Québec, also called Ville de Québec or Quebec City to better
distinguish it from the Canadian province of the same name, is a
large city in eastern Canada. It lies on the north bank of the
Saint Lawrence River, at the mouth of the Rivière Saint-Charles
and before the start of the Saint Lawrence estuary. Distinctive
geographic features are the distinctive narrowing of the river,
which gave the city its name, as well as the Colline de Québec
high plateau, which rises steeply about a hundred meters above
the river and on which the city center is located.
Originally the Saint Lawrence Iroquois lived here in the village of Stadacona. In 1543, the first French attempt at colonization led by Jacques Cartier failed. On July 3, 1608, the navigator Samuel de Champlain founded a trading post from which the later city developed. Three years after being conquered by English adventurers, Quebec was returned to French possession in 1632. Further English and British attempts at conquest in 1690 and 1711 failed. In 1759, after a two-and-a-half-month siege and the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, the British finally managed to take the city. In 1867, Quebec became a provincial capital in the new Canadian state. In the second half of the 19th century, the city lost its status as a leading economic center to Montreal and stagnated for several decades. In the course of the 20th century, Québec developed into the undisputed center of the eastern part of the province.
Architecturally, Québec is considered the most European city in North America, due to the well-preserved old town with numerous buildings, mostly French, dating back to the 17th century. The upper part of the old town is surrounded by city walls, which are complemented by a citadel. Québec is now the only fortified city in America north of Mexico. In 1985 UNESCO declared the old town and the fortifications a World Heritage Site.
With 531,902 inhabitants (2016), Québec is the second largest city in the province and the eleventh largest in Canada. It achieved this status in 2002 when the population tripled with the incorporation of several suburbs. 93.8% of the population are French speakers. The metropolitan area Communauté métropolitaine de Québec, which includes the city of Lévis located south of the Saint Lawrence River, has 812,205 inhabitants (2017). The service sector is economically dominant, with public administration being well represented. Tourism is also of great importance. The industry is geared towards research-intensive cutting-edge technology, the previously dominant wood-processing industry only plays a marginal role.
In terms of architecture, Québec is considered the most European city
in North America, which is mainly due to the well-preserved old town
with its numerous buildings from the early modern period. The buildings
of that era are strongly influenced by the architecture of French
cities, but have a more robust construction adapted to the harsh
climate. Typical features are thick, often unplastered quarry stone
walls made of dark limestone and framings of window and door openings
made of lighter, often brightly painted cut stone. After a major fire in
1682 destroyed many of the early wooden buildings, binding building
regulations came into force: all buildings had to be built as stone
two-storey semi-detached houses, wood paneling was forbidden. The roofs,
covered with copper or stone shingles, had to have a pitch of at least
52 degrees to facilitate snow removal. Representative buildings of
the French colonial period are built in the classicistic baroque style.
The British conquest had no immediate impact on the cityscape. Local builders and craftsmen carried out the reconstruction of destroyed buildings, so that the French character was preserved. Typical British architectural styles such as Palladianism and Gothic Revival only found their way into the city in the early 19th century. As the city began to expand from the 1830s, Classicism was added, employed by both British and French-Canadian architects. Popular styles at the turn of the 20th century were Second Empire and Châteauesque (a North American variant of Neo-Renaissance). The architecture of the interwar period was characterized by Art Deco and European functionalism. Since the middle of the 20th century, the international style has prevailed in representative buildings. Due to the rapid suburbanization, the outer parts of the city hardly differ from North American suburbs, apart from a few historic village centers. There are 37 National Historic Sites in Quebec.
By a law passed by the provincial parliament, the old town was declared a historic district (arrondissement historique) in 1963, as was the periphery a year later. Since then, strict regulations have been in force to preserve the historical building fabric. Due to its great historical and architectural importance as the only walled settlement north of Mexico, UNESCO declared the old town a World Heritage Site on December 3, 1985. Geographically, the old town can be divided into two parts. On the Cap Diamant headland (the eastern end of the Québec Hills) is the Upper Town (Haute-Ville), traditionally the administrative and institutional center of the city and residential area of the bourgeoisie and nobility. On the narrow strip of land east and north of Cap Diamant, separated from the upper town by a difference in altitude of up to 90 meters, the lower town (Basse-Ville) extends along the banks of the Saint-Lawrence and Rivière Saint-Charles; this was once the traditional business, port and working-class district. In total, the old town covers an area of 135 hectares and includes around 1400 buildings.
