In the early days, Québec had earthen walls. But in 1832, the British erected solid stone ones as a defense against American attack. Today, it's the only walled city in North America, which earned it a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation in 1985. The interpretation centre has in-depth historical exhibits and a path, complete with interpretive signs, follows the walls making a self-guided tour easy and informative. Alternatively, there are two different 90-minute guided tours, which start at the Kiosk Frontenac on Dufferin Terrace and at the Interpretation Centre at 100 St-Louis Street. Call ahead for the schedule.
Musée de la Civilisation
Opened in 1998, this fascinating museum highlights the lifestyles and cultural uniqueness of different lands and peoples. Exhibits prompt visitors to examine their own traditions and values in tandem with those of other lands. There are approximately 50,000 objects and 20,000 documents here, including costumes, textiles, art and ethnology sections of the museum. Block off about two hours of your day to fully appreciate this interesting museum.
Experience the culture and heritage of Québec's first residents, the Huron Nation. Visitors can take guided tours through the village and watch as tribal members demonstrate skills that were being practiced long before the days of Champlain. The on-site restaurant, NEK8ARRE, serves traditional Huron food like caribou, mountain trout and deer. Before leaving, make sure you stop by the gallery and souvenir shop to pick up a unique little something for the folks back home.
Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec
In 1933, the government of the province of Québec started its first museum, comprised of the national archives, and natural science and fine arts collections. Eventually the archives and natural science collections were moved, and the museum switched its focus exclusively to art. Today's collection includes Québécois art from several time periods: pre-1900, 1900-1950, 1950-2000, and post-2000. The site itself is spectacular. Two historic buildings are joined by a contemporary structure to offer changing exhibits of more than 20,000 works of art in 12 galleries. Before you leave, enjoy lunch at the café (highlighting Québec produce) and be sure to visit the gift shop.
Basilique de Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré
Each year, thousands of people make a pilgrimage of sorts to the Sainte-Anne Basilica. This striking structure, whose roots date back to a Catholic chapel that French explorers erected in 1658, was constructed in the shape of a Latin cross, using elements of both Gothic and Romanesque architecture. Its unique design includes two soaring spires, a fabulous white interior, five elaborate naves and 200 intricately designed stained-glass windows. Most visitors are particularly struck by the Chapel of the Scala Sancta (1891), which contains an astonishing replica of the 28 steps Jesus climbed before being sentenced by Pontius Pilate. Masses are held daily; admission is free.
La Citadelle de Québec
The number one visited site in Québec boasts a working fort, a museum (visitors must be part of a group with reservations) and the highly popular Changing of the Guard. The origins of Québec's Citadelle go back as far as the War of 1812, when the Duke of Wellington ordered its construction in anticipation of renewed hostilities with US forces. Today, the 25-plus buildings that comprise the Citadelle make it one of the largest North American forts still occupied by troops. One-hour tours of the grounds are offered daily. Hours and ceremonies are seasonal.
Funiculaire du Vieux-Québec
This unique transport dates back to 1879, when William Griffith had it constructed to carry Québec's residents and tourists from Sous-le-Fort in Upper Town to Lower Town's rue Ste-Anne. The only such funiculaire in Canada, it travels at a 45° angle for more than 200 feet, all the while offering a terrific panoramic view of the city and the St. Lawrence River. Take a minute to browse through the souvenir shop, where you'll find several neat gift ideas.
L'église Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Français
The original church on this site was built in 1690, but the current version was actually completed in 1723. It was named Notre-Dame-des-Victoires in 1711 after the French sank the British fleet. Numerous additions and alterations were made to the church over the years, but its original appearance was largely restored during renovations in the 1990s. The interior features an abundance of beautiful artwork from various eras. The original church on this site was built in 1690, but the current version was actually completed in 1723. It was named Notre-Dame-des-Victoires in 1711 after the French sank the British fleet. Numerous additions and alterations were made to the church over the years, but its original appearance was largely restored during renovations in the 1990s. The interior features an abundance of beautiful artwork from various eras.
Hôtel de Glace Québec
Modeled after the ice hotel in Sweden, Québec's creation is every bit as unusual and trendy. More than 15,000 tons of snow and 400 tons of ice are required to construct the 30,000 square foot building, which takes some five weeks to complete. It's a magnificent sight, to be sure, decorated with sparkling ice sculptures and rustic deerskins. If you're unable to secure hotel reservations, or if sleeping in the cold leaves you cold, you can visit for a guided tour or a cocktail in the bar. There are also a multitude of fun outdoor activities to enjoy, including snowmobiling, dogsledding, snowshoeing, ice fishing, ice skating and guided hikes.
La Promenade des écrivains
Québec has long been favored by writers, and this tour takes you past some of the specific places that have had the most pronounced influence. A guide offers historical background and specific details about numerous internationally known writers who lived in or visited the city and were inspired by it: such as Jacques Poulin, Sylvie Chaput, Don DeLillo, Henry David Thoreau, Pierre Morency and H.P. Lovecraft, to name a few. Tours last about two hours and depart from the north end of the Parc de l'Esplanade, near the Kent gate.