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Quebec City, Canada.

Cityscape of Quebec (photo: lieofpix on absfreepic.com)


Parliament Building, Quebec City
Parliament Building, Quebec City, Canada (author: dszpiro on Flickr, 2008).


Quebec City (pronounced /kwɪˈbɛk/ or /kəˈbɛk/; French: Québec [kebɛk]; French: Ville de Québec), officially Québec, is the capital city of the Canadian province of Quebec. The city had a population estimate of 531,902 in July 2016, (an increase of 3.0% from 2011) and the metropolitan area had a population of 800,296 in July 2016, (an increase of 4.3% from 2011) making it the seventh-largest metropolitan area in Canada.

The narrowing of the Saint Lawrence River proximate to the city’s promontory, Cap-Diamant (Cape Diamond), and Lévis, on the opposite bank, provided the name given to the city, Kébec, an Algonquin word meaning “where the river narrows”. Founded in 1608 by Samuel de Champlain, Quebec City is one of the oldest cities in North America. The ramparts surrounding Old Quebec (Vieux-Québec) are the only fortified city walls remaining in the Americas north of Mexico, and were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1985 as the ‘Historic District of Old Québec’.

The city’s landmarks include the Château Frontenac, a hotel which dominates the skyline, and La Citadelle, an intact fortress that forms the centrepiece of the ramparts surrounding the old city. The National Assembly of Quebec (provincial legislature), the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec (National Museum of Fine Arts of Quebec), and the Musée de la civilisation (Museum of Civilization) are found within or near Vieux-Québec.


Quebec City from Satellite (source: GoogleMap,2017).
Quebec City from Satellite (source: GoogleMap,2017).


According to the Government of Canada, the Government of Quebec, the Commission de toponymie du Québec, and the Geographical Names Board of Canada, the names of Canadian cities and towns have only one official form. Thus, Québec is officially spelled with an accented é in both Canadian English and French, although the accent is often not used in common English usage.

In English, the city and the province are formally distinguished by the fact that the province does not have an accented é while the city does, while informally the form “Quebec City” is frequently (although unofficially) used to distinguish the city from the province; in French, the names of provinces are gendered nouns while the names of cities are not, so the city and the province are already distinguished by the presence or absence of a definite article in front of the name: for example, the concept of “in Quebec” is expressed as “à Québec” for the city, and “au Québec” for the province.









Romanticized depiction of Quebec City in 1720
Romanticized depiction of Quebec City in 1720 (author: Société historique de Québec, 1843).


Quebec City is one of the oldest European settlements in North America. While many of the major cities in Latin America date from the sixteenth century, among cities in Canada and the U.S., few were created earlier than Quebec City (St. John’s, Harbour Grace, Port Royal, St. Augustine, Santa Fe, Jamestown, and Tadoussac). Also, Quebec’s Old Town (Vieux-Québec) is the only North American fortified city north of Mexico whose walls still exist.

French explorer Jacques Cartier built a fort at the site in 1535, where he stayed for the winter before going back to France in spring 1536. He came back in 1541 with the goal of building a permanent settlement. This first settlement was abandoned less than one year after its foundation, in the summer 1542, due in large part to the hostility of the natives combined with the harsh living conditions during winter.

Quebec was founded by Samuel de Champlain, a French explorer and diplomat on 3 July 1608, and at the site of a long abandoned St. Lawrence Iroquoian settlement called Stadacona. Champlain, also called “The Father of New France”, served as its administrator for the rest of his life.


Quebec Settlement, 1608
Quebec Settlement, 1608 (user: Jeangagnon, 2010).


The name “Canada” refers to this settlement. Although the Acadian settlement at Port-Royal was established three years earlier, Quebec came to be known as the cradle of the Francophone population of North America. The place seemed favourable to the establishment of a permanent colony.

The population of the settlement remained small for decades. In 1629 it was captured by English privateers, led by David Kirke, during the Anglo-French War. However, Samuel de Champlain argued that the English seizing of the lands was illegal as the war had already ended; he worked to have the lands returned to France. As part of the ongoing negotiations of their exit from the Anglo-French War, in 1632 the English king Charles agreed to return the lands in exchange for Louis XIII paying his wife’s dowry. These terms were signed into law with the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. The lands in Quebec and Acadia were returned to the French Company of One Hundred Associates.

In 1665, there were 550 people in 70 houses living in the city. One-quarter of the people were members of religious orders: secular priests, Jesuits, Ursulines nuns and the order running the local hospital, Hotel-Dieu.


View near the Grand Battery, Quebec, Quebec. By George Heriot, c. 1807 (author: George Heriot, 1807).
View near the Grand Battery, Quebec, Quebec. By George Heriot, c. 1807 (author: George Heriot, 1807).


Quebec City was the headquarters of many raids against New England during the four French and Indian Wars. In the last war, the French and Indian War (Seven Years’ War), Quebec City was captured by the British in 1759 and held until the end of the war in 1763. It was the site of three battles during Seven Years’ War – the Battle of Beauport, a French victory (31 July 1759); the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, in which British troops under General James Wolfe defeated the French General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm on 13 September 1759 and shortly thereafter took the city; and the final Battle of Sainte-Foy, a French victory (28 April 1760). France ceded New France, including the city, to Britain in 1763.

At the end of French rule in 1763, forests, villages, fields and pastures surrounded the town of 8,000 inhabitants. The town distinguished itself by its monumental architecture, fortifications, affluent homes of masonry and shacks in the suburbs of Saint-Jean and Saint-Roch. Despite its urbanity and its status as capital, Quebec City remained a small colonial city with close ties to its rural surroundings. Nearby inhabitants traded their farm surpluses and firewood for imported goods from France at the two city markets.

During the American Revolution, revolutionary troops from the southern colonies assaulted the British garrison in an attempt to ‘liberate’ Quebec City, in a conflict now known as the Battle of Quebec. The defeat of the revolutionaries from the south put an end to the hopes that the peoples of Quebec would rise and join the American Revolution so that Canada would join the Continental Congress and become part of the original United States of America along with the other British colonies of continental North America. In effect, the outcome of the battle would be the effective split of British North America into two distinct political entities. The city itself was not attacked during the War of 1812, when the United States again attempted to annex Canadian lands. Fearing another American attack on Quebec City in the future, construction of the Citadelle of Quebec began in 1820. The Americans never did attack Canada after the War of 1812, but the Citadelle continued to house a large British garrison until 1871. The Citadelle is still in use by the military and is also a tourist attraction.

