Quebec City (French: Québec) is the capital of the province of Quebec in Canada. Located at a commanding position on cliffs overlooking the St. Lawrence Seaway, Quebec City's Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the only city north of Mexico with its original city walls.
Quebec City fashions itself the "national capital" of Quebec. Much of the business here is of the administrative and bureaucratic nature, which would normally make the city quite dull. Fortunately, the city has a remarkable history, as the fortress capital of New France since the 16th century. Although the town's day-to-day life leaves things a little yawn-y at times, the vibrant historical center makes for an incredible visit.
Orienting yourself in Quebec is fairly easy. Practically all sights of interest are in the Old Town (Vieux-Québec), which is divided in two: the walled city on top of the hill is known as Haute-Ville ("High Town"), and the neighborhood between the walled city and the river is Basse-Ville ("Low Town"). The two are connected by the aptly-named Escalier Casse-Cou ("Breakneck Stairs") and the rather easier funicular.
The Jean Lesage International Airport (airport code: YQB), in Ancienne-Lorette, is found about 30 minutes from downtown Quebec. It offers regular flights from cities such as Montreal, Toronto and New York, and also provides charters to remote areas of the province such as Kuujjuaq, Gaspé and Baie-Comeau.
Please note that there is no public transit or hotel shuttles to the airport. The taxi fare from Old Quebec to the airport is a flat fee of $30.
A passenger train station is found at the port of Quebec, 450 rue de la Gare du Palais. The Quebec VIA Rail station is a picturesque building, emulating the architectural style of the famed Chateau-Frontenac overlooking the station. The Quebec-Windsor corridor trains run regularly, with stopovers at Montreal and Toronto.
Another train station is located in Ste-Foy, 3255 chemin de la Gare, near the Quebec and Pierre-Laporte bridges. However, public transit does not run there as often as the Quebec station and requires walking for a couple minutes.
The bus station, Terminus Gare du Palais located at rue de la Gare du Palais, is also found at the old port of Quebec, next to the train station. Intercar and Orleans Express offer services province-wide.
Another bus station is located in Ste-Foy, 3001 chemin des Quatre-Bourgeois, which is easily accessible by city transit.
Quebec City is 2.5-3 hours by car from Montreal, taking either Highway 40 or 20 (north and south side of the St. Lawrence, respectively). Both drives are rather monotonous drives through endless forest dotted with farms. For a slower but more interesting tour of Quebec's heartland, drive along the Chemin du Roy, which follows the north bank of the river, instead.
Visiting the Old Town, it is best to travel within and around the walls by foot. If your feet fail you, use the funicular to go between the upper and lower parts of the Old Town. $1.50 will get you from near the base of the Breakneck Stairs (Escalier Casse-Cou) back up to the front of the Chateau Frontenac. This is well worth it if you have small children or large packages.
The Route Verte is a system of provincial bike paths that pass through parks and local attractions. The Corridor des Cheminots is a peaceful trail that runs from the Montmorency Falls to Val-Bélair, which continues on to the Jacques-Cartier park area.
Quebec's urban bike paths are not as well documented as Montreal paths, but are well-marked throughout the city. They are open from April to October.
Driving in the Old Town can be tricky, since the cobblestone streets were designed for narrow 17th-century horsecarts rather than 21st-century SUVs. One way streets abound throughout the Old Town, and parking is difficult to find.
Outside of the Old Town, the use of a car is recommended. Right turns on red are allowed unless otherwise indicated.
During the months of November through April, snow will definitely affect driving conditions. Snow tires are strongly recommended, as some roads will lack snow removal, sand or salting.
The RTC, Quebec's public transportation system, is a system of buses and express shuttles that cover the whole city. Tickets cost 2.25 CDN each, which will earn you the right to ride one direction with a transfer valid for 2 hours. There are daily passes and monthly passes available. It is also possible to ride without a ticket, the fare being 2.50. Drivers do not carry money and cannot change bills.
The Metrobus line is actually two bus lines (800 and 801) that both start in Ste-Foy, head toward the Old Town, and end in Beauport and Charlesbourg respectively. They can run as often as one every 3 minutes during rush hour along Boulevard René-Lévesque/Boulevard Laurier/chemin des Quatre-Bourgeois.
The STL, Lévis's public transit, operates within the south shore of Quebec. There is also a shuttle from St-Augustin to Quebec. These different transit companies all pass through Quebec City, which explains the different colours of buses around town.
Quebec City's main sight is the Old Town, the upper part of which is surrounded by a stone wall built by both French and British armies. It is now a tourist district with many small boutiques and hundreds of historical and photographic points of interest. Some of the buildings are original structures, while others are built in the same style and architecture as former buildings.
Quebec City's Old Town, especially Basse-Ville, is riddled with shops for tourists. Watch for leather goods and various handmade crafts made by Canada's First Nations Peoples.
All restaurants in the Old City will post menus out front in French and in English. Look for the table d'hote specials for a full course fixed price meal. On the cheaper (but very satisfying) side, have a traditional tourtière quebecois (meat pie), or a poutine (fries, gravy, and cheese curds).
The cafe culture is very much a part of Quebec City as in most of Europe. It should be very easy to find a quaint cafe around Marche Champlain, and around the Chateau. Food is fairly expensive in Canada and even a simpler cafe or bar may be costly: however the quality is as good as any cafe directly in Paris.
Most Quebec City delicatessens and markets offer a large variety of Quebec cheese from farms in the surrounding countryside. Specialty of the region include brie or camembert style cheeses made with raw milk (lait cru), which endows the cheese with superior flavours and textures not usually found in North American cheeses of the same type.
There is a place for nearly every visitor, from the wild nightlife to the cozy corner.
The Grande Allée has most of the city's clubs & youth-oriented bars and spots:
La Rue St. Jean, beyond the city walls on the west end, is where travelers will find the best pubs in Québec, as well as some smaller dance clubs:
Spread throughout Old Québec are many upscale bars and jazz clubs. Search out the hotels, as they typically have the best venues for jazz and music at night.
This small city does not suffer from high criminality. Do not worry about getting attacked anywhere in town in the middle of the day, unless you get really unlucky. Some petty crimes may happen during night, especially at bar closure, but do not expect high criminality.