Let’s face it, Quebec is a beautiful region of Canada any time of year. But there is something special about the red, orange and golden hues of autumn that enhance this beautiful Canadian province. From the sophisticated and charming European flair of Quebec City, to the pastoral countryside along the Charlevoix region’s flavor trail, and to the artist haven of Baie-Saint-Paul, here are five of my favorite Quebec experiences.
Quebec City Walkabouts
As the summer heat fades and crisp autumn days begin, the city’s sidewalks are adorned with colorful mums, pumpkins and scattered leaves of red, orange and gold. It is an ideal time to go for a walkabout through Quebec City’s uniquely charming districts.
We began with a walk through Old Quebec (Vieux-Quebec) where 17th and 18th century homes line narrow cobblestone streets. Here you can immerse yourself in history at Place Royale – the site of the first permanent French settlement in North America. Place Royale is also home to Notre-Dame-des-Victoires, the oldest stone church in North America, built in 1688.
The French influence is everywhere as you stroll amid the cafes, boutiques and restaurants on Rue du Petit-Champlain – the oldest street in North America. A funicular links Lower Town to the Dufferin Terrace and offers spectacular views of the St. Lawrence River. You can also take the oldest staircase in the city, the Breakneck Stairs (Escalier Casse-Cou) but I recommend holding onto the handrail!
Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, Quebec City has the only remaining fortified city walls in North America north of Mexico and you can walk atop those walls for great views and a glimpse into the city’s military history.
Plains of Abraham
The scene of many historic milestones over the centuries, today the Plains of Abraham are an oasis of greenery at the city’s heart. Canada’s first national historic park, Battlefields Park, which includes the Plains of Abraham, was created in 1908 to mark the 300th anniversary of the founding of Québec. With over 242 acres, the park is perfect for walks, sports and family picnics.
At the edge of the park, the Joan of Arc Garden has over 150 varieties of seasonal plants and flowers surrounding a statue of the park’s namesake. In October things turn gloomy in the garden as mysterious tombstones, markers and decorations appear displaying spooky legends from Quebec including the white lady of Cap Diamant, the Sabbath, the voices of Joan of Arc, and phantoms behind bars. Stories of the legends displayed alongside the gloomy décor provide all the spine-tingling spooky details.
Exploring the Countryside
As much as I love Quebec City, I knew our visit wouldn’t be complete without exploring the surrounding Charlevoix region. So after a few days in the city we boarded the Train du Massif to venture on to Baie-Saint-Paul.
The train departs at Montmorency Falls Park just outside Quebec City and follows a 90-mile track to La Malbaie. The spectacular Montmorency Falls plunge from a height of 272 feet and can be viewed from a cable car, suspended bridge, or from stairs that climb up the side of the cliff. The backdrop of the falls made for a dramatic departure for the scenic ride along the St. Lawrence River as city views of homes and businesses gave way to horses, farms and coastline.
Among my favorite moments was a massive wave of birds rising up from the banks of the St. Lawrence as we hugged the edge of the rocky coastline taking in vistas not accessible by car. If you are traveling with kids or grandkids, you don’t want to miss this ride.
Lovely Little Baie-Saint-Paul
The Train du Massif stops at Le Germain Hotel Charlevoix, built on the site of historic farm buildings. Surrounded by pastures, pure air, and an abundance of open-skies, the hotel is an ideal retreat that combines urban design with elements from the property’s history as a farm. I could have stayed here a month! It is just a short walk to the adorable main street of Baie-Saint-Paul – the cultural center of Charlevoix and the birthplace of Cirque du Soleil. Art is everywhere with over 30 galleries and studios lining the main street. Historic houses converted to first-rate restaurants serve amazing locally sourced cuisine. One of my favorites is Mouton Noir, a rustic riverside bistro where local terroir produce is transformed into delicious flavor combinations.
Charlevoix Flavor Trail
And speaking of flavor, the Charlevoix Flavor Trail is a must with over 40 local producers, growers and restaurateurs opening their doors to guests. The diverse attractive landscape extends from the sea to the mountains with an abundance of rolling hills and fertile fields. Autumn is the perfect time to explore this picturesque region and sample the breads, ciders, beers, cheeses and artisan chocolates along the aptly named Flavor Trail.
Where to Stay:
Located in a century-old building in Quebec City’s Old Port, Le Germain Hotel Quebec is a beautiful property and ideal base for exploring Old Quebec.
Le Germain Hotel Quebec
126, rue Saint-Pierre, G1K4A8
Spend the night on an historic farm transformed into an urban oasis at Le Germain Hotel Charlevoix.
Le Germain Hotel Charlevoix
50, rue de la Ferme
Baie-Saint-Paul, G3Z 0G2
Have you visited Quebec City and the Charlevoix region? What were your favorite experiences?