Quebec City - A walled North American city evoking old and new France (31 May)
Interesting Facts about Quebec City
THE LAST WALLED North American city north of Mexico, Quebec City is renowned for its dramatic bluff-top perch overlooking the St. Lawrence River and its distinctive French and British colonial architecture. Split into upper (Haute-Ville) and lower (Basse-Ville) towns, the old quarter is a mosaic of historic churches and fortifications, outdoor cafés and moody bars, and more than a dozen museums and historic sites.
Quebec City was founded in the summer of 1608 when Samuel de Champlain established a small fur trading post along the St. Lawrence at the behest of the French crown. By 1620, Fort St. Louis had been constructed on the tallest bluff, marking the start of several centuries of military construction that would turn Quebec into the “Gibraltar of America.” It also grew into a thriving riverside city that revolved around the plaza Place-Royale and Notre-Dame de Québec Basilica-Cathedral.
The British took control of Quebec City in 1759 following a pitched battle on the Plains of Abraham just outside the city walls. The redcoats bolstered the city’s defenses with the star-shaped Citadelle (the largest British fort in North America), Artillery Park, and Dufferin Terrace atop the old French walls. However, the city’s most distinctive structure didn’t appear until the 1890s, when the Canadian Pacific Railway erected the distinctive fortresslike Château Frontenac hotel on a cliff overlooking the St. Lawrence River.
Both the upper and lower levels of the town have preserved their warrens of cobblestone streets, squares, and promenades, and many historic buildings are now occupied by museums, restaurants, hotels, and art galleries. Modern structures—like the Museum of Civilization and the new Pierre Lassonde Pavilion at the National Museum of Fine Arts—are skillfully fit into their historic environs.
The old city walls surround most of Old Quebec City and contain gates, barracks, and guard posts, all built between 1608 and 1871. Visitors can explore the walls and fortifications on their own, or join one of Parks Canada’s guided tours.
Beyond the city walls, modern Quebec beckons, too. The Grande Allée is a worthy restaurant row, and the art deco Palais Montcalm is a small but lively theater venue. Down in the flatlands, the revived St.-Roch neighborhood has hip microbreweries and the chic shops of rue St.-Joseph.
The city also has the 272-foot (83 m) Montmorency Falls, a monstrous gush of water that passes through a black-rock gorge beside the St. Lawrence. A nearby bridge leads to the bucolic Île d’Orléans, with petite wineries and cheese farms.