Quebec enjoys one of the most amazing settings of any city, sitting on the heights of Cape Diamond, on a bend of the meandering Saint Lawrence seaway, several hundred miles inland from the Atlantic. Quebec is the oldest and last completely walled city on the North American continent, and as such was awarded World Heritage Site status by UNESCO in 1985.
It is a city overlaid with a distinctly Gallic vibe; hardly surprising, since the original colony here was founded by the French explorer, Samuel de Champlain, as far back as 1608. And though the city was taken by the English General Wolfe during the famous battle on the Plains of Abraham, that French undercurrent has always remained here.
The city’s main landmark is the vast, looming Chateau Frontenac, a massive Gothic confection of a hotel that stands like a sentinel on top of the cliffs. Now owned by Fairmont Hotels, it witnessed history as the site of a historic meeting between Churchill and Roosevelt in September 1944, when they drew up the occupation zones for a soon to be defeated and demilitarised Germany.
Chateau Frontenac stands on the broad, breezy promenade of the Dufferin Terasse, with its statue of Champlain staring out over the Saint Lawrence, far below. Like many Canadian cities, Quebec was once the site of a huge timber industry, and the waterway was alive with freighters at all times of the day and night. Today, it is much more likely to see the giant cruise ships docking in its shadow, during the increasingly busy summer season and throughout most of the long, languid fall season, when the whole area often bathes in the last rays of a long Indian summer.
Dufferin Terrasse is alive with the sounds of cool, sultry jazz during the day. There are mime artists, portrait painters, and every other genre of street theatre you can imagine here. You can walk the walls of the Old Town, just as the French general Montcalm did as he watched the approach of Wolfe’s invading fleet. The area is a warren of narrow, winding streets full of cozy little bars, clubs, and of course, some wonderful, mouth watering restaurants.
Quebec feels vastly different even to neighbouring cities like Montreal, just a hundred and forty-odd miles downstream. The combination of its matchless location, staggering natural beauty, and uniquely preserved old walls makes it a hugely appealing place to visit. Brim full of style and sophisticated charm, it is in many ways one of the most alluring destinations you can visit on any cruise in this region.