By Patricia Gajo
Perched on bluff Cap Diamant (Diamond Cape) overlooking the St-Lawrence River, the century-old Le Fairmont Château Frontenac marks a dramatic peak in Québec City's skyline. Here, the continent's oldest surviving walled city embraces Canada's first European settlement, christened La Nouvelle France in the 16th century. Over 4 centuries later, the city clings to her French-speaking heritage and Gallic traditions. Steeped in bloody battles and cultured by the fascinating growing pains of the New World, Québec City steps swiftly into the 21st century with one foot rooted proudly in the past.
Things to Do
Stroll along the cobblestoned streets of Place Royale, where the famed French explorer Samuel de Champlain made his home away from home. Spend the day taking in the war-soaked Citadel, the magnificent natural beauty of La Chute Monmorency, or the golden interior of the Notre-Dame de Québec Cathedral, before your trickle into your charming auberge (B&B), enjoy a leisurely walk along the scenic boardwalk, or down a local ale while listening to a chansonnier sing his heart out.
Peruse the charming antique dealers along rue St-Paul or one of the fur shops in Lower Town. In Upper Town, the winding Côte de la Fabrique will take you straight to La Maison Simons, the oldest department store in Québec, then head over to rue de Trésor, a quaint little alley for local art and city souvenirs. Just a few steps from Château Frontenac you'll also find excellent galleries for Native art.
Restaurants & Dining
Enjoy a traditional dinner at Aux Anciens Canadiens, the oldest maison in Québec, and sample the gastronomy of Canada's ancestors in dishes such as soupe aux pois or tourtière (pea soup or meat pie). Alternatively, go the other extreme in contemporary dining room of Initiale or book a table at one of the many up-and-coming restaurants in the suddenly hip Nuovo St-Roch neighborhood. The see-and-be-seen supper club phenomena can also be yours on rue Parvis.
Nightlife & Entertainment
No matter the season, it seems there is always a party going on somewhere in Québec City. From the outdoor-activity-filled Winter Carnaval to the endless music and theater offerings, including free shows by Cirque du Soleil, the city's joie de vivre is in the air. While most theater is in French, even non-Francophones can enjoy the artistry of Québécois productions. Nightclubs and bars along La Grand Allée or the decidedly more underground hot spots in Nuovo St-Roch are keys places for nocturnal pursuits.