The upper town is surrounded by the 4.6 km long Quebec City Walls. In
their current form, they were mainly built between 1745 and 1759. On
their western side, facing the plateau, they are supplemented by
bastions and recessed flanks. Because the steep slopes of Cap Diamant
provided natural shelter, the walls on the north and east sides of the
upper town are less elaborate. The Dufferin Terrace, completed in 1879,
stretches along the east flank, a 430 meter long viewing terrace. The
original city gates were demolished in the 1860s and 1870s, the four
present-day ones are historical replicas. On the southern edge of the
upper town stands the Québec Citadel, a star-shaped fortress. It was
built between 1820 and 1832, and the architect was inspired by Vauban's
buildings. There are 24 buildings on the 15 hectare site, the former
officers' barracks serve as the second residence of the Governor General
Notre-Dame de Quebec Cathedral was built in 1647 as the first Roman Catholic parish church north of Mexico. It was destroyed during the British siege in 1759 and then rebuilt. 1843/44 she received a classical facade, 1874 she raised Pope Pius IX. to the rank of a minor basilica. The striking building with two towers burned down completely in 1922 and subsequently had to be restored. Since 2013 she has had a Holy Door (the first outside of Europe). The extensive building complex of the Séminaire de Québec is attached to the cathedral. The bishop's palace in the immediate vicinity burned down in 1854; today the Parc Montmorency is located there. The Holy Trinity Anglican Cathedral faces the former parade ground Place d'Armes. The Palladian-style structure was completed in 1804 and is modeled on London's St Martin-in-the-Fields church. Other buildings with a religious reference are the Hôtel-Dieu de Québec (hospital with attached Augustinian convent) and the Ursuline convent, which is mainly used as a school.
Completed in 1814, the Morrin Center originally served as a prison; it was the first in Canada to reflect the ideas of British prison reformer John Howard. The Palladian-style building was later used as a school, and today it serves as a cultural center. Opposite the Notre-Dame Cathedral is the Hôtel de Ville, the city's town hall. Completed in 1896, the Second Empire style building is one of Canada's most stately administrative buildings with its opulent facade and richly decorated interior. It is a symbol of late Victorian eclecticism, similar to the monumental Château Frontenac between Place d'Armes and Dufferin Terrace. This luxury hotel, modeled after the Loire Castles, opened in 1893 and expanded several times until 1924. It dominates the Upper City skyline and is Quebec's most recognizable landmark. Almost smack in the middle of Upper Town is the Édifice Price, an 18-story Art Deco high-rise. It was built in 1931 as the headquarters of Price Brothers and was met with severe criticism at the time. Despite its height of 82 meters, the high-rise is considered to be well integrated into its surroundings because it appears relatively slim.
The oldest part of the city is the Place Royale. In 1608 it was the
site of the first building built by Samuel de Champlain and is therefore
considered the "cradle of French civilization in America". The
Notre-Dame-des-Victoires church, built in 1688, is the first church in
North America to be made entirely of stone. After being destroyed during
the British siege, it was rebuilt between 1763 and 1766. During the
1970s, the buildings around the Place Royale underwent extensive
restoration, demolition and rebuilding work to bring them back to their
late 18th century condition. The project was controversial because it
only took French heritage into account and reversed later architectural
developments from the British and Canadian periods.
The Petit Champlain district south of the Place Royale has been able to preserve its original character without extensive reconstruction. Several residential and commercial buildings from the late 17th and early 18th centuries line the narrow Rue du Petit-Champlain, a pedestrian street that follows the foot of the steep cliff. These include the home of French explorer Louis Joliet, built in 1683. The facade of another house is decorated with a 420 m² trompe l'oeil fresco depicting various scenes from the city's history. North of the Place Royale, at the mouth of the Rivière Saint-Charles is the old port (Vieux-Port), which is now used as a marina. Several dozen staircases lead from the lower to the upper town and from there to other parts of the city close to the center, most of which have wooden steps. Stairs have played an important role in the life of the city since the 17th century, allowing significant shortcuts in steep terrain. The oldest and most well-known is the Escalier Casse-cou ("Breakneck Stairs"), built around 1660, from the Quartier du Petit Champlain up to the Parc Montmorency.
