For the city bearing the same name see Quebec City.
Quebec (French: Québec) is a province in Canada, the largest in size and second only to Ontario in population. French is the first language of a majority of Quebecois and the sole official language of the province, making it the only Canadian province that is officially monolingual in French. Quebec is situated east of Ontario; to the west of Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island; to the south of the territory of Nunavut, and borders the United States in the south. The provincial capital of Quebec is Quebec City, the province's largest city is Montreal, the second largest city in Canada.
While surrounded by English-speaking lands, Quebec is one of the few parts of North America with a preserved French heritage and language.
While nearly all of the 8 million inhabitants live in southern Quebec, on the plains along the St Lawrence River, the majority of the province consists of sub-arctic forests, where most of the inhabitants belong to the First Nations or Inuit.
The Quebec side of the Ottawa River with mountains, forests and plenty of outdoors activities. Gatineau, as part of the National Capital Region, has many fine museums.
|Montreal and Southwestern Quebec (Montreal, Montérégie, Eastern Townships, Laurentians, Lanaudière)|
The culturally rich and lively city of Montreal plus its suburbs. South of the St. Lawrence River, there are small towns, farmland, lakes and hills. Parts of the area were settled by Loyalists from the American Revolution giving the area a bit of a New England feel. The mountains north of the river are Montréal's playground.
|Quebec City and Central Quebec (Quebec Region, Centre-du-Québec, Chaudière-Appalaches, Mauricie, Charlevoix)|
This is the heartland of Quebec. Quebec City is the capital of the province with a European feel and charming Old Town. To the southwest is the prime agricultural region of the province.
|Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean (Chicoutimi-Jonquière, Lac-Saint-Jean)|
A very distinctive region of Quebec with its own culture, accent and geography. The region is highlighted by one of the few fjords on the east coast of Canada.
|Southeastern Quebec (Gaspé Peninsula, Bas-Saint-Laurent, Îles-de-la-Madeleine)|
The rugged coastal region of Quebec east of Quebec City and south of the St. Lawrence River with small towns and villages hugging the coast. The Gaspé is considered particularly scenic.
|North Shore |
The rugged coastal region northeast of the Saguenay River on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River.
|Northern Quebec (Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Baie-James, Nunavik)|
The sparsely inhabited north and northwestern region of the province, with logging and mining towns and hydro-electric projects, as well as Inuit and other Native communities.
- 1 Quebec City - Capital city of Quebec and cultural centre.
- 2 Gaspé - Small city on the ruggedly beautiful Atlantic peninsula of the same name.
- 3 Gatineau - All the advantages of a big city without the inconveniences. Just outside Ottawa.
- 4 Magog - Popular vacation town on Memphrémagog Lake, base for exploring the Eastern Townships
- 5 Montreal - Quebec's largest city, cultural and financial centre.
- 6 Mont-Tremblant - Skiing, camping, and hiking at this mountain resort town.
- 7 Saguenay - Gateway to the North. From here, head west to gather blueberries around Lac St. Jean or east to see the whales from Tadoussac.
- 8 Sherbrooke - Largest city in the Eastern Townships.
- 9 Trois-Rivières - Located halfway between Montréal and Quebec City on the St. Lawrence River.
- 1 Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré - Large, elaborate church east of Quebec City, near Montmorency Falls and the pastoral Île d'Orléans
- 2 Sept-Îles - Departure point for the railway to Labrador City and the ferry to Anticosti
The province has a colourful history, which moulded its distinctive identity from the rest of Canada; the Quebecois strived to protect their French-speaking culture and society distinct from the British-influenced mainstream culture on the rest of the country.
The areas forming the present province are historically inhabited by First Nations and Inuit until its discovery by European explorers. Quebec became a French colony for more than two centuries, between the arrival of Jacques Cartier in 1534 and Governor Vaudreuil’s capitulation to the English in 1760, after the French defeat in the French and Indian War.
The colony was ceded into the British, but the new colonial administration agreed to allow the locals to continue using the French language. In 1791, Quebec became part of Lower Canada, which included also include Labrador (now part of Newfoundland and Labrador); but, policies favouring English-speakers have caused numerous French Canadian rebellions against the predominantly Protestant British government, most notably under Louis-Joseph Papineau. Quebec's plight under British administration continued as other rebellions are quelled and French Canadians emigrated to the United States, leading into anti-British resentment that led to the Quebec nationalist movement.
Quebec joined Confederation in 1867 through George-Étienne Cartier. Labrador became part of Newfoundland, then a British dominion independent from Canada. Quebec's territory further expanded after the Dominion purchased Rupert's Land, then owned by the Hudson's Bay Conpany (HBC). Montreal boomed as immigrants and rural dwellers entered. Roman Catholicism influenced the Quebecois lifestyle by controlling education and healthcare, and encouraging them to raise large families and women to serve as nuns. As migrants from Italy and Greece assimilated into English-speaking society, French speakers became a minority and Francophone resentment against the English-speaking majority continued toward the early and mid 20th century. Quebecois nationalism further flourished under premier Maurice Duplessis, who promoted a Catholic, rural, French-speaking Quebecois culture, but opposed sovereignty.
After Duplessis' death in 1959, Jean Lesage took over as premier and led the Quiet Revolution in the 1960s, which saw the rise of the modern Quebecois society, and also changed the political landscape of the province. Education and healthcare became a provincial responsibility, the electricity sector became a state enterprise through the founding of Hydro-Québec, and Quebecois society became secularized. Birth rates began to drop below replacement levels. Politics of Quebec began to focus on sovereignty, demanding the secession of Quebec from Canada. Violent extremist attempts to achieve independence occurred through the late 1960s, culminating with the October Crisis in 1970, which ended most armed militant support for sovereignty. Quebec invested in more infrastructure like high speed highways (autoroutes) and hydroelectric power plants, most notably the James Bay Project. Political sovereignty garnered support under René Lévesque, who formed the separatist Parti Quebecois and won the 1976 provincial election.
