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Vieux Quebec

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One of the most popular districts in Quebec City town is Vieux Quebec (Old Quebec), which is divided into two distinct sections: Upper Town and Lower Town.

Upper Town is where you will find a great deal of the city’s military history at numerous entities including the citadel, its many fortified ramparts, and at other historic defensive sites. Lower Town centers around spectacular historical neighborhoods and the city’s port harbor. Both “Towns” exude its own history, flavor and flair.

A visit to Quebec City would not be complete with a stop at Basilique Notre-Dame (Notre-Dame Basilica), built in 1647 and still standing today as the oldest parish in North America. This magnificent structure encompasses jaw dropping architectural features from its ornate columns to the detailed Episcopal throne dais, works of art, arches, stained-glass windows, frescos and massive pipe organ.

Another historical church in town is the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity. Built in 1850, it is the first Anglican cathedral built outside the Britain (and often referred to as “the Mother Church of the Diocese of Quebec”), and is significant in that Quebec City was controlled by British at the time.  In fact, the wood to build the church was imported from a British forest, which also lends to the church’s authenticity and history.

The city’s most famous landmark is Chateau Frontenac (now called Fairmont Le Château Frontenac), reportedly the most photographed hotel in the world. Offering the ultimate in European grandeur and luxury, the hotel is named after 16th Century governor Louis de Buade, Count of Frontenac, and offers commanding views of the Saint Lawrence River. The interior architectural details and history are what has drawn everyone from pauper to prince to experience the royal ambiance here.

For a literally moving view of the city, ride the Funiculaire du Vieux-Québec (Old Quebec Funicular). Operating since 1879, this historical landmark was first operated by steam power and a counter weight water process that was replaced by electrical power in the early 1900s. Since that time the Funicular has experienced fire, reconstruction, renovations and upgrades with modern technology which today offers unparalleled views of the St. Lawrence River and nearby Chateau Frontenac and Place-Royale in the heart of Vieux Quebec (Old Quebec). The entrance to the funicular is historic as well, as it is the home of the 16th Century fur trader Louis Jolliet, built in 1683.

Quebec City is home to numerous stunning and historical fountains including the Fontaine de Tourny, situated in Parliament Hill area in front of the city’s Parliament Building. A gift to the city by one of its oldest families for its 400th anniversary, the fountain was found in a pawn shop in France and brought here piece by piece, refurbished and embellished into a lofty masterpiece of sculpture—its figures paying homage to the Amerindians, Québec’s first inhabitants—and water features that is a great source of pride for the city’s denizens.

The Hôtel du Parlement (Parliament Building) itself was built between 1786 and 1886 and today is home to Canada’s National Assembly and all of its legislative entities where you can wander on your own, take a guided tour and even attend a Parliamentary session. Both the interior and exterior of the Parliament is a testament to the value that its preceding ruling entities placed on design integrity and grandeur, as evidence by the 26 striking bronze statues adorning the building’s main façade, representing the many men and women who left an indelible mark on the city’s history and cultural and political landscape since Canada’s discovery in 1534. Inside you will also find the world famous Le Parlementaire Restaurant, open to the public and oddly enough where you could actually dine across from a world leader.

One of the most beautiful gardens I have ever seen is the Joan of Arc Garden. Situated in one of the most beautiful areas of the city near the Plains of Abraham, the rectangular-shape garden features over 150 species of flowers in a unique landscape design that combines British-style flower beds with French classical style.

It is been said that the Plains of Abraham is where Canada was born, as it is site where the French and British empires fought many battles in their quest and control North America. Part historical icon, part urban amenity, the Plains, which is part of

Battlefields Park which also encompasses Des Braves Park is akin to what Central Park is to New York, and Golden Gate Park is to San Francisco.

To gain an in-depth perspective on Quebec City’s military history be sure to visit La Citadelle (The Citadel), where the walls literally enclose 300 years of military history—which you can walk, bike or drive through—when the city was alternately occupied by the Canadians, French and British. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985, it is the largest British fortress built in North America, and still an active military garrison. In fact, from about mid-June until the first week of so of September you can watch the ceremonious and historic changing of the guard.

La Citadelle is also the site of the Royal 22e Régiment Museum which offers a wealth of archives, military collections, exhibits and guided tours.

Written by Lysa Allman-Baldwin

Check out these other great Quebec City features!

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