Point of interest
Ville de Québec
Place Royale is where Samuel de Champlain founded the City of Québec in 1608. With buildings that combine French and British influences and the oldest stone church in North America, the square has a charm all its own.
This is the precise location where Samuel de Champlain built the first permanent French settlement in the Americas. Erected in 1608, his first abitation was a fort, store, trading post, and residence all rolled into one. That’s why Place Royal is considered the cradle of French North America.
The varied architecture reflects the successive periods of French and British colonization. A few steel and glass structures reflect current 21st century trends.
The perfectly restored houses that surround Place Royale have become restaurants with patios and stores that sell souvenirs, crafts, and more.
What to do at Place Royale
- Take a break in Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church. Erected in 1688, it’s the oldest stone church in North America.
- See the outline of Samuel de Champlain’s second house. It’s on the ground near the church.
- Take pictures of the magnificent historic buildings in a square that symbolizes the birth of French North America.
- Pull up a chair on the patio at Maison Smith, a fine café where you can soak up the square’s unique charm and history.
- See the bust of Louis XIV, the reigning king when New France was founded.
- Take an evening stroll in the winter when the snow’s falling. It’s simply magical!
The History of Place Royale
During the French regime, up until 1686, Place Royale was known as Place du Marché (Market Square) and served primarily as a marketplace. Of course, Indigenous peoples had been coming there well before the first Europeans arrived. The oldest traces of Indigenous activity on the site indicate that small nomadic groups spent time there hunting, fishing, and gathering.
In 1682, a terrible fire consumed all of the buildings first erected by the French, which were made of wood. The authorities then compelled the owners to rebuild their houses in stone, with common walls higher than the roofs as a fire barrier—a feature that still exists today.
A few years later, in 1686, a bust of Louis XIV was installed by the intendant of New France as per French custom. That’s when Place du Marché became Place Royale. In 1700, market vendors put the bust in storage, saying it got in the way during deliveries.
In 1759 the buildings were damaged once again during the Battle of Québec, only to be rebuilt under the British regime. The market was moved to another part of the city and the neighbourhood slowly and sadly declined until the mid 1900s.
Thanks to extensive work in the 1960s and 70s, Place Royale has been restored to its former glory—bust of Louis XIV and all—and has new businesses, the better to welcome locals and visitors from the four corners of the globe.
Church Construction of Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church began in 1688, which makes it one of the oldest churches in North America. It was built on the ruins of Samuel de Champlain’s first home. Unfortunately it was damaged by bombardments during the Battle of Québec, but was rebuilt according to the original plans in 1763. A service is still held there every Sunday at 11 a.m. and visitors are welcome.
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