Opposite the Porte Saint-Louis, the main gate of the city walls, is
the Colline parlementaire (“Parliament Hill”), the government district
of the province of Quebec. The reference point of the district is the
Hôtel du Parlement, built between 1877 and 1886 in the Second Empire
style, in which the National Assembly of Québec meets (until 1968 also
the Legislative Council, the dissolved upper house). The monumental
building consists of four wings arranged around an inner courtyard; the
architect was inspired by the extension of the Louvre in Paris. An
eight-story tower dominates the front facade. In the roundabout in front
of the parliament building is the Fontaine de Tourny, a fountain built
in 1855 in the twin city of Bordeaux, which was brought to Québec in
2007 as a gift for the upcoming 400-year celebrations.
The parliament building is surrounded on three sides by high-rise office and hotel buildings from the 1970s. The tallest building in the city has been the 132 m high Édifice Marie-Guyart since 1972. At the top of the 31 floors is the Observatoire de la Capitale, a public viewing platform. Due to its height of 221 m above sea level, it offers an almost unrestricted panorama of the entire city and the surrounding region. A little south of the parliament building is the Manège militaire, a riding and parade hall. The headquarters of the Voltigeurs de Québec, the oldest French Canadian regiment, was built in 1887 in Neo-Renaissance style. It is the only facility of its kind in Canada that has a clear architectural reference to France. After a devastating fire in April 2008, only the facades remained until 2018, the building was reconstructed at a cost of 104 million Canadian dollars.
The Saint-Roch district, to the west of the upper town, was the
dominant business and industrial district until the 1960s, as evidenced
by well-preserved examples of industrial architecture. Of particular
note is the La Fabrique building, which dates back to 1871 and was
Dominion Corset's former underwear factory, used by a university faculty
since 1994. On the western edge of the district, right on the border of
the enclave of Notre-Dame-des-Anges, the windmill of the Hôpital général
de Québec has stood since 1730, one of only 18 surviving historic
windmills in the province. French General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm is
buried in the enclave cemetery.
Sillery in the central part of the Colline de Québec was Québec's traditional posh suburb until it was incorporated in 2002. The historic district includes 350 19th-century houses, including the Domaine Cataraqui (guest house of the provincial government) and the Villa Bagatelle. The Jesuit house dates from the early 18th century. The Beauport Historic District extends 4 miles on a terraced terrain parallel to the St. Lawrence River and includes 650 buildings from the 18th to early 20th centuries. Another historical district is Trait-Carré, the center of the Charlesbourg arrondissement, with several farm buildings of the late 17th and 18th centuries. These include the Jesuit mill from 1740. A special tourist attraction in Charlesbourg is an ice hotel, which operates from January to March.
On the Colline de Québec, several parks stretch southwest of the old
town, facing the steep slope to the Saint Lawrence River, forming a long
“green lung”. Between the parliament building and the citadel is the
leveled glacis of the city fortifications. Southwest of this is the 98
hectare Abraham Plains. The extensive scene of the decisive battle of
1759 is broken up by hollow valleys and small forests; there are also
two of the three remaining Martello towers. Delimited by another piece
of forest, the Parc du Bois-de-Coulonge and two cemeteries follow to the
The Parc des Braves in the Montcalm district was the scene of the Battle of Sainte-Foy in 1760. Along with the Abraham Plains, it is administered by a Canadian federal government commission under the collective name Parc des Champs-de-Bataille ("Battlefields Park"); both are therefore considered urban national parks. Below the steep southern slope of the Colline de Québec, Champlain Promenade stretches along the banks of the St. Lawrence River. A 2.6 km stretch of the shore zone there is a publicly accessible beach (Parc de la Plage-Jacques-Cartier).
