Haute Ville is the upper part of Vieux Quebec, located on the southern, higher-elevated grounds of the old city. Haute Ville includes the romantic and historic section of the old city with its walled fortifications, lovely residential areas, and the Plains of Abraham, as well as some extramural concessions to the 20th century in the form of modern office buildings and shopping malls. In Haute Ville, you’ll find most of Quebec City’s tourist attractions.
Place d’Armes is located in the heart of Haute Ville and is a good place to begin touring the city. One idea is to take one of the horse-drawn caleches rides waiting in the square and do some relaxed sightseeing around the area.
The 100-year-old Château Frontenac is the most popular and recognized attraction in the city and dominates the Place d’Armes square. It consists of enormous red bricks and a series of towers, turrets, and parapets that combine to produce the image of a medieval castle. This fortress was built on the site of the Château St. Louis, which served as the residence of New France’s governors. The Château Frontenac was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1893 to serve as a luxury hotel accommodating railway passengers. It was so named to honor one of the former governors, the Comte de Frontenac, and today is the city’s most famous landmark. Its location is perfect – on one side of the Place d’Armes square and extending to the back of the Dufferin Terrace, a wooden boardwalk on the edge of a cliff overlooking Basse Ville. One can only imagine the views of the city guests enjoy from their hotel windows.
Jardin des Gouverneurs
The Jardin des Gouverneurs is next door to the Château Frontenac and was once the garden for the former Château St. Louis. This small park has a monument at the center that pays tribute to General Montcalm, a French military officer of the Seven Years’ War, and General Wolfe, a British military officer of the Seven Years’ War. Both died from gun shot wounds delivered in the famous battle on the Plains of Abraham near Quebec City. The south side of Jardin des Gouverneurs has several European-style inns along Ste Geneviève Avenue.
Notre Dame de Québec
The famous Notre Dame de Québec (Our Lady of Quebec City, Basilique Notre Dame de Quebec, or Notre Dame de Quebec Cathedral) is located at the intersection of Rue Buade and Côte de la Fabrique. The basilica features a classical exterior with an oddly ornate interior decorated with paintings and gifts from French monarchs such as Louis XIV and other dignitaries and royalty. The vast crypt is the final resting place of many famous names, including Comte de Frontenac and explorer Samuel de Champlain.
Rue de Trésor
Rue de Trésor is a colorful and lively street off the Place d’Armes square. It used to be the home of the royal treasury. Nowadays, it is lined with artists in the summers selling their art work and their sketching services.
Musée de Séminaire de Québec
Musee de Seminaire de Quebec is located at 9 Rue de l’ Université and is just to the left of the Notre Dame de Quebec. The seminary was founded in 1663 by François Xavier de Laval, who was the first bishop in Quebec. It was later developed into the Université Laval. The highlight of the seminary building is the main chapel, which features relics and the exquisitely-crafted tomb of Laval. There is also a beautiful interior courtyard. Other parts of the seminary can be visited by tour, which only run during the summer months. The Musee de Seminaire de Quebec is housed inside the seminary and boasts an extensive collection of art work from Europe and Quebec, including a specific section dealing with old scientific instruments.
Musée des Augustines
Located near Hôtel Dieu on Rue Charlevoix, the Musée des Augustines is housed in a large hospital that was founded by Augustine nuns in 1639. It exhibits religious paintings and relics from the hospital’s past.
Couvent des Ursulines
Founded in 1693 and located at 12 Rue Donnacona, Couvent des Ursulines is the oldest all-girls school in North America.
Musée des Ursulines
Within the convent (or Couvent des Ursulines), you’ll find the Musée des Ursulines, which has displays depicting the life of the Ursulines under French colonial rule. Items exhibited include period furniture, paintings, and about 250 exquisite pieces of embroidery.
Chapelle des Ursulines
The Chapelle des Ursulines was restored during the early 1990s and is best known for being the burial place of General Montcalm, the French military officer of the Seven Years’ War. His skull is part of the museum, along with a myriad other interesting relics.