Lévesque passed the Charter of the French Language (known as Bill 101) in 1978, which made French the only official language in Quebec, severely limited the use of English and other languages in the public sphere, and created the controversial Office québécois de la langue française, or derisively called the "language police" by Anglophones. The first sovereignty referendum happened in 1980, which appealed for the creation of an independent Quebec, but was rejected by a 60% majority.
In the 1980s, Quebec stood alone in refusing to agree to the 1982 Canadian constitution. Attempts to amend the constitution in 1990 and 1992 to get Quebec's agreement failed. In 1990, the Oka Crisis, a highly publicized conflict between Mohawk First Nations and the Quebec government, occurred, changing the general treatment of indigenous peoples in the long term. Another independence referendum was held in 1995, which was again defeated by a small margin.
Quebec is Canada’s second most populous province. It has 8 million inhabitants, including 6.4 million (approx. 80%) whose mother tongue is French.
French is the mother tongue of 82% of Quebecers (Québécois), and English is the mother tongue of 10% of the population. The remaining 8% is divided among "Allophones" who speak some 30 languages such as, in order of importance, Italian, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese and Greek. However, it is very easy to travel in Quebec speaking only English, especially in Montreal, and to a lesser extent, Quebec City. In fact, over 40% of the population is bilingual. In major cities like Montréal, this percentage is as high as 64%, and 16% of the population speaks a third language. As in any country, beginning a conversation in the local language is always a great way of making friends. Quebecers appreciate efforts made to speak French.
The majority of the population lives in the vicinity of the St. Lawrence River, in the southern portion of the province. The population is largely urbanized; close to 50% of Quebecers live in the metropolitan area of Montreal.
Quebec provincial politics are dominated by the centre-left Liberal Party, the Quebec separatist and social democratic Parti Québécois (PQ), and the conservative Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ). The CAQ, which has governed since 2018, has renounced secessionism and instead calls for more autonomy for Quebec within the Canadian federation.
There are four distinct seasons in Quebec, offering a wonderful view of the nature and variety of activities.
- Summer (June to September): Summers in Quebec are hot but the season offers many festivals and outdoor activities.
- Fall (September to end of October): The leaves change colour in Quebec, creating breathtakingly colourful landscapes.
- Winter (November to end of March): Quebec’s extremely low temperatures and abundance of snowfall makes skiing, snowboarding, tobogganing, snowmobiling and dogsledding possible. In December, Quebec’s vast outdoors turns into a snow-covered white dreamland. March and April mark the maple syrup festivities in the sugar shacks, as the maple trees awaken from the winter cold and prepare for the forthcoming springtime.
- Spring (April and May): While April may still be relatively cold at times and another large snowfall can occur, April feels like winter is at, long last, over. As May approaches, nature awakens, trees start to bloom and the air warms, welcoming everybody to a magnificent, colourful outdoor scenery.
- See also: French phrasebook
Canada is officially bilingual at the federal level, meaning that all federal government official documents, signs, and tourist information will be presented in French and English. Staff at retail shops, restaurants and tourist attractions will often speak English, especially in Montreal. Smaller establishments, especially outside Montreal, may not offer services in English but try their best to accommodate travellers. About 8% of the province's residents speak English as a mother tongue, and an additional 31% consider that they can get by speaking it. All offices of the federal government are required by law to provide services in French and English.
The official language of Quebec, however, is French. Provincial government signs (highway signs, government buildings, hospitals, etc.) are generally posted in French only. Services at provincial and municipal government offices are also often available in French only, though they are available in English in areas with significant Anglophone (English-speaking) populations. Tourist information is offered in English and other languages. The visibility of commercial signs and billboards in English and other languages is restricted by law (except for English-language media and cultural venues such as theatres, cinemas and bookstores). Most businesses will not have signs in English except in tourist areas and localities with a large English-speaking population. Language is a very sensitive subject politically, particularly in Montreal. If you cannot read a sign in a store or restaurant, most sales people will be sympathetic and help you find your way. Most restaurants in tourist areas will supply English menus if asked. In general, you should always begin the conversation in French, and ask if the person can speak English. Assuming that the person can speak English is considered to be very rude.
82% of Quebec’s population is francophone, but English is also commonly spoken, particularly in the province’s major cities such as Montreal where the percentage is 24%. For French-speaking people from elsewhere, the French spoken in Quebec is often difficult to understand. Books have been published on Quebec expressions, and these may be worth consulting if you are planning to stay in Québec for any length of time.
Isolated from France for centuries, and unaffected by that country's 19th-century language standardization, Quebec has developed its own "accent" of French similar to the one on the Atlantic coast of France in the 16th century, a kind of time capsule. The continental variety—called "international French" or français international here—is well-understood and used to a certain degree, e.g. in broadcast media and among the international business community. Nonetheless, European tourists may feel lost until they grow accustomed to the local accents and idioms.
There are a few main differences between Québécois French and continental French-from-France. One is that in Quebec it's relatively common to tutoyer (use the familiar tu second-person pronoun instead of vous when saying you) for all, regardless of age or status (though there are common exceptions to this in the workplace and the classroom). In France, it would be considered impolite. The unrelated interrogative particle -tu is used to form yes-or-no questions, as in On y va-tu? "Shall we go?" Finally, there are a number of vocabulary words that differ, particularly in very informal contexts (for example, un char for a car, rather than une voiture), and some common expressions (C'est beau [literally It's nice] for "OK" or "fine"). Overall, however, pronunciation marks the most significant difference between Quebec and European French.
