credit: Josyan Pierson, Gilbert Bochenek, Laurent Belanger (wikimedia.org), Ross Dunn (flickr.com)