Québec is all vibrant cities gleaming with a proud French Canadian history, interspersed with medieval cobbled streets and historic bastions in its UESCO World Heritage Sites and Old Quarters. While reminders of its French heritage lie dotted round every corner, there’s more to this region than its colonial history.
There are mountainous peaks reminiscent of neighbouring USA's big-time ski slopes, intimate harbour-lining markets evocative of Paris and gastronomy that is, rightly so, zealously Canadian. Winter's chill dominates much of the Quebecers' life and they take full advantage, heading to local slopes for alpine skiing, tobogganing and dog sledding. And when the thaw sets in, verdant expanses and rocky beaches set the scene for summer festivals and strolls through the surrounding mountain trails and parks.
A walk through Montréal and Québec City, the two main metropoles of Québec, is truly immersive, where modern architecture looms alongside historic quarters tucked away among cobbled streets. There's French architecture everywhere you look, and it truly impresses. Head to the churches around the pretty lanes of Vieux Montréal, brimming with preserved colonial mansions, and stone fortification walls and winding streets of Québec City. The European, energetic ambience of sprawling Montreal is wonderfully contrasted with quaint Québec City, perhaps more charming of the two, with 17th century homes comprising the Old Town which is in itself a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Buzzy jazz bars and nightlife abound in Montreal, with summer's Festival International de Jazz de Montréal providing one of the principle acts, while year-round, the Musée d'Art Contemporian and Musée des Beaux Arts showcase spectacular contemporary art. Head to Québec City in winter and you'll find yourself revelling on snowy alleys in the Winter Carnival's explosion of colours, and in the warmer summer months its eponymous Summer Festival celebrates the new season downtown with 11 days of music. Its colonial core, where ancient stone buildings line narrow streets and charming bistros dot cobblestone lanes, are a picturesque setting for seasonal markets, with the most charming lying in the old market port, a hive of activity. Nearby rue Saint-Paul heaves with antique shops, galleries and cafes dotted along walkways.
Autumn paints Québec in spectacular shades and also affords fewer tourists – head here to witness the injection of colour into surrounding maple trees, adding a special charm to the boreal forests. It's wonderfully explored with strolls through the city and the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in Charlevoix and wildlife of Parc Grands Jardins. Head to Mount Royal, a volcanic mountain dominating the city of Montreal, for fantastic views year-round, particularly spectacular in winter, whose chill dominates for much of the year. Make the most of the icy outdoor playground that lies on the doorstep, heading to Tremblant just north of Montreal, zip lining the highest peak of the Laurentian Mountains, or explore the surrounding snowy peaks with skiing and tobogganing. The sprawling Le Massif de Charlevoix offers dog sledding and cross country skiing, while summer affords hiking and biking through verdant green parks, kayaking the St Lawrence river and whiling away the hours on the outskirt beaches of Montreal.