Founded by Samuel de Champlain in 1608, this city is one of the oldest European settlements on the continent and the only walled one north of Mexico. While 95 percent of the population speaks French, many speak both official languages. Quebec comes from the Algonquin word kébec, meaning “where the river narrows,” as the St. Lawrence River does near this provincial capital.
Best Green Space: Plains of Abraham
You may recall from history class that the Plains of Abraham is where generals Wolfe and Montcalm faced off in 1759. Your teacher, however, likely omitted describing the grassy knolls and sweeping city views gleaned from this historic site. Flanked by lofty elms and encircled by cannons, the city has more than 100 hectares of lush meadows to ramble over. In winter, you’ll find skate, snowshoe and cross-country ski rentals available on-site.
Best Restaurant: Ristorante Il Teatro
Snag a window seat at Ristorante Il Teatro to watch skaters glide along the outdoor rink at Place D’Youville.
This romantic restaurant is attached to Le Capitole , making it an ideal choice if you’re catching a performance before or after dining. It’s swish enough that you can dress to the nines and not feel awkward, yet the prices are surprisingly reasonable. Even valet parking is complimentary! The menu is Italian, with a focus on seafood, and you can’t go wrong ordering the evening table d’hôte for value and variety.
Best Shopping: The Old Town
Stroll along cobblestone streets through the old town (declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site) for an atmospheric shopping experience like no other. On Côte de la Fabrique, you’ll find Simons, along with other local boutiques. Fashionistas will do well along Rue Saint-Jean and Côte De Buade. Atelier la Pomme caters to leather lovers, but hit Bedo for hipster trends and Boutique Zazou for local talent. Rue Saint-Paul is the spot to sniff out antiques.
Best Hotel: Fairmont Le Château Frontenac
The world’s most photographed hotel, the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac is the city’s grande dame, situated smack dab in the old town. Fall out of bed to explore shops, galleries and bistros housed in centuries-old buildings. Soak up the atmosphere inside the 1608 Wine & Cheese Bar at this landmark hotel. Besides generous pours, the lounge serves up one of the largest variety of Quebec cheeses in the world.
Best Spa: Sibéria Spa
Tucked away on the outskirts of the city, Sibéria Spa is a true nature spa. The scent of wood smoke fills the air as you slip from one invigorating outdoor pool into the next. Hit the inhalation saunas before chilling out on a hammock inside a yurt or plunging into the river that flanks this woodland oasis. Up the relaxation factor by adding a massage to your visit.