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  • Havre-Saint-Pierre-national-park - Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve in Havre-Saint-Pierre, along the north shore of the St. Lawrence River in Canada.
  • Havre-Aubert-lighthouse-Quebec - Red cliffs sit beneath the Havre-Aubert lighthouse on Iles De La Madeleine. The Magdalen Islands form a small archipelago smack in the middle of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, Canada.
  • Pointe-a-Calliere-Museum-Montreal - Pointe-à-Calliere Museum, a museum of archaeology and history in Old Montreal, Quebec.
  • canoeing-Gaspesie-Quebec - Canoeing in Gaspesie, Quebec, where it's just you and nature.
  • Gaspesie-landscape-Quebec - Gaspesie, a national park and peninsula of majestic landscapes in Quebec.
  • northern-gannet-Quebec - A flock of Northern gannet in Gaspesie, Quebec, Canada.
  • Atlantic-puffin-Quebec - Atlantic puffin in a Quebec wildlife reserve.
  • sailing-snow-Quebec - Sailing on ice and snow is growing in popularity in Laurentides (Laurentians), Quebec, Canada.
  • Saint-Lawrence-River-at-Bas-Saint-Laurent - Quebec national parks and wildlife reserves, Bas-Saint-Laurent. The Bas-Saint-Laurent region is located along the south shore of the lower Saint Lawrence River in Quebec.
  • Saguenay-landscape- Quebec - Fall foliage turns Saguenay, Québec, into a landscape worthy of a painting.
  • Iles-de-la-Madeleine-coastline - The coastline of  Iles De La Madeleine, or the Magdalen Islands, which sit just north of Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, Canada.
  • baby-seal-Quebec - A baby seal in Iles-de-la-Madeleine, Quebec, Canada.
  • Gaspesie-Bonaventure-Island-Quebec - Bonaventure Island and Perce Rock National Park in Gaspe on the peninsula that extends along the mouth of the St. Lawrence River in Canada.
  • Gaspesie-cafe - Cafe Des Artists along Rue de la Reine in Gaspesie, at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River in Quebec.
  • Gaspesie-overlooking-St-Lawrence-River - In Gaspesie, overlooking the St. Lawrence River in Quebec.
  • whitewater-rafting-Laurentides-Quebec - White-water rafting in the Laurentides (Laurentians) Quebec, Canada.
  • winter-holidays-Quebec - The winter holidays in Quebec, Canada.
  • windsurfing-Gaspesie-Quebec - Windsurfing in Gaspesie, a peninsula along the south shore of the Saint Lawrence River in Quebec.
  • Quebec-river-fishing - Bait casting in the rapids in a national park in Quebec, Canada.
  • Northern-Lights-Quebec - The Northern Lights dazzle during a night in Baie-James (James Baie), Quebec, Canada.
  • mist-lake-Quebec - Fall colors and a morning mist hover over a lake in Parc national du Mont-Tremblant, Quebec.
  • Montmorency-Falls-Quebec - The spectacular waterfall at Montmorency Falls, about seven miles from downtown Old Quebec City, Canada.
  • Baie-Comeau-lighthouse - The Pointe-des-Monts lighthouse in Baie-Comeau, 260 miles northeast of Quebec City in the Cote-Nord region of Quebec.
  • bird-of-prey-zoo-Quebec - A bird of prey at the  Zoo Sauvage de St-Felicien in Quebec, Canada.
  • caribou-herd-Quebec - Caribou migrate in Nunavik, northern Quebec, Canada.
  • Baie-Comeau-city-center-Quebec - An art gallery and shops in the city center of Baie-Comeau, a town 260 miles northeast of Quebec City in the Cote-Nord region of Quebec, Canada.
  • black-bears-Quebec - Hiking tours in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region of Quebec may include wildlife sightings such as a black bear and cub.
  • fall-foliage-canoes-Quebec - Fall is a lovely time to travel by foot or canoe in Jacques-Cartier National Park, Quebec, Canada.
  • Cote-Nord-church-Quebec - A century-old wooden church in Riviere-au-Tonnerre in the Cote-Nord region of Quebec.
  • black-bear-Laurentian-Quebec - A black bear spotted in the Laurentian woodlands just north of the St. Lawrence River in Quebec, Canada.
  • black-bear-zoo-Quebec - A black bear at the Zoo Sauvage de St-Felicien in Quebec, Canada.