The Cartier-Brébeuf National Historic Site is a park on the lower reaches of the Rivière Saint-Charles. It is also the site of the former Iroquois village of Stadacona, Jacques Cartier's first fort and Jean de Brébeuf's first mission station. The Parc linéaire des rivières Saint-Charles et du Berger follows the entire length of the Rivière Saint-Charles, from the mouth to Lac Saint-Charles. This linear park intersects the Parc Chauveau (the largest park in the city at 120 hectares) on the one hand, and the Parc de la Falaise with the Kabir Kouba waterfall on the other, near Wendake.
The Domaine de Maizerets is an extensive landscaped garden two and a half kilometers north of the city center, laid out around a manor house built in 1705. It includes i.a. an arboretum, a maze, a rose garden and an elm grove. The Jardin botanique Roger-Van den Hende, a botanical garden with over 4000 plant species, is located on the campus of Université Laval in the Sainte-Foy district. On the eastern outskirts lies the Parc de la Chute-Montmorency around the Montmorency Falls; the height difference of 83 meters can be overcome with a cable car.
From the late 19th century, Québec increasingly identified itself as
the “national capital” of the Francophones in a cultural sense, which
was intended to compensate for the loss of political importance compared
to the federal capital Ottawa. With commemorations and gatherings, the
French, Catholic and traditional character should be preserved. This
sense of mission was not limited to the province of Québec, but
encompassed all francophone areas of North America. Large celebrations
and military parades were planned for 1909 to mark the 150th anniversary
of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, causing uneasiness among French
Canadians. Political pressure from Québec led to the celebrations being
pushed back a year and dedicated instead to the 300th anniversary of the
founding of the city by Samuel de Champlain. In 1912, 1937, 1952 and
1957 "Congresses of the French Language in Canada" were held in Québec,
which aimed to ensure the survival of the French language in North
With the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s, cultural policy took on emphatically secular and internationalist (sometimes also separatist) traits. The Superfrancofête in August 1974, a 12-day cultural festival with actors from 25 francophone countries and with a special focus on youth culture, attracted 1.25 million visitors and served as a model for similar events in the following decades. In 1979, Québec founded the International Association of Francophone Mayors, and in 1987 and 2008 the city hosted the Francophonie Summit. The city's 400th anniversary was celebrated in 2008 with dozens of events of international renown.
The Quebec Carnival (Carnaval de Québec) takes place from late
January to mid-February. It offers a wide range of carnival, cultural
and sporting activities, in which around a million visitors take part.
These include masquerade balls, parades, an ice sculpting competition
and ice canoe races on the partially frozen St. Lawrence River. The
first carnival took place in 1894, the official ambassador is a snowman
named Bonhomme carnaval (“carnival man”).
The Défilé de la Saint-Patrick de Québec is a March 17 parade. Saint Patrick's Day has a long tradition in Québec due to the large number of Irish immigrants in the 19th century. After the parade was first performed in 1837, the custom gradually fell into oblivion in the 1920s until it was revived in 2010.
The Fête Nationale du Québec has been the official national day of the province of Quebec since 1977. It falls on June 24 (St. John's Day), the memorial day of Quebec's national saint, John the Baptist. With around 200,000 visitors, the event on the Abraham Plain is the largest in the entire province. The actual Canadian national holiday, Canada Day on July 1st, is of less interest.
With 1.5 million visitors, the Quebec Summer Festival (Festival d'été de Québec), first held in 1968, is the largest event of the year. This music and culture festival begins on the first Thursday in July and lasts eleven days. Around 1000 artists perform on ten stages in 300 events. The spectrum ranges from pop and rock to world music and classical music. The highlights are open-air concerts on the Abraham level in front of around 100,000 spectators. Expo Québec, which takes place at the end of August, is a major commodity and agricultural fair that has been held at the ExpoCité exhibition center since 1894.
The Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec is the largest museum in
the city and also the national museum of the province of Quebec. This
art museum specializes in works related to Quebec or created by Quebec
artists. More than 40,000 works of art from all genres since the 17th
century are presented in the four exhibition buildings on the Abraham
The museum network Les Musées de la civilization deals with different historical aspects. One of Canada's most visited museums is the Musée de la Civilisation, housed in a building designed by Moshe Safdie. This "museum of civilization" features permanent exhibits on Québec and Aboriginal cultural history, as well as temporary exhibits on a variety of contemporary and historical themes. The Musée de l'Amérique francophone presents the French culture of North America, while the Maison historique Chevalier presents the domestic culture of the 18th and 19th centuries. Finally, the Musée de la place Royale explains the history of the Place Royale.