In 1840, the role of capital was shared between Kingston, Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa and Quebec City (from 1852 to 1856 and from 1859 to 1866).

Long before the Royal Military College of Canada was established in 1876, there were proposals for military colleges in Canada. Staffed by British Regulars, adult male students underwent a 3 month long military course in Quebec City in 1864 at the School of Military Instruction in Quebec City. Established by Militia General Order in 1864, the school enabled Officers of Militia or Candidates for Commission or promotion in the Militia to learn Military duties, drill and discipline, to command a Company at Battalion Drill, to Drill a Company at Company Drill, the internal economy of a Company and the duties of a Company’s Officer. The school was retained at Confederation, in 1867. In 1868, The School of Artillery was formed in Montreal.

In 1867, Ottawa (which was chosen to be the permanent capital of the Province of Canada) was chosen by Queen Victoria to be the capital of the Dominion of Canada. The Quebec Conference on Canadian Confederation was held here.


Port of Quebec City in the early 20th century
Port of Quebec City in the early 20th century (user: Rainer Zenz, 2005, PD-CA).


During World War II, two conferences were held in Quebec City. The First Quebec Conference was held in 1943 with Franklin D. Roosevelt (the United States’ president at the time), Winston Churchill (the United Kingdom’s prime minister), William Lyon Mackenzie King (Canada’s prime minister) and T. V. Soong (China’s minister of foreign affairs). The Second Quebec Conference was held in 1944, and was attended by Churchill and Roosevelt. They took place in the buildings of the Citadelle and at the nearby Château Frontenac. A large part of the D-Day landing plans were made during those meetings.

Throughout its over 400 years of existence, Quebec City has served as a capital. From 1608 to 1627 and 1632 to 1763, it was the capital of French Canada and all of New France; from 1763 to 1791, it was the capital of the Province of Quebec; from 1791 to 1841, it was the capital of Lower Canada; from 1852 to 1856 and from 1859 to 1866, it was capital of the Province of Canada; and since 1867, it has been capital of the Province of Quebec. The administrative region in which Quebec City is situated is officially referred to as Capitale-Nationale, and the term “national capital” is used to refer to Quebec City itself at provincial level.


Rue du Cul-de-Sac: the historic district of Old Quebec is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Rue du Cul-de-Sac: the historic district of Old Quebec is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (author: The Photographer, 2017).




French rule


Jacques Cartier's meeting with the indigenous people of Stadacona in 1535.
Jacques Cartier’s meeting with the indigenous people of Stadacona in 1535 (source: facebook.com, PD-US, 1907).


Quebec City was founded by the French explorer and navigator Samuel de Champlain in 1608, commencing a string of French colonies along the St. Lawrence River, creating a region named “le Canada”. Prior to the arrival of the French, the location that would become Quebec City was the home of a small Iroquois village called “Stadacona”.Jacques Cartier, a French explorer, was the first European to ascend the St. Lawrence Gulf, claiming “le Canada” for France (and the coming addition of a newly founded “l’Acadie” – known today as the Province of Nova Scotia) to create a dominion known as “New France”. Jacques Cartier and his crew spent a harsh winter near Stadacona during his second voyage in 1535. The word “Kebec” is an Algonquin word meaning “where the river narrows.” By the time Champlain came to this site, the Iroquois population had disappeared and been replaced by Innu and Algonquins. Champlain and his crew built a wooden fort which they called “l’habitation” within only a few days of their arrival. This early fort and trading post exists today as a historic site in Old Quebec. Quebec City’s maritime position and the presence of cliffs overlooking the St. Lawrence River made it an important location for economic exchanges between the Amerindians and the French In 1620, Champlain built Fort Saint-Louis on the top of Cape Diamond, near the present location of the Chateau Frontenac in the Upper Town. Quebec City’s 400th anniversary was celebrated in 2008 and it is the oldest city in North America that has a French-speaking community.



Samuel de Champlain overseeing the construction of l'habitation, in 1608.
Samuel de Champlain overseeing the construction of l’habitation, in 1608 (Artist: Jefferys, Charles William, 1869-1951, PD-CA).

After the settlement of Port Royal in Acadia (1605), the next colonization effort by the French occurred in 1608. Samuel de Champlain built “l’Habitation” to house 28 people.However, the first winter proved formidable, and 20 of 28 men died. By 1615, the first four missionaries arrived in Quebec. Among the first successful French settlers were Marie Rollet and her husband, Louis Hebert, credited as “les premier agriculteurs du Canada” by 1617. The first French child born in Quebec was Helene Desportes, in 1620, to Pierre Desportes and Francoise Langlois, whose father was a member of the Hundred Associates.

The population of Quebec City arrived at 100 in 1627, less than a dozen of whom were women. However, with the invasion of Quebec by David Kirke and his brothers in 1628, Champlain returned to France with approximately 60 out of 80 settlers. When the French returned to Quebec in 1632, they constructed a city based on the framework of a traditional French “ville” in which “the 17th century city was a reflection of its society.”

Quebec remained an outpost until well into the 1650s. As in other locations throughout New France, the population could be split into the colonial elites, including clergy and government officials, the craftsmen and artisans, and the engagés (indentured servants). Quebec was designed so that the inhabitants of better quality lived in the upper city, closer to the centers of power such as the government and Jesuit college, whereas the lower town was primarily populated by merchants, sailors and artisans. The city contained only about thirty homes in 1650, and one hundred by 1663, for a population of over 500.

Jean Bourdon, the first engineer and surveyor of New France, helped plan the city, almost from his arrival in 1634. However, despite attempts to utilize urban planning, the city quickly outgrew its planned area. Population continually increased, with the city boasting 1300 inhabitants by 1681. The city quickly experienced overcrowding, especially in the lower town, which contained two-thirds of the population of the city by 1700. The numbers became more evenly distributed by 1744, with the lower town housing only a third of the population, and the upper town containing almost half the inhabitants.

