When we first decided to visit Quebec City, we were excited to see what the “most European city in North America” would look like. Since we have never visited Europe, we were unsure of what to expect, but we hoped that it would be a pleasant experience. Little did we realize that it would become one of our most memorable trips ever. The romance of Quebec City can be found not only in the amazing architecture but in the overall atmosphere of the place. After multiple days of discovery, we determined there are at least 15 reasons to explore Lower Town, in Quebec City.
We want to thank Quebec City Tourism and the various businesses for hosting our visit. Rest assured all opinions are our own.
1) Lots of Stairs
With our lodging situated in Upper Town, we loved taking in the views from high atop Cap Diamante. That is the name of the promontory that overlooks the St. Lawrence River some 195 feet below. Getting down to Lower Town will usually involve the navigation of stairs. We found ourselves climbing a lot of stairs during our visit. Of course, we looked at that as a good way to counter all of the delicacies we were devouring. Being forewarned about the stairs is definitely on our list of 15 reasons to explore Lower Town, in Quebec City. That being said…
2) There is an Alternative
With so many visits to Lower Town, there were times our legs just weren’t ready for scaling the cliff one more time. Fortunately, there is an alternative method for scaling the heights. While we were exploring Rue du Petit Champlain, we noticed the lower entrance to Quebec City’s famous Funiculaire. This custom railway is designed to carry passengers between Lower Town and the boardwalk far above. We took a few rides along the rails and loved the views of the river and the surrounding area.
3) You May Recognize Place Royale
As we continued exploring Lower Town, we found ourselves strolling the quaint cobblestone streets. On a side street off of Rue de Petit Champlain, we found a small square. As we entered it, we noted a stone church that occupied the center of the square. There was an immediate feeling of deja-vu, but the reason was not coming to us. Later, we would realize that this church was used during the filming of ‘Catch me If You Can’ starring Tom Hanks and Leonardo Dicaprio. Here was more proof that Quebec City is the “Most European City in North America”.
4) The Royal Battery was Built to Keep Out the British
Near the end of the 1600s, England was on a mission to conquer the New World. British colonists from New England began an offensive to take over New France to the north. When Major William Phips arrived at Quebec City, he demanded its surrender. After an unsuccessful assault in 1690, the French constructed the Royal Battery along the river’s edge. It was designed to help protect the growing city from attacks that came by way of the St. Lawrence River. It saw use in 1759 but was destroyed during the bombardment of the city by British forces.
5) Lower Town is Growing
Did you know that you can plot the growth of Lower Town by flagstone markers on Rue Saint-Antoine? Over the centuries, the St. Lawrence River has slowly receded into its deep channel. Paule Bergeron, from Quebec Cite Tourism, pointed this out during an evening of exploration. As we made our way toward the shoreline, we spotted these markers, which are highlighted by waves of colored cobblestones. Standing at the marker for the 1600 shoreline, we realized that it is over 800 feet from where the river sits today.
6) Learn About Quebec Culture
If you have found the markers, then you should reward yourself with another historic visit. The building that sits right next door houses the Musee de la Civilization. This happens to be the most visited museum in all of Quebec City and for good reason. The combination of permanent and temporary exhibits is astonishing. During our half-day visit, we barely scratched the surface of what this space has to offer. We found artifacts from the earliest residents of the region, which include the eleven original tribes. Plan to spend plenty of time learning all about Quebec culture.
7) You Can Travel the St. Lawrence River
We couldn’t compile a list of 15 reasons to explore Lower Town without including a way to get up close to the region’s major waterway. Flowing from the Great Lakes, it is the primary drainage path to the Atlantic Ocean. Samuel de Champlain used the St. Lawrence River as a route to explore the North American interior. These days it is used for commercial transit, as well as recreation purposes. Sightseeing cruises can be found along the piers near the Royal Battery.
We boarded an AML Sightseeing Cruise, which takes passengers on a tour up the Quebec coastline. The views from onboard gave us a new perspective of the beauty of Quebec City. Seeing the skyline, as we moved along the river reminded us of fairy tales we heard in our youth. When we spotted Montmorency Falls, all of the passenger’s attention moved to the natural beauty of this sight.
8) or Walk with a Ghost
While the daylight uncovers the natural beauty of the city, the shadows of nightfall hold tales of their own. During our research, we found that there are multiple options for ghost tours in Canada’s oldest city. We chose the Le Promenades Fantomes, which is hosted by a historic spirit. As she led us through the darkened streets of Lower Town, we learned unique bits of history from the early days of the city. It puts an unusual spin on ancient history.