The Musée naval de Québec in the old port presents the history of navigation on the St. Lawrence River and the Canadian Navy. The Musée de géologie René-Bureau is an exhibition curated by the geology department of the Université Laval with thousands of rock specimens, minerals and fossils. The Ursuline Convent runs the Musée des Ursulines de Québec on the history and cultural significance of this religious community. A museum in the citadel deals with the history of the Canadian Army's 22nd Regiment stationed there. There are also numerous smaller exhibition centers and interpretive centers that impart knowledge and skills about specific sections of the natural and cultural sciences with a regional focus.
The Aquarium du Québec is located in Sainte-Foy. More than 10,000 animals belonging to around 300 different species, mostly found in Canada, can be seen in this large aquarium with separate saltwater and freshwater sections. The aquarium took over part of the inventory of the zoo Jardin zoologique du Québec, which had to be closed in 2006 for financial reasons.
Québec is considered a theater stronghold, with improvisational
theater and the form of theater sports derived from it enjoying great
popularity. There are several important theaters and event buildings in
the city. The largest is the Grand Théâtre de Québec with 2600 seats. It
is also the seat of the theater company Théâtre du Trident and the
Conservatoire de musique de Québec. The Capitole de Québec and the
Palais Montcalm each seat 1,100 spectators, the Impérial de Québec 1,300
and the Salle Albert-Rousseau 1,350. There are also several small
These halls are also used for musical performances. For example, the Orchester Symphonique de Québec symphony orchestra and the Opéra de Québec opera company regularly perform at the Grand Théâtre de Québec. The Agora du Vieux-Port, an open-air stage at the old port for over 4000 spectators, is also used for concerts. Several cultural festivals are held in Quebec every year. The Festival de la bande dessinée francophone de Québec is North America's oldest and largest comics festival for French-language publications. Since 2005 it has been integrated into the book fair Salon international du livre de Québec.
Ice hockey is the most popular sport in Quebec in terms of viewer
interest. The Remparts de Quebec play in the Ligue de hockey junior
majeur du Quebec, one of three professional junior leagues in Canada.
They play their home games at the Center Vidéotron, which has a capacity
of 18,500 and opened in September 2015. The intention behind the
construction of the new stadium is to once again bring a team from the
National Hockey League (NHL), North America's top professional ice
hockey league, to Québec. The Nordiques de Québec played in the World
Hockey Association from 1972 to 1979, then in the NHL until the team
moved to Denver in 1995 (where it breaks into the Colorado Avalanche).
The Nordiques played their home games in the 15,400-seat Colisee Pepsi.
Another ice hockey stadium is the Pavilion de la Jeunesse with 5000
The Capitales de Québec play baseball in the Can-Am League; they play their home games in the Stade Canac, which offers space for 5,100 spectators. The women's football club Amiral SC de Québec is represented in the USL W-League. Under the name Rouge et Or (“Red and Gold”), the Université Laval has teams in over a dozen sports.
Several major sporting events take place in Quebec. Every four years since 1984, the renowned Transat Québec Saint-Malo offshore regatta has attracted world-class international sailors as well as amateurs. The sailing regatta leads non-stop across the North Atlantic to Saint-Malo, the hometown of Jacques Cartier. It is the only transatlantic regatta for teams in a west-east direction. The Challenge Bell, a major women's tennis tournament on the WTA Tour, has been held annually since 1993. The Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec, held for the first time in 2010, is a one-day cycle race as part of the UCI WorldTour. The extreme sports event Red Bull Crashed Ice, which contains elements of ice hockey and snowboard cross, also attracts numerous spectators; the race in Québec is part of the unofficial world championship organized by Red Bull.
Québec applied to host the 2002 Winter Olympics, but the candidacy stood no chance at the 1995 IOC session in Budapest. Another application with regard to the 2010 Winter Olympics failed in the domestic Canadian selection at the later venue Vancouver. Quebec may bid to host the 2026 Winter Games. In 1967 the city hosted the first edition of the Canada Games and in 2005 the World Police and Fire Games. In 2008 the Ice Hockey World Championships took place here (together with Halifax), in 2011 the Grand Prix final of figure skating.