By the 18th century, Quebec also saw a rise in the number of rental dwellings, to help accommodate a mobile population of seamen, sailors, and merchants, aptly described by historian Yvon Desloges as “a town of tenants.” Thus, Quebec followed a pattern common throughout New France, of immigrants arriving for several years, before returning home to France. As a whole, approximately 27,000 immigrants came to New France during the French regime, only 31.6% of whom remained. Despite this, by the time of British occupation in 1759, New France had evolved to a colony of over 60,000 with Quebec as the principal city.


The batteries of Quebec fire on English ships in the 1690 Battle of Quebec. The French rebuffed English attempts to invade during the Nine Years' War.
The batteries of Quebec fire on English ships in the 1690 Battle of Quebec. The French rebuffed English attempts to invade during the Nine Years’ War (source: cmhg.gc.ca, 1690).


In 1620, the construction of a wooden fort called Fort Saint-Louis started under the orders of Samuel de Champlain; it was completed in 1626. In 1629, the Kirke brothers under English order took control of Quebec City, holding the town until 1632 when the French resumed possession. In 1662, to save the colony from frequent Iroquois attacks during the Beaver Wars, Louis XIV dispatched one hundred regulars to the colony. Three years later, in 1665, Lieuitenant-General de Tracy arrived at Quebec City with four companies of regular troops. Before long, troop strength had risen to 1,300. In 1690, Admiral Phipps’ Anglo-American invasion force failed to capture Quebec City during King William’s War. Under heavy French artillery fire, the English fleet was considerably damaged and an open battle never took place. After having used most of their ammunition, the British became discouraged and retreated. In 1691, Governor Louis de Buade de Frontenac constructed the Royal Battery.

In 1711, during Queen Anne’s War, Admiral Walker’s fleet also failed in its attempt to besiege Quebec City, in this case due to a navigational accident. Walker’s initial report stated that 884 soldiers perished. This number was later revised to 740.

During the Seven Years’ War, in 1759, the British, under the command of General James Wolfe, besieged Quebec City for three months. The city was defended by French general the Marquis de Montcalm. The very short battle of the Plains of Abraham lasted approximately 15 minutes and culminated in a British victory and the surrender of Quebec.

Quebec City served as the hub of religious and government authority throughout the French period. From 1608 until 1663, Quebec City was the main administrative center of the Company of New France. During this period, Quebec City was the home of the company’s official representative, the Governor, along with his lieutenant and other administrative officials, and small number of soldiers.


Presumed portrait of Charles de la Boische, Marquis de Beauharnois, Governor of New France.
Presumed portrait of Charles de la Boische, Marquis de Beauharnois, Governor of New France (author: Levrac-Tournières, Robert / source: Library and Archives Canada, PD-US, 1748).


Following the Royal Takeover of 1663 by King Louis XIV and his minister Jean Baptiste Colbert, Quebec City became the seat of a reformed colonial government which included the Governor General of New France, responsible for military and diplomatic matters, and an intendant responsible for administrative functions involving law and finance. Both the governor and the intendant were directly answerable to the Minister of the Navy (Ministres Francais de la Marine et des Colonies) and were appointed by the king of France.The first Governor to arrive in Quebec City directly appointed by the King was Augustin de Saffray de Mésy in 1663.

Moreover, Quebec City became the seat of Sovereign Council which served legislative and legal functions in the colony through its role in the ratification of royal edicts and as final court of appeal. The Council contained the twin heads of the colonial government: the governor and the intendant (also the chair), along with the bishop of Quebec. Moreover, the council contained a number of colonial elites, usually merchants from Quebec City. Noteworthy is the fact that, under the French regime, Quebec did not have a municipal government; the centralizing Bourbon monarchy was determined to prevent the emergence of autonomous centers of power in the colony, even local city councils.

Furthermore, Quebec City was also the focal point of religious authority in New France and had been since the arrival of the first Recollets missionaries in the city in 1615.Working closely with the State, the Church ensured that the colony remained a well regulated Catholic colony. Quebec City became seat of the bishop in the colony upon the creation of the diocese of Quebec in 1674, with François de Laval as the first bishop.

Moreover, Quebec City was home to the Seminaire de Quebec, founded by Laval in 1663 when he was Vicar apostolic before becoming bishop. Laval’s experience in the role of Vicar Apostolic highlights the complex nature of relationship between Church and State in New France; while allied with the authority of Rome and the Jesuits on account of his position as Vicar Apostolic, Laval also required the approval from a royal government suspicious of Papal power. Although the State and Church based in Quebec City worked closely together, the dominance of the Crown was retained through the responsibility of the Crown of nominating of the bishop and of supplying a large portion of Church funds.



The Camille-Roy Building of the Séminaire de Québec
The Camille-Roy Building of the Séminaire de Québec (author: Gilbert Bochenek, 2009).



As Quebec was settled for its location on the St. Lawrence River with a deep-water harbor, shipping and import/exports dominated the economy. As a port city, Quebec ran a flourishing trade with the French West Indies and with ports in France. However, trade was restricted to French vessels only trading in officially French ports. In trade with France, Quebec received wine, textiles and cloth, metal products such as guns and knives, salt, and other small consumer and luxury goods not manufactured in the colony. From the French West Indies, Quebec received sugar, molasses, and coffee. In order to offset its debts, Quebec City exported furs to France, as well as lumber and fish to the West Indies. From 1612 to 1638, 15-20,000 beaver pelts were shipped to France, valued at 75,000 livres. The peace experienced in the early 1720s caused a spike in shipping, with 20 to 80 ships arriving annually at the port of Quebec, with an average of 40 a year. However, Quebec was constantly faced with a trade imbalance, debt, and a certain amount of financial insecurity. As with other colonial societies, there was little hard money throughout the colony. To merchants in Quebec, such a situation proved a particular challenge, as they lacked hard specie, or currency, with which to trade. At one point, the colony began the use of playing cards as money in order to reimburse soldiers and other government employees for services rendered when shipments of hard currency failed to arrive. Contentions that the residents of Quebec were poor merchants have, in recent years, been refuted, as historians describe a sharp business acumen, severely circumscribed by a lack of finances and excessive distance from external markets.


