The Plains of Abraham are to Québec City as Central Park is to New York—an oasis of greenery in the heart of the city. The scene of many historic milestones over the centuries, the Plains today are the mainstage venue for headline cultural events.
Canada’s first national historic park, Battlefields Park, which includes the Plains of Abraham, was created in 1908 to mark the 300th anniversary of the founding of Québec. The 98 hectare park is a vast playground that draws sports enthusiasts, strollers out for a breath of fresh air, and families in search of an idyllic picnic spot. A jewel in the park’s crown, the Joan of Arc Garden is a delight for the senses, with over 150 plant and flower varieties on dazzling display.
Québec City’s defensive system, the heart of which is located on the Plains of Abraham, was built between 1608 and 1871, but evolved considerably over that same period. Today, the fortifications consist of 4 gates, 3 Martello towers, the Citadelle, and the ramparts encircling the Old Town over nearly 4.6 km. The Citadelle was erected between 1820 and 1850, and was the largest British fortress in North America at the time. A national historic site of Canada since 1980, it boasts a characteristic star shape, clearly distinguished from above.
The Plains of Abraham were the site of the famous Battle of Québec in 1759, which saw the French and British troops face off in a fight for control of the city and the surrounding territory. The two armies clashed again several months later in the Battle of Sainte-Foy. Ultimately, the decisive British victory had a significant influence on Québec’s architecture, defensive works, and urban planning.
Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, the fine arts museum on the Plains of Abraham, is worth a visit as much for its stunning architecture as for the remarkable exhibits on display within its walls. Québec City is also home to a number of other reputed museums with varied and entertaining collections.
The impression made upon the visitor by this Gibraltar of America: its giddy heights; its citadel suspended as it were in the air; its picturesque steep streets and frowning gateways; and the splendid views which burst upon the eye at every turn: is at once unique and lasting. - Charles Dickens, American Notes, 1842
One of Canada’s premier musical events, Festival d’été de Québec presents over 300 shows during 11 days on 10 stages in the heart of Old Québec, including the festival main stage on the Plains of Abraham.
Unique in Québec, the changing of the guard ceremony at the Citadelle is inspired by its counterpart version at London’s Buckingham Palace. A daily summer tradition since 1938, the ceremony features soldiers from the Royal 22e Régiment in their impressive red ceremonial dress and black bearskin hats.
Late June to early September
In addition to the Citadelle, Québec City’s fortifications have many other important components. Originally built for defensive purposes, they now delight visitors from around the world.
The museums of Québec City present a rich and diverse array of exhibitions sure to appeal to art lovers and history buffs alike.