Set within the 18th-century ramparts of Québec City, Old Québec’s winding streets are lined with the steep-roofed former residences of New France’s wealthy merchants. Streets grow quiet after dark, and the air outside 17th-century chapels is faintly scented with incense. It’s easy to imagine the spirit of Old Québec on early morning walks through cobblestone streets and at museums like the Musée de l’Amérique Française, which recounts the experiences of the French in North America. Old Québec blends gradually into the Upper Town to the south, and is a mere stair climb – or funicular ride – above Lower Town and the port.
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The Citadel dominates Upper Town, its hulking fortifications looming atop the highest point in Québec City, Cap Diamant. Rue Saint-Louis and the avenue Saint-Denis are good places to look for charming Québec City hotels and restaurants, some carved out of former 18th-century residences and inns. Its cliff-top position makes the Upper Town a lovely vantage point for looking out over the slow-moving St. Lawrence River. The broad boardwalk of Terrasse Dufferin and leafy Battlefields Park are good spots for morning walks. Old Québec lies within an easy walk to the north, and downtown, with its business and parliamentary buildings, lies immediately to the west.
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Set at the base of Cap Diamant and in the heart of Québec City’s birthplace, Lower Town includes bustling rue du Petit-Champlain, the city’s oldest street, lined with outdoor cafés and bistros serving Québec meat pies and French baked goods. Admittedly, the shops along rue du Trésor don’t sell museum- quality artworks, but you’ll find some interesting mementos to take home with you – and bistros that stay open late into the night. Cruise and ferry terminals lie along the rue Dalhousie, and farther north is Québec City’s Marché, selling fresh strawberries and peaches in season. Climb by stairs or funicular to Upper Town and Old Québec, immediately west.
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Just outside Québec City’s walls, downtown stands in stark contrast with its glass-and-steel office towers and hotels. Business travelers are near the Convention Center in downtown Québec City, and leisure travelers are near the Parliament Buildings and the Capital Observatory. The 31-story office building may not be striking from the outside, but the observatory at its top offers unsurpassed views of Québec City and the riverfront. Old Québec and Upper Town lie immediately to the east and southeast.
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Middle- class residences lie within the pleasant neighborhood of Saint-Roch, which sits along the St. Charles River where it joins the St. Lawrence. Modest, family-owned restaurants sell nourishing meals like organic sandwiches or hearty fare like hamburgers. Saint-Roch is where to stay in Québec City to be near the main train station, linking the city via VIA Rail to the rest of Canada.
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