3 Parks Canada Sites That Bring Québec’s History Alive
Content partner : Parks Canada
The Parks Canada network is full of incredible natural spaces and impressive heritage sites that unlock Canada’s history. Join us on a journey back in time at three of the country’s historical landmarks. These informative and inspiring destinations are an essential part of any trip to eastern Québec.
Grosse Île and the Irish Memorial National Historic Site of Canada
A moving experience of immigration in the 1800s
How did people emigrate to Canada 150 years ago? What did these men and women from Europe have to go through on their quest to build a better life? You’ll find the answers to these questions and more at Grosse Île, the main gateway to Canada from 1832 to 1937 and a quarantine station for the Port of Québec to help tame the epidemics raging at the time.
Visitors to Grosse Île and the Irish Memorial National Historic Site can take a step-by-step tour and relive the experience of the tens of thousands of immigrants who passed through here on the way to a new life in the New World. The stories behind the buildings and artifacts are brought to life by Parks Canada guides. See what life was really like for immigrants and residents on Grosse Île, from medical inspections on arrival to the hospital complex and the red isolation room, or lazaretto, where you’ll definitely want to check out the fascinating exhibit on the dawn of the modern medical era.
Meet characters such as “Pit” Masson, who drove the horse-drawn ambulance, and nurse Sarah Wade, who worked in the disinfection building, as you follow the interpretive trail. History is sometimes painful, and the testimonies you’ll hear along the way bring it all to life.
Don’t miss the opportunity to take in the stunning scenery of the St. Lawrence River islands. Boat tours with AML Cruises leave from Berthier-sur-Mer, just 45 minutes from Québec City. There is no food service on the island, so bring a packed lunch. Another tip: Be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes and dress for the weather. If you’re feeling peckish once you get back on land at Berthier-sur-Mer, we recommend the scrumptious poutine and smoked meats served with a smile and a river view at Théo BBQ.
Fortifications of Québec National Historic Site
A gorgeous UNESCO World Heritage Site
Old Québec’s vast and remarkably well-preserved heritage is utterly unique in North America and has earned Québec City a UNESCO World Heritage designation. First-time visitors to the continent’s only fortified city north of Mexico should start where it all began, at the Fortifications of Québec National Historic Site.
Listen to a Parks Canada outreach presenter as you soak up the city’s 400-year history and feast your eyes on incredible views of the city, the St. Lawrence River, and the surrounding area to get the lay of the land. The path atop the fortifications is 4.6 km (about 2.8 miles) long and bears witness to a rich military past, telling the history of Québec City’s defence system from the 17th to the 19th century. Get a feel for the days of French and English rule through the city’s most iconic landmarks, such as the Citadelle of Québec; the Saint-Louis, Kent, and Saint-Jean gates; the Dauphine Redoubt; Esplanade Park; and Artillery Park.
Discover Québec City’s impressive heritage through a series of historical anecdotes on a two-hour guided tour and learn how the city combined Indigenous, French, British, and North American cultures to carve out an identity all its own. Don’t miss this walking tour of the entire historic district. It’s a great way to learn about Old Québec and meet the proud people who call it home.
Saint-Louis Forts and Châteaux National Historic Site
History under your feet at Dufferin Terrace
Get a behind-the-scenes view of Québec’s history at Saint-Louis Forts and Châteaux National Historic Site. Under magnificent Dufferin Terrace, at the foot of Château Frontenac, the remains of the Saint-Louis forts and castles reveal their secrets. Head down the stairs to explore an archaeological crypt showcasing more than 120 artifacts dating back to 1608, when Samuel de Champlain founded Québec City.
The national site formerly housed four forts and two castles and was the official residence and seat of power of colonial governors between 1620 and 1834. An entire chapter of America’s history has been written here, including more than 200 years of diplomatic relations between Europeans and First Nations. This long history of political, military, and trade alliances between peoples is the subject of a new exhibition designed by Parks Canada in partnership with the Huron-Wendat Nation. Visitors will come away with a new understanding of the values that defined the vastly contrasting European and First Nations cultures, starting from the early days of New France.
The captivating exhibition is fully accessible. Visitors can choose to take a guided tour, listen to an audio tour, or simply view each exhibit at their own pace. Plan to pay a modest entry fee and spend about an hour soaking up history before your very eyes. Pro tip: You’ll be just a stone’s throw from Pierre-Dugua-De Mons Terrace, so be sure to head there afterwards for one of the best views of Québec City and the St. Lawrence River. Walk over via Dufferin Terrace, and don’t forget your camera!