Quebec City

Spring 2008 CSANews Issue 66  |  Posted date : May 24, 2008.Back to list

It is my firm belief that here in North America, the closest feeling to being in Europe can be found in Quebec City. And 2008 is surely the best year to visit one of Canada's oldest settlements. It was 400 years ago, in 1608, that a group of French adventurers, led by Samuel de Champlain, decided that the banks of the Fleuve San Laurent would be a wonderful location for their first village in 'New France'. An Iroquois village known as Stadacona had nestled at the foot of the highest point along the waterway but, for unknown reasons, had been abandoned. In time, Champlain's settlement became Quebec City.

Fortunately, as the urban area grew, it developed along the traditional lines of the old world - narrow, cobblestoned streets and buildings constructed using granite quarried from the area. A sturdy wall was erected to protect the pioneers from the possibility of raids by hostile natives and, of course, the English. It seems as if England and France were forever at war for one reason or another. During the Seven Years' War, Stadacona (Quebec City) became the site of the battle of the Plains of Abraham and, in 1759, General Wolfe's red-coated British army defeated France's Montcalm and brought the colony under the Crown's control. Four years later, the French government officially ceded New France to Britain and the name was changed. In 1867, at Confederation, the region then known as Lower Canada became the province of Quebec.

That mighty wall still stands, the only remaining fortification of its type left north of Mexico. A stroll along the ramparts makes for a relaxing way to see four centuries of Quebec City history. Another delightful way to discover what the old town has to offer is to hire a horse-drawn caleche. Driver guides are well-versed in their knowledge of the city and its background and often add humour to their commentary. And they can do it in either French or English.

Quebec City has expanded well beyond those protective ramparts. Now, nearly three-quarters of a million people are proud to call it home. Ninety-five per cent of its citizens use French as their mother tongue, but many in the urban area also speak English. If you are bilingual, it will enable you to enjoy your visit that much more. And during the 400th anniversary year, there is so much more to enjoy. Here, in random order, is a list of some of the events planned or underway:

ESPACE 400e - operating from June 3rd to the end of September, located at the very spot at which the city was established. This is the heart of the celebration, with history projected on the wall at the Image Mill, artistic displays at the "Ephemeral Gardens" and "Passengers" telling the story of human movement throughout the development of Quebec City.

CIRQUE ICI - Scheduled for May at the Carrefour. "Secret" is a circus from France, making its North American debut here.  

THE LOUVRE: ARTS AND LIFE - Runs from June 5 to October 26. A quality collection on loan from Paris that includes objets d'art, sculptures, Roman, Egyptian, Greek and Oriental antiquities, plus arts of Islam.

WONDERS IN THE SKY - June 13 to 15 at Jean-Lesage International Airport.  Aerial demonstrations by teams from the founding countries, with a musical presentation.

WOMEN'S IMPRINTS - June to October. To be held at Espace 400e. Thematic cocktail parties highlight the contributions of women from the past, present and future of the city. Auspices of the YWCA Quebec Association.

QUEBEC CITY AT 400 - The anniversary date is July 3. The Basilique de Quebec will be the venue for a Solemn Mass; a salute to Champlain and Freedom of the City Ceremony with a military parade, songs, dances and projected images being held in the afternoon. International dignitaries are expected to attend.

URBAN OPERA - Prelude, July 3 at the Plains of Abraham, culminating at 11:00 p.m. by the lighting of a fire sculpture and a torchlight parade to downtown, ending at the basin Louise. The Urban Opera itself will take place downtown and features contemporary visual, musical and cinematographic work, telling the story of Quebec City's 400-year history.

SYMPHONIE A 2008 VOIX - 2008 singers from Quebec and France will gather for a gigantic free show. Throughout the week from July 14 to 20,a series of concerts will be presented in various local churches.

QUEBEC INTERNATIONAL FIREWORKS COMPETITION - To be held July 19 to August 6, at Montmorency Falls Park. This promises to be a spectacular event at which where master pyrotechnicians from competing countries work their magic set to the music of the specially composed 400th anniversary theme song.

But wait! There's more! Much, much more. Such as a music competition; a Beethoven concert; Starmania - a new opera; sports and outdoor activities for youth from around the world; the Jews of Quebec with concerts, tours and cultural activities; an international soccer tournament; outdoor theatre at Place-Royale; an international bookbinding exhibition; historical re-enactments in 11 city parks; a hot-air balloon festival; an outdoor contemporary dance show; sea shanty shows from France; legendary giants on parade; a fashion show; a marathon; an international festival of military bands; sand sculptures; cycling tours; and, on October 19, a special presentation by Cirque du Soleil.

The people of Quebec City are adding exciting presentations as the 400th anniversary year continues. So you see, there is a great deal of fun awaiting you dans la Ville de Quebec as its citizens bid you bienvenue. Come say 'bonjour' and help them celebrate their quadrennial. This is certainly the year to see this great city and be spellbound by its location, its history, its arts, its culture and above all of this, its people. Bonne Fete!

Side Bar:
  • Keep up to date on the 400th anniversary events by visiting
  • To help with your travel plans, see or e-mail:
  • You can speak in English or French with a representative at Tourisme Quebec; toll-free at 1-877-Bonjour (266-5687).
  • Quebec City is served by VIA Rail, by WestJet (beginning May 18) and by Air Canada.
  • A complete range of accommodations is available from B&Bs to the famous Fairmont Chateau Frontenac.

Related links
Quebec 400th anniversary events
Help with Quebec travel plans