9) It’s a Great Evening Destination
After sundown is not only reserved for ghosts and ghouls. In many sections of Lower Town, we found tourists and locals gathering to enjoy the quiet beauty. Street musicians serenade passersby, while others rest their legs before heading back up the hillside. The stores and restaurants are illuminated by incandescent lights, which add a soft glow to the evening. This is the time when Quebec City becomes even more romantic than words can describe.
10) Shopping Galore
Speaking of those stores, there are enough to keep even the most avid shopper satisfied. Whether you visit during the day or evening, you will find a steady stream of customers searching for that perfect gift. Each boutique shop holds treasures just waiting to be discovered. Since our luggage was all carry-on, we knew we would be limited on purchases. That didn’t stop us from exploring as many of the cute shops as possible. In the end, we found space to squeeze in a few special purchases that we made for friends and family.
11) Unexpected Treasures
It would be easy to stop our list right here, but it would leave so much unsaid. The 15 reasons to explore Lower Town have to include some unexpected treasures. Not all of these are easy to spot, as the others. A street covered in brightly colored umbrellas is sure to catch your attention. Of course, there are also little treasures hiding in plain sight. Shopping along Rue du Petit Champlain, we were surprised to spot these cute little animals gracing the spaces outside of the boutiques.
12) Great Dining Options
All of our exploring sure worked up our appetites. It’s a good thing there are plenty of dining choices to be found in Lower Town. American tourists can often be a little fickle about their meal choices, but you will be happy to know that just about any cuisine can be found. On a day when we were pressed for time, we popped into a local diner for a burger and poutine. If you have never tried this Quebec classic dish, then you are in for quite a treat. It combines all the flavors that Americans love; French Fries, gravy, and cheese curds. This carb-filled dish had us coming back for more.
Being just a stone’s throw from the Atlantic Ocean means that there are lots of great places to sample some seafood. One of our favorites is a good plate of Fish & Chips. Living in the middle of the United States makes it difficult to get a fresh version, but that problem is solved by living along the coastline. After our river cruise, we stopped by Taverne Louise for a delicious lunch just a couple of blocks from the Port of Quebec. Listening to the gulls flying nearby made this lunch a special experience.
As we said before, you can find just about any cuisine in Lower Town. One of the most delightful meals was also one that we shared with a new friend. Paule Bergeron was our contact with Quebec Cite Tourism and invited us to join her for a dinner at Ristorante Il Matto. This upscale Italian restaurant serves up family recipes in a modern space. As we cemented our newfound friendship, the staff brought out dish after dish of incredible flavors. Speaking of the staff, their service was like an orchestrated performance fit for the finest dining establishments in the world.
13) They Didn’t Forget the Sweet Treats
You all know that we rarely pass up an opportunity to savor some sweet treats. Thankfully, we didn’t have to make the steep climb to find them. Ice cream ranks very high on the list of our all-time favorites, and in Lower Town we found a new flavor to try. The Quebec region produces over 70% of the world’s maple syrup. It makes perfect sense that this unique flavor would be incorporated into almost every aspect of Quebec City life. Our introduction to maple-flavored ice cream ended up being quite a pleasant addition to our trip. Be sure to get you a sample (or two) when you visit.
14) The Views are Amazing
If you have read our article about Upper Town, then you know we found some fantastic views from the high ground. During our time in Lower Town, we discovered that there are plenty of amazing sights from this angle, as well. Having an opportunity to see Chateau Frontenac from this direction made it look like a European castle nestled upon a hillside. Along the shoreline, we could watch the ferries criss-cross the St. Lawrence River as they carried passengers to the other side. Strolling the cobblestone streets offered us up-close views of the various architectural styles that are found in Lower Town.
15 Reasons to Explore Lower Town in Quebec City
The final and most important thing to know about Lower Town is that you will find yourself wanting to spend more and more time there. With every step of our explorations, we grew to feel like there was more to discover around the next corner. Our visit was limited to five days, but we would have loved to have a full month or more. With so much to see and do, Lower Town became strangely comfortable. Whether visiting during the day or night, we always felt safe and secure as we traversed the streets. We can’t imagine a better place to get a European experience, without crossing the Atlantic. We encourage you to make plans to explore Quebec City for yourself and then drop us a line to let us know your favorite experience.