Old Quebec is the historic neighborhood of Quebec City and is made up of the Upper Town (Haute-Ville) and the Lower Town (Basse-Ville). It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and today it with this essential itinerary one can enjoy a fantastic weekend in Quebec City. Quebec City has some of the best historic architecture of any city in North America and is very much worth a visit.

Quebec is sometimes called a bit of Old Europe on North American soil, it is the only walled city north of Mexico. The city was protected by gates, ramparts, and other fortifications that provide a stark reminder of the colonial wars for control of the Americas.

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History Of Quebec City

The site was chosen in 1608 as the site for Fort Saint Louis by Samuel de Champlain. During the French and Indian Wars, the city fell to the British and was occupied mostly by British government officials and Catholic clergy afterward. French and English merchants and artisans lived in the Lower Town.

  • Founded: In 1608

The city served as the capital of the French colony - called New France - until 1760 when its defenses proved infrequent to defend itself from the British. It was then part of the British colony before ending up part of the Province of Quebec in an independent Canada.

  • Fall Of New France: 1760 Quebec Was Captured by The British
  • American Revolutionary War: The Continental Army Invaded Canada, But Was Defeated At Quebec

During the American War of Independence, the French settlers had little interest in joining with the English settlers of the 13 Colonies. Early in the war, the American Continental Army attempted to take the city of Quebec City on December 31, 1775. But the British managed to successfully defend it from the Americans with the battle being the first major defeat for the Americans. Many of the attacking Americans were taken prisoner.

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Preservation And Quebec City Today

The military use of the Upper Town hampered growth for many years and late in the 19th century, there was a movement to demolish them.

The fortifications had become obsolete and were an obstacle to urban development. However, Lord Dufferin managed to persuade officials to preserve and rebuild them. The area fell into disrepair in the 1950s but today it is all well maintained.

  • Listed: Old Quebec Has Been UNESCO Listed Since 1985
  • Reason For Designation: North America's Premier Walled City And An Architectural Treasure and Monument To European Colonial History In The New World

Most of the buildings date from the 19th century although there are also some from the 17th and 18th centuries as well.  Today the Old City is a very popular tourist destination and some of the notable administration and other institutions in the Upper Town include Quebec City Hall (Hôtel de Ville), the Séminaire de Québec, the Ursulines Convent, and the Augustinian Monastery and l'Hôtel-Dieu de Québec

The Lower Town is located at the bottom of Cap Diamant. There are some attractions here that date from the very early dates of Quebec City. The remains of a habitation built by Samuel de Champlain are to be seen with Place Royale as its center. It was restored to reconstruct French flair.

One of the oldest structures is the Church of Notre Dame des Victoires. It was started in 1687 and completed in 1723.

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Visiting Quebec City Today

To get to and from the Upper Town on Cap Diamant to the Lower Town is very easy. There is a funicular car allowing for easy transportation, alternatively one can hike up by Côte de la Montagne.

  • Funicular: There Is a Funicular Car Connecting The Upper and Lower Towns

The Upper Town is perched up on cliffs overlooking the St. Lawrence River and affords views of the land for miles around. The Citadel was constructed during British rule after the Americans unsuccessfully attacked it in 1775.

Adjacent to the Citadel and the streets of the old city is the Parc des Champs-de-Bataille. This park reserves the grassy, cliff-top Plains of Abraham. It was here that Imperial French hopes of dominating the New World were dashed on a fateful day in 1759 when the British defeated their army and captured the city - driving the French off the continent.

Quebec City is easy to reach. One can fly in through the international airport, or take a train. But for most Americans, it may be easier to just drive there.

In Winter: The Winters here are Cold But In February One Can See The Carnaval d’hiver (Winter Carnival)

  • In Summer: The Summers are Pleasant, Come In July and Visit The Festival d'été de Quebec (Summer Festival)

While in the Old City, expect to do some walking. The city's ancient streets are narrow and winding and are made for walking.

Next: Can You Hike In Quebec? The Answer Is Yes, And Here's Where