Why Quebec is Right for Any Kind of Traveller
Quebec is more than a province where everyone speaks French. At almost three times the size of France, it's also Canada's largest province and it's as varied as it is vast.
From world-class cities, filled with museums and galleries, to rural towns, scattered with small vineyards producing award-winning wine; from bustling streets to deserted beaches; from parks so vast you can wander alone for days to music festivals so big you'll meet people from around the world -- this is Quebec.
For the Urban Explorer
Montreal is a tale of two cities where modern, high-end shops, hotels and restaurants, as well as art galleries and museums coexist with some of North America's oldest buildings, churches and neighbourhoods.
Walk the cobbled streets of Old Montreal, a historic area also known as the Old Port, to travel back to the 17th century. Stop off at the Notre-Dame Basilica, first built in 1672 and still one of the most dramatic Gothic buildings in the world or put your walking shoes on and head up Mount Royal, (yes, the city is named after this mountain) for a bird's-eye view of this sprawling metropolis.
For the Foodie
The Brome-Missisquoi Wine Route in the Eastern Townships is just an hour’s drive from Montreal and less than 90 minutes from Burlington, Vermont. The region is home to 21 wineries, including some of the province’s oldest, and produces 60% of Quebec’s local wine. Visit the Chapelle Ste Agnes Vineyard, a Romanesque stone chapel with several levels of medieval wine cellars, or stop by Les Pervenches, widely considered the top winery in the province. Tip: If you like the wine, stock up. Les Pervenches’ bottles sell out at stores almost immediately after they are stocked.
Of course you can’t have wine without cheese. Quebec is famous for its local blends. Travel 90 minutes from Montreal to the Fromagerie de l’Abbaye Saint-Benoit, in the idyllic town Saint-Benoit-Du-Lac where you can see the monks in the local abbey producing more than a dozen varieties of fresh cheeses.
If you consider yourself a foodie, try Quebec’s local delicacies: poutine (French fries smothered in gravy and cheese curds), freshly baked bagels, smoked meat, meat pie or tarte au sucre (sugar pie) made with real Quebec maple syrup.
For the Adrenaline-Junkie
The Great Canadian Bungee's "Goliath," in Wakefield, is the highest bungee jump in North America at 200 feet. Not quite brave enough to take a leap? Try zip lining instead. The site includes a 1015-foot zip line that goes over a crystal-clear lagoon. Wakefield is located in the Gatineau Hills, a two-and-a-half hour drive from Montreal.
If cycling is more your pace, saddle up in Lanaudiere, just northeast of Montreal. The area is an outdoorsman's wonderland, with wildlife reserves, regional parks, beautiful lakes and rivers and various heritage sites. From challenging mountain roads for serious cyclists to easy terrain for families, Lanaudiere is best seen on two wheels.
For the Art Lover
The Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau (two hours from Montreal) celebrates art that has shaped Canada, with exhibits exploring the country’s 20,000 years of human history. The architectural wonder features a spectacular Grand Hall with a magnificent collection of towering Totem poles (the largest indoor collection in the world) set amidst a forest scene, believed to be the world’s largest colour photograph.
The Montreal Museum of Fine Art, meanwhile, has an acclaimed collection of local and international fine art as well as touring exhibitions. This summer, see Pompeii, a spectacular exhibition that features over 220 archaeological artifacts including mosaics, frescoes, statues, personal artifacts and other art from the small Roman Empire colony, frozen in time by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D.
For the Nature Enthusiast
Quebec is home to 24 national parks, including Mingan Archipelago National Park, which boasts some 30 limestone islands and more than 1,000 granitic islets and reefs. Located on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River, about a 10-hour drive from Quebec City, the park is dotted by spectacular limestone sculptures carved over the course of thousands of centuries, and is home to an abundance of wildlife, including seals, dolphins and whales.
Discover Nunavik, comprising the northern third of the province. The area, a four-hour drive north from Quebec City, is the homeland of the Inuit and, from August to March, its skies are the backdrop to fabulous displays of northern lights or aurora borealis. Nunavik’s Parc national des Pingualuit is a marvel of Northern Quebec. The park is the scene of a meteorite crater filled with crystal-clear blue water. The crater, which measures more than 2 miles in diameter is called “L’oeil de cristal du Nunavik” (Crystal eye of Nunavik).