View of the closed Jesuit College in 1761. The College was forced to close in 1759 with the beginning of British-rule.
View of the closed Jesuit College in 1761. The College was forced to close in 1759 with the beginning of British-rule (author: Archives nationales du Canada, 1761).


The Catholic faith played a significant role in the settling and development of Quebec City. With the first missionaries arriving in 1615, Quebec was, almost from its founding, a Catholic city. Although those of other faiths were permitted to practice their faith in private, the city embraced Catholicism as an integral part of daily life. The Recollets were the first religious order to arrive in 1615, followed by the Jesuits in 1625, who would found a college in Quebec City by 1635. Female religious orders arrived by 1639, with the Ursulines providing education, and the Augustinians servicing the Hôtel-Dieu de Québec. The granting of seigneuries to religious orders helped solidify their place as a facet of society. Indeed, much of the upper town of Quebec came to be held by religious orders. The arrival of Francois de Laval as the vicar apostolic to Quebec in 1658 cemented the place of religion in Quebec City. The city would become a formal parish in 1664, and a diocese by 1674. The Catholic faith not only played a large role in the government and legislation, but also in the social lives of residents. As Quebec City was the seat of religion throughout New France, inhabitants followed the strict schedule of fasting, holy days, and celebrating sacraments, in addition to the censorship of books, dancing, and theatre. After the English invasion of Quebec, the residents were permitted to continue practicing Catholicism under the Act of Quebec in 1774.






British rule

British regulars and Canadian militia engage the Continental Army in the streets of the city. The Americans' failure to take Quebec in 1775 led to the end of their campaign in Canada.
British regulars and Canadian militia engage the Continental Army in the streets of the city. The Americans’ failure to take Quebec in 1775 led to the end of their campaign in Canada (author: Charles William Jefferys, 1916 / source: The father of British Canada).


The British and French had co-existed in North America, but the threat of French expansion into the Ohio Valley caused the British to attempt to eradicate New France from the map completely. In the Battle of the Plains of Abraham (1759), the city was permanently lost by the French. In 1763, France formally ceded its claims to le Canada, and Quebec City’s French-speaking Catholic population came under the rule of Protestant Britain.

The Quebec Act, passed in 1774, allowed ‘les Canadiens’ (today, also referred to as the Québécois) to have religious and linguistic freedoms, to openly practice their Catholicism and use their French. The Canadiens were therefore not unhappy enough with British rule to choose to participate in the American Revolution. Without Canadian cooperation against the British, the 13 colonies instead attempted to invade Canada. The city was therefore once again under siege when the Battle of Quebec occurred in 1775. The initial attack was a failure due to American inexperience with the extreme cold temperatures of the city in December. Benedict Arnold refused to accept the defeat in the Battle of Quebec and a siege against the city continued until May 6, 1776, when the American army finally retreated.

The Constitutional Act of 1791 divided Canada into an “Upper”, English-speaking colony, and a “Lower”, French-speaking colony. Quebec City was made the capital of Lower Canada and enjoyed more self-rule following the passage of this act. The city’s industry began to grow, and by the early 19th century it was the third largest port city in North America. Lumber was the largest export of the city at this time. The business boom continued for most of the century and Quebec City began welcoming thousands of immigrants.


Mackenzie King, Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, and the Earl of Athlone (left-to-right) at the First Quebec Conference, a secret military conference held in World War II.
Mackenzie King, Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, and the Earl of Athlone (left-to-right) at the First Quebec Conference, a secret military conference held in World War II (source: Imperial War Museums, 1941).


In 1917, the construction of the Quebec Bridge, connecting the north and south banks of the St. Lawrence River, was finished. To this day, it is the longest cantilever bridge in the world, though two collapses of the centre of the bridge during construction cost over 80 workers their lives.

During World War II, two Allied Forces conferences were held in the city. The first, held in 1943, assembled Franklin Delano Roosevelt, president of the United States of America; Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom; William Lyon Mackenzie King, Prime Minister of Canada and T. V. Soong, Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs. The second conference was held in 1944 and Churchill and Roosevelt participated. The conferences were held at the Citadel and nearby Château Frontenac.

In 1984, Opération Nez rouge was founded in Quebec City. It has been imitated in many European countries. In April 2001, Quebec City played host to the Summit of the Americas where the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) was discussed. This conference was expected to be filled with confrontations between the police and anti-globalization groups, which meant that the location of walled Quebec City was vital for security reasons.


Satellite image of Old Quebec City
Satellite image of Old Quebec City (source: GoogleMap.com, 2017).


On January 1, 2002, surrounding towns were incorporated into the existing city. The “New Quebec city” includes 11 former municipalities: Sainte-Foy, Beauport, Charlesbourg, Sillery, Loretteville, Val-Bélair, Cap-Rouge, Saint-Émile, Vanier, and Lac-Saint-Charles, in addition to the original Quebec City.

In 2005, Capitale-Nationale played host to a major world sporting event, the World Police and Fire Games, which was a success for the city, with as many as 11,000 athletes and 14,000 persons accompanying them, making 25,000 persons in total. The city also experienced higher than average temperatures with an average of 30 degrees Celsius.










Panorama of Quebec City's skyline
Panorama of Quebec City’s skyline (author: Martin St-Amant, 2009).


Quebec City is located in the Saint Lawrence River valley, on the north bank of the Saint Lawrence River near its meeting with the St. Charles River. The surrounding area is low-lying and flat. The river valley has rich, arable soil, which makes this region the most fertile in the province. The Laurentian Mountains lie to the north of the city.

A portion of the city, as well as most of the Old Quebec area, is built on a plateau sometimes called the promontory of Quebec. Because of this topographic feature, the central and oldest area of the city is sometimes divided into upper and lower town. On the eastern end of the hill, upper Town lies on the top of Cap-Diamant (Cape Diamond) promontory. The Plains of Abraham are located near the edge of the promontory, on which high stone walls have been integrated during colonial days. On the other hand, lower town is located on the eastern foot of this plateau. It has been a working class area for most of its history unlike uptown, which for the most part, quickly became a place of choice for the local middle-class and bourgeoisie.







