As someone whose last vacation was a cruise six years ago, you can say that it’s been a while since I’ve had a trip. All these years of feeling wanderlust have made me desperate to go just about anywhere, and you can bet that a simple road trip is still considered a vacation for me — even if I’m not actually leaving the country.
This summer, I was lucky enough to tag along with some relatives for a road trip to Québec City for a few days, and while it’s not my first time visiting the Canadian-French city, I must admit that there’s not much I remember from my last visit when I was 8 years old. If you’re looking for a mini-getaway that isn’t outside of Canada, you might want to consider visiting Québec.
Quartier du Petit Champlain
If you’ve ever seen pictures of Québec, you’ll know that it’s famous for the beautiful and colourful architecture that you don’t see too often here in Toronto. Located in the popular area of “Old Québec,” the Petit Champlain was named after Samuel de Champlain, who is credited for being the founder of Québec City in 1608; it is also a neighbourhood that is claimed be the oldest commercial district in North America.
Featuring the Rue du Petit-Champlain mural and Québec City’s oldest stairway “Breakneck Stairs,” many tourists will find enjoyment in walking through this beautiful and historic neighbourhood as there are many options in shops, food, and local artists selling their work. The area is also where the Funicular is located, which is a railway that takes visitors up to the top of a mountain to Upper Town that oversees the entire city, giving a spectacular view of Lower Town and everything else around. Get your cameras out, because there’s a number of Instagram-worthy hotspots here!
Fairmont Le Château Frontenac
Just like the Fairmont Royal York is famous in Toronto, you’ll be happy to know that Québec has its own Fairmont hotel that is very popular with visitors as well. Much larger than the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto, the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac is situated in Upper Town, towering over Lower Town which can be viewed from afar. One of Canada’s grand railway hotels built by the Canadian Pacific Railway, the hotel’s structure looks like an enchanting castle with Victorian-style architecture, both inside and out. Designed by architect Bruce Price, the grand building has stood since 1893, and was also the tallest building in the city up until 1930. The hotel has 611 guest rooms and suites, with eight executive suites built on special themes. These suites are inspired by various figures such as Pierre-Elliot Trudeau, Winston Churchill, Queen Elizabeth II, Alfred Hitchcock, and even Celine Dion. Living in luxury comes with a price, so expect high prices if you’re thinking about staying at the Frontenac. Even if you don’t stay at this hotel in particular, it’s still a good idea to explore the hotel and even dine in one of their three restaurants: 1608 Wine and Cheese Bar, Bistro Le Sam, and Champlain. If you love cheese and prosciutto (like me), this is where you want to be!
Notre-Dame de Quebec Cathedral-Basilica
While not as well-known as the Notre-Dame of Paris, this cathedral is no less beautiful. Located at 16, rue de Buade, the Notre-Dame de Quebec is the oldest church in Canada and was the first to be elevated to the rank of minor basilica by Pope Pius IX in 1874. Founded in 1674, the Notre-Dame has been around for many centuries and even been destroyed by two fires during its time. Designed by Jean Baillairgé, the design is based on Neoclassical architecture, with the interior decorated with colours of white and gold, paintings, stained glass windows, and more. Whether you have a religious faith or not, you can’t help but be blown away by the beauty of the cathedral as you walk through, because I sure was.
I have to admit, I wasn’t all that interested at first in checking out the Parliament Building, especially since I’m not one for politics. However, I was here anyways so might as well check it out, right? And I’m so glad I did. A huge building with eight floors, the Parliament Building in Québec was beyond impressive. Located just outside of Old Quebec City, the building already got my attention at the front doors, and it wasn’t just because of their large garden with dozens of different flower types. Upon entering, I was welcomed by security and went through a security check, and honestly it felt like I was at the airport. I have to say, I have no doubts on why Parliament takes their security so seriously. After passing security, I made my way through the building and couldn’t believe how beautiful each room was. From the libraries to Salon Bleu/Salon Rouge (the chambers where the National Assembly meet and ceremonies take place), it was hard to believe that this majestic-looking place is still functional and not just for looking at. I’m proud to say that most of my Instagram pictures were taken at Parliament Building.
After seeing many pictures on Instagram of visitors in this beautiful library, I just knew I had to visit. The Morrin Centre is located in Upper Town, and is infamously known as Quebec’s first prison, English college, English cultural centre and English library, all in one! While the building itself isn’t all that big, a lot of history is held inside. I took part in a public tour and learned quite a lot about the history and origins of the building, from how prisoners were treated to the building’s transformation throughout the centuries. Of course, my favourite part was the library, as it was the main reason I wanted to go in the first place. Once I walked in, it felt like I was back in London and it made me wish that more libraries these days had the old, Oxford-style that this one had.
Aside from shopping and eating, you can also find fun in hiking! With the waterfall being even higher than Niagara Falls, visitors can walk across a suspension bridge just above the falls (not for the faint of heart or those who have a fear of heights). Surrounding the falls, there’s also the Montmorency Falls Park and Manoir Montmorency. Aside from just taking in the views, those who are seeking a bit of adrenaline rush can also ziplining across the waterfall! That’s definitely something you can check off your bucket list.
Musée de la civilisation à Québec
As someone who loves museums, I couldn’t pass off the offer to see this. Situated in the area of Old Quebec, the museum itself has quite a modern design and features both temporary and permanent exhibitions that many visitors would find interesting. Personally, while I’ve been to other museums that I liked more, the Museum of Civilization was still very informative and educational nonetheless. It was nice to see exhibitions that talked about the history of the First Nations in Canada and how the European settlers lived. Whether you’re with family or simply exploring on your own, I’d recommend a day trip and spend a couple hours to learn a thing or two from this museum.