Old Québec City—a Touch of Europe North of the Border 6

They call it "Europe light"

Itching for a getaway from the familiar to the historic? And you would love to get to Europe except you don’t want to fly the Atlantic? No problem. Just head north to Québec City in Quebec. 

This quaint, protected city on the St. Lawrence River has the charm and architecture of Old World Europe but without the crowds or, for the languages-phobe, the travel challenges. Most people and virtually all guides and vendors are bilingual, speaking English and French with equal ease.

The strong stone walls of Old Québec City provide a sense of security and small-town-ness, and the city center is often filled with weekend flea markets and daily vendor stalls. It’s a city perfect for strollin’ and explorin’ at a languid pace. While winters can be Canadian harsh, the spring and summer are ideal times to visit Québec City and drink in its ambience and charm.

Sleep in a Comfy Castle

Fairmont Le Château Frontenac

1 rue des Carrières; 1.866.540.4460; chateaufrontenac@fairmont.com

The five-star hotel sits castle-like above the Old Québec City walls, giving guests an eagle eye’s view of the city’s ancient architecture and the St. Lawrence River. The best getaway spot at the 125-year-old Le Château Frontenac remains Fairmont Gold, the private concierge floor featuring exclusive amenities and highly personalized service.

Something Fishy in Québec City

Aquarium du Québec

1675 avenue des Hôtels; 418.659.5266 / 1.866.659.5264

This is one huge aquarium and outdoor water park, with more than 10,000 creatures, aquatic and mammalian, and 300 species. These include not only an abundance of finny fish but also polar bears, walruses, seals, jelly fish and reptiles. The collection favors inhabitants of the Pacific Ocean. 

Go Directly to Jail

Morrin Centre

44 Chaussée des Écossais; 418.694.9147

If you’re wondering what crime and punishment were like 200 yeas ago, this is the city’s most eccentric attraction. Visitors can tour the original prison, the claustrophobic cells, and take an historical tour of Québec City’s dungeon-like lockup. The rest of the center is a stunning Victorian library rich in volumes and history.

A Bit of French Cuisine

Le Lapin Sauté

52 Rue du Petit Champlain; 418.692.5325

The restaurant greets visitors with a charming façade, suggesting a French country farmhouse nestled among ivy and greenery. Inside, or on the outdoor terrace, guests dine on the restaurant’s namesake—rabbit—in pies or sauce. On weekends, brunch is the big draw. Sandwiches au gratin with local cheeses is an anytime treat.

Shopping the “Best Street”

Petit-Champlain District

61 Rue du Petit-Champlain

This is the oldest shopping district in Canada and was voted the Best Street in the country in 2014. The shops and bistros look like homes, and the window displays reflect local artists as well as handicrafts from across the country. Cobblestone pedestrian streets suggest a corner of Canada that time has forgotten.