There are 21 indoor swimming pools in Québec and an additional 42 outdoor pools in summer. A popular pastime in winter is ice skating. Quebec City has 12 indoor indoor artificial ice rinks (which are also used for ice hockey) and several dozen outdoor ice rinks. Cross-country skiing can be practiced on trails with a length of around 125 km. In the immediate vicinity, just outside the city limits, there are three winter sports resorts in the Laurentian mountains, which are also venues for professional winter sports competitions: Mont Sainte-Anne, Le Relais and Stoneham.
The city is located in the south of the province named after her Québec, about 120 kilometers northwest of the border with the US state of Maine. Montreal is 233 kilometers away to the south-west, the federal capital Ottawa is 378 km to the west-southwest. To the south it is 498 km to the US city of Boston, to the east-southeast 644 km to Halifax.
Québec sits on the north bank of the St. Lawrence River, the third
largest river in North America (by discharge). The stream is two and a
half to three kilometers wide above the city and narrows to just over a
kilometer in the area of the city center. It then splits into two arms
that surround the Île d'Orléans. After this island begins the more than
350 km long and up to 60 km wide St. Lawrence estuary. Since the channel
greatly increases the flow rate and the tides are still clearly
noticeable due to the small difference in height to the Atlantic Ocean
(1.8 to 3.1 m difference between low and high tide), the Québec
Bottleneck is a difficult place for shipping.
The most important tributary is the Rivière Saint-Charles, which lies entirely within the city limits. It has its source in Lac Saint-Charles on the northern outskirts of the city, meanders strongly in the upper reaches in particular, in a southeasterly direction and, after 35 kilometers, flows into the Saint Lawrence River. Its drainage basin, which includes several other rivers, is the most densely populated in the province of Quebec. A small part of the urban area in the extreme north-west belongs to the catchment area of the Rivière Jacques-Cartier. The lower reaches of the Rivière Montmorency forms the eastern city limits, the southwest of the city is drained by the Rivière du Cap Rouge and Lac Saint-Augustin. There are a total of 230 standing bodies of water and 695 km of running water in the 454.1 km² city area.
Three geological regions almost meet in the urban area and are only a
few kilometers apart. The Colline de Québec rises along the north bank
of the Saint Lawrence River. This high plateau, 13 kilometers long and
one to four kilometers wide, was of crucial importance for the birth and
development of the city. It ranges from Cap Rouge in the west to Cap
Diamant near the mouth of the Rivière Saint-Charles. The plateau, which
reaches a height of 110 meters (about a hundred meters above the
surrounding terrain), is delimited by rocky slopes that drop steeply,
especially towards the river. The Colline de Québec is one of the few
foothills of the Appalachian Mountains north of the river. The base
consists of sandstone and mudstone, and slate can be found on the rocky
The broad, flat valley of the Rivière Saint-Charles forms part of the Saint Lawrence lowlands together with the adjacent terraces of Charlesbourg and Beauport. Sediment layers with a thickness of up to 60 meters have been deposited there – mainly sand and gravel, occasionally also peat. About 11,500 to 9,800 years ago, in the final phase of the last glacial period, the lowlands lay below sea level in the Champlain Sea. This shallow arm of the Atlantic Ocean disappeared due to progressive post-glacial land uplift. Large amounts of sediment were deposited and islands formed (including the Colline de Québec). Around 9000 years ago, a freshwater lake, Lac Lampsilis, replaced the Champlain Sea. This existed for about 2300 years and gave way to the forerunner of the Saint Lawrence River. For around 3000 years, the river has roughly corresponded to its current shape.
In the northern third of the urban area are foothills of the Laurentian Mountains. They are part of the Canadian Shield, a vast area of very old igneous rocks. The Laurentian Mountains are heavily eroded remnants of the Grenville Orogeny that occurred during the Mesoproterozoic approximately 1 to 1.6 billion years ago. Anorthosite is predominant, interspersed with feldspar. This dark rock is covered by gravel and sand deposits, a legacy of glaciation. The highest point in the city is Mont Bélair, which is 485 meters high. A prominent escarpment characterizes the transition between the Canadian Shield and the Saint Lawrence Lowlands. The Rivière Saint-Charles cascades over the 28 meter high Kabir Kouba waterfall (Chute Kabir Kouba). In the far east, where the escarpment almost reaches the Saint Lawrence River, the Rivière Montmorency overcomes the 83 meter high Montmorency Falls (Chute Montmorency), the highest waterfall in the province.
