It’s the most normal (read: European) place we have so far visited in Canada, intensely Francophone, a little bit provincial maybe; Quebec City has a human scale and feel (in addition to a very Catholic colour – it feels like a city Cardinal Richelieu could have built).
Even outside the historic, walled centre (it’s the only walled city in North America and on UNESCO’s World Heritage list), the buildings are not those flat, vast, low boxes placed about 5 miles from each other that you need at least a motorbike to travel between, but a somehow more approachable, walkable and altogether better than what we saw in Toronto or Montreal/Laval.
People are incredibly friendly and seem happily content without being manically positive, and the place seems civilised but not altogether boring.
Oh, and it’s situated in the fantastic point over the St Lawrence river, just where the wide estuary narrows into a more manageable waterway – there is even a ferry that takes people and cars to the other side and allows for even better views of the historic Old Town (Vieux Quebec). What more can one want?
But of course it’s the Old Quebec that makes Quebec such an enchanting place, and such a popular tourist destination. It’s a pleasure to just stroll around the streets and alleys of the old town, so unexpectedly attractive in the New World.
There are also elegant baroque churches, seminaries and municipal buildings, pretty squares and an almost complete set of walls, whose battlements dotted with cannons can be walked for spending views of the city, port and river.
The most famous building in Quebec, or perhaps the most recognised, is the much newer Chateau Frontenac hotel, with its mock-baronial, turreted and pinnacled architecture. Barely 120 years old (and in fact, the massive and rather monstrous central tower was added in the 20’s), this is apparently the most photographed building in Canada, and certainly in Quebec City. It’s rather over the top, but with its superb situation and striking silhouette, no wonder really.
The Chateau sits above the lower city (Basse Ville) and the river, and nearby set of stairs as well as a funicular connect the area immediately adjacent to the hotel to the attractive set of buildings, shops and restaurants immediately below, centred on restored Place Royale, and with a lively Rue du Petit-Champlain particularly good for arts, crafts, food and drink.
The lower town also has the Museum of Civilization and the terminal for the commuter ferry to Levis, a workaday community on the other bank of St Lawrence, eminently worth a trip for the views (as well as a nice microbrewery pub the Corsair).