Old Quebec City and Old Port historical tour
Visit the historic places that were the cradle of our civilization in North America.
Old Quebec City tour, Old Port of Quebec tour, Old Quebec City, Old Port of Quebec
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In the heart of history

The Petit Champlain district and Place Royale, birth place of Quebec City

To visit this historic quarter of Quebec City, you can either take the Funicular or walk down Côte de la Montagne.

The Funicular, located in front of the Château Frontenac facing west, is a cable car that will take you directly to the Petit Champlain quarter. Another option is to go by foot by turning left at the Château onto rue du Fort. Then, just after you pass the post office, follow Côte de la Montagne on your right down the hill. Our suggestion is to go down by foot and return via the Funicular

Côte de la Montagne

This winding street was built in 1620 by Samuel de Champlain. For many years it was the only artery connecting the Lower Town to the Upper Town.

Starting at the top of Cap Diamant, it ends at Dalhousie Street in the Lower Town next to the St. Lawrence River.

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Montmorency Park and its ramparts

Montmorency Park is an urban park which is part of the National Historic Site of Canada of the Fortifications of Quebec. Although no evidence remains, this site was once the home of the Parliament of the Province of Canada. Located at the top of Côte de la Montagne, its strategic view of the river, battery and defensive walls reveal its role in the old defensive system of the city. One can also see several memorials and mature trees.

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“Breakneck” steps

Leading directly to the rue du Petit-Champlain from Côte de la Montagne, this is the oldest set of steps in Quebec City. The famous “Breakneck Steps” has been existence (in one form or another) since 1660. Throughout history it has been known as “Champlain Steps” or “Quêteux Steps” or simply the “Steps of the Lower Town.” In the mid-nineteenth century the English speaking community named it “Breakneck Steps.”

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The Petit-Champlain Quarter

Recognized as one of the most beautiful sections of Old Quebec City, the Petit-Champlain sector is located at the foot of Cap Diamant, down the hill from the Château Frontenac. With its authentic charm, this area is a must see when visiting Quebec City. Its name comes from the rue du Petit-Champlain, a narrow street with older buildings alongside the cliff.

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With its narrow streets lined with shops and bistros, beautifully decorated in wintertime as well as during the summer, it is no wonder that this is one of the most popular sights in Quebec City. Many of the boutiques feature exclusive and unique products. At the corner of rue du Petit-Champlain and Sous-le-Fort, you can take the Breakneck Stairs to return to the Upper Town.

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This area also includes the rue Sous-le-Fort, rue Cul-de-Sac, the Champlain-market and part of the rue Notre Dame and Champlain Boulevard.

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Rue du Petit-Champlain (Petit-Champlain Street)

The rue du Petit-Champlain is a pedestrians-only street located at the bottom of Cape Diamant. In the seventeenth century this street was a mere path that led to the Champlain fountain. In 1688 it was renamed “rue des Meulles” after Jacques de Meulles, Steward of New France from 1682 to 1686. In 1792, the name was changed again to “rue de Champlain.” A map dating from 1874 includes the first reference to Petite rue Champlain (Little Champlain Street), evidently to avoid confusion with Grande rue Champlain (“Big” Champlain Street.)

In the nineteenth century, during the Potato Famine, many Irish immigrants found work in the shipyards of Quebec City. They settled on Champlain Street at Cap Blanc, on rue du Cul-de-Sac and on “Little Champlain Street.” Over time the majority French speaking community translated the latter literally to “rue du Petit-Champlain.” In the 1960’s this became the officially designated street name.

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At 102 rue du Petit-Champlain you can admire the comic mural on the exterior wall of the building. An optical illusion of sorts, measuring approximately 100 square meters, it represents milestones in the history of Cap Blanc and the harbor area of Quebec City, including the war of 1759 and various fires and landslides.