  • camping-Gaspesie-National-Park - Camping along the coast at Gaspesie National Park in Quebec, one of 42 national parks and wildlife preserves in Canada.
  • caribou-Quebec - Travel in Nunavik to take in the great outdoors of northern Quebec Ñ and an occasional caribou.
  • deer-snow-Quebec - A white-tailed deer in an early snow in  Duplessis (Cote-Nord), Quebec.
  • fawn-ecotour-Quebec - Bambi! Get back to nature in Duplessis (Cote-Nord), Quebec, Canada by joining an eco-tour.
  • hang-gliding-Gaspesie-Quebec - Hang gliding on the beach, Gaspesie, Quebec.
  • Corossol-Island-harbor-Quebec - Holland America Line is among the cruise lines that call on the harbor at Corossol Island in the Sept-Iles Archipelago on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River.
  • horseback-riding-Charlevoix-Quebec - Horseback riding along the seashore, Charlevoix, Quebec.
  • moose-Quebec - A moose takes a dip in the lake at Parc national de la Gaspesie, Quebec.
  • razorbills-in-Quebec - Razorbills perched in the snow,  Duplessis, Quebec.
  • sled-dogs-Quebec - Sled dogs ready for the next challenge in Quebec.
  • Saguenay-performance - A performance of "La Fabuleuse" in Saguenay, Quebec, Canada.
  • white-tailed-deer-Quebec - A sighting of white-tailed deer in Duplessis (Cote-Nord), Quebec, Canada.
  • northern-gannet-Quebec-national-park - Northern gannets at Parc national de l'Ile-Bonaventure-et-du-Rocher-Perce, a national park and wildlife reserve in Quebec.
  • Pearl-Mist-ship-1.jpg - Pearl Seas Cruises' 210-passenger Pearl Mist sails through the St. Lawrence Seaway.
  • sled-puppy-Quebec - A sled-dog puppy is ready to go in Quebec, Canada.
  • snowy-owl-Quebec - A snowy owl spotted during a wildlife excursion in Quebec.
  • snowy-owl-zoo-Quebec - The cool gaze of the snowy owl at the  Zoo Sauvage de St-Felicien in Quebec, Canada.
  • St-Lawrence-River-fall-foliage - Fall foliage on the Saint Lawrence River.
  • wheelchair-access-in-Montreal - Urban adventures abound in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
  • whale-breaches-surface-Lake-Manicouagan - A whale breaches the surface during a whale-watching expedition in Lake Manicouagan in central Quebec.
  • whale-watching-Lake-Manicouagan - Whale watching in Lake Manicouagan in central Quebec, Canada.
  • white-tailed-deer-Quebec-2 - Wildlife tours in Outaouais, Quebec may include sightings of white-tailed deer.
  • woman-hiker-mud-Bas-Saint-Laurent-Quebec - A woman hiker gets a little closer to nature in Bas-Saint-Laurent, Quebec, Canada
  • muskox-northern-Quebec - The Nunavik region of northern Quebec, Canada, offers rugged terrain and wildlife, such as this herd of muskox.
  • Havre-Saint-Pierre-sunset - Sunset over the port of Havre-Saint-Pierre, on the north shore of the Saint Lawrence River in Quebec, Canada.
  • moss-rocks-park-Quebec - Moss-covered rocks in a stream in Parc national du Mont-Megantic, Quebec, Canada.
  • cruise-ship-on-Saguenay-River-Quebec - The 423-passenger cruise ship C. Columbus sails the Saguenay River in Cote-Nord Ð Manicouaga, Quebec.
  • kite-traction-Quebec - Kite traction in Iles-de-la-Madeleine, Quebec.
  • Holland-America-Eurodam-on-Saguenay-River - Holland America Line's Eurodam cruises the Saguenay River in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region of Quebec, Canada, about 125 miles north of Quebec City.
  • pike-fishing-Quebec - A fisherman shows off the pike he caught in Abitibi-Temiscamingue, Quebec, Canada.
  • paragliding-Magdalen-Island-Quebec - YOLO, right? Take the adventure of a lifetime by paragliding over Iles-de-la-Madeleine (Magdalen Island) in in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, Canada.
  • red-fox-Quebec - A red fox in Duplessis (Cote-Nord), Quebec, Canada.
  • Saguenay-church-Quebec - The Sacre-Coeur church and century-old Little White House in Saguenay, a town on Quebec's Saguenay River, about 125 miles north of Quebec City.

