Capital of the Province of Quebec
Historic District of Old Quebec
Defense and port
Location and site
Quebec City occupies a promontory which is located where the St. Lawrence River narrows down before its opens into the estuary, the gulf and the Atlantic Ocean. A narrow strip of land at the foot of the escarpment borders this defense site.
The Citadel, a star-shaped bastioned enclosure, limited the expansion of Quebec’s Upper City. The city’s complex plan, with its multiple angles and axes, adapts to the difficult topography of the 135-hectare site. Narrow streets, often in a rectilinear grid, surround urban squares and parks and offer unexpected views of the river. A main artery runs along the shore. Located near the riverbanks, the oldest areas of the city and their houses date to the 17th and 18th centuries. The Upper City, which makes up a large portion of the historic site, possesses mostly early 19th-century buildings of Neo-Classical inspiration. Among the noteworthy monuments that stand out among the stone house are the Chƒteau Frontenac (1892) and a number of churches and educational institutions. The silver roofs of the Seminary, originally constructed in 1663 and enlarged and restored several times since, continue to reflect the city’s different seasons.
“[…] Quebec’s historic district, including the citadel, the Upper City defended by the walls with bastions and the Lower City with its harbour and old quarters, provides us with an eminent example of a fortified colonial town, which is by far the most complete in North America.” (IV) “The fomer capital of New France, Quebec illustrates one of the major stages in population and growth of the Americas during the modern and contemporary period.” (VI)
- Upon his arrival at the site known today as Quebec City, Samuel de Champlain, its founder, constructed the “habitation” (dwelling) at the foot of the promontory. In 1620, a fort was erected at the summit of this 70 m. high escarpment. The habitation and the fort were the two nuclei around which the city’s future growth was to take place.
- The Upper City (“Haute Ville”) and Lower City (“Basse Ville”) are distinguished by their specific functions: the former became the centre for administrative and religious activities, while the latter was the business centre. After a series of battles over access to fur trading territories, the port of Quebec City enjoyed, thanks to the export of the products of this trade, a first period of growth.
- The threat imposed by the British led to the construction of the fortification walls in 1695. Their reconstruction in 1720 followed the limits of the area known today as the Upper City. By the time of the British Conquest in 1759, the narrow strip of land at the base of the escarpment had been entirely settled.
- The Americans besieged Quebec City in 1775. To prevent further attacks, a citadel overlooking the St. Lawrence River was constructed between 1819 and 1831. By the end of the 19th century, the city’s port was at the peak of its activity.
M. Régis Labeaume
Ville de Québec
2, rue des Jardins, bur. 115
Mme Sarah-Ève Huot
Conseillère en relations internationales
Bureau des relations internationales de la Ville de Québec
2, rue des Jardins
(418) 641-6411 #1512
Mme Odile Roy
Division de l'architecture et du patrimoine Ville de Québec
295, boul. Charest Est 1er étage, bureau 162
+1.418 641.6411 ext. 2120