Upper Town (Haute Ville)
High on the stone cliffs, here's where Quebec City was fortified over the centuries. Situated at a strategic point on the St. Lawrence River, the city, capital of New France, was central to the struggle between French and British for control of the river and trade. In 1759, the English fought the French on the Plains of Abraham, and as a result of the battle Quebec City was captured by the British; several years later, New France became an English colony.
Place d'Armes - A good starting point for the Upper Town is the Place d'Armes, a lovely square bordered on one side by the imposing Chateau Frontenac hotel, and starting point for a walk along Terrasse Dufferin. In the center of the square is a dashing statue of Samuel de Champlain, looking like one of the three musketeers.
- Here's where you can pick up the funicular that takes you to the Lower Town, with super views as you descend down the cliff. This is the quickest easiest way to get down, but you might want to save the funicular for the ride up from the Lower Town (there's an easy walk down Cote de la Montagne).
Horse carriage rides
- From the Place d'Armes, go for a horse carriage ride (caleche
) around the old city. A 45 minute ride includes the Plains of Abraham, Martello Towers, Citadel, back through the city gates and down rue Saint Louis.
Musee du Fort - For a good introduction to the great battles of Quebec City, the Musee du Fort has a huge model of the city in 1750 - each battle is narrated as different parts of the diorama light up, showing fortifications, troop movements, cannon fire and ships in the river. Find out how crafty General Wolfe got his British troops off the big ships and up onto the Plains of Abraham (Wolfe unloaded men into small boats, tricked the French sentry who let them go by, then the troops scaled the cliffs under the cover of darkness.)
Parc Montmorency - Head over the Montmorency Park to see a whole slew of black cannons, pointed in the direction of the St. Lawrence River, and the stone ramparts defending the city from potential invaders. Kids will have fun climbing all over the cannons.
Walk down to the Lower Town - Start at the Place d'Armes, just left of the funiculaire, walk down the stairs and across the bridge to Parc Montmorency. After you've checked out the cannons, follow the street Cote de la Montagne down the hill. At the corner (La Cetiere Park) with the building decorated with a delightful mural, take a right onto rue Notre Dame, and you'll end up at Place-Royale.
Terrasse Dufferin - A long wooden boardwalk with spectacular views of the St. Lawrence River extends from the Place d'Armes, south toward the Citadelle higher on the hill. Any time of year, join people promenading along the boardwalk, plenty of snacks to sample along the way. In winter, there's a long wooden slide for toboggan sledding, December to March.
- At the end of the Terrasse Dufferin, continue on along the Governors' Walk (Promenade des Gouverneurs
). This walkway goes along the cliffs, underneath the Citadel (Citadelle
), and ends up at Cap Diamant in Battlefields Park. Walking along the promenade, you really feed the fortified position of the Citadel towering above, and great views of the St. Lawrence River. The walkway is fenced, benches here and there, fine for kids of all ages.
Old city walls and gates - From the beginning, Quebec City was important to the defense of New France, and unlike many other cities, the stone walls, ramparts, turrets and battlements are superbly preserved.
Walk the city walls, starting at Saint Louis Gate (Porte Saint Louis). It's got crenellations, a rectangular stone tower, and little rounded openings in the walls, so kids can run inside or outside the city walls. To climb up the stairs to the top of the ramparts, take the stairs inside the city walls in the Esplanade Park (Parc de l'Esplanade).
Continue along the walls to Kent Gate (Porte Kent) then Saint Jean Gate (Porte Saint- Jean), stopping to scale the battlements where there are stairs. Kids can decide whether they want to be defending French or attacking British (or in 1760, the British were inside and the French besieged Quebec City).
To find out about life of a French soldier in 1750, stop into Artillery Park, site of the foundry and barracks, open April to October. In summer there are flintlock demonstrations and people dressed in period costumes.
For more explorations of the city walls, from the cannons in Parc Montmorency, walk down Rue Des Remparts as far as you like.
Battlefields Park (Parc des Champs-des-Bataille) - In September 1759, the British General Wolfe and the French General Montcalm fought on the Plains of Abraham. The better prepared English lined up against the French, and in minutes, both Wolfe and Montcalm were mortally wounded, and the British occupied the city. April 1760, the French tried to retake Quebec City from the British, but the English kept control.
- The center has a three-theater multimedia presentation of the founding of New France and battles on the Plains of Abraham, Quebec under the British, and the founding of Canada. Audio in French and English, good for older kids. The exhibits also include complete info about the soldiers, uniforms and weapons for both the British and French.
Outside the Discovery Pavilion are picnic tables
, benches, lots of grass to run around and the walls of the Citadel to explore, bring a picnic.
Martello Tower 1
- In the early 19th century, the British were worried about a possible American invasion, so they constructed Martello towers to improve the defenses. A little circular stone fort, soldiers lived inside the tower on one floor, artillery was located on the upper floor. Go inside the Martello Tower, exhibits and audio explanations of life in a Martello tower, open late June to September.
- Take a cool stroll in the trees on the nature trail that goes from the Cap Blanc staircase (Avenue Ontario) to Gilmour Hill.
Citadel (Citadelle) - The Citadel, star-shaped with earth-covered stone walls, was built in the early 19th century by the British and the fortification is still in use today as a military base. You can walk on the Citadel walls at Cap Diamant and the Saint Denis Terrace, looking down into the Citadel. June to September, watch the Changing of the Guard at about 9:45am every day, soldiers in spiffy red uniforms of the Royal 22nd Regiment.
Ice skating (Place d'Youville) - In winter, there's a large ice skating rink at the Place d'Youville, and you can rent skates.