Dubbed the cradle of French America, Quebec is a bustling metropolis that offers an enchanting mix of playfulness and sophistication. Its oldest quarters, encircled by cobbled streets, are perched on a clifftop, offering spectacular, picture-postcard views of the St Lawrence River.
And while this is very much a modern city, scratch the surface and you’ll find Old Europe, richly endowed with historic buildings, classic bistros and enticing pavement cafés.
Best restaurants & bars
With its unmistakable emblem of a laughing band and a dancing monk saucily lifting his robes, this bar has long been the watering hole of choice for Quebec’s night owls. Even on a Monday, it’s standing room only, despite this being a fairly offbeat establishment. There’s a wide selection of beers, including many locally brewed craft varieties, so sit back and enjoy live music under the unique glass-enclosed terrace, set back from Rue Saint-Jean.
Légende par la Tanière
Inspired by Heston Blumenthal, chef Frédéric Laplante takes farm-to-table gastronomy to a whole new level. Opt for the tasting menu and you’ll be embarking on a culinary adventure via the likes of fresh shrimp salad with fennel and strawberry, garlic-flower gnocchi, foie gras with compote, venison tartare and rabbit sausage. What’s more, every morsel you eat will be sustainably sourced from Quebec itself.
Bright and buzzy, this classy lounge is a fun spot for cocktails. Bare brick walls, cushioned benches and a sea of hanging lights create a convivial atmosphere for sampling mixological marvels such as Le Disco (a blend of gin and Cointreau) and the Cowgirl (ideal for vodka lovers). Feeling peckish? Take your pick from delicious fried arancini with lobster, lemon aïoli, roasted corn salad, cherry tomatoes and sharp lemon vinaigrette.
To explore the city’s culinary underground – in several senses – step down into brick-lined subterranean vaults, dating back more than 300 years, and discover the cutting-edge work of super-chef François-Emmanuel Nicol. As you take your seat at the counter to await the secret fixed menu, you may not know what’s coming, but you can be sure it will be seasonal – and sensational. What’s not to love?
Best local tips
“For a mid-morning treat in the city, you can’t go wrong with a visit to Maison Smith. Order a café au lait and a crispy croissant while chatting to the friendly locals” Ingrid Lemm, PR director.
“I love to walk along the St Lawrence River and take the ferry across to Levis on the south shore. It’s best to go at night when the gorgeous Château Frontenac is lit up” Marie Côté, tour guide.
“Don’t leave without trying our local dish, poutine – fresh cheese curds and plump French fries, lathered in a rich sauce. Luckily we have many steep hills to burn off the calories!” Allison Van Rassel, food journalist.
What to expect
You will need a valid passport and a visa to enter Canada – regardless of your Canada, Canada – regardless of your nationality –before you will be allowed to board your cruise ship. Check with your local Canadian embassy or consulate to ensure that you have everything you need before travelling.
If icy temperatures don’t entice (6C counts as a high in December), spring offers milder, wetter conditions, while the summer months are pleasantly warm.
When to go
Quebec is at its most charming under a blanket of snow. If you don’t mind the cold, visit in December to discover a true winter wonderland – and catch the famous Winter Carnival.
Canadian dollars are easily obtainable before travelling, or you can change sterling at local banks and bureaux de change when you arrive (there will also be plenty of ATMs).
Get on Board
12-night ‘Boston, Maine & Canada Cruise’ aboard Celebrity Summit, round trip from Boston via Halifax, Sydney, Quebec City, Charlottetown, Saint John and Portland, departing 5 October 2020, from £1,349 celebritycruises.co.uk
12-night ‘Eastern Seaboard Discoveries’ cruise, from Montreal to New York via Quebec City, Saguenay, St Lawrence River, Gaspé, Halifax, the Nova Scotia Coast, Portland and Newport, departing 4 October 2020, from £5,190 vikingcruises.co.uk