This French-speaking inland province is the birthplace of poutine, Cirque du Soleil and Arcade Fire. Here art thrives in some of the New World’s oldest cities.
Since the 1500s when Jacques Cartier landed, Québec has been Canada’s French enclave. Today, the province maintains French as its official language. It features a classically French focus on cuisine, art and grand architecture. Visit Québec’s two main cities for a sense of Paris within the Canadian woods.
Tour Québec City, the province’s capital, for the purest experience of old Québec. Today the city feels more like a European capital than a frontier port town. Browse the cobblestone alleys of the Old Town. The Château Frontenac is one of the city’s main monuments, a castle-like grand hotel towering over the port, while the 1886 Hôtel du Parlement is equally as grand. At the heart of Québec City is La Citadelle, a geometric fort that has guarded the city for centuries. In the nearby city of Baie-Saint-Paul, the theatrical group Cirque du Soleil got its start in the 1980s.
If Québec City is the historic political capital of Québec, Montréal is the contemporary cultural capital. This bohemian city of university students and artists features some of the province’s liveliest neighborhoods, museums, cuisine and parties. Eat French-Canadian specialties such as maple syrup-glazed salmon or poutine, made of potato, cheese and gravy. Gather around young artists in colorful neighborhoods like the Plateau-Mont-Royal or the Quartier Latin. Listen to the rock band Arcade Fire in their hometown. In summer, head to the Quartier des Spectacles or the St. Lawrence River islands to participate in one of hundreds of annual festivals, including the Montréal Jazz Festival.
Québec’s vast northern region extends to the Hudson Strait. Visit the far-north region of Nunavik, where a large Inuit population lives on the tundra. The regional highlight is Pingualuit National Park, centered on a 2.1-mile (3.4-kilometer) meteorite crater filled with the water of a brilliant blue lake.
Arrive in Québec via international airports in Québec City or Montréal. During winter, the province’s heavy snow can make travel difficult, so arrive from June to mid-September for the best weather.