Holy Trinity Anglican Cathedral
The Holy Trinity Anglican Cathedral is an English Baroque style structure located along Rue des Jardins. This fine building was completed in 1804 and has the distinction of being the first Anglican cathedral built outside of Great Britain.
The Terrasse Dufferin is a wide boardwalk behind the Château Frontenac that runs south. This stretch is popular among strollers as it overlooks the St. Lawrence River and offers incredible views of the Basse Ville. The path leads to another boardwalk and stairway, the Promenade des Gouverneurs, which run dangerously on the edge of the cliff and takes you all the way to the Citadel and the Plains of Abraham.
Haute Ville’s fortifications were built to protect the British from an American attack, but were ultimately never needed. The fortifications are worth touring, as they add uniqueness to the character of Quebec City. The walls enclose the old town and have four entrance gates. There is an interpretation centre at 100 Rue St. Louis called the Poudrière de L’Esplanade where exhibits trace the history and development of the fortifications. Guided tours of the walls start from the interpretation centre. Even if you are interested in following any tour, the Poudrière de L’Esplanade is still a good place to start any personal tour of the ramparts.
The Citadelle or Citadel is a large star-shaped fortress standing high above the banks of the St. Lawrence River. This landmark is located at the juncture of Grand Allée at the south end of the city walls. The fortress was constructed by the British in the early 1800s at an expensive cost at the time. The Citadelle today is occupied by the Royal 22e Régiment (or Royal 22nd Regiment) – these are guards wearing funny fur hats. Guided tours are provided and there is a museum inside. You can enter the fortress from the Côte de la Citadelle. The best time to visit is in the summer when the Changing of the Guard and Beating of the Retreat ceremonies take place.
Parc de l’Artillerie
The Parc de l’Artillerie is a complex of early 18th century buildings, located north of Porte St. Jean (this is north along the city walls). Over the years, these buildings have been used mainly for military purposes. Inside, there is an interpretation center and exhibition with displays that are based on military themes. Parc de l’Artillerie is open everyday except in the months of December and January.
Parc des Champs de Bataille
Parc des Champs de Bataille (or National Battlefields Park) outside the city walls but still within Haute Ville. This large park today features a series of gardens and monuments as well as stunning views of the St. Lawrence River.
The park, however, is notable because it encompasses the Plains of Abraham. This was the battlefield of the famous bloody 1759 battle during the Seven Years’ War. It is where both General Montcalm and General Wolfe met their fate. The battle is considered by historians as the turning point in the war that ended ultimately in British victory over the French. The park has two Martello towers that were built in the early 19th century; they both feature displays depicting the battles that were fought.
Musée du Quebec
The Musée du Quebec (or Quebec Museum) is located at 1 Wolfe-Montcalm Avenue at the southern section of the Parc des Champs de Bataille. This neoclassical building has an excellent collection of both old and modern Quebecois art.
Grand Allée is the main avenue or street of Haute Ville and buzzes with restaurants, cafes, and bars. The north end of the strip at the corner of Grand Allée and Dufferin Avenue is where you’ll find the Renaissance-style Parliament buildings occupied by the government.
The Assemblée Nationale (or Legislative Building) is located along Grande Allée and is the home of the Quebec provincial government. This Renaissance-style building dates back to 1886. Free guided tours are provided, which include visits to some of the splendid rooms inside.
Cartier Brébeuf National Historic Park
The Cartier Brébeuf National Historic Park lies on the banks of the Rivière St. Charles at Rue de L’Espinay. It is on the north side of Haute Ville about a couple of miles away from Porte St. Jean. The park has an interpretive center that illustrates and depicts the history and development of the colony, taking a look in particular at the harsh conditions in which Cartier and his men lived. The highlight of the interpretive center is the replica of the ship Cartier used to sail to North America – the Grande Hermine.
Carroll, Donald. Insider’s Guide Canada. Edison: Hunter Publishing, Inc, 1996. ISBN: 1556507100.
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