WHERE Quebec City is the capital city of the province of Quebec, and the oldest city in Canada. Its Upper Town is on a cliff 110m above the St Lawrence River, the Lower Town wrapped around the cliff’s base. Stairways and a funicular connect the two. Towering above Old Quebec, the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac (001 498 692 3861; www.fairmont.com/frontenac) is the city’s most iconic landmark and has doubles from C$418 (£197). In the Old Port area, by the St Lawrence River, Auberge Saint-Antoine (001 418 692 2211; www.saintantoine.com) is a former warehouse with parts of the building dating from 1727. Doubles from C$188 (£89). Or for a B&B, Gite aux Deux Lions (001 418 780 8100; www.giteauxdeuxlions.com) is a good choice, with doubles from C$105 (£49).

WHY Quebec City is the only North American fortified city (north of Mexico) whose walls still exist. In 1985 it was designated a Unesco World Heritage Site and in January 2008 will begin a programme of events celebrating its 400th anniversary (001 418 648 2008; www.myquebec2008.com). The wonderfully preserved 18th- and 19thcentury slate-roofed granite houses of the Old Town look far more French than North American. Wander among stone buildings and along winding streets lined with shops and restaurants, and stroll on the Terrasse Dufferin taking in the views. The green roof and turrets of Château Frontenac looms majestically behind you, the Lower Town is below, and you can watch the busy river traffic. For an equally stunning perspective, look up at the skyline from the Quebec City – Lévis Ferry (001 877 787 7483; www.traversiers.gouv.qc.ca), worth every penny of the C$5.30 (£2.60) round trip fare. With a population of just under 170,000 (around 95 per cent of which speak French), some fine architecture – such as Basilique Notre Dame (001 418 664 0665; www.patrimoinereligieux. qc.ca), dating from the 17th century – and rich culture, it has a strong case to be the most European city in North America. The run-down old riverside neighbourhoods of the Lower Town have been reborn, with antiques shops, cafés and bistros breathing new life into old buildings.

WHAT Take advantage of the city walls and explore the ramparts. The star-shaped Citadelle (001 418 694 2815; www.lacitadelle.qc.ca) stands guard over the Old Port area. Battlefields Park (better known as the Plains of Abraham) is one of the world’s largest urban parks and overlooks the St Lawrence River. Don’t miss the 83m Montmerency Falls. Good shopping areas include rue St-Jean in the Upper Town (both within and outside the city walls) and the Quartier du Petit-Champlain in the Lower Town. If you prefer mall shopping, make for Laurier Boulevard (about 5km west of Old Québec) where you’ll find four shopping malls in a row. Culture fans are spoilt for choice. Listen to Canada’s oldest orchestra, the Quebec Symphony Orchestra (001 418 643 8486; www.osq.org), and visit the Musée National des Beaux Arts du Québec (001 418 643 2150; www.mnba.qc.ca) or the fascinating Musée de la Civilisation (001 418 643 2158; www.mcq.org). Of the wealth of dining options, sophisticated Laurie Raphael (001 418 692 4555; www.laurieraphael.com ) offers an innovative menu. Panache (at the Auberge Saint-Antoine, see above) is romantic, chic and charming, and offers fine views, and – in an 1820s building – Le Patriarche (001 418 692 5488; www.lepatriarche.com) has a wonderful ambience with service and food to match. Nightlife tends to centre along the Grande- Allée, rue St-Jean, and avenue Cartier.

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