Quebec Guide, Canada

Montreal business district at night, Quebec, Canada

Montreal, Quebec. Photo by Paolostefano1412.

Visiting south Quebec

Quebec is Canada’s largest province and resolutely French. Quebec City is indisputably Canada’s prettiest and most European city, while some of the best winter sports can be found in the province and their cuisine, culture and joie de vivre are famously rich and invigorating.

Best weather: May-September. Skiing, December-March. OK: Skiing, November-May.
Worst: October-March unless for winter sports. As always, in July/August crowds & prices will be up.

Quebec City, Frontenac Castle, Canada

Quebec City’s UNESCO World Heritage Site of Vieux-Quebec, with Chateau Frontenac in the centre, Terrasse (promenade) Dufferin on the right and the River Saint-Laurent on the far right. Photo by W. Benutzer.

The spectacular Château Frontenac, the most photographed hotel in the world, dominates Old Quebec City from just about anywhere and symbolises the grand French style and stunning beauty of the city.

Main attractions

Quebec City

An historic walled city (founded in 1608) in a stunning cliff location, Ville de Quebec is the capital of the province and a fine France substitute for North Americans without the time, money or inclination to travel long-haul to the Old World.

Vieux Quebec, the old town’s ramparts, fortifications, cobbled streets, picturesque ancient buildings and historic home-museums are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, evocative of a distant Europe and perfectly walkable, especially the Terrasse Dufferin promenade high over the river with its charming cafés, gazebos and sophisticated, francophile (i. e. they are not too wild about speaking English! ) locals.

Kids love walking the city walls, the funicular ride, the ferry across the river, the endless street performers, while as a romantic destination, especially for a White Christmas, Vieux Quebec is difficult to beat; for a different perspective take a Levis Ferry trip on the St Lawrence River to see a ‘postcard’ view of the city.

Activities in/around Quebec City

Downhill and Cross-country skiing: numerous good slopes/trails less than one hour from Quebec City; many skiers like to commute from the city. See Mont Tremblant lower down this page.

Skating: many long circuits all around, some free. Oct-March.

Biking: Excellent trails in and around the city, some of the best in Canada. Rentals available.

Wildlife: near the city.


A snowy street in Montreal, Quebec, Canada

A not-unusual view of Montreal street life. Photo by Tetro Smog.

Canada’s second largest city, Montreal is architecturally Europe meets New York, especially in the old quarter. The essence of the city is not specific attractions but a relaxed European ambience, a wild nightlife and multitude of international events and festivals. Second only to Paris in numbers of French speaking people, Montreal is a lively, bilingual, multi-cultural city surrounded by rivers but untouched by the narrow-minded nationalism sometimes visible in Quebec City.

North Americans seeking a quick and easy France experience would do well to vacation in Montreal or Quebec City.

Main attractions

• The massive, stylish Botanical gardens (Jardin Botanique de Montreal) that house 20, 000 plant species in many differing gardens including Japanese and Chinese

• Saute-Moutons Jet Boat Tours

• Jean-Talon Market for superb food at street prices

• the stunningly ornate Notre-Dame Basilica. The interior of Basilique Notre-Dame is an outstanding example of over-the-top church baroque and totally worth the small entry fee.

• the small but well-preserved and charming Old Town (Vieux-Montreal), is a very pleasant and tranquil place for a day’s strolling, beside the river with cobbled streets, interesting historic buildings, little shops, cafés and restaurants. Of course it cannot measure up to Old Quebec City.

Montreal Festivals

January-February, weekends only, La Fete des Neiges (Snow Festival), Montreal, dominated by a huge and labyrinthine snow castle.
June, Montreal Fringe Festival, a lively international theatre event.
June-July, Montreal International Jazz Festival.
July, Just For Laughs, Montreal, a world comedy festival.
August, Montreal Pride, a huge performing arts festival, gay, but not exclusively so. Free concerts, shows, parties conferences and more.

Skating in Montreal

Montreal’s Lafontaine Park in winter. Photo by Atilin.

Quebec City Festivals

Late January – February, Quebec City, Quebec Winter Carnival, a vigorous 2 week celebration of parades, themed parties, ice sculptures and, bien sur, winter sports of every description.

July, Festival d’Eté International, two weeks of all kinds of music, much of it free.

End July-early August, Quebec Musical Firework Competition.

Activities in/around Montreal

Winter sports: lots of cross-country ski areas, snowshoeing areas, toboggan runs and alpine ski slopes at Mont Tremblant (see below).

Skating: very big in this city of champion ice hockey teams. There are around 200 open-air rinks in the city.

Walks/hikes: Plenty of these too when weather permits.

Jogging: Many paved trails.

Biking: Montreal has a network of around 100 miles of dedicated bike trails. Rentals available. Montreal has 400 miles of bike and skate paths.

In-line skaters (roller blades): Popular, especially in Vieux-Port area. Rentals available.

Wildlife: near the city, see below

Mont Tremblant

Mont Tremblant National Park in the summer season, Quebec, Canada

Mont Tremblant National Park in the summer season. Photo by Stephane Duquesne.

Just 1. 5 hour’s drive from Montreal (75 miles/120 kms) in the Laurentian Mountains Mont Tremblant National Park is east Canada’s biggest sports/recreation destination, summer or winter, packed with all the usual activities (including dog sledding, ice climbing, zip lines, but skiing is #1) as well as spas, golf courses, and a casino. Mont Tremblant also has an airport with direct flights from Toronto and New York City. More.

The vast Saguenay Region (picturesque villages, fjords, rivers, lakes and mountains) a short distance north of Quebec City and favourite escape chute for city folk also provides a lot of adrenalin action both in winter and summer. A gorgeous bike route around Lake Saint-Jean, the Blueberry Cycling Route (Veloroute des Bleuets) is an outstanding attraction.

Quebec Wildlife

Seals being a little scary near Les Iles-de-la-Madeleine, Quebec, Canada

Seals being a little scary near l’Ile Brion. Photo by ChristianT.

There are several good wildlife reserves not far from the cities, such as Jacques-Cartier National Park, 50km north of Quebec City or Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area on the north shore of the St Lawrence River in the Saint-Joachim region, 40 minutes drive north-east of Quebec City.

Cap Tourmente has 20 kms of hiking trails open for walking and twitchingfrom lookouts and observation posts mid-April to the end of October. Some animals that make this wildlife reserve home are deer, mink, muskrats, porcupines, red foxes, weasels, raccoons, red squirrels, many kinds of frogs and black bears.

Baie Ste. Catherine, two hours north of Quebec City in upper Charlevoix is packed with vast numbers and variety of whales (including beluga and minke) from mid-June to early October. Visible from land but of course tour boats get a lot closer and provide interesting information too.

Tadoussac is a famous whale-watching town on the St Lawrence River, not a pretty town but the vicinity is attractive and the fjord and whale tours pricey fun. Beluga whales are an especially popular sight.

Further out, on the Gaspé Peninsula:
Forillon NP offers a variety of environments including a sea coast with dunes, salt marshes, cliffs and forests. Forillon is home to moose, bears, seals and whales, as well as porcupines.

Iles-de-la-Madeleine (Magdalen Islands) are a remote group of inhabited islands (near Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island) good for fishing, bird watching in spring and autumn and seal watching most of the time.

offers a large number of services and activities such as camping (summertime obviously! ); cabins, a mountain lodge; bike, kayak, fishing rods and boat rentals with marked trails; lots of wildlife action such as moose, deer, caribou, bear; and many superbly scenic driving routes in the area.

Remember that the far north USA state of Alaska is also wild, unspoilt and speaks English!