Quebec travel guide & photo tour

our guide

The vibe

Occupying the northeastern corner of North America, Quebec is Canada’s largest province by area. Its preserved French heritage and Francophone culture sets it apart, and it’s the only province where French is the official language and all the signs are in French.

Its European feel and its history, culture and warmth have made Québec a favorite tourist destination both nationally and internationally. Quebec's main cities, Montreal, Quebec City and Gatineau, all offer an energetic cultural scene, excellent shopping, upscale accommodations and top-notch cuisine and, of course, wine.

 Québec has traditionally had less restrictive liquor laws than nearby Ontario: minimum drinking age is 18, beer and wine are available in corner stores and the rules on opening hours for bars are less restrictive. In Gatineau, the Promenade du Portage area in the city center is known to attract rowdy, drunken patrons from across the Ottawa River.

Cruise ships that call on Quebec

Top reasons to go

  • Great gardens: Montréal Botanical Garden, the Insectarium, Reford Gardens and the international garden festival in Gaspésie are among Québec’s garden attractions.
  • Historical sites: the fortifications of Québec City, Old Montréal. There is a limited historic district in Trois-Rivières, portions of which were lost to fire in the early 1900's.
  • The food! Poutine!
An art gallery and shops in the city center of Baie-Comeau, a town 260 miles northeast of Quebec City in the Cote-Nord region of Quebec, Canada.
Mathieu Dupuis / Cruise Saint LawrenceAn art gallery and shops in the city center of Baie-Comeau, a town 260 miles northeast of Quebec City in the Cote-Nord region of Quebec, Canada.

Top things to see & do in Quebec

It is very easy to travel in Québec speaking only English, especially in Montréal, and to a lesser extent, Québec City. In fact, over 40% of the population is bilingual. In major cities like Montréal, this percentage is as high as 64%, and 16% of the population speaks a third language. The majority of the population lives in the vicinity of the St. Lawrence River, in the southern portion of the province. The population is largely urbanized; close to 50% of Quebecers live in the metropolitan area of Montréal.

The visibility of commercial signs and billboards in English and other languages is restricted by law (except for English-language media and cultural venues such as theatres, cinemas and bookstores). Most businesses will not have signs in English except in tourist areas and localities with a large English-speaking population. Language is a very sensitive subject politically, particularly in Montréal. If you cannot read a sign in a store or restaurant, most sales people will be sympathetic and help you find your way. Most restaurants in tourist areas will supply English menus if asked.

A baby seal in Iles-de-la-Madeleine, Quebec, Canada.
Jean-Guy Lavoie / Tourisme QuebecA baby seal in Iles-de-la-Madeleine, Quebec, Canada.

Best bets for dining

No visit to Quebec is complete without at least one plate of poutine. This unique dish is a plate of French fries, drowned in gravy, and topped with chewy white cheddar cheese curds. There are variations on the theme — adding chicken, beef, vegetables or sausage, or replacing the gravy with tomato meat sauce (poutine italienne). Poutine can be found in practically any fast-food chain restaurant in Quebec, but higher-quality fare can be found at more specialized poutine shops. One great spot for trying out poutine is Ashton (in the Québec City area), where, in January only, you will get a discount based on the outdoor temperature (the colder it is outside, the cheaper the poutine!).

Befitting the province's sub-arctic climate, Québécois cuisine favors rich, hot foods with more calories than you want to know about. Tourtière du Lac-Saint-Jean, for instance, is a deep-dish pie, typically from the Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean region, made of various meats (usually beef and pork, often including game, cut into small cubes) and diced potatoes, baked together in a flakey pastry shell.

