Lay of the Land
“Its geographic location, urban culture and history make Québec City one of the world’s most beautiful and highly photogenic cities.”~Robert Lepage
The easiest way to get a sense of Old Québec may be to imagine a fat slice of a tiered wedding cake. The top tier is the Upper Town, where the Château Frontenac is perched like a grand castle reigning over the walled city and its historic churches, buildings and lively boardwalk. The bottom level is the Lower Town, known for its narrow, cobbled streets, famous square (the Place Royal) and proximity to the St. Lawrence River.
A funicular—that is really more like a pair of elevators that ascend a cliff face—connects the Upper and Lower Towns. Of course, the more active can zig-zag their way up streets or climb steps, a hike which takes no more than five minutes to complete. Across the St. Lawrence River from Québec City is the town of Lévis, which can be reached by ferry and offers stunning views of the city.
UNESCO, when it declared Old Québec a World Heritage site in 1985, stated “It is the only North American city to have preserved its ramparts, together with the numerous bastions, gates and defensive works which still surround Old Québec. The Upper Town, built on the cliff, has remained the religious and administrative center, with its churches, convents and other monuments like the Dauphine Redoubt, the Citadel and Château Frontenac. Together with the Lower Town and its ancient districts, it forms an urban ensemble, which is one of the best examples of a fortified colonial city.”
The compact nature of Old Québec makes it extremely easy to navigate. Everything that a visitor will want to see is within walking distance of the top hotels. All of Old Québec is only four square miles, so you can easily explore the Upper Town in a morning and the Lower Town in the afternoon or vice versa. There is a funicular to ride between the two towns for those who want a short cut. Taxis and horse-drawn carriages are plentiful as well.