Probably the most puzzling difference in Quebec's French is that one will often sacrer (blaspheme or swear) rather than using scatological or sexual curse words. Terms like baptême (baptism) or viarge (deformation of vierge, virgin) have become slangy and taboo over the centuries in this once fervently Catholic culture. Hostie de tabarnac! ("communion wafer of the tabernacle!") or just tabarnak! is one of the most obscene things to say, and more polite versions like tabarnouche or tabarouette are equivalent to "darn" or "fudge!"
Although sacre may seem funny, be assured that Quebecers, particularly the older generation, do take it seriously. Don't sacre any time you don't really mean it! But be sure that younger Quebeckers may be fond of teaching you a little sacrage lesson if you ask them.
English-speaking Quebecers are generally bilingual and reside mostly in the Montreal area, where 25% of the population speaks English at home. Aside from the occasional borrowing of local French terms (dépanneur as opposed to corner store or convenience store), their English differs little from standard Canadian English, including the occasional "eh" at the end of the sentence; accents are influenced heavily by ethnicity, with distinct Irish, Italian, Jewish, and Greek inflections heard in Montreal neighbourhoods. Conversations between anglophones and francophones often slip unconsciously between English and French as a mutual show of respect. This can be confusing if you're not bilingual, and a look of puzzlement will generally signal a switch back to a language everyone can understand.
Although English-speakers will usually greet strangers in French, it is considered pretentious and overzealous for a native English-speaker to continue a conversation in French with other English speakers (though two Francophones will easily converse together in English when in a room of Anglophones). Local English-speakers may also refer to street names by their English names as opposed to the posted French names, but this is getting rarer (for example, Mountain Street for rue de la Montagne, Pine Avenue for avenue des Pins).
Some French-language radio stations, including those with "classic rock" formats, play up to 50% English-language music but announce everything in French.
There is one daily English-language broadsheet newspaper (Montreal Gazette) in Montreal and a few English-language radio stations, which play very little French-language music (typically 5%, with no French-language announcements).
In the extreme north of the province, Inuktitut is the main language spoken due to the prevalence of Inuit people. Some people living on First Nations (Aboriginal) reserves in the southwest speak the Mohawk language. Nevertheless, most people are able to speak French and English as well.
Like the rest of Canada, Quebec, particularly Montreal, is home to migrant communities from all over the world and some neighbourhoods may have a primary language other than French or English. Services are often available in Chinese at shops and banks in Montreal's Chinatown.
Short-term visitors such as tourists and business travellers, as well as international students, are subject to the same rules as the rest of Canada. Quebec has been given autonomy in selecting its own migrants by the Canadian government, meaning that immigration rules differ slightly from the rest of Canada. Those who plan to work or immigrate will, in general, have to first apply for and receive approval from the Quebec government before they can lodge their visa application with the Canadian government.
There are flights to Quebec from major cities in North America, Europe, Northern Africa, the Middle East and China. Montreal is a 70-minute flight from New York and is less than 6 hours and 45 minutes by air from London or Paris.
Quebec has two major international airports: Montreal's Trudeau International Airport, which has direct flights to most major Canadian and U.S. cities, and to European destinations (including daily flights to Paris, London and Frankfurt), is located in the suburb of Dorval, about 30 minutes from downtown. Quebec City's Jean Lesage Airport is much smaller but also serves several Canadian and US destinations (including Toronto, New York (Newark), Chicago and Detroit), as well as Paris (Air France and Air Transat). Jean Lesage Airport is located in L'Ancienne-Lorette, about 25 minutes drive west of downtown Quebec City. Gatineau only has a tiny local airport as most of its intercity traffic is routed through nearby Ottawa.
Montreal's former Mirabel International Airport is no longer in passenger use.
The days when immigrants arrived in Québec by boat via the quarantine station at Grosse Isle are long over, but visitors with a bit of time can enjoy any one of the many cruises available along the St. Lawrence River.
Numerous cruise lines offer routes that sail the Saint Lawrence. Cruise companies include these routes in their Canadian and New England destinations. The port of embarkation and debarkation for most of these itineraries are New York, Boston, Montreal and Quebec City. Depending on the individual cruise, their itineraries include stops in Montréal, Quebec City, Trois-Rivières, Saguenay, Baie-Comeau, Havre-Saint-Pierre, Sept-Îles, the Gaspésie, and the Îles de la Madeleine.
CTMA operates a daily cruise-ferry during the summer (and less frequently at other times of the year) from Souris, PEI to Cap-aux-Meules, Quebec. as a means to access the Magdalen Islands (Îles de la Madeleine), which are part of Quebec but not easy to reach without leaving the province.
Labrador Marine operates up to three ferries daily from St. Barbe, Newfoundland to Blanc-Sablon, Quebec (near Forteau, Labrador). In winter (January through April) the southern terminus is Corner Brook, more distant with corresponding penalties in crossing time and price. As it's not possible to drive directly west toward Sept-Îles from Blanc-Sablon (for 450-500km from Kagaska to Vieux-Fort, the road simply does not exist), this interprovincial crossing carries primarily intraprovincial traffic within Newfoundland and Labrador. In theory, there are two ways to go elsewhere in Quebec from Blanc Sablon without going through three of the four Atlantic provinces, but neither is easy:
- Leave the province to Labrador. Follow the Trans-Labrador Highway from Forteau to Happy Valley-Goose Bay, then head west on the Trans-Labrador Highway through Labrador City. A primitive gravel highway (NL500, Quebec Route 389) leads south to eventually reach Baie-Comeau, a long journey on poor quality roads with few services. If 410 km is posted as the distance to the next filling station in this section of Labrador, they are not joking.
- Board a coastal ferry or an Air Labrador aircraft westward from Blanc-Sablon, which stops in various tiny Québec villages on the north side of the Gulf of St. Lawrence which have no road. The plane flies to the end of the main road at Kegasha; the weekly coastal ferry continues westward, eventually arriving in Sept-Îles or Anticosti on its way to Rimouski.
