By Caroline Décoste
With its historic charm and European art of living, Québec City is often presented as a North American version of the Old Continent. But beyond the city walls hides a city with two faces, part urban and part great outdoors.
On the City Side
As soon as you exit the magnificent Old Québec, postcard perfect with its fortifications and historic sites, you encounter a Québec City that is vibrant, creative, and keen on culture. The basse-ville is a popular destination for fans of music, contemporary art, fashion, and good food. It’s as simple as wandering along rue Saint-Joseph Est (in Saint-Roch) or 3e Avenue (in Limoilou) to see a parade of cafés, shops, restaurants, and specialty food stores, which attest to the vitality of the oldest francophone city in North America.
Culture lovers, on the other hand, are catered to by the haute-ville: in the heart of the Montcalm neighbourhood, you’ll find the Grand Théâtre de Québec, with its classical music concerts and its theatre and dance performances; a little higher stands the majestic Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, whose recently inaugurated new pavilion hosts prestigious international exhibitions.
On the Nature Side
You’ll need no more than a few minutes to switch from city to forest, and that’s what makes Québec City so magical. The city is still in your rearview mirror when you arrive in sight of Île d’Orléans, where gourmet delights abound, thanks to many local producers (fruits, vegetables, wine, cheese, beer). And facing the island are the Montmorency Falls, standing even taller than Niagara Falls! Then, just a touch further north, Jacques-Cartier National Park welcomes nature lovers who want to take a break from the city’s hustle and bustle, before they return, completely refreshed.
Essentials to bring back
Say goodbye to tacky souvenirs, and hello to gourmet treats: to pack a bit of the Québec City experience in your bags, try ice cider from Cidrerie Verger Bilodeau, blackcurrant products from Monna et Filles, or boreal spices, preserves and jams.