The Quebec City Guide
It’s tempting to think of Quebec City as a closer France (80 percent of the population considers French their primary language). But the capital of this Canadian province has a culture all its own. If you don’t believe us, we have two words for you: duck poutine.
Set on the banks of the St. Lawrence River, Old Quebec feels like you’ve stepped back in time—a lot of time. The small cobblestoned alleyways and centuries-old stone churches are as charming as can be, but the city still manages to feel alive and buzzing (with modern sites, like the Rem Koolhaas–designed art museum) and utterly peaceful (with a national park full of moose and foxes). And while Quebec City really comes to life in summer, when people spill out of the cafés and bars into the streets for late-night revelry, there’s something magical about winter, too, when the ice-skating rinks open, everything is dusted with snow, and the identity of this city is entirely its own.
Montmorency Falls5300 Boulevard Sainte-Anne, Beauport
Right outside the city, Montmorency Falls is the Quebec version of Niagara (though, as locals are happy to remind you, it’s actually 99 feet higher, at 272 feet). Take a cable car along the side of a cliff to reach the top. From here, a walking path winds its way to a suspension bridge that overlooks the entire area, but for a really close view, take the stairs at the end of the bridge. It’ll bring you down to the foot of the falls and an awesome display of the power of nature.
Musée de la Civilisation85 Rue Dalhousie, Old Port
The permanent and rotating exhibits at this anthropology-focused museum offer insight deep into the history of Quebec, and also of other cultures. This Is Our Story examines the aboriginal communities of the province, both past and present, while other shows have included Egyptian Magic, which explored the role of mystical beliefs in ancient Egypt, and Haiti in Extremis, featuring the work of contemporary Haitian artists.
Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec179 Grande Allée Ouest, Montcalm
An art museum dedicated almost exclusively to work created in Quebec, the Musée National des Beaux-Arts is one of the largest in Canada. Spread across four separate buildings (including a glassy, sleek contemporary art pavilion built in collaboration with Rem Koolhaas’s OMA of New York and Provencher Roy of Montreal), the permanent collection varies wildly. There are Inuit artifacts, eighteenth-century paintings, and avant-garde sculptures, as well as rotating exhibits from around the world.
Parc National de la Jacques-Cartier103 Chemin du Parc-National, Stoneham-et-Tewkesbury
The Jacques Cartier National Park lies thirty miles north of Quebec City, with some of the most dramatic natural landscapes you’ll find in Canada. Clocking in at over 170,000 acres of wilderness, it’s a glacial valley with close to one hundred miles of hiking trails, plus crystal-clear rivers for canoeing, kayaking, and fishing. And if you’re lucky, you’ll glimpse moose, beavers, white-tailed deer, foxes, porcupines, and other inhabitants of the great outdoors.
Siberia Station Spa339 Rue de Genève, Charlesbourg | +1.418.841.1325
One of the beauties of Quebec City is the easy access to nature, and Siberia Station Spa (twenty minutes north of the city center) is right in the middle of it, near the recreational area of Lake Beauport. The concept is inspired by Scandinavian thermotherapy spas, where guests alternate between hot and cold baths, reducing stress, relaxing muscles, improving blood circulation, and helping improve the quality of sleep. Plan to spend about three hours here to unwind as you were meant to.
Unusual PassagesOld Quebec
From June to October every year, one of the city’s largest public art events takes place in Old Quebec. It’s a series of self-guided pathways that are flanked by various weird and wonderful installations like the eye-catching Happy Castaways by Demers-Mesnard—a replica of an island inhabited by a band of dancing, turquoise sculptures of deer, bears, kangaroo, and other wild critters (we told you it was weird). Installations change every year, so there’s reason to return, even if you’ve seen it before.