Québec’s cuisine derives its rich flavor from a blend of influences. It has a solid French culinary base and is enriched by the contribution of the Amerindian peoples and the different cultural communities that have made the province their home. This blend of culinary cultures is what makes Québec cuisine what it is today. Many quality regional products are also used in its cuisine. Terroir products that grace Québec tables include ice cider, micro-brewed beer, wine and more than 100 different varieties of cheese.

The Casino de Montreal glimmers in the evening.
Mathieu Dupuis / Cruise Saint LawrenceThe Casino de Montreal glimmers in the evening.

Montréal

Montréal is the metropolis of the province of Quebec. (See Cruiseable's Montreal travel guide.) Quebec City is the political capital but Montreal is the cultural and economic capital of Quebec and the main entry point to the province. The second largest city in Canada, it is a city rich in culture and history and a well-deserved reputation as one of the liveliest cities in North America. Montreal is the second-largest French-speaking (as a mother language) city in the world, behind Paris. The population of Montreal is about 1.9 million, with 4 million in the metro area.

It has been said that Montréal is the only city in the world where the sun rises in the south. Montrealers use an unconventional compass, using the river and the mountain as cardinal points. When you are downtown, the St. Lawrence River is “south” and Mount Royal is “north,” making the West Island and the East End correct in both their names and orientations. This tends to confuse visitors because the “East” End is really north and the “West” Island is south, and the St. Lawrence River runs almost north-south at this location. Most local maps use this convention, as do the highways around the city. For example, Autoroute 15 north actually runs northwest and Autoroute 40 east runs northeast.

Montreal is an extremely inviting destination for gay and lesbian tourists. Montreal itself is a very safe and open. The métro station in the Gay Village, Beaudry, is marked with rainbow pillars. Divers/Cité Montreal's pride celebration (last week of July, first week of August) is the second largest in Canada after Toronto's.

Quebec City

The capital of Quebec City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is split into two levels connected by stone stairways. The Upper Town, circumvented by old city walls boasts the landmark hotel Chateau Frontenac, with medieval-looking gables and turrets and green copper roofs. From here you can access the fortified Citadel.

Cafes on cobblestoned alleys accentuate the European flavor of Upper Town. The Lower Town’s 17th-century streets are centered on Place Royale, the cradle of French civilization in North America. 

Montmorency Falls are beautiful, natural waterfalls right outside Québec City, taller than Niagara Falls.

Gatineau

Gatineau flourished as a logging town in the early 19th century. Gatineau, as part of the National Capital Region, has many fine museums. And nearby Gatineau Park, a 10 minute drive from downtown, offers amazing possibilities for outdoor recreation: skiing (cross-country and downhill), hiking, canoeing, camping, rock-climbing, mountain biking, roller-blading, wildlife watching and leisurely strolls.

Kite traction in Iles-de-la-Madeleine, Quebec.
Sebastien Cloutier / Tourisme QuebecKite traction in Iles-de-la-Madeleine, Quebec.

You’ll need that exercise if you partake in the area’s seasonal tradition of érablière, cabane à sucre or maple sugar shack. With rare exception, these are found in the countryside near tiny rural villages. Local maple syrup is produced seasonally; the sap begins to flow early during the spring thaw and is collected for distillation. This places the start of the season at the mercy of the elements, although there is usually fresh syrup to be had in late March or early April — usually before the last of the snow is gone. Maple sugar shacks are typically large rural communal dining halls in which diners fill up on a dietician's nightmare of traditional high-calorie lumberjack food, cost starts around $20/person but varies as some venues offer entertainment, "tire sur neige" (maple toffee on snow) or sled rides. Once the season ends, many of these venues close or are used for other agritourism activity — an open field often becomes a summer campground.

  • Cabane à sucre Brazeau, 316 Côte St-Charles, Papineauville, +1 819-427-5611, fax: +1 819-427-9740. Seasonal, March-April. Sugar Shack. Enjoy a traditional lumberjack meal in a communal setting. Educational programs available. Products sold on premises.
  • Cabane à sucre Chez Ti-Mousse, 442 Côte St-Charles, Papineauville, +1 819-427-5413, fax: +1 819-427-9694. Open year-round by reservation. Sugar Shack. Sale of maple products, entertainment and carriage rides. Educational programs available.

