Text and photos: Javier A. Pinzón
An example of Second Empire architecture. Home to the Parliament forms a quadrangle around an inner patio. An impressive historic altarpiece with bronze figures commemorates the great names of Québec history.
Artillery Park Heritage Site
This site, where the French built several defensive fortifications in the 17th and 18th centuries, played a significant strategic role in the history of the city. The area gradually became a garrison in the middle of the 18th century. The British Royal Artillery Regiment was headquartered here until 1871. A cartridge factory opened in 1879 and provided ammunition to the Canadian Army until it closed in 1964.
A lovely, lively street with many restaurants and shops, it also boasts some of the oldest and most beautiful buildings in the city. Maillou House (1736) sits next to Château Frontenac. On the corner of Rue des Jardins stands Jacquet House, the oldest house in the city, built in 1674. It now houses a restaurant serving traditional cuisine.
Founded in 1641 by Madame de la Peltrie and Marie Guyart (Mother Marie de l’Incarnation), it is the oldest girls’ school in North America still in operation. The current chapel (dating from the early 20th century) features interior decoration transferred from the original chapel, which was decorated between 1726 and 1736 under the direction of Pierre-Noël Levasseur. Pay particular attention to the wood carvings of St. Augustine, St. Ursula, and St. Joseph; the nuns’ choir with its vaulted wooden ceilings; and the collection of paintings.
School of Architecture (Québec Seminary)
Founded in 1663 by Monsignor François de Laval to educate priests destined for the Colony, it is the oldest institution of higher education in Canada. The school became Laval University in 1852; growth soon outstripped available space, leading to the opening of the Sainte-Foy University campus in 1950.
Notre-Dame de Québec Basilica-Cathedral
Notre-Dame de Québec is noteworthy as the first parish church on the continent and the cradle of French civilization and the Catholic faith in North America. It is the ancestor of the Catholic parishes spread throughout Canada and the United States. The Cathedral played a decisive role in the development of Québec and Canada and has been essential to the survival of the French language in North America.
Designed by architect Bruce Price, Château Frontenac is one of a chain of château-style hotels built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The hotel opened in 1893, five years after its sister hotel, the Banff Springs, as part of a railway company strategy to attract wealthy visitors and promote luxury tourism on its trains.
Terrace surrounding Château Frontenac, providing a lovely view of the St. Lawrence River. It was built in 1879 under the direction of Canada’s governor general of the time, Lord Dufferin, who lent his name to the terrace. The terrace has vantage points and benches from which tourists can view the Citadel of Québec, an active military installation and an official residence of the Canadian sovereign and the governor general of Canada. The far western end of the terrace has a nearly 500-foot ramp that is used as a slide every year during the Québec Winter Carnival, held from late January to mid-February.
Accessible via funicular railway or the Casse-Cou stairs, the Petit Champlain neighborhood evokes a French town of yore. It is fitting that its attractions include the Louis Jolliet House (1683), the erstwhile residence of the discoverer of the Mississippi, and the Chevalier House, which showcases restored interiors typical of the 18th and 19th centuries. Nearby are many shops that sell exclusive products and souvenirs for every taste.
The charming cobblestone square, the current heart of the Lower Town, functioned as the city’s economic hub until the mid-19th century, when the port and the entire surrounding zone entered a decline. Surrounded by typical 18th century stone houses with chimneys and sloped roofs, the plaza features a bronze bust of King Louis XIV in the center.
Breakneck Steps (L’Escalier Casse-Cou)
Constructed in 1635, it is the oldest set of stairs in the city. Originally called the Escallain Champlain, Escalier du Quêteux (Beggars’ Stairs), or Escalier de la Basse-Ville (Lower Town Stairs), the current, highly-descriptive name of these steep stairs dates to the 19th century.
From North, Central, and South America and the Caribbean, Copa Airlines offers four flights weekly to Montreal, Canada through the Hub of the Americas in Panama City. From Montreal to Quebec the most direct route is the Trans-Canada Highway 20E, although some prefer the Camino Real, which runs along the Saint Lawrence River. There is also train service.