The climate of Quebec City is classified as humid continental (Köppen climate classification Dfb). Quebec City experiences four distinct seasons. Summers are warm and occasionally hot, with periods of hotter temperatures which compounded with the high humidity, create a high heat index that belie the average high of 22–25 °C (72–77 °F) and lows of 11–13 °C (52–55 °F). Winters are often cold, windy and snowy with average high temperatures −5 to −8 °C (23 to 18 °F) and lows −13 to −18 °C (9 to 0 °F). Spring and fall, although short, bring chilly to warm temperatures. Late heat waves as well as “Indian summers” are a common occurrence.

On average, Quebec City receives 1,190 millimetres (46.85 in) of precipitation, of which 899 millimetres (35.39 in) is rain and 303 millimetres (11.93 in) is the melt from 316 centimetres (124.4 in) of snowfall per annum. The city experiences around 1,916 hours of bright sunshine annually or 41.5% of possible sunshine, with summer being the sunniest, but also slightly the wettest season. During winter, snow generally stays on the ground from the end of November till mid-April.

The highest temperature ever recorded in Quebec City was 36.1 °C (97 °F) on 17 July 1953. The coldest temperature ever recorded was −36.7 °C (−34 °F) on 10 January 1890 and 14 January 2015.


Parks and Gardens


Parc du Domaine
Domaine de Maizerets or Parc du Domaine (author: JOFphoto, 2012).


Quebec city is home to over a hundred parks and gardens, which offer certain attractions like bird watching, hiking or canoeing for visitors.

One of the most notable is The Battlefields Park, which is home to 50 historical artillery pieces and the Plains of Abraham. The park offers views of the St. Lawrence River and has multiple historical structures and statues like the Joan of Arc on Horseback and the Martello Towers. Historically this was the site of an American revolutionary battle, the Battle of Quebec (1775) where the British were able to hold onto its last stronghold in the Northern extent of its North American territory.


Martello Tower 1, located in The Battlefields Park in Québec, Quebec
Martello Tower 1, located in The Battlefields Park in Québec, Quebec (author: Skarg, 2006).


Another notable park is the Parc du Bois-de-Coulonge, which is known for its gardens and bird watching, is the second largest urban park in Quebec City. The Parc du Bois-de-Coulonge also has historical influence being the site of gardens that were created by British and French royalty. Quebec City’s largest park is the Parc Chauveau, which offers a range of outdoor activities from hiking, canoeing and skiing. Other notable areas are Beauport bay, Domaine de Maizerets, Marais du Nord and Parc Cartier-Roberval.







Boroughs and districts


New division of boroughs in Quebec City, November 1, 2009 (author: Boréal / Jean Gagnon, 2007).
New division of boroughs in Quebec City, November 1, 2009 (author: Boréal / Jean Gagnon, 2007).


On 1 January 2002, the 12 former towns of Sainte-Foy, Beauport, Charlesbourg, Sillery, Loretteville, Val-Bélair, Cap-Rouge, Saint-Émile, Vanier, L’Ancienne-Lorette, Saint-Augustin-de-Desmaures and Lac-Saint-Charles were annexed by Quebec City. This was one of several municipal mergers which took place across Quebec on that date. Following a demerger referendum, L’Ancienne-Lorette and Saint-Augustin-de-Desmaures were reconstituted as separate municipalities on 1 January 2006, but the other former municipalities remain part of Quebec City. On 1 November 2009, the Quebec City re-organized its boroughs, reducing the number from 8 to 6.


Borough limits as seen from Édifice Marie-Guyart. A partial view of the urbanized La Cité-Limoilou is shown as well as of the suburban Charlesbourg (left) and Beauport right) in the background
Borough limits (yellow) as seen from Édifice Marie-Guyart. A partial view of the urbanized La Cité-Limoilou is shown as well as of the suburban Charlesbourg (left) and Beauport right) in the background (author: René Bélanger, 2012).


As of 2011 Quebec City comprises six boroughs (arrondissements) which are further divided into 35 districts (quartiers). All districts are numbered, and most are named. In most cases the name of the district is similar to a historical town or village it replaced, but not always. Districts each elect their own council, which are part of public consultations with the city government. The numbering system was based on the 2002-2009 borough boundaries, so post-2009 the numbers do not correspond completely with the boroughs.

North-east aerial view from the Quebec Bridge area. The foreground shows Sainte-Foy.
North-east aerial view from the Quebec Bridge area. The foreground shows Sainte-Foy (author: Edgar El, 2015).


Compared to many other cities in North America, there is less variation between average household incomes between the districts. However, some disparities exist. Montcalm, Sillery, Cap-Rouge, and the southern part of Sainte-Foy are considered to be the wealthiest, along with all areas found west of Old Quebec along the banks of the Saint Lawrence River.


Saint Lawrence River between Quebec City (left foreground) and Lévis (seen at right). The Île d'Orléans appears in the central distance
Saint Lawrence River between Quebec City (left foreground) and Lévis (seen at right). The Île d’Orléans appears in the central distance (author: Joël Truchon, 2007).


The city’s traditional working-class areas are found in the lower town below Old Quebec (Saint-Sauveur and Saint-Roch) and directly across the Saint Charles River (Vanier and Limoilou). However, parts of Limoilou and particularly Saint-Roch have seen gentrification in the last 20 years, attracting young professionals and the construction of new offices and condos.


North-west view from an uptown building. Saint-Jean-Baptiste then Saint-Roch and Saint-Sauveur district are in the foreground.
North-west view from an uptown building. Saint-Jean-Baptiste then Saint-Roch and Saint-Sauveur district are in the foreground (author: NickHam, 2012).


The central part of the city consists of industrial areas while northern sections (Loretteville, Val-Bélair) and eastern sections (Beauport, Charlesbourg) are mostly a mix of middle-class residential suburbs.






According to Statistics Canada, there were 531,902  people residing in Quebec City proper in 2016, and 800,296  people in the metropolitan area. Of the former total, 48.2% were male and 51.8% were female. Children under five accounted for approximately 4.7% of the resident population of Quebec City. This compares with 5.2% in the province of Quebec, and 5.6% for Canada overall.

The great majority of city residents are native French speakers. The English-speaking community peaked in relative terms during the 1860s, when 40% of Quebec City’s residents were Anglophone. Today, Anglophones make up only 1.5% of the population of both the city and its metropolitan area. However, the annual Quebec Winter Carnival attracts both Francophone and Anglophone tourists alike, so the Anglophone population increases considerably during the duration of the event.

