Quebec City offers beauty, fine dining and delightful diversions. And that’s just in the train station. Our three-hour train journey from Montreal to Quebec ended in what has been called ‘the most beautiful train station in North America.’ Reminiscent of similar grand terminals in Europe, Quebec City’s train station attracts those who come here not only to travel by rail but also to dine at the best steak house in town, according to our cab driver. The train station also houses a few shops and even a dentist office, should you want to dash in for a quick cleaning before the conductor calls ‘All Aboard.’
No matter how you arrive, you’ll find ‘the most European city in North America’ bubbling over with charm. Founded in 1608 as an outpost for France, Quebec City is considered to be the cradle of French civilization in North America. Old Quebec is the only North American fortified city north of Mexico whose walls still exist. Within the city walls, Quebec City has the feel of Europe, with its stone buildings and winding cobblestone streets.
Perhaps the city’s best known landmark is the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac, the legendary 19th century castle turned hotel. With sweeping views overlooking the St. Lawrence River, the hotel stands sentinel over the city from its hilltop post at Cap-Diamant. After checking in, stroll Quebec City’s lovely streets, flanked by boutique shops and restaurants.
Just outside the Fairmont, step aboard the Funicular to travel between the hotel and the charming shopping street Rue Petit-Champlain. Or exit the hotel in the other direction to head outside Old Quebec’s city gate and stroll along Rue Saint-John. Be sure to visit Erico, a popular chocolate shop just outside the old city walls.
You could spend a couple of days strolling the streets of Quebec City, but don’t leave until you’ve rented a car or joined a tour to get to ile d’Orleans, less than 30 minutes away from the city center. The island is famous for its farms, strawberry fields, orchards and woodlands. Be sure to visit the Chocolaterie de l’ile d’Orleans, a chocolate factory situated in a 200-year-old ancestral house. Stop in at Forge a Pique-Assaut, where Guy Bel, a world renowned craftsman in wrought iron, demonstrates traditional forging; and Domaine Steinbach Cidrerie et Relais gourmand, a 30-acre estate that operates a biologically controlled apple orchard and an early-day vinegar and cider factory.
On your return to Quebec City, stop at Montmorency Falls, one and a half times higher than Niagara Falls. Ride the cable car to the top and walk across the bridge overhanging the falls.
Back at the Chateau Frontenac, dinner is only a short walk away. Make your way across Place d’Armes to Restaurant Gambrinus for Italian and French cuisine served by friendly staff in a charming setting as you gaze out the window at North America’s most European city.
To Be Considered: Quebec’s capital city will celebrate its 400th anniversary on July 3, 2008, an eventful time to be there if you’re planning a 2008 summer cruise.