Old Québec's Upper Town, surrounded by thick ramparts, occupies the crest of Cap Diamant and overlooks the Fleuve St-Laurent (St. Lawrence River). It includes many of the sites for which the city is famous, among them the Château Frontenac and the Basilica of Notre-Dame. At a still-higher elevation, to the south of the Château and along the river, is the Citadelle, a partially star-shaped fortress built by the French in the 18th century and augmented often by the English (after their 1759 capture of the city) well into the 19th century.
With most buildings at least 100 years old and made of granite in similar styles, Haute-Ville is visually harmonious, with few jarring modern intrusions. When they added a new wing to the Château Frontenac, for instance, they modeled it after the original -- standing policy here.
Terrasse Dufferin is a pedestrian promenade atop the cliffs that attracts crowds in all seasons for its magnificent views of the river and its water traffic, which includes ferries gliding back and forth, cruise ships, and Great Lakes freighters putting in at the harbor below.
Basse-Ville & Vieux-Port
Old Québec's Lower Town encompasses Vieux-Port, the old port district; the impressive Museum of Civilization, a highlight of any visit; Place Royale, perhaps the most attractive of the city's many small squares; and the pedestrian-only rue du Petit-Champlain, which is undeniably touristy, but not unpleasantly so, and has many agreeable cafes and shops. Visitors travel between Lower and Upper towns by the cliff-side elevator (funiculaire) at the north end of rue du Petit-Champlain, or by the adjacent stairway.
Parliament Hill, including Montcalm
Once you pass through the walls at St-Louis Gate, you're still in Haute-Ville (Upper Town), but no longer in Vieux-Québec. Rue St-Louis becomes Grande-Allée, a wide boulevard that passes the stately Parliament building and runs parallel to the broad expanse of the Plains of Abraham, where one of the most important battles in the history of North America took place between the French and the British for control of the city. This is also where the lively Carnaval de Québec is held each winter. Two blocks after Parliament, Grande-Allée becomes lined on both sides with terraced restaurants and cafes. The city's large modern hotels are in this area, too, and the Musée National des Beaux-Arts is a pleasant 20-minute walk up the Allée from the Parliament. Here, the neighborhood becomes more residential and flows into the Montcalm district.
This area is the continuation of rue St-Jean after you exit the walled city and go past Place d'Youville. It is definitely a route less travelled by tourists -- quel dommage -- because this vibrant area, which is packed with shops, bars, and restaurants, is where locals work, live, and play.
Northwest of Parliament Hill and enough of a distance from Vieux-Québec to warrant a cab ride, this newly revitalized neighborhood has some of the city's trendiest restaurants and bars. Along the main strolling street, rue St-Joseph est, sidewalks have been widened, new benches added, and artists hired to renovate the interiors and exteriors of industrial buildings. It has all brought a youthful pop and an influx of new technology and media companies to the neighborhood. Information about the neighborhood is online at www.quartiersaintroch.com.
Much of St-Roch, including what's referred to as Québec's "downtown" shopping district, remains nondescript and a little grubby. But rue St-Joseph, radiating both directions from rue du Parvis (a nice little street for nightlife), is home to an ever-growing number of top-notch restaurants and cute boutiques. Note: On older maps, rue du Parvis was called rue de l'Église.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.