QUEBEC CITY
National Geographic Traveller (UK)|January/February 2022
Canada’s historic crown jewel serves up high drama with 17th-century squares, turreted hotels and electric neighbourhoods, all encircled by epic wilderness
Alicia Miller

Chocolate-box buildings with brimming flower boxes. An imposing fortress, encircled by cannons. Soaring city walls, cobbled squares, horse-and-carriage rides. Where in the world are you? You’d probably guess France — maybe Switzerland or Germany. But this is, in fact, North America; Quebec City, one of the continent’s oldest colonial settlements. Some 400 years after its founding, it delivers 17th-century atmosphere so rich it can feel like stepping onto a film set.

Wander the picturesque old town — divided into Upper and Lower halves, connected by steep stairways and an old funicular — and your fingers will twitch for a camera. The Lower, Quartier Petit Champlain, has artisan shops and muralled squares. The Upper, marked by a sweeping boardwalk and the landmark Fairmont Le Château Frontenac hotel, sparkles with Victorian glamour — in fact, you half-expect a bonneted lady to stroll past.

However, there’s more to Quebec City than its looks. Nearly half a millennium of history means that when you scratch beneath the surface, the stories get interesting. Think churches stuffed with paintings rescued during the French Revolution; monasteries that hosted Canada’s first hospital; and ballrooms where Roosevelt and Churchill planned D-Day.

Then, of course, there’s the culture. In so many ways, Quebec City is a slice of bygone France. And not just in the mansard roofs and Gallic signage, but in the white table clothed restaurants unironically dishing up retro duck à l’orange and crêpes suzette. But for every full french moment, there’s a counterpoint. You need only step into an American-style diner for poutine — cheese curds, chips and gravy — or nibble fresh maple taffy to know Paris is more than 3,000 miles away.

Part of the city’s charm is what it offers beyond its old city walls. Here you’ll find trendy neighbourhoods punctuated with hip wine bars and breweries, offering a sense of how real life ticks along inside the tourist magnet. Then, beyond that, there’s wilderness. A 20-minute drive will take you not just out of the city, but standing by a crashing waterfall, kayaking along a river and cycling past fields full of ripening blackcurrants. And, perhaps, that’s where the European comparisons draw thin. Beautiful, diverse landscapes minutes from a cosmopolitan hub? That’s unmistakably Canadian.

SEE AND DO

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER (UK)View All

Menorca

Quiet coastal hiking trails, rich gastronomy and an intriguing history — this stunning Balearic isle offers plenty beyond its dazzling beaches.

9 mins read
National Geographic Traveller (UK)
May 2022

Zagreb

Croatia’s beguiling capital offers a heady mix of Western Balkan heritage, proud coffee culture and outdoor markets selling produce from the encircling Dinaric Alps

9 mins read
National Geographic Traveller (UK)
May 2022

INSIDE GUIDE - OTTAWA

ACTIVE ADVENTURES, BUZZY BREWERIES AND NEIGHBOURHOODS THRIVING WITH BARS AND BOUTIQUES CANADA'S BIJOU CAPITAL HAS PLENTY TO DISCOVER BEYOND THE HALLS OF PARLIAMENT

3 mins read
National Geographic Traveller (UK)
June 2022

ULTIMATE SCANDINAVIAN EXPERIENCES

25 - THE PULL OF THE WILD IS NEVER STRONGER THAN IN DENMARK, NORWAY AND SWEDEN. ON THE PERIPHERY OF EUROPE, SCANDINAVIA IS WHERE NATURE THROWS OUT THE RULEBOOK. SHAPED BY THE ELEMENTS AND RULED BY THE SEASONS, THIS IS A REGION NOT ONLY BOUND B CULTURAL TIES, BUT BY A LOVE FOR EPIC OUTDOOR ADVENTURES

10+ mins read
National Geographic Traveller (UK)
June 2022

EAT - TUNISIA

From a seafood feast in Kelibia to spice shopping in Nabeul, Tunisia's northeastern Cap Bon peninsula offers up a fiery fusion of culinary experiences

8 mins read
National Geographic Traveller (UK)
June 2022

STAY AT HOME - STRANGFORD LOUGH

The largest inlet in Northern Ireland is brimming with opportunities for outdoor adventure, from birdlife to bracing waterside walks

2 mins read
National Geographic Traveller (UK)
June 2022

HOT TOPIC - HOW THE WAR IN UKRAINE IS AFFECTING TRAVEL

Here's all you need to know about how the war in Ukraine has redrawn the travel map, from international flight routes to regional trips.

3 mins read
National Geographic Traveller (UK)
June 2022

MAURITIUS

Charles Darwin was among the first naturalists to document the astonishing bounty of this Indian Ocean idyll. Exploring in his footsteps reveals an island every bit as ‘eminently curious' as it was to him in 1836 — home not only to an array of endemic species but also to a growing army of modern-day conservationists, all working to preserve the sanctity of Mauritius's tropical beaches and waterfall-laced mountains

2 mins read
National Geographic Traveller (UK)
June 2022

CITY LIFE - PITTSBURGH

America's steel city is forging a new name for itself as an incubator for cutting-edge tech, offbeat arts and innovative places to eat, drink and dance

9 mins read
National Geographic Traveller (UK)
June 2022

FAMILY - COOL COLOMBIA

Enchanted by Disney's Encanto? Here's why it's time your family explored the country that inspired the Oscar-winning animated film

2 mins read
National Geographic Traveller (UK)
June 2022
RELATED STORIES

GOLDEN GIRL

My mom’s 80th-birthday tattoo is just the latest example of her wild newfound independence

4 mins read
Reader's Digest US
October 2021

The Language of Love

I could no longer communicate with my husband. But someone could…

4 mins read
Guideposts
May 2021

Peregrinaje del queso

Desde el valle neerlandés del queso hasta los exuberantes pastos de Normandía y el noroeste silvestre de California, estos son los lugares que deberían estar en la lista de todo amante del queso.

6 mins read
National Geographic Traveler en Español
Marzo / Mayo 2021

Quebec, Bears & Borrowed Guns

I could tell she had a touch of nervous excitement as we loaded up the rental car and headed north out of Montreal towards the Canadian bush.

5 mins read
Bear Hunting Magazine
January - February 2020

Reflections Of The Untold

Guillaume Seff was born in Toulouse, France, in 1977, and now works between Toulouse and Montreal, Quebec. He has been painting since his childhood.

1 min read
American Art Collector
September 2019

Quebec - Canada's Next Mountain Biking Powerhouse

Quebec's building revival is turning 'La belle province' into a mountain biking powerhouse.

10+ mins read
Bike
May 2016

GOLDEN GIRL

My mom's 80th birthday tattoo is just the latest example of her wild newfound independence

4 mins read
Reader's Digest India
May 2022

Canada très chic

Emociónate con todo lo que puedes hacer en este destino con un toque francés. Un viaje simplemente encantador.

5 mins read
Vanidades México
Abril 07 - 2022

Sit and Stretch

How chair yoga makes exercise easy

3 mins read
Reader's Digest Canada
April 2022

Canada cops arrest over 147 to end protest against Covid curbs

Ottawa: Canadian police officers advanced on demonstrators at gunpoint on Saturday, smashing truck windows and arresting protesters in front of the country’s parliament building, an aggressive escalation in the government’s effort to finally end the protests that have roiled the nation’s capital for three weeks. Officers in riot gear, armed with batons, rifles, pepper spray and stun grenades, pushed to regain the area around parliament, expanding an operation that began on Friday morning to remove parked trucks that had blocked Ottawa’s downtown.

1 min read
The Times of India Mumbai
February 20, 2022