Neighboring parishes are Saint-Augustin-de-Desmaures and Sainte-Catherine-de-la-Jacques-Cartier to the west, Shannon and Saint-Gabriel-de-Valcartier to the north-west, Stoneham-et-Tewkesbury, Lac-Delage and Lac-Beauport in the north and Sainte-Brigitte-de-Laval and Boischatel in the northeast. On the opposite bank of the Saint Lawrence River, to the south, lies the town of Lévis. There are three enclaves within the city limits: the town of L'Ancienne-Lorette, the four-hectare community of Notre-Dame-des-Anges, and Wendake (a Wyandot Indian reserve).
Québec has a boreal, humid continental climate, which corresponds to the effective climate classification Dfb. Due to the proximity to the ocean, the maritime climate also exerts a certain influence. Summers are short and humid with an average maximum temperature of 25°C. On some days, the temperatures can also rise well above 30 degrees Celsius, with relatively high humidity prevailing throughout. Winter is characterized by very cold, snowy and windy weather, with prolonged periods of frost below −20 °C. Spring and autumn are mild, but there can be strong temperature fluctuations. Annual rainfall is around 1190 mm. In the months of November to April, an average of about 303 cm of snow falls, with the snow cover being more than 20 cm thick on 110 days. The sunshine duration is 1916 hours per year. The lowest temperature ever recorded was −36.1 °C on February 2, 1962, the highest 35.6 °C on July 17, 1953. The greatest amount of rain in one day was 81.2 mm on September 14, 1979, the greatest 52 cm of fresh snow on December 15, 2003. The Saint Lawrence River usually freezes over from mid-December to late March (in extreme cases from late November to early May), which is why river navigation with icebreakers has to be maintained.
A little more than 35% of the metropolitan area is forested, with
forests covering most of the northern portion located on the Canadian
Shield. Before European settlement, there were only a few unforested
areas. The original vegetation differed according to soil and climatic
conditions, usually with deciduous forest in the south and coniferous
forest in the north. Sugar maples predominated on the Colline de Québec,
along with linden, beech and elm. Red maples were found in lower, wetter
locations, red oaks and Weymouth pines in dry locations. Birch forests
in particular stretched along the Rivière Saint-Charles, broken up by
various other deciduous trees. Pine forests still predominate in the
north, with isolated yellow birches. There are a total of 30 nature and
landscape protection areas in the city.
Since the forests often border directly on the settlements, numerous animal species have adapted to life in an urban environment. The most common mammal species include gray squirrels, red squirrels, chipmunks, chipmunks, striped skunks, tree spines, muskrats, raccoons, mink, woodchucks, red foxes, snowshoe hares, moose, white-tailed deer, and various New World mice. Occasionally wolves and coyotes are also sighted, as well as black bears. The herpetofauna (all amphibians and reptiles) has a low biodiversity and is severely endangered by urbanization, agriculture and forestry. A total of only 20 different species are counted. On the other hand, the avifauna (all bird species) is characterized by great diversity due to the different habitats. Although there is no systematic inventory, at least 324 species have been identified so far. The St. Lawrence River in particular has a diverse ichthyofauna: there are up to 71 species of fish, with cod, perch, pike and sucker carp being the most common. The diversity in the tributaries is significantly lower.
The city name goes back to the narrowing of the river between Québec
and the opposite Lévis. In the Algonquian language, the word Kebec means
"where the river narrows". The Algonquin themselves have always referred
to the city as Kephek, the Mi'kmaq further east as Gepeg, although the
latter can also be translated as "bottleneck". According to a less
common theory, kepek was a request from the Innu living north of this
area for Samuel de Champlain to dismount from his ship.