According to Statistics Canada, 94.6% of Quebec City’s population spoke French as their mother tongue. In addition, more than a third of city residents reported speaking both French and English.

In 2001, 13.0% of the resident population in Quebec City was of retirement age (65 and over for males and females) compared with 13.2% in Canada. The average age is 39.5 years of age compared to 37.6 years of age for Canada as a whole.

In the five years between 2006 and 2011, the population of Quebec City grew by 6.5%, compared with an increase of 4.9% for the province of Quebec. The population density of Quebec City averaged 228.6 inhabitants per square kilometre (592/sq mi), compared with an average of 5.3/km2 (14/sq mi) for the province as a whole.

At the time of the 2001 census, the population of the Quebec City authority was 682,757, but was 710,700 when encompassing the Greater Quebec City Area, compared with a resident population in the province of Quebec of 7,237,479 people.

In 2006, visible minorities made up 3% of the city’s population, which is the smallest proportion of any major Canadian city. There has, however, been a growing number of new arrivals from North and West Africa, as well as Latin America, who have settled in the city. Recent arrivals tend to be more concentrated in Limoilou, Vanier and the northern part of Sainte-Foy, where the availability of lower cost apartments is higher than the rest of the city.

According to the 2001 census, over 90% of the population was Roman Catholic. The city also contains small Protestant, Muslim and Jewish communities.









The boulevard Laurier, west of the city center
The boulevard Laurier, west of the city center (author: Judicieux, 2016).



Most jobs in Quebec City are concentrated in public administration, defence, services, commerce, transport and tourism. As the provincial capital, the city benefits from being a regional administrative and services centre: apropos, the provincial government is the largest employer in the city, employing 27,900 people as of 2007. CHUQ (the local hospital network) is the city’s largest institutional employer, with more than 10,000 employees in 2007. In 2008, the unemployment rate in Quebec City was 4.5%, well below provincial and national averages (7.3% and 6.6%, respectively).


View of upper town from Autoroute 73
View of upper town from Autoroute 73 (author: v, 2012).


Around 10% of jobs are in manufacturing. Principal products include pulp and paper, processed food, metal/wood items, chemicals, electronics and electrical equipment, and printed materials. The city hosts the headquarters of a variety of prominent companies, including: fashion retailer La Maison Simons, engineering firms BPR and Norda Stelo; real estate investment trust Cominar; Industrial Alliance, La Capitale, Promutuel, SSQ Financial Group, and Union Canadienne in the insurance sector; Beenox, Gearbox Software, Frima Studio, Sarbakan and Ubisoft in the computer games industry; AeternaZentaris and DiagnoCure in pharmaceuticals; Amalgame, Cossette and Vision 7 in marketing and advertising; Institut National d’Optique (INO), EXFO, OptoSecurity in technology.


The bridge to the Orléans Island over the St. Lawrence River and Quebec City (Canada) in background (author: Antoine Letarte, 2010).
The bridge to the Orléans Island over the St. Lawrence River and Quebec City (Canada) in background (author: Antoine Letarte, 2010).










Saint-Roch Garden, lower town
Saint-Roch Garden, lower town (author: Aquastephie, 2012).


Much of the city’s most notable architecture is located east of the fortification walls in Vieux-Québec (Old Quebec) and Place Royale. This area has a distinct European feel with its stone buildings and winding streets lined with shops and restaurants. Porte St-Louis and Porte St-Jean are the main gates through the walls from the modern section of downtown; the Kent Gate was a gift to the province from Queen Victoria and the foundation stone was laid by the Queen’s daughter, Princess Louise, Marchioness of Lorne, on 11 June 1879. West of the walls are the Parliament Hill district and the Plains of Abraham.


Old Quebec, Rainy Vieux-Québec
Old Quebec, Rainy Vieux-Québec (author: Tony Webster, 2014).


The Upper Town is linked by the Escalier « casse-cou » (literally “neck-breaking” steps) and the Old Quebec Funicular to the Lower Town, which includes such sites as the ancient Notre-Dame-des-Victoires church, the historic Petit Champlain district, the port, and the Musée de la Civilisation (Museum of Civilization). The Lower Town is filled with original architecture and street designs, dating back to the city’s beginnings. Murals and statues are also featured. The Lower Town is also noted for its wide variety of boutiques, many featuring hand-crafted goods.


Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church, Basse-Ville - Lower Town
Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church, Basse-Ville – Lower Town (author: Bobak, 2004).


Quebec City’s downtown is on the lower part of the town. Its epicentre is adjacent to the old town, spanning from the Saint-Roch district, throughout the Saint Sauveur, Saint-Sacrement and Limoilou quarters. Some interpretations consider Quebec’s downtown to be the central southern portion of the town ranging from the old city and Saint Roch, all the way west to the Quebec city Bridge.


Colonial buildings in Old Quebec
Colonial buildings in Old Quebec, Panorama of the Old Quebec (author: Martin St-Amant, 2009).


Quebec City’s skyline is dominated by the massive Château Frontenac Hotel, perched on top of Cap-Diamant. It was designed by architect Bruce Price, as one of a series of “château” style hotels built for the Canadian Pacific Railway company. The railway company sought to encourage luxury tourism and bring wealthy travellers to its trains. Alongside the Château Frontenac is the Terrasse Dufferin (Dufferin Terrace), a walkway along the edge of the cliff, offering beautiful views of the Saint Lawrence River. The Terrasse Dufferin leads toward the nearby Plains of Abraham, site of the battle in which the British took Quebec from France, and the Citadelle of Quebec, a Canadian Forces installation and the federal vice-regal secondary residence. The Parliament Building, the meeting place of the Parliament of Quebec, is also near the Citadelle.


A former fire station now used by the ultidisciplinary art company Ex Machina.
A former fire station now used by the ultidisciplinary art company Ex Machina (author: Jeangagnon, 2014).


Near the Château Frontenac is Notre-Dame de Québec Cathedral, mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Quebec. It is the first church in the New World to be raised to a basilica and is the primatial church of Canada.

There are 37 National Historic Sites of Canada in Quebec City and its enclaves.








A former fire station now used by the ultidisciplinary art company Ex Machina.
A former fire station now used by the ultidisciplinary art company Ex Machina (author: Jeangagnon, 2014).

