Ville de Québec
A trip to Quebec City is about as close as you can get to travelling to Europe without leaving Canada. Historic, cultural and overtly Francophone, Vieux-Québec boasts beautiful old buildings, quaint coffee shops, decisive battlefields and heritage hotels.
My partner Tom and I took a brand-spanking-new Cadillac XT5* to the colonial core for a truly European experience. If you’re looking to conjure a little Europe-nostalgia yourself, try this:
Wander the cobblestone streets of Old Town
Jean-François Bergeron, Enviro Foto
As soon we rolled through the stone gate and onto the cozy streets of Old Quebec, I was transported back to Europe. Flags blew in the crisp autumn wind. Free-hanging signs bore French names and old-fashioned symbols. A horse and carriage rested next to a leaf-blown park. With architecture dating back to the 17th-century, entering Old Town was like travelling back in time.
While wandering Old Quebec, I actually forgot we were in the middle of a major city. There are numerous souvenir shops, artisan workshops, boutiques and brand-name stores where you can purchase gifts to commemorate your trip to Europe. Um, I mean Quebec.
Indulge in freshly baked goodies at Chez Temporel
Alison Karlene Hodgins
Snuggled away on Rue Couillard, this café is known for its daily soups, baguettes, local craft beer and delicious coffees. Quiet, cozy and casual, Chez Temporel has been serving locals and tourists from an ancient brick building in Old Quebec since 1974.
It’s easy to see why. Tom and I ordered the soup of the day—a delicious, sweet red pepper baguette sandwiches brushed with white wine, and a frothy bowl of hot chocolate and Baileys.
Address: 25 Rue Couillard
Hours: 11 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Budget: Mains $11 - $20
Explore French, British and Canadian history
Quebec City brims with ghosts of the past. We started our history lesson at the Musée Royal 22e Régiment, one of the largest collections of military artifacts in Canada, and the Citadelle.
Built in 1820, the Citadelle has never been attacked, but it’s still an active military installation. Because of this, you can’t simply wander the grounds on your own—you have to take a tour. Our guide, Julia the Second, was funny and informative. The experience was well worth the $16 admission cost.
Luc-Antoine Couturier | Plains of Abraham
Next, we headed to the Plains of Abraham, where the fate of Canada was sealed. In a bloody battle on September 13th, 1759, English troops defeated the French by scaling the cliffs in a sudden attack. Both General James Wolfe and Marquis de Montcalm were wounded and died. France eventually signed a treaty that ceded Quebec to the British.
Today, the Plains have been transformed into a beautiful, hilly park. Runners sprint up stairs and drop to do push-ups throughout the park, surrounded by canons and marks of the past.
Tom and I paid $13 to tour the interactive exhibits and watch an informative 30-minute video at the Plains of Abraham Museum. I left feeling sober and saddened about the disastrous effects of war.
French cuisine with a Quebecois twist
A hankering for steak led us to L'Entrecôte Saint-Jean, a gorgeous French steakhouse in the middle of Old Town. We decided on the $89 four-course meal for two.
Our dinner began with white wine mixed with fruity cordial. Next, we ate creamy soup, a nutty salad and a huge helping of skinny fries with a perfectly-cooked steak, smothered in secret sauce.
Something between a salty gravy and a sweet salad dressing, this grey liquid perfectly accompanied both the fries and the meat. We drank half a litre of Portuguese red wine as we ate and finished with chocolate-drizzled ice cream with thinly sliced nuts and coffee.
Address: 1080 Rue Saint-Jean
Sleep at Hotel Acadia
Although the iconic, castle-like Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac is the top-rated place to stay in Quebec City, it was also waaaaay out of our budget (one night can cost around $400). Instead, for $111 per night, Tom and I stayed at Hotel Acadia.
Upon arrival, we were upgraded to a gorgeous queen room featuring an electric fireplace, exposed brick wall, stained glass window and massive jetted tub. This definitely wasn’t a typical chain hotel—the atmosphere pulsed with character and the location was unbeatable. Plus, we got to soak in the rooftop hot tub after a long day of exploring.
Address: 43 Rue Sainte-Ursule
Tel: 1 (800) 263-1471
Budget: $95 - $195/night
Disclosure: *Looking for a vehicle to get you there? GM hooked us up with a Cadillac XT5 for our roadtrip from Montreal to Quebec City. With slick new features, including auto-braking while on cruise control, it’s a comfortable, safe ride for a Canadian roadtrip.
More Quebec on Canadian Traveller: