Quebec City is a jungle gym. You can't go far here without having to climb a staircase, descend a narrow street, or balance precariously on a walkway atop some old city walls. That being said, this city is a Canadian gem. The churches and cobblestone streets of la vielle ville will make you think you're in Europe, while the vistas of the St. Lawrence River will remind you that you are in a uniquely North American space.
Indeed, Quebec has played a pivotal role in North American history. The city was founded in 1608 by the French explorer Samuel de Champlain. Its location along the St. Lawrence River and atop Cap Diament made it a prime area for both fur trading and military defense. The city was an important center in France's New World territory until 1759, when the British conquered the region during the Seven Years' War. Linguistic and cultural differences between the two colonial powers are still plainly evident in the latter-day Canadian city. Over 95% of Quebec's population speaks French natively, and many aspects of architecture and cuisine will make you think you're back in le beau pays. Beyond the old city walls, however, there is a young and thriving cosmopolitan culture. The best places to check this out are along Rue St-Jean and Rue St-Joseph.
For running, there are three routes worth checking out. Head to Battlefields Park for a great hill workout in a historic location. Or, if you're looking to get some extensive flat miles under your legs, the waterfront paths along the St. Lawrence and St. Charles rivers provide runs and views you'll never forget.
- Hills: The Old City sits atop Cap Diament, a steep cliff above the St. Lawrence. You have to climb up it if you want to see Quebec's main historic sights. Be prepared for a thigh-burning workout to get there!
- Language: What we said for Montreal is particularly true here: French is the true lingua franca of the city. While most people can and will speak English in the Old Town, try to mix some pleasantries en francais into your conversation.
- Old-World Beauty: After a couple of hours of wandering the old sections of town, you might forget you're in North America and think you're in Europe. Don't get geographically confused!
In the mood to rent a bike? Try one of the following places:
Cyclo Services - 289 Rue St. Paul
Muséovelo - 463 Rue St-Jean