Quebec City is known for its Winter Carnival, its summer music festival and for its Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day celebrations. Tourist attractions located near Quebec City include Montmorency Falls, the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, the Mont-Sainte-Anne ski resort, and the Ice Hotel.


Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré
Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré (author: Jcmurphy, 2002).


The Jardin zoologique du Québec, now closed, initially reopened in 2002 after extensive repairs before ultimately shuttering in 2006. It featured 750 specimens of 300 different species of animals. The zoo specialized in winged fauna and garden themes, but also featured several species of mammals. While it emphasized the indigenous fauna of Quebec, one of its main attractions was the Indo-Australian greenhouse, featuring fauna and flora from regions surrounding the Indian Ocean.


Toboggan at Terrasse Dufferin
Toboggan at Terrasse Dufferin, Quebec (author: Bwilly11, 2013).


Parc Aquarium du Québec, which reopened in 2002 on a site overlooking the Saint Lawrence River, features more than 10,000 specimens of mammals, reptiles, fish and other aquatic fauna of North America and the Arctic. Polar bears and various species of seals of the Arctic sector and the “Large Ocean”, a large basin offering visitors a view from underneath, make up part of the aquarium’s main attractions. There are a number of historic sites, art galleries and museums in Québec City, including Citadelle of Quebec, Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, Ursulines of Quebec, and Musée de la civilisation. Old Québec is a UNESCO world heritage site, with historic architecture, shops, and restaurants.


Capitol theater, seen from the fortifications
Capitol theater, seen from the fortifications (author: Jeangagnon, 2013).



The Monique-Corriveau library moved into a vacant Sainte-Foy church in 2013
The Monique-Corriveau library moved into a vacant Sainte-Foy church in 2013 (author: Jeangagnon, 2015).









Videotron Centre, Quebec
Videotron Centre, Quebec (author: Dave Paige, 2016).


As well as having a number of local sports teams, Quebec City has hosted a number of sporting events. The Special Olympics Canada National Winter Games was held in the city from 26 February to 1 March 2008. Quebec City co-hosted with Halifax, Nova Scotia, the 2008 IIHF World Championship. Regular sporting events held in the city, include the Coupe Banque Nationale, a Women’s Tennis Association tournament; Crashed Ice, an extreme downhill skating race; Quebec City International Pee-Wee Tournament, a minor hockey tournament; and the Tour de Québec International cycling stage race.

In December 2011, Quebec City hosted the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final at the Pavillon de la Jeunesse at ExpoCité.

The city has a professional baseball team called the Capitales de Québec which plays in the Canadian American Association of Professional Baseball. The team was established in 1999, and originally played in the Northern League. The team has six league titles, won in 2006, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. The team’s stadium is the Stade Municipal.

Other teams include the local football team, the Rouge & Or of the Université Laval; the junior hockey team, Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League; the Canadian football teams, Quebec City Monarks and Quebec City Rebelles of La Ligue de Football de Québec; the women’s hockey team Quebec Phoenix of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League; and soccer club Quebec Arsenal of the W-League.

The city had a professional ice hockey team, the Quebec Nordiques, which played in the World Hockey Association (WHA) from 1972 to 1979 and then in the National Hockey League (NHL) from 1979 to 1995, maintaining a strong rivalry with the Montreal Canadiens. Due to a disadvantageous exchange rate with respect to the US Dollar, the team moved to Denver, Colorado in 1995, becoming the Colorado Avalanche. The Quebec Remparts are a major junior team in the QMJHL and play in the Videotron Centre.

A professional basketball team, the Quebec Kebs played in National Basketball League of Canada in 2011 but folded prior to the start of the 2012 season.


View of the Colisée Pepsi (author: Eric Fortin, 2012).
View of the Colisée Pepsi (author: Eric Fortin, 2012).


The Videotron Centre has been built with the hope of getting an NHL franchise (relocation or expansion) in Quebec City. The project was funded regardless of whether an NHL team arrives in Quebec City. It is also hoped that the arena can help Quebec City win a future Winter Olympics games bid. It has now replaced the Colisée Pepsi as the main multifunctional arena in Quebec City. The Quebec Capitales, which play in the Stade Municipal play in the Can-Am League









City Hall of Quebec City and the Price Building
City Hall of Quebec City and the Price Building (author: Gilbert Bochenek, 2008).


Quebec City is governed using a mayor–council government form of government which includes the 21 members of the Quebec City Council (conseil municipal), which acts as the city’s legislative body, and the separately elected Mayor of Quebec City (maire de Québec), who acts as the city’s chief executive. The city council is elected from 21 single-member districts split between the city’s 6 boroughs using first-past-the-post voting, while the mayor is elected by the city at-large. Both are elected at the same time for a term of four years. While the mayor is a part of the council as an ex officio member and chairs the meetings of council, he or she is not the president of the council and has no vote.

The government of the city is directed by the 9-member executive committee, which is composed of the mayor and eight city councillors appointed by the mayor. It is tasked with executing the prerogatives of the city council. The current mayor of the city is Régis Labeaume, first elected in 2007.

Below the city level each of the city’s six boroughs has a borough council (conseil d’arrondissement) composed of three-to-five members the exact number which is dependent upon the population of the borough. These councils comprise those city councillors elected from the city council districts within that borough; that is to say that each city councillor also sits as a borough councillor in the borough from which he or she was elected. The borough councils serve a largely advisory role, and do not have the authority to tax or borrow money. The boroughs are further divided into 35 neighbourhoods, which have their own neighbourhood councils (conseils de quartier) composed of 11 members – 8 elected members (4 men and 4 women) and 3 additional members appointed by the elected members all who serve two-year terms. Furthermore, the city and borough councillors whose electoral districts cover the neighbourhood sit on the neighbourhood council as non-voting ex officio members. The neighbourhood councils are purely advisory in nature.


The town hall of the former city of Sainte-Foy now accommodates a borough council, police and fire station and numerous white-collar workers
The town hall of the former city of Sainte-Foy now accommodates a borough council, police and fire station and numerous white-collar workers (author: Khayman, 2010).


