Quebec is one of the most beautiful cities in North America. Founded in 1608 by Samuel de Champlain, this fortified city has a rich history, architecture and culture, which can be discovered and enjoyed on foot.
Old Quebec The Old City is one of the most popular areas for both tourists and locals, not only because of its charm but also because of its many restaurants, pubs, hotels and boutiques. St-Jean Street is the main entrance to the Old City. This street is at the heart of the social and cultural life of the city, with Place d'Youville and the Palais Montcalm Theatre on the south side and Le Capitole hotel on the north. During the summer months, Place d'Youville is a stage for performing artists, and once the weather gets cold, people of all ages ice skate here to classical music!
A little further down is the historic St-Jean Gate, where one can find many small shops, boutiques, pubs and restaurants. The Magasin General L.P. Blouin, an old-time general store specializing in souvenirs and collectibles, is a popular stop. Restaurants and pubs abound, but the Pub Saint-Alexandre , Au Petit Coin Breton , the Brûlerie Tatum and, of course, the famous Serge Bruyère are among the best.
City Hall is on Côte-de-la-Fabrique, where the strip of restaurants and boutiques continues. This street leads to the Place de l'Hôtel-de-Ville, the Petit Seminaire de Quebec and the Cathedrale Notre-Dame-de-Quebec. The Rue du Tresor, where local artists show and sell their works, is a few steps away and leads to the Château Frontenac and the Dufferin Terrace boardwalk. A stroll on the boardwalk is a must, for the splendid views of the St Lawrence River, the Laurentian Mountains and the Île d'Orleans. The boardwalk also features street entertainers in the summer and two great ice slides in the winter.
Place Royale and Vieux-Port The Terrace ends with long stairs on both sides: one set goes down to the Vieux-Port and Place Royale , the most picturesque area of Quebec, built in 1608 and abounding in restaurants, antique shops, art galleries and boutiques. Place Royale is not as busy as the Old City but just as fascinating. The wonderful Laurie-Raphaël , Cafe du Monde , Peche Veniel and L'Inox bar are located in the Vieux-Port area.
Plains of Abraham The other set of stairs goes up to the Plains of Abraham . It can be quite a workout on a hot summer day but the view is worth the effort. The Plains of Abraham are at the heart of Quebec City's history. Although nowadays it looks more like a beautiful place to have a family picnic, it is the site of a bloody 1759 battle between the French and the English. Several plaques describe the battle and explain its significance to Quebec's history. The Martello Towers, which were built to counter the British invaders, are strategically located on the Plains and are open to the public.
On the east end of the Plains, the Musee du Quebec is home to an interpretive center about the battlefields, and also hosts numerous art exhibits throughout the year. The Plains are a rendezvous for joggers, rollerbladers, soccer players in the summer and cross-country skiers and tobogganers in the winter. This is also where people gather for the annaul St-Jean-Baptiste celebrations, the Summer Festival and the Winter Carnival.
St-Louis Street and the Grande Allee St-Louis Street runs parallel to St-Jean Street and is equally filled with restaurants and boutiques. Aux Anciens Canadiens is an interesting restaurant for those with a taste for traditional Quebec cuisine. In this 17th century house, the wait staff dresses as the first habitants of the colony did and customers can enjoy some of Quebec's classics—tourtière, for example.
Further west is the entrance to the Citadel , a protective fort located on Cap-aux-Diamants. Every day in the summer, troops perform the changing of the guard according to pure military tradition, and The Citadel also has a fascinating museum. The Parliament Buildings are located on the corner of St-Louis Street and Dufferin Avenue, across from the Plains of Abraham. The design is quite interesting, as the architect, Eugène-Étienne Tache, was inspired by the Louvre Museum in Paris. The results are splendid French Renaissance buildings, which are open for the public to discover.
St-Louis Street becomes the Grande-Allee west of the Parliament Buildings. The Grande-Allee is synonymous with entertainment. This is where most of the clubs in the city are located, and there are also plenty of restaurants. In summer, the establishments open their terraces and people go from one club to the other, dancing the night away.
Rene-Levesque Boulevard and Cartier Street Parallel to the Grande-Allee but further south is Rene-Levesque Boulevard. This is where Quebec's Grand Theâtre and Music Conservatory are located. A few blocks West is Cartier Street, another popular entertainment and dining district. With restaurants like Graffiti , Le Cochon Dingue, Mon Manège à toi , Cafe Krieghoff and Momento, this area is a haven for great dining.
Suburbs There are many suburbs around Quebec, and most of them are much more than bedroom communities. In the West end, Sainte-Foy has several great restaurants like Cactus , Nupur and La Faim de Loup , while Le Clap movie theatre specializes in international films.