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Petit Champlain Theatre

At 78 rue du Petit Champlain, the Petit Champlain Theatre is home to the Maison de la Chanson whose aim is to promote and produce not only theatre, but also musical culture and comedy shows.

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The Funicular, which connects the Petit-Champlain to Dufferin Terrace, has its entrance located in the former home of Louis Jolliet at 16 rue du Petit-Champlain.

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5 rue du Cul-de-Sac, the house of Jean Chevalier

Constructed in 1752 by Pierre Renaud for the ship owner Jean-Baptiste Chevalier, this structure has incorporated two earlier constructions dating from 1675 and 1695. The original mansion was destroyed by fire and then rebuilt in 1762. Sometimes referred to as the “Hotel Chevalier”, it was used for commercial purposes under the British regime.

Starting in 1807 the house was rented out by its then owner, George Pozer, an innkeeper who had “London Coffee House” inscribed on its facade. It was known under this name until the beginning of the twentieth century.

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At 28 Champlain Boulevard stands the house of Jean Demers. It was formally listed as historical building on March 1, 1966.

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Place Royale

Nicknamed “the cradle of French civilization in America,” Place Royale extends from where Samuel de Champlain started building his first settlement, a fortified post, in 1608. Buildings that were constructed at this time included shops which facilitated the fur trade with the indigenous population who came to the area to fish and trade.

After the Fire of 1682, the buildings in this area were rebuilt in stone, lending the area it enduring character. A bust of the Sun King, Louis XIV, was erected in 1686 by Steward Champigny, hence the name Place Royale (Royal Square.)

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The Notre-Dame-des-Victoire Church

Considered the oldest church in North America, its construction began in 1687 and was completed in 1723. Originally dedicated to the Infant Jesus, in 1690 the chuch received the name of Notre-Dame-de-la-Victoire (Our Lady of the Victory) following the retirement of the English Admiral William Phips. In 1711 it was renamed Notre-Dame-des-Victoires (Our Lady of Victories), after the dispersion of the British fleet commanded by Admiral Hovenden Walker.

On August 9, 1759, the church was destroyed by the British bombardment of the Lower Town that preceded the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. Jean Baillargé, a master carpenter, restored the sacristy in 1762 and, in the following year, he started rebuilding the church from its ruins. The reconstruction took place over several years, attaining its completion in 1766. In 1816 a total restoration was entrusted to François Baillairgé.

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The Place Royale Museum

The Place Royale Museum is built on the remains of the historic Hazeur house, which dates from 1684. Damaged in a fire in April 1990, it has kept the original façade.

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Still have energy? Head for Saint Paul Street, famous for its antique shops.

Located near the harbor front at Louise Basin, Saint Paul Street is home to art galleries, antique shops and restaurants. Several of the buildings are registered historic monuments.

Feeling a bit hungry? Stop by the Buffet de l’Antiquaire, located at 95 Saint Paul Street in the Old Port area.

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The Old Port Market

In the early days of the French colony, circa 1640, the first “Market Square” emerged in Place Royale.

Under French rule the markets of the Lower Town, the Upper Town and the outskirts helped city life bustle. In 1805 Place Royale was home to eight butcher stalls. In 1841 the St-André dock started to accommodate fish halls. The Montcalm market opened in 1878. It continued to serve the population of Quebec City until 1929.

In the 1900s four major markets left a significant cultural footprint in Quebec City, especially due to the creation of the Union of Quebec Horticulturists in 1938. During this time, the main market was located in the St. Roch neighborhood. Through the years different circumstances related to the development of Quebec City led the market merchants to relocate to the Halles de Gare du Palais, then to Victoria Park. Finally, in 1987, the current site at Saint Andrew’s dock was established.

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If you still have room left over after visiting the buffet, take the time to taste some local cheeses. Madame Donais’ favourite is “Le pied de vent des Iles de la Madelaine.” It’s a pure delight!

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Return to the Petit-Champlain quarter to take the Funicular to return to the rue Saint Louis.

Your tour is now finished.