8 Things You Didn't Know About Quebec City
Ah, Quebec City. Home of foie gras, poutine, and foie gras poutine. And while there are plenty of well-known reasons to visit this postcard-perfect destination any time of the year, there are also some genuinely interesting and downright surprising sights to take in while you're there.
1. Quebec's best hotel
As of early 2014, Quebec City is home to the province’s highest-rated hotel, L’Auberge Saint-Antoine. Bypass the hordes headed to the Chateau Frontenac, and opt instead for a stay at the quietly luxurious Saint-Antoine, nestled in the heart of the city’s Old Port area. Built atop the remains of a 300-year-old warehouse, the boutique hotel seamlessly blends modern elegance with historic character, beautifully showcasing original relics from its past throughout the building. Travel + Leisure also named the hotel Canada’s top-ranked hotel in 2013, a feat which may or may not have swayed Sir Paul McCartney to stop by on a recent trip to the city. Yeah, it’s that good.
2. Canada’s best street
At the heart of Quebec City lies the famous Vieux-Quebec, a beautiful urban glimpse into Canada’s French, English, and American past. And at the heart of Vieux-Quebec lies the Rue du Petit-Champlain, Canada’s best street, according to a popular 2013 survey. Take a stroll down the cobblestone, boutique-lined street, and you’ll quickly understand why. Historic beauty can be found along almost every part of the 500 metre street, as long as you’re not too distracted by local artisan wares, the towering cliffs and city walls above, and the rich smells wafting out of cozy, faintly-Parisian-looking cafes.
3. World’s most photographed hotel
Even if you don’t know it by name, chances are you’ve seen the iconic Chateau Frontenac proudly gracing a postcard somewhere. Or a mug. Or a calendar. Or a t-shirt. The point is Quebec City’s larger-than-life hotel is just simply too beautiful not to have its likeness plastered everywhere. It’s so beautiful, in fact, that it’s generally accepted to be the most photographed hotel in the world. But don’t let that stop you from snapping one more pic. For the best vantage point, head down to the Corridor du Littoral by the waterfront and embrace your inner paparazzo.
4. The river flows backwards
No, you’re not crazy: the St. Lawrence River was definitely flowing in the opposite direction earlier today. In fact, the river flows downstream towards Montreal for half the day, and upstream towards Rimouski for the other half. So what gives? Quebec City is located at a very special part of the St. Lawrence where the freshwater portion of the river begins. So that means it’s just far enough inland to avoid salt water, but still close enough to the ocean to be affected by its tides. Who says you can’t have the best of both worlds?
5. Parliament could have been here
The striking similarity between Ottawa’s well-known Parliament Building and Quebec City’s own Parliament Building is no coincidence. Until 1840, Quebec City served as the capital of New France and what was then Lower Canada, but eventually lost out to Ottawa once the Province of Canada was formed. Not wanting to let such a fine site go to waste, Quebec City kept its Parliament Building intact, where the Parliament of Quebec and National Assembly now reside.
6. You own the wall
Well, in the same way that you own the Trans Canada Highway. Technically, Parks Canada owns the almost five-kilometre-long ramparts, but don’t let that stop you from walking all over them with authority. The beautiful city attraction is actually North America’s oldest fortified city wall, and has been classified a UNESCO World Heritage site for almost 30 years now. Thankfully, the wall sees significantly less canon fire than it did in its glory days, so explore its beautiful length at ease.
7. It's come a long way
One of the city’s most picturesque and tourist-friendly areas – Place Royale – is located in the heart of the Old Port and is an absolute must-see for vacationers and history-buffs alike. And while the hotels, high-priced furriers, and chic restaurants add a je-ne-sais-quoi to the area, it wasn’t always so. Until as recently as the mid-1900s, Place Royale was one of the city’s poorest areas, where you could rent an apartment for as low as $60 a month – if you didn’t mind the rats. Luckily for us, it's now a much different place.
8. Champlain’s remains were never found
Samuel de Champlain: explorer, discoverer of new lands, and cultural icon. Generally awesome guy. Thanks to a fire in 1640 shortly after his death, however, his remains have been lost in the unwritten pages of history, eluding discovery. So for all his statues, busts, and plaques, Samuel de Champlain’s final resting place is actually a bit of a mystery. Scholars have been searching for years, so why not give them a bit of a rest and take over? You might end up with a plaque of your own.