On the St Lawrence River, Beauport's picturesque Royale Avenue leads to the Montmorency Falls . The majestic Île d'Orleans, an island in the middle of the St. Lawrence River with orchards, farms, charming inns and traditional cuisine, is like having the country in the city. The great outdoors is just a short drive from the Old City—that's the beauty of Quebec. From fascinating historic buildings to amazing dining and entertainment, powerful rivers and breathtaking mountains and forests, you can have it all.
No visit to Quebec City would be complete without sampling its famous culinary institutions and its renowned, even notorious nightlife. For a metropolitan area of fewer than 700,000 inhabitants, Quebec boasts an uncommon number of superb restaurants, charming cafes, seething dance clubs and quiet little hideaways.
Most visitors will naturally gravitate towards the city's sensational French bistros and restaurants. Indeed, most of Quebec's truly world-class eateries serve some kind of French cuisine; at the forefront are the traditional (and expensive) opulence of Guido Le Gourmet , Laurie Raphaël , Initiale and the incomparable Le Champlain, all in Vieux-Quebec, with all setting diners back up to CAD100 for dinner for two.
The Grande-Allee hosts its own restaurant scene, which includes the hectic bistro action at Paris-Brest, La Closerie and other brisker, more casual spots. Haute cuisine finds a home, too, in the newer part of Quebec City, in such landmarks as the revolving L'Astral, and in the Loews Le Concorde hotel, where locally-influenced haute cuisine goes miles beyond the typical revolving fare.
This blending of traditional French cuisine with local ingredients and techniques such as game meats, local cheeses, cranberries, maple syrup products, and so on, is characteristic of many restaurants in the area. Few kitchens in Quebec City entirely escape the hearty, stick-to-your-ribs influence of Quebecois fare. Those that revel in it include the landmark Maison Serge Bruyère, perhaps the city's best-known restaurant, and the spectacular Manoir Montmorency (where, after dinner in the winter, you can stop in for a unique nightcap at the Ice Hotel 's Absolut Bar!).
The countryside surrounding the city, and especially the tiny townships of Île d'Orleans , contains numerous other French/Quebecois institutions. La Mairie, in Loretteville's beautiful town hall, and the renowned Le Canard Huppe in St-Laurent on Île d'Orleans, are just two examples. Many of these ages-old restaurants are associated with charming inns or B&B's, and can form part of a delightful day trip away from Quebec City. Each exudes its own sense of quiet civility, especially in winter for the ideal romantic getaway.
Area restaurants also benefit from Quebec's proximity to the sea, which results in such restaurants as Le Marie-Clarisse in the historic Quartier Petit Champlain, and also in a seemingly incongruous concentration of Belgian restaurants. Witness Vieux-Quebec's Môss and the charming B&B hideaway Douceurs Belges , just west of the city proper. Moules frites (mussels and fries) are a very popular choice for pub grub or a light evening meal in a city that tends to eschew McDonald's and its ilk.
Though anyone with a strong distaste for French food will find his choices limited in Quebec City, he will not go hungry. Two outstanding Italian restaurants also highlight the local scene: the famous Cafe d'Europe is in Vieux-Quebec, while Graffiti's French-Italian fusion cuisine and indomitable wine list can be found on the Grande-Allee. Other options await the intrepid, of course, especially outside of heavily touristed areas. As in France, eating out is considered not just a means to an end but a way of life; substandard food is simply not tolerated and should by no means be expected, even in a neighborhood Chinese or Vietnamese place.
Of course, even if a meal should somehow fall short of your justifiably high expectations, plenty of distraction awaits at night to put your mind on other things. Though locals bemoan the death of Vieux-Quebec's traditional cafe culture, a thoroughly civilized afternoon or evening awaits at the popular Pub Saint-Alexandre , the Cafe Krieghoff , or any number of lesser known coffee shops and cafes. It may seem in Vieux-Quebec like there should be more of them, but you will never want for a steaming cup of coffee and good conversation.
Later in the night, things get considerably rowdier at any number of nightclubs in Vieux-Quebec and especially on the Grande-Allee. Some of the better-known nightspots include Chez Dagobert and Chez Maurice , the latter named ironically after despotic former Quebec Premier Maurice Duplessis—both are enormous, pulsating dance clubs that don't cool down until 3am at the earliest. Meanwhile, La Fourmi Atomik offers a downstairs dance floor and a more refined art gallery atmosphere upstairs. Quieter pints await at the aforementioned Pub Saint-Alexandre or the Thomas Dunn Pub , where you can also take a break from all the steak-frites and baked chèvre in favor of a bang-up plate of fish-n-chips!
All in all, the dining and nightlife in Quebec City exude a decidedly French charisma—much more so even than in Montreal. Though cosmopolitan in appearance and attitude, Quebec is less multicultural than many other Canadian cities, and English is rarely—if ever—heard outside of tourist areas. It is, literally and spiritually, the capital of French Canada. As such, this relatively small city manages to remain at the forefront of the North American restaurant scene, which only strengthens its uniquely European feel.