There are various local ferries which cross the Ottawa River from Ontario into Quebec, typically at points (like Cumberland-Masson) where crossing into Québec by bridge would require driving to a larger centre like Ottawa, Hawkesbury or Pembroke,
From the US, the Amtrak "Adirondack" runs from New York City once a day, with stops connecting to bus routes serving upstate New York. The trip is a scenic 6 hours along the Hudson River, but be prepared for delays at the border that can tack on 2–3 hours to the trip.
VIA Rail Canada, the federal passenger railway, operates numerous trains daily from Toronto and Ottawa to Montreal, with multiple connections to Quebec City. They also run a daily train from Halifax, Nova Scotia, stopping in Moncton, New Brunswick into Montréal. A more scenic route follows the Gaspe Peninsula. Significant discounts are available to youths and to university students carrying as ISIC Card (International Student Identity Card).
Tshiuetin Rail Transportation operates two trains weekly which pass through unpopulated Emeril, Labrador on their route to Sept-Îles from Schefferville, Quebec.
Megabus (Coach Canada) operates frequent motorcoach service from Toronto into Montreal. Voyageur, an affiliate of Greyhound Canada, operates hourly motorcoach service from Ottawa into Montreal. There is also limited transportation service from Ottawa into Grand-Remous, Que. via Autobus Gatineau, as well as from North Bay, Ontario. into Rouyn-Noranda via Autobus Maheux. Maritime Bus provides service to Rivière-du-Loup from Moncton with connections to Halifax.
Within Ottawa-Hull interprovincial travel is possible by local bus. Multiple STO (Outaouais) buses stop in Ottawa-Lowertown, follow Wellington Street past Parliament Hill then take the Pont du Portage back into Hull. OCTranspo 8 stops at Terrasses de la Chaudière in Hull. Additional buses run during peak hours.
From Northern Ontario and points westward, the Trans-Canada Highway very closely follows the Ontario-Quebec border through Pembroke and Ottawa on its way to Montréal. At various points, one can cross the Ottawa River by bridge or ferry; most of these crossings connect to Québec Route 148 (and Autoroute 50 from Hull-Gatineau eastward) to follow the river on the other side. One can also enter far to the north from Ontario Highway 66 (near Cochrane), which becomes Route 117 near the town of Rouyn. Another point at the western edge of the province, Abitibi-Témiscamingue, is reachable in a couple of hours from North Bay, Ontario by road.
From the east, Trans-Canada Highway 2 runs from Moncton and Fredericton and becomes Route 185 where it continues towards Rivière-du-Loup; from there, one can turn either east toward the tip of the Gaspé Peninsula or west toward Quebec City. New Brunswick Route 11 also enters Quebec near Campbellton, feeding into Route 132.
From Labrador, the Trans-Labrador Highway crosses into Québec at both of its endpoints, Labrador City-Fermont and Forteau-Blanc Sablon. Quebec Route 389 from Fermont to Baie-Comeau is rough gravel with (mostly) no services from Fermont to Manic 5. There is no road from Blanc-Sablon/Vieux-Fort to Kegasha, a 450km gap bridged by a weekly coastal ferry.
From the United States, there are many border crossings (too numerous to list) from New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. From New York City and other cities farther south along Interstate 95, the principal artery is Interstate 87, which enters from the town of Champlain and continues as Autoroute 15. From Boston the best option is through Vermont, from Interstate 89 toward Montreal, or Interstate 91 (Autoroute 55) to Sherbrooke, Drummondville and Trois-Rivières. The more rural options are farther north and east; US Route 3 runs north from New Hampshire and can enter via Route 253 or 141 near Pittsburg/Chartierville, or farther north to Route 257. State Route 27 runs from Maine's ski resorts in the Carrabassett and Androscoggin valleys to Route 263 near Lac-Mégantic, while Quebec's northmost international port of entry is US Route 201, which becomes Route 173 toward Saint-Georges.
Québec has a vast road and air network that makes it easy to travel between cities.
Using air transportation to travel between the different cities in Quebec (Gatineau-Québec City, Montréal-Québec City, Montréal-Bagotville) is possible but usually too expensive to be worthwhile. Air travel is indispensable for getting around northern Québec (except for the Baie-James region, which is served by a paved highway), because there are no highways or railways serving these remote areas.
Trains run infrequently (compared to Europe). There are no high-speed trains in Quebec. Buses are usually cheaper, with more daily connections.
- VIA Rail offers train service along the St. Lawrence River, up the Saguenay and across the Gaspé Peninsula to New Brunswick. VIA is Québec's only intercity passenger train carrier.
- AMT runs Montreal's suburban commuter trains.
- Orford Express, a Magog-Sherbrooke dinner train.
- Tshiuetin Rail Transportation, ☏ , toll-free: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 10-12 hr of spectacular scenery from Sept-Îles to Schefferville, an otherwise-inaccessible mining community in northern Québec. This line is owned by three First Nations (Aboriginal) groups. This line does not connect to the rest of the North American rail system
The main way to travel between cities is by bus. The bus network is very well developed, particularly for connections between Quebec City-Montreal, Ottawa-Montreal and Toronto-Montreal. Buying tickets and making seat reservations is a good idea, particularly for Friday evening or holiday travel, but same-day ticket purchase is also possible.
Within cities, public transit tends to be good by North American standards, though showing the signs of insufficient public funding.
Renting a car and driving around Canada poses no particular problem, even in the cities. However, it is best to arrange the rental from where you are coming. Read the rental contract carefully, particularly the section on insurance. Often, you can rent a car in one city and return it in another without prohibitive costs.
