It may be the most romantic city on the North American continent: As chic as Paris... as charming as any well-preserved place with 400 years of history... and affordable too, Québec City is an ideal destination for lovers.
The only walled city north of Mexico, Vieux-Québec holds its ancient treasures within four stone gates that date back centuries. Hire a horse and buggy with driver to guide you on a 35-minute ride, or spend time discovering the city's narrow, cobblestoned streets on foot.
To help get your bearings, understand there's a difference between Vieux-Québec (the historic part of the city, inside the walls) and the newer part of the city, which radiates out from the fortified area. Once you've gotten that straight, you'll need to keep in mind that Vieux-Québec comprises Haute-Ville (the uppermost part of the city) and Basse-Ville (the part of the city down below, close to the waterfront). Got that?
All around you, hear French being spoken... trés romantique!
WHAT TO SEE & DO
Where to begin exploring the cradle of French civilization in America? Start in Haute-Ville with some history. Celebrating its quadricentennial in 2008, Québec City was for many years considered the gateway to the continent.
A target of conquest, the city has undergone six sieges. To learn about them, visit Musée de Fort and then follow up with a stroll to historic sites that include the Plains of Abraham battlefield, the Citadel fortification, and the Parliament building. The façade of the latter displays 22 statues that tell the history of the province as well as Canada itself: explorers, religious figures, and politicians all figure prominently.
The 3D Québec Experience (30 minutes) is another way to learn about the city's past. Four hundred years of history -- from Samuel de Champlain's discovery to the present day -- are depicted in an imaginative multimedia show.
Québec City's uniqueness was recognized by UNESCO in 1985, when the city's historic district was placed on the World Heritage List.
You can take the funicular from Dufferin Terrace (outside Le Château Frontenac) downto Basse-Ville's Place-Royale. The lift, built in 1879, is seen in the center of the picture on the right -- and it can save a lot of steps. Once you're in the core of the old city, peek inside Nôtre Dame de Victoire church, listen for the musician who plays glasses filled with water (he's good!), and view the new trompe l'oeil painted on the side of a building. Then round the corner to Quartier Petit Champlain for some world-class s hopping.
Nearby, a unique cultural complex, the Museum of Civilization focuses on the society, cultures, and history of the region. In the new section of the city, Musée du Québec contains some 20,000 art works produced mainly in Québec between the colony's beginnings and the present day.