Parallel to the city level of government, the city is a component of the urban agglomeration of Quebec City, which has its own council (conseil d’agglomération) which has authority over certain services such as public transportation, arterial roads, certain law enforcement services, sanitation, etc. The agglomeration includes the central municipality of Quebec City, L’Ancienne-Lorette and Saint-Augustin-de-Desmaures. Quebec City is also the seat of the judicial district of Québec, one of the province’s 36 judicial districts.









The Old Séminaire de Québec today (author: Gilbert Bochenek, 2008).
The Old Séminaire de Québec today (author: Gilbert Bochenek, 2008).


The Université Laval (Laval University) is located in the western end of the city, in the borough of Sainte-Foy. However, the school of architecture of Université Laval is located at the “Vieux-Séminaire” building in Old Quebec. The main campus of the Université du Québec system is also located in Quebec City, including its specialized schools École nationale d’administration publique, Institut national de la recherche scientifique, and Télé-université (TELUQ), the distance learning component of the ‘Université du Québec’ network.


Université du Québec à Chicoutimi
Université du Québec à Chicoutimi (author: de l’UQAC, 2007).


Commission scolaire de la Capitale operates secular francophone schools and Central Quebec School Board operates secular anglophone ones. Prior to summer 1998 Commission des écoles catholiques de Québec operated public Catholic schools of all languages.

Numerous CEGEPs are located in Quebec city, including Collège François-Xavier-Garneau, Cégep O’Sullivan, Cégep Limoilou, Cégep de Sainte-Foy and Champlain College St. Lawrence, as well as private institutions such as Campus Notre-Dame-de-Foy, Collège Mérici, Collège Bart, Collège CDI and Collège Multihexa.


Institut national de la recherche scientifique - Université du Québec (INRS)
Institut national de la recherche scientifique – Université du Québec, INRS (author: Hélène Simard, 2005).


Quebec City has the oldest educational institution for women in North America, the Ursulines of Quebec monastery, located at 12 Rue Donnacona.









Lake freighter CSL Niagara on the St. Lawrence River near Alexandria Bay in the Thousand Islands
Lake freighter CSL Niagara on the St. Lawrence River near Alexandria Bay in the Thousand Islands (qauthor: Ad Meskens, 2009).


Two bridges (the Quebec Bridge and Pierre Laporte Bridge) and a ferry service connect the city with Lévis and its suburbs along the south shore of the Saint Lawrence River. The Orleans Island Bridge links Quebec City with pastoral Orleans Island.


The Quebec Bridge (left) and the Pierre Laporte Bridge (right), viewed from the North side
The Quebec Bridge (left) and the Pierre Laporte Bridge (right), viewed from the North side (author: Blanchardb, 2008).


Quebec City is an important hub in the province’s autoroute system, as well as boasting one of the highest “expressway lane kilometres per 1000 persons” in the country (1.10), behind Calgary (1.74), Hamilton (1.61) and Edmonton (1.24).[64] Autoroute 40 connects the region with Montreal and Ottawa to the west and Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré and the Charlevoix region to the east. Autoroute 20 parallels the south shore of the St. Lawrence River, linking Quebec City with Montreal and Toronto to the west and Rivière-du-Loup, Rimouski, and the Maritime Provinces to the east. Autoroute 73 provides a north-south link through the metropolitan area, linking it with Saint-Georges, the Beauce region, and Maine to the south and Saguenay and the Lac-Saint-Jean region to the north.


West end of Autoroute Dufferin-Montmorency
West end of Autoroute Dufferin-Montmorency 9author: Payton Chung, 2006).


Within the metropolitan region, Autoroutes 40, 73, and several spur routes link the city centre with its suburbs. Autoroute 573 (Autoroute Henri-IV) connects the city with CFB Valcartier. Autoroute 740 (Autoroute Robert-Bourassa) serves as a north-south inner belt. Autoroute 440 comprises two separate autoroutes to the west and east of the urban core. Originally meant to be connected by a tunnel under the city centre, the two sections are separated by a 6-kilometre (3.7 mi) gap. There are no current plans to connect them. The western section (Autoroute Charest) connects Autoroutes 40 and 73 with Boulevard Charest (a main east-west avenue) while the eastern section (Autoroute Dufferin-Montmorency) links the city centre with Beauport and Montmorency Falls.


Métrobus is a six lines, higher frequency bus service
Métrobus is a six lines, higher frequency bus service (author: Tony Webster, 2014).


The Réseau de transport de la Capitale is responsible for public transport in the region. The RTC operates a fleet of buses and has recently implemented articulated buses. The RTC is studying the return of a tram and light rail system to help ease overcrowding on its busiest lines as well as attract new users to public transit. The two billion dollar revitalization project needs approval from higher levels of government since the city does not have the financial resources to fund such an ambitious project on its own.


Gare du palais train station and SAAQ headquarters on the right
Gare du palais train station and SAAQ headquarters on the right (author: Jeangagnon, 2014).


Rail transport is operated by VIA Rail at the Gare du Palais (‘Palace Station’). The station is the eastern terminus of the railway’s main Quebec City-Windsor Corridor. An inter-city bus station, with connections to the provincial long-distance bus network, is adjacent to the train station, and hosts, among others, the services of Greyhound Canada and Orleans Express.


Québec City Jean Lesage International Airport, also known as Jean Lesage International Airport
Québec City Jean Lesage International Airport, also known as Jean Lesage International Airport (author: Harfang, 2010).


Quebec City is served by Jean Lesage International Airport (YQB), located at the city’s western edge, 11 miles from the city centre.

The city also has a major port on the St-Lawrence with facilities in the first, fifth and sixth boroughs.


St. Lawrence seaway (user: FastilyClone, US Gov-DOT, PD-US, 2016).
St. Lawrence seaway (user: FastilyClone, US Gov-DOT, PD-US, 2016).







Public safety

Quebec City is protected by Service de police de la Ville de Québec and Service de protection contre les incendies de Québec. Quebec City has one of the lowest crime rates in Canada. The city reported no murders in 2007, a streak that stretched back to 31 October 2006. Only two murders occurred in Quebec City in 2015. Gang recruitment has been recognized to be a federal crime in Bill C-394. On 29 January 2017, a Laval University student named Alexandre Bissonnette shot and killed six people with another seventeen injured in a mass shooting at the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre.









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