Quebec City, with its fortified walls, stunning Chateau Frontenac and picturesque views of the Saint Lawrence River, has become an increasingly popular cruise destination, for large and small ships alike. The attraction? Inviting European charm, fascinating history dating back over 400 years, wonderful culinary delights and the surrounding natural beauty.
Did you know that Quebec City was established before the pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock? French explorer Samuel de Champlain had previously explored the area in 1603, including Niagara Falls and the Saint Lawrence River. He returned from France in 1608 to establish a fur trading post in what is now Quebec City. He continued to explore the region and write about his discoveries until 1620 when Louis XIII ordered him back to Quebec to oversee the administration and growth of New France, which he did until his death in 1635. Many places, streets and monuments in Canada and the US memorialize him, one of the most notable being Lake Champlain.
Quebec City today has a distinctly European, old world charm, with its stone buildings,
winding cobble-stoned streets, quaint bistros and cafes and where French is the first language of 95% of the population.
The best sites to visit are mostly located in the old historical part of the city, a short, walkable distance from where the cruise ships dock. The historic city center is the only walled city north of Mexico named as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The historical center is divided into two areas, Upper Town and Lower Town.
The top of the hill, known as Upper Town, is dominated by Chateau Frontenac, the famous hotel inaugurated in 1893. Along with this magnificent hotel one will find a number of museums, historical homes, churches, parks and incredible views of the river below.
The area between the walled city and the river is known as Lower Town. Enjoy a beautiful view of the Saint Lawrence River while riding the funicular from Upper Town. Don't miss exploring the Rue du Petit-Champlain. Named as Canada' most beautiful pedestrian walk in 2014, the narrow cobblestone streets are lined with two and three storied stone buildings built in the typical French architectural style of the period, and house quaint shops and bistros which are bustling all year round.
Quebec City has become a popular cruise destination not only for its cultural aspects but also for the natural beauty of the region. Surrounded by parks and beautiful waterways, Quebec City is especially popular in the summer and fall when the display of fall colors is at its best.
Quebec City sits right on the Saint Lawrence River, accessible from the north via the Atlantic Ocean and from the south via the Saint Lawrence Seaway, a system of locks, canals and channels that connects the Great Lakes to the Atlantic. Sailing between Boston and Quebec is a popular route for a number of the larger cruise lines, with stops in Bar Harbor, Maine, Halifax, Nova Scotia and Charlottetown, PEI. Smaller ships built to navigate the rivers and canals sail between the Great Lakes or the Hudson River through the Erie Canal up to Quebec. Passing through the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and sailing into the Saguenay Fjord are added attractions for cruises as well.
Sailing the Saint Lawrence River certainly is beautiful, with mountains, tree lined foothills and small towns and villages dotting the shoreline. The mouth of the river (the Saint Lawrence estuary) is almost 300 miles long and has an abundance of wildlife, from Beluga, sperm and blue whales to 19 different species of birds. The Saguenay River, a main tributary to the estuary, flows through the stunningly scenic Saguenay Fjord, one of the longest in the world.
It's understandable why Quebec City and the surrounding area is such a draw: a beautiful and welcoming city, easy to see on foot, a UNESCO world heritage site, fantastic history, the feel of Europe much closer to home, stunning scenery, and as some say, France without the attitude!