Point of interest
This outdoor staircase, the oldest in Québec City, dates back to the beginning of the French colony. Many tourists take photographs at this location, as it affords a wonderful view of one of Canada's most picturesque streets: rue du Petit-Champlain.
The 59 steps of the Breakneck Stairs connecting côte de la Montagne to rue du Petit-Champlain are just one of the ways to move between Upper and Lower Town.
As you gaze down upon Petit-Champlain, a charming pedestrian street stretching along the foot of the cliff, you would think you were looking at a postcard come to life. In the winter, the scene is even more sublime when Christmas lights are twinkling and the snow gently falling.
What to do at the Breakneck Stairs?
- In the summer, the ultimate experience on the Stairs consists of eating or having a drink at one of the restaurant terraces located on the different landings.
- At any time of the year, you can have your picture taken on any of the landings to have a personalized postcard made.
The History of the Breakneck Staircase
In 1620, Samuel de Champlain, the founder of Québec City, decided to build his home at the top of Cape Diamant. He then drew a road, côte de la Montagne, which still follows the same route today. A path was then created to bypass a steep incline. French colonial authorities then had stairs and landings built, and this structure was called the "Champlain Stairs" or "Beggar's Stairs."
In 1893, the wooden staircase was replaced by a larger iron one with three bannisters. The one in place today dates back to the late 1960s. It was at this time that it became known as the Breakneck Staircase (escalier Casse-cou in French), a term coined by British tour guides. No serious injuries have been reported on the stairs, despite their ominous name!