Quebec has a good network of (mostly) toll-free highways connecting all the main cities and surrounding areas. There are a couple of toll bridges (Autoroute 25 northbound from Montreal to Laval, and the Autoroute 30 bypass to cross the St. Lawrence River west of Montreal). Fuel taxes are higher in Quebec than in neighbouring Canadian provinces, which in turn are overpriced relative to the US border states. Fuel prices in Montreal and Quebec City (the largest cities) are particularly bad: gasoline on Montréal Island often costs 10¢ a litre more than in Vaudreuil-Dorion.
A note for European tourists: in Quebec, the highway speed limit is 100 km/h. (It was once generally tolerated up to 120 km/h when passing a radar, but the province is increasingly using photo radar.)
The Quebec highway code is similar to that practised in most of Europe. A couple of differences are that traffic lights are often located across the intersection, not at the side, and you are not allowed to turn right on a red light on the Island of Montreal or where otherwise indicated. At stop signs, every one advances in turn, based on the order in which the cars arrived at the stop sign. Roundabouts are very rare. Occasionally, tickets are issued for bizarre offences like "backing up without assistance" which do not exist in other provinces.
Numerous cruises are available on the St. Lawrence River, one of the world’s biggest waterways.
West of Montreal, a ferry crossing connects Hudson to Oka across the Ottawa (Outaouais) River.
From the centre of Quebec-Lévis downriver to the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, the river widens and ferries become necessary as there are no bridges; a ferry crossing is also necessary to reach Tadoussac from Saint-Siméon on the north shore and to reach the Magdalen Islands, which politically are part of Quebec despite their proximity to Prince Edward Island. Coastal ferries are also needed to reach a few small, isolated communities east of Kegasha.
Quebec boasts that its 5200 km (3200 miles) of snowmobile trails (pistes de motoneige) cover much of the province, eastward to Gaspésie and west to Northern Ontario. The Ski-Doo line of snowmobiles were invented in tiny Valcourt by Québécois inventor Joseph-Armand Bombardier. In a few isolated communities in the high Arctic, the snowmobile is the primary native transport; elsewhere, it is a popular recreational vehicle, with many local clubs and organizations dedicated to snowmobiling and maintenance of the trail network.
For people travelling in small groups and wanting to keep their costs down (primarily students), Kangaride, Allô Stop and Quebec-Express are a great alternative to any of the transportation methods mentioned above. They are ride sharing (carpooling) networks serving most of Quebec’s major cities. To access this service, register online (or at one of the offices (registration costs $6) for Allô-stop). Then you can reserve your spot in a car belonging to someone who is travelling to the same destination as you—sometimes for up to half the price of the bus. The only inconvenience with this system is that it doesn’t serve every city, so some areas are not accessible using this method.
"La route verte" comprises 3,600 km of bikeways linking the various regions of Quebec. Parts of the route are on the Trans Canada Trail that crosses Canada from coast to coast to coast. One can visit several regions by bicycle and find local accommodations near the bike paths.
Quebec’s winding, scenic secondary roads are ideal for a motorcycle ride. However, in southern Quebec, the best season for travelling by motorcycle is limited to between May and October. In remote areas, the nicest season is two months shorter than that, running from June to September. In the last few years, taking to Quebec’s roads by motorcycle has become increasingly popular. The province boasts several motorcycle clubs, and visiting tourists can rent motorcycles.
Quebec’s motorcyclists share a special fraternity. If your motorcycle breaks down, you certainly won’t remain stranded on the roadside for long before another motorcyclist stops to help. So don’t be surprised to see other motorcyclists wave to you on the road or spontaneously engage in conversation at a rest stop.
- Provincial Parks. Quebec has 22 provincial parks (known as national parks in French and in English documentation). They vary from smallish, easily accessible preserves to massive tracts of remote near-wildnerness and everything in between.
- Jardins de Metis (Reford Gardens), 200, route 132, Grand-Métis (located on route 132 mid-way between Rimouski and Matane), ☏ , fax: . See website for hours. An internationally renowned centre for garden art and design. $16 adults, $8 young adult.
- Montmorency Falls. A beautiful natural waterfall right outside Quebec City, taller than Niagara Falls.
Sites and attractions
Québec has a number of sites and attractions.
- Gardens: the Montreal Botanical Garden, the Insectarium, Reford Gardens and the international garden festival in Gaspésie are among Québec’s garden attractions.
- Museums: Quebec has over 400 museums.
- Religious heritage: St. Joseph’s Oratory, the Basilique Notre-Dame-de-Québec.
- Historical sites: the fortifications of Quebec City, Old Montreal. There is a limited historic district in Trois-Rivières, portions of which were lost to fire in the early 1900s.
Quebec offers many activities including sports and outdoor recreation, cultural and natural sites, festivals and events.
Tours and activities
- Casinos: Quebec has four casinos: Montreal, Charlevoix, Lac-Leamy (Hull) and Mont-Tremblant.
- Cruises: Quebec offers a variety of cruises, whether for whale watching, travelling the St. Lawrence River or touring the waterways. Good points from which to see whales include Tadoussac, Rivière-du-Loup and Rimouski near the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
- Theme parks: La Ronde, the Old Port of Montreal and of Quebec City, the Village Québécois d’Antan (a Drummondville pioneer village living museum), Granby Zoo. There is a zoo (St. Félicien) and tourist ghost town (Val-Jalbert) in the Lac St. Jean region.
Sports and outdoors
There are many sports and outdoor activities in Quebec that can be enjoyed summer and/or winter:
- Hunting and fishing
- Snowmobiling. An extensive network of trails covers almost the entire province.
- National parks, both provincial and federal. Quebec has more land area than any other Canadian province, but fewer people than Ontario; much of the population is concentrated in a corridor which follows the St. Lawrence River through Montreal and Quebec City. This leaves large areas relatively untouched; for instance, Anticosti is more than a hundred miles of provincial park with one tiny village (Port Menier, pop. 250), an angler's and hunter's delight.