Ottawa, Canada’s capital, is directly across the Ottawa River from Gatinaeu.

Atlantic puffin in a Quebec wildlife reserve.
Louis Gagnon / Tourisme QuebecAtlantic puffin in a Quebec wildlife reserve.

Getting around

Québec has a vast road and air network that makes it easy to travel between cities. You can travel by car, bus, plane, train, bike or boat.

By plane

Using air transportation to travel between the different cities in Québec (Gatineau-Québec City, Montréal-Québec City, Montréal-Bagotville) is possible but usually too expensive to be worthwhile. Air travel is indispensable for getting around northern Québec (except for the Baie-James region, which is served by a paved highway), because there are no highways or railways serving these remote areas.

By train

VIA Rail Canada is Québec's only intercity passenger train carrier. Via Rail also offers train service along the St. Lawrence river, up the Saguenay and in the Gaspé Peninsula.

AMT runs Montréal's commuter trains to the suburbs. Trains run infrequently (compared to Europe). There are no high-speed trains in Québec. Buses are usually cheaper, with more daily connections.

Tshiuetin Rail Transportation runs a passenger train twice weekly on the QNS&L line between Sept-Îles and Schefferville. This isolated network, not connected to the rest of the North American rail system, briefly crosses out-of-province to serve Emeril, Labrador.

By bus

The main way to travel between cities is by bus. The bus network is very well developed, particularly for connections between Québec City-Montréal, Ottawa-Montréal and Toronto-Montréal. Montreal's main bus station is located at 505 De Maisonneuve East. Buying tickets and making seat reservations is a good idea, particularly for Friday evening or holiday travel, but same day ticket purchase is also possible.

Within cities, public transit tends to be good by North American standards.

By car

Renting a car and driving around Canada poses no particular problem, even in the cities. However, it is best to arrange the rental before you arrive. Read the rental contract carefully, particularly the section on insurance. Often, you can rent a car in one city and return it in another without prohibitive costs. Rental companies are EnterpriseGlobe, and Hertz.

Québec has a good network of (mostly) toll-free highways connecting all the main cities and surrounding areas. There are a couple of toll bridges (Autoroute 25 northbound from Montréal to Laval, and the Autoroute 30 bypass to cross the St. Lawrence River west of Montréal).

The Québec highway code is similar to that in most of Europe. Occasionally, tickets are issued for bizarre offences like "backing up without assistance" which do not exist in other provinces.

By bike

Québec’s regions boast an impressive network (“La route verte”) of bicycle paths, totalling more than 2,111 miles. This means you can visit several regions by bicycle.

By boat

Numerous cruises are also available on the St. Lawrence River, one of the world’s biggest waterways.

By Kangaride or Allô-Stop

For people travelling in small groups and wanting to keep their costs down (primarily students), Kangaride and Allô Stop (for French-speakers) are a great alternative to any of the transportation methods mentioned above. They are ridesharing (carpooling) networks serving most of Québec’s major cities. To access this service, simply register online. Then you can reserve your spot in a car belonging to someone who is travelling to the same destination as you — sometimes for up to half the price of the bus. The only inconvenience with this system is that it doesn’t serve every city.

By motorcycle

Québec’s winding, scenic secondary roads are ideal for a motorcycle ride. However, in southern Québec, the best season for travelling by motorcycle is limited to between May and October. In remote areas, the nicest season is two months shorter than that, running from June to September. In the last few years, taking to Québec’s roads by motorcycle has become increasingly popular. The province boasts several motorcycle clubs, and visiting tourists can rent motorcycles.

Québec’s motorcyclists share a special fraternity and team spirit. If your motorcycle breaks down, you certainly won’t remain stranded on the roadside for long before another motorcyclist stops to help. So don’t be surprised to see other motorcyclists wave to you on the road or spontaneously engage in conversation at a rest stop.

Wikivoyage and Wikitravel contributed to this article.

Your take

Have you been to Quebec? Please share a story, tip or discovery. What was the highlight for you — the lively cities or the natural beauty?

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