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.
Musée de la Civilisation
85 Rue Dalhousie, Old Quebec
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 Québec
179 Grande Allée O, 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.
5300 Blvd. 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.
Parc National de la Jacques-Cartier
103 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 Spa
339 Rue de Genève, Charlesbourg
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.
5826 Rue St. Hubert, La Petite Patrie
Established in 1996, Art Mûr, one of the largest contemporary galleries in Montreal, plays an important role in pushing the city’s creative landscape forward. Known for its roster of both local and Canadian artists, and particularly for its support of up-and-coming talent, the gallery regularly collaborates on shows with independent curators and larger Canadian museums. Look for monthlong shows by artists like Saskatchewan painter Judith Barry, whose semi-aerial landscape paintings are rendered beautifully in oil.
Mount Royal Park
Canada’s trend of having incredible green parks smack in the center of her cities continues with Montreal. Mount Royal Park spans part of the city and creeps up the mountain that frames part of the cityscape. Montreal dwellers treat the park as an extended backyard: It is packed daily with hikers, joggers, and aimless wanderers. Through the winter months, you can actually cross-country ski the grounds or take advantage of the ice rink (with kids in tow).
Montreal Botanical Garden
4101 Rue Sherbrooke E, Rosemont-La-Petite-Patrie
A taste of the tropics in the middle of the city: Visiting the Montreal Botanical Garden—bursting with color—in the middle of the city's glacial winter feels like an unexpected surprise. The sheer scale here is staggering, with ten greenhouses and twenty-two themed gardens, both containing over 22,000 varieties of plants and flowers. Making your way through the grounds feels like taking a journey across the continents, with Japanese- and Chinese-style gardens, tropical plants, and cacti all in abundance. The most interesting spaces are in the aquatic garden, which displays the incredible range of natural life below water, and for the more medical-minded, the toxic and medicinal plants garden, which offers a fascinating look at the natural world's impact on healing. With a special youth garden and an on-site restaurant, it makes an ideal weekend family activity no matter the season.
110 Rue Notre-Dame O, Old Montreal
Located in the heart of Old Montreal and dating from the early 1800s, Basilique Notre-Dame is a Gothic Revival masterpiece. The church is worth a visit—irrespective of faith or lack thereof—purely to marvel at the incredible craftsmanship that fills every corner. Pinewood sculptures depict the Stations of the Cross, there are exquisite black walnut wood carvings framing the aisles, the altarpiece artwork (thirty-two bronze panels) depicts humankind marching toward Christ, and the organ has an incredible 1,648 pipes. The most striking features, though, are the stained-glass windows and the vaulted, star-painted ceiling with three octagonal skylights. The ceiling—a mix of lapis lazuli blue and shimmering gold—combined with the multicolored flecks of light cast through the cavernous space from the stained glass, creates an incredible interplay of light and color.