- Wildlife observation is possible in many of the untouched regions of the province, some of which extend right to the Atlantic Ocean.
- Water sports
- ATV riding
- Skiing. Much of Quebec is mountainous; popular ski areas include the Laurentian Mountains north of Montréal and sites near Magog in the Eastern Townships. Quebec holds its own quite well against its southern neighbour, Vermont, in this regard. Ottawans often head north to Camp Fortune or beyond to enjoy Quebec's downhill ski slopes.
- Cycling. In some regions, the paths of former railway lines have been transformed into cycle or nature trails.
Festivals and events
Quebecers are known for their festive spirit and taste for celebration. This explains the close to 400 festivals held each year in Quebec. Québec’s events are varied, from sports to cultural events and festivals, and attract visitors from around the world.
- Montréal International Jazz Festival. With over 500 concerts, 350 of them presented free outdoors, the Montreal International Jazz Festival features the top Canadian and international ambassadors of jazz (end of June to beginning of July).
- Just For Laughs Festival. Montreal’s Just For Laughs Festival is the largest comedy festival in the world and attracts over 2 million spectators each year for comedy in English and French (July).
- Francofolies de Montréal. The largest Francophone music festival, the Francofolies de Montréal, features over 1,000 artists, singing stars, musicians and emerging talent from some 20 countries around the world (end of July to beginning of August).
- Les Concerts Loto-Québec de l'OSM dans les Parcs. These three concerts by the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal (OSM) are presented in Montreal parks in a family atmosphere (June and July).
- L'International des Feux Loto-Québec. The International des Feux Loto-Québec presented at La Ronde draws the largest pyrotechnics companies from around the world. Each show lasts 30 minutes, and the fireworks competition is the most prestigious and largest in the world (every Wednesday and Saturday evening from the end of June to the end of July).
- International Flora/Le festival de jardins de Montréal. The International Flora lets you visit the loveliest gardens on the festival site itself (end of June to beginning of September).
- Festival international Nuits d'Afrique. The international-calibre Festival Nuits d'Afrique features music from Africa, the West Indies and the Caribbean, along with workshops, an African market and exotic cuisine (month of July).
- Québec City Summer Festival. For 40 years, the Quebec City Summer Festival has been presenting hundreds of artists from around the world on ten sites around the capital, all easily accessible on foot (beginning of July).
- Loto-Québec International Fireworks Competition. This international musical fireworks competition takes place at the Montmorency Falls (end of July to beginning of August).
- Plein Art Québec. Over 100 craftspeople gather at the Plein Art Québec festival to exhibit Quebec arts and craft creations in ceramics, textile and jewellery (beginning of August).
- SAQ New France Festival. A celebration of the history of the first Europeans to arrive in North America, the New France Festival presents over 1,000 artistic events every year in a journey back to the past in the heart of Old Quebec (beginning of August).
- Quebec City International Festival of Military Bands. Since 1998, the Quebec City International Festival of Military Bands is the place to go at the end of August for military music. Bands from Canada and also from all around the world arrive in Quebec City every year to offer spectacular performances.
- Quebec City Winter Carnival. Is the biggest winter carnival in the world. The festival typically starts on the last Friday of January or the first Friday of February and it continues for 17 days, usually with close to one million participants every year.
- Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival. One of the most popular events in Eastern Canada, the Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival features hot air balloons and shows (beginning of September).
- Casino du Lac-Leamy Sound of Light. The Casino du Lac-Leamy Sound of Light is a competition that crowns the champion of the international circuit of musical fireworks competitions over water (end of July to beginning of August).
- A wine festival (festival des vendanges) in Magog, early fall. While Quebec's wine industry is smaller in scale than Niagara's, a fair amount of wine is made locally in Quebec's Eastern Townships ("Estrie").
- Canadian Grand Prix. Is the annual Formula One race in Montreal, during the city's busiest tourist weekend (usually early June).
- Rogers Cup. For tennis fans, the Rogers Cup is one of nine Association of Tennis Professionals tournaments on the Masters circuit (beginning of August).
- The Presidents Cup. A prestigious golf tournament, the Presidents Cup presents the best international players at The Royal Montréal Golf Club (end of September).
- Montréal Bike Fest. A number of cycling activities take place during the Montréal Bike Fest including the Tour de l'île de Montréal, the largest gathering of cyclists in North America (end of May to beginning of June).
To truly get a feel for the “authentic” Quebec, take one or several of the tourist routes that run alongside the St. Lawrence or criss-cross the countryside not far from the major axial highways. Clearly indicated by a series of blue signs, these routes are designed to showcase the cultural and natural treasures of their respective regions.
- Prices are marked without tax (unless otherwise indicated). At the cash register, a 5% goods and services tax (GST – federal tax) and a 9.5% provincial sales tax (QST), i.e. 14.975%, will be added to the marked price. Certain items are not taxed at the same rate. This is the case with foods such as muffins or pastries, which are best bought in quantities of six or more (when sold individually, they are considered a prepared meal for immediate consumption and taxed). Fuel prices are in litres and displayed with all taxes included; fuel taxes are higher in Montreal and Quebec City (by about 10¢ a litre) and lower at the provincial border. It's best to fill up before entering the province and certainly before even thinking of venturing onto Montreal island.
- Since April 2007, tourists can no longer obtain reimbursement of the QST.
- Tipping: Like elsewhere in North America, servers in restaurants and bars earn only a modest salary. This is why tipping is systematic when ordering in bars or restaurants (tipping does not apply to fast food or take-out food). A tip should be about 15% of the pre-tax price. Tips also apply to taxis, drinking establishments, restaurants and hair salons.