For the Family Traveller
What child will not be impressed with the sight of magnificent whales swimming along the surface of the St. Lawrence River? The Cote-Nord’s so-called Whale Route, three hours northeast of Quebec City, is home to 13 different whale species, including the blue whale. While you can see them from the coast, you can also take a whale-watching cruise for a closer look or, if you’re brave, go kayaking for a chance to get within arm’s reach of see one of these colossal mammals.
Meanwhile, the Montreal Biodome, located in the city’s Olympic Park (the site of the 1976 Olympics), allows visitors to walk through replicas of the four ecosystems found in the Americas. You can see everything from macaws to beavers, lynxes and penguins.
For the Beach Lover
Travellers looking to get sand between their toes should head to the Magdalen Islands in the St. Lawrence Bay. This remote archipelago has more than 185 miles of white-sand beaches, where you can laze around all day and stare at lapping waves. When in Quebec, do as the Quebecois and stop by the area cheese shops and bakeries to pack your beach picnic or try the local delicacy "pot-en-pot" (mixed fish, seafood and sauce baked in pie crust).
While the region falls under Quebec territory, it is closer to Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia and is accessible by flights from Gaspe, Quebec, as well as ferry rides from Gaspe and Souris, Prince Edward Island.
For the Luxury Seeker
The Auberge Saint-Antoine, a Relais & Chateaux hotel set in a 17th-century building in the heart of historic Quebec City, has been consistently rated one of the best in the world by Travel + Leisure and Conde Nast Traveller. It overlooks the St. Lawrence River, and is steps away from the boutiques of the Quartier Petit Champlain, the oldest shopping area in North America.
You can also head to Montreal for world-class shopping. Canada’s Holt Renfrew, founded in 1837, is comparable to Barneys or Saks and carries all the major luxury brands.
For the History Buff
Quebec City, founded in 1608, is a living museum. It is one of the oldest cities in North America, and the old town is the only fortified city north of Mexico with its walls intact. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1985. Stroll along the cobblestone streets, visit the star-shaped citadel or pose for a selfie in front of the impressive Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac Hotel (the world’s most-photographed hotel).
If you want to dig deeper into history, visit Parc national de Miguasha, a UNESCO World Heritage site in southeastern Quebec. The area's cliffs are home to a wealth of plant and fish fossils that tell the tale of life on Earth 380 million years ago.
For the Music Fan
Fans of all types of music, from jazz to pop and everything in between are likely to find a music festival catering to their tastes in Quebec. The Montreal Jazz Festival, the world’s largest jazz festival, takes place in late June and early July with more than 650 concerts, including 450 free outdoor shows, featuring 3,000 artists from more than 30 countries.
Those prefering pop and rock will be in music heaven at Osheaga, a Montreal music festival that takes place in early August. The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lana Del Rey and Radiohead are just a few of the past performers that have taken the stage. Those with more eclectic tastes can celebrate both emerging and celebrated artists at Pop Montreal, which features more than 400 acts.
For the Spa Lover
Spa day in the city or a retreat in nature? Why choose? One of the most popular spas is the Scandinave Spa at Mont-Tremblant, 80 miles northwest of Montreal. Nestled in the Laurentian mountains, the spa offers Scandinavian hydrotherapy (hot and cold) pools and an unbeatable view of the mountains and Lake Tremblant.
Equally stunning is the Nordik Spa-Nature in Chelsea, Quebec, two-and-a-half hours west of Montreal. The spa is the largest in North America and features various water-therapy pools, saunas and even overnight accommodations for groups.
For the Traveller Who Wants Europe On A Budget
Want a taste of Europe — but short on time or budget? Skip the pricey long overseas flights by staying closer to home. Surround yourself in the old-world charm of Quebec City; taste authentic French cuisine at Restaurant Initiale in the city’s old town (one of only two restaurants in Canada given the prestigious five stars by AAA); stroll along the romantic Petit Champlain district, a quaint neighbourhood filled with one-of-a-kind boutiques and bistros or stay at the world-famous Fairmont Chateau Frontenac, a hotel fit for a king. It’s no wonder Quebec City tourism’s motto is “So Europe. So close."