- Alcohol and tobacco: Alcoholic drinks and cigarettes are subject to specific taxes. Wines and spirits are particularly expensive: up to three times the European price for French wine, for instance (and 50% more when ordering a bottle of wine in a restaurant, hence the appeal of the “bring your own wine” formula). It is advisable to buy local wines, which are very comparable to French wines and less expensive. This enables you to support local products, which need it given the small market. Cigarettes cost between $7 and $9.50 a pack (a pack contains 25 cigarettes). Made with tobacco from southwestern Ontario, Canadian cigarettes have quite a different taste than U.S. or French brands. Keep in mind, though, that since May 31, 2006, smoking is prohibited in all public places in Quebec, including bars, restaurants and theatres.
- Quebec’s cuisine derives its rich flavour from a blend of influences. It has a solid French culinary base and is enriched by the contribution of the Amerindian peoples and the different cultural communities that have made the province their home. This blend of culinary cultures is what makes Quebec cuisine what it is today. Many quality regional products are also used in its cuisine. Terroir products that grace Quebec tables include ice cider, micro-brewed beer, wine and over 100 different varieties of cheese.
- Another unique feature of Quebec is the sugar shack (cabane à sucre), a family culinary tradition of eating maple products to the rhythms of Quebec folklore. You can go as a group at the beginning of spring, during March and April. Most sugar bushes also sell maple products on site (maple butter, taffy and syrup) at very attractive prices. If this formula interests you, be sure to reserve in advance, and—in true tradition—go in as large a group as possible. It’s customary for several families to go together, but there’s no obligation to do so, particularly seeing as people rarely travel in groups of 50! Certain sugar bushes are open year round.
- Other Quebec culinary specialties include: shepherd’s pie, poutine, sugar pie, pouding chômeur (a sponge cake with a maple syrup sauce), maple syrup, baked beans, tourtière (a meat pie), and cretons (a pork spread with onions and spices).
- Maple syrup (French: sirop d'érable) is the sticky, drippy giant on Quebec's culinary landscape. Boiled down from sap of the maple tree in sugar shacks (cabanes à sucre) around the province, it's got a more tangy flavour than the corn-based pancake syrup you may be used to. Different types of candies are obtained by pushing the boiling process further and are popular gifts during springtime. Also don't miss taffy-on-the-snow (tire sur neige). In Quebec, the syrup is used for more than just pancakes, though. You can find it as a glaze for pork and beef, mixed in with baked beans (fèves au lard), or in desserts like pouding chômeur ("unemployed person's cake") or tarte au sucre (sugar pie). It's also made into loose sugar and candies. Syrup is on sale practically anywhere you want to go, but if you really want to take some home, stop into a farmer's market or a grocery store rather than a tourist shop. You can get the same high-quality syrup as at the souvenir stand for about half the price.
- No visit to Quebec is complete without at least one plate of poutine. This unique dish is a plate of French fries, drowned in gravy, and topped with chewy white cheddar cheese curds. There are variations on the theme—adding chicken, beef, vegetables or sausage, or replacing the gravy with tomato meat sauce (poutine italienne). Poutine can be found in practically any fast-food chain restaurant in Quebec, but higher-quality fare can be found at more specialized poutine shops. Local restaurant chains are your best bet. One great spot for trying out poutine is Chez Ashton (a chain in the Quebec City area), where, in January only, you will get a discount based on the outdoor temperature (the colder it is outside, the cheaper the poutine!) The origin of poutine is still under debate, but it was first served in Drummondville in 1964, at the Roy Jucep restaurant owned by Mr. Roy. Since then, the surrounding areas have been trying to lay claim to its creation.
- Befitting the province's sub-arctic climate, Québécois cuisine favours rich, hot foods with more calories than you want to know about. Tourtière du Lac-Saint-Jean for instance is a deep-dish pie, typically from the Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean region, made of various meats (usually beef and pork, often including game, cut into small cubes) and diced potatoes, baked together in a flakey pastry shell.
The legal drinking age in Quebec is 18 - the lowest in Canada.
Quebecers’ favourite alcohol is beer given the high taxes on wine. The province boasts several very good microbreweries. Here is a list of the best brewpubs in Québec by region. In Montreal, there is Dieu du Ciel!, L’Amère à Boire, Le Cheval Blanc and Brutopia. In Quebec City, there is La Barberie and L'Inox. One of the best is Le Broumont in Bromont, near the foot of the ski hill. If you visit Sherbrooke, be sure to stop in at the Mare au Diable. In the Mauricie region, there is Le Trou du Diable (Shawinigan) and Gambrinus (Trois-Rivières). In the stunning Charlevoix region, there is the Charlevoix microbrewery in Baie St-Paul. Liquor and wine are sold mainly at Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) stores, but beer and wine (often of a lesser quality) can also be found at supermarkets and convenience stores. In the country, good quality wine and liquor can be found at the grocery store. The sale of alcohol is prohibited after 11PM at convenience stores and supermarkets, and may not be sold to anyone under the age of 18. Bars are open until 3AM (except in Gatineau where they close at 2AM to avoid an influx of partiers when the bars close in Ottawa).
Beer and a so-so selection of wine are available at most grocery stores and depanneurs (corner markets), but by law distilled spirits are only available at provincial stores called the SAQ (pronounced "ess-ay-cue" or "sack"). The SAQ also has a higher-quality selection of wine, mostly European, Australian, or South American—there's a peculiar blind spot for California vintages, though British Columbian wines are plentiful, unlike in Ontario's LCBO stores. Although closing time in bars is 3AM, most SAQs close between 6 and 9PM (some Express SAQ may close at 10 or 11PM), and sales of other alcohol are banned after 11PM.
Quebec is blessed with some of the finest beers on the North American continent. As in the rest of Canada, they are higher-proof than in the US; alcohol content starts around 5-6% but 8-12% is not unusual.
Quebec offers the usual range of North American accommodations including hostels, chain motels, and high-end resort hotels. Particular to Quebec are Auberge, literally "Inn" but range from faux-lodge style motels to Gites, B&B style guest houses with sometimes only a single room for rent.
Quebec is generally a safe place, with the exception of a few "bad" neighbourhoods of Montreal and Quebec City. Visitors should use common sense when travelling, as they would anywhere else, and keep cars locked so that they do not fall prey to theft.
- It is considered respectful to refer to the French-speaking Quebec citizens as Quebecer (m. Québécois, f. Québécoise) and not French-Canadian. Most francophone citizens of Quebec, even those who are not separatists still feel more Québécois than Canadian, but at the same time Québec is not France so many prefer to identify as "francophone" (which indicates only French language) instead of "French" (which is ambiguous, as it can infer French as a national citizenship). However, Anglophones will take no offence to being called Canadians, and consider themselves to be both. Being a proud francophone Québécois does not always mean wanting Quebec to separate, nor does it mean disliking the Anglophones.
- Generally, expressing yourself in French is considered by Quebecers as a sign of respect and is much appreciated. People working in the tourism industry often speak several languages. Many people in Montreal and Gatineau are perfectly bilingual and will speak in English if they see you struggling, and elsewhere most young people can speak at least basic English. Don't be afraid to ask for a French lesson; most locals will be happy to teach you a couple of words.
- Quebec’s language is key to the province’s cultural identity, and its inhabitants battled for several centuries to preserve it against the odds. Quebecers have heard it all when it comes to making fun of their linguistic particularities, so it’s best to avoid this. In Quebec, Parisian French is associated with a foreign accent. Quebecers view it as an insult to be told they speak franglais (French mixed with English), joual (a local backwater slang dialect) or some other language which is not "comprehensible" French, "proper" French or bon français. However, speakers of Quebecois French are far more likely to understand European French terms than vice versa.
- There is a substantial English-speaking minority (about 8% of the population) concentrated mostly in Montreal's western suburbs or in border communities (such as the Outaouais region, near Ontario; also in the areas bordering New York State and Vermont). If you say something in broken French and get a response in flawless English (as a first language), you might be speaking to a fellow Anglophone... at that point, stay in English or you will feel rather silly.
- Like in several Canadian provinces, it is prohibited to smoke or vape inside public buildings, including restaurants, bars and theatres. It is also forbidden to smoke within a nine-metre (30-foot) perimeter of the doors to public buildings (there is often a visible line delineating this perimeter in front of hospitals, health clinics, etc.) and it is forbidden to smoke anywhere on school property.
- Like their counterparts in France, Quebecers are fiercely protective of their culture of secularism, and you are expected to confine your religion to your private life. Unless you are in a place of worship, you should avoid wearing religious clothing (eg. hijabs, kippahs, crucifixes, etc.) in public so you do not offend local sensibilities. It is also considered impolite to discuss religion with people you do not know well.
- The issue of sovereignty is an extremely complicated and emotional issue, on which Québécois are almost evenly divided. Quebec francophone media give equal coverage to both sides, something which would be unthinkable in another province or in media serving linguistic minorities. Even those who aren't souverainistes speak of Quebec as a nation with national parks, national assembly and national capital which can be confusing as both levels of government use terms like parc national or région de la capitale nationale with different meaning. To further complicate matters, there are innocuous local translations for the word "national(e)" that do not contemplate a sovereign nation-state, such as the Canadian Parliament's acknowledgment of a Québécois nation. In fact the word can also be used in a more general sense simply to refer to people who share the same history, culture and language. The discussion of Québécois politics is therefore best left to Québécois.
- Although Quebec is part of Canada, you'll see few maple leaf flags outside Montreal, and the Quebec media outlets don't emphasize connections with the ROC ("Rest of Canada"). Some Quebecers consider the display of the Canadian flag to be an inflammatory symbol of Canadian "dominance"; others see displays of the Quebec flag as overzealous ethnic nationalism. Phrases like "here in Canada" or "as a Canadian" may make your conversational partner ill at ease. Depending on the region, very few people will celebrate Canada Day (July 1) but Quebec's National Day (la Saint-Jean Baptiste on June 24) is probably the most important party throughout the province. (Ottawa-Gatineau may be an exception, as the "Outaouais" portion of the federal capital region celebrates both days.) In fact, the holiday of the first of July is traditionally used by most Quebecers for moving to their new apartment or house.
- Note also that Quebec is not France. Calling Quebecers "French fries", or jokes with French stereotypes (impoliteness, poor hygiene, eating frogs' legs, and especially "surrendering") will bring puzzled stares, or at best show that you have no idea which continent you're on. It is as illogical as applying British stereotypes to Americans just because of the historical and linguistic ties. Comparing Québécois culture and language unfavourably to France's is best avoided. Although Quebec and France have many ties, the Québécois typically regard themselves as a distinct culture quite separate from the country that "abandoned" them three centuries ago.
Most hotels and hostels offer Internet access and many have on-site computers for guests to use. Montreal has a free WiFi program called Île Sans Fil (Wireless Island), look for the sticker in café and restaurant windows. Wi-fi is also available in some coffee shops and public libraries.
Quebec's main telephone area codes are +1-418 (Quebec City and east), +1-819 (western Québec, Outaouais, Trois-Rivières, Eastern Townships), +1-514 (Montreal Island) and +1-450 (Laval and the southwestern corner of the province). Additional area codes have been overlaid onto all of these regions, breaking seven-digit dialling throughout the province.
Postal codes for Québec begin with G (Québec City and eastern Québec), H (Montréal and Laval) and J (western Québec). H0H 0H0 is reserved for seasonal use.