While the name Québec caught on quickly, over the years there have been two serious suggestions for a different city name. Champlain himself suggested in 1618 that the city be built in honor of the French king Louis XIII. to name Ludovica. After the founding of the Canadian Confederation in 1867, the problem was that the new province of Québec had the same name as the city. To avoid confusion, the city should be named Stadacona (after an earlier aboriginal settlement). Appropriate entries were unsuccessful.
Several different spellings can be found in older documents: Quebecq (1601), Kébec (1609), Quebec (1613). The names of the townspeople also took different forms: Kébécois (1935), Québeccois (1835), Quebecois (1754), Québécois (1775), Québecquois (1825), Québécuois (1910), Quebequois (1754) and also Stadaconia. The variant from 1775 prevailed. In French, a distinction is made between city and province by putting the definite article le in front of the latter.
The oldest traces of human settlement can be found in the Place
Royale area in the lower town. Stone tools discovered there are around
5000 years old and date from the Archaic period and the early Woodland
period. The tools were made by local hunter-gatherers and fishermen from
locally available stone types. Also in the archaic period, around 4000
years ago, people settled on the east bank of Lac Saint-Charles.
Pottery from the Woodland period, dating from around 2400 to 450 years ago, was found under the Place Royale. Around AD 500, the regions around Quebec and Montreal began to develop different styles of pottery, which is believed to indicate groups or tribes with different identities. Findings of pipe bowls (and thus the production of tobacco) point in a similar direction, namely towards ethnic differentiation and increasing agriculture. These pipe bowls were still rare before 700, but later they were common and widespread. The north-eastern part of what later became the Upper Town was probably inhabited from the mid-14th to the mid-16th century.
In 1534, French navigator Jacques Cartier was commissioned by King François I to find a Northwest Passage to Asia. His first expedition took him to the island of Anticosti, but he did not advance further into the St. Lawrence estuary. With a second expedition he went up the stream in 1535, reached today's urban area on September 7th and discovered the village of Stadacona on the lower reaches of the Rivière Saint-Charles, a settlement of around 500 inhabitants belonging to the Saint Lawrence Iroquois. After a reconnaissance trip upstream to the Île de Montréal, Cartier wintered in Stadacona. When he returned to Europe in May 1535, he had the Iroquoian ruler Donnacona kidnapped, who died in France four years later.
In 1541, the king commissioned the courtier Jean-François de La Rocque de Roberval to establish a colony. La Roque entrusted Cartier with the execution of the plan. His third expedition would not only establish a permanent French presence in the New World, but also find the fabled kingdom of Saguenay. About 350 colonists arrived in Stadacona in August 1541. Due to hostilities, they went a few kilometers upstream and founded the settlement of Charlesbourg-Royal at Cap Rouge. Attacks by the Saint Lawrence Iroquois, a severe winter and scurvy bothered the colonists. In June 1542, disillusioned, they returned to France. A second group of 200 settlers under La Roque's command had left for Charlesbourg-Royal two months earlier and arrived there in July. The problems continued unabated, which is why the settlement was finally abandoned in the spring of 1543.
Champlain undertook a reconnaissance voyage in 1603, following in
Cartier's footsteps. The village of Stadacona could no longer be found
and the Saint Lawrence Iroquois had disappeared without a trace. Apart
from nomadic Algonquin and Innu, the Saint Lawrence lowlands were
largely uninhabited. Conflicts with neighboring Iroquois tribes, the
effects of epidemics introduced by Europeans, such as Basque fishermen,
or a migration movement towards the Great Lakes are blamed for the
disappearance of the original population. The former was considered the
most likely, but the processes behind it remain unclear. Seven distinct
groups along the Saint Lawrence River can be identified
archaeologically. The group around Québec was active in long-distance
trade, which brought them into possession of products from the hunters
of beluga whales and seals on the Atlantic coast. In addition, the
Québec Iroquois differed from the rest in that they did not develop a
sedentary horticultural culture, but used the estuary for seasonal
migrations. In doing so, they developed a common way of life with
Also in 1603, King Henri IV granted Pierre Dugua de Mons the trade monopoly in New France, with the fur trade in particular promising great profits. He lost his monopoly in 1607 over complaints from competing traders, but regained it a year later after promising to set up a trading post on the Saint Lawrence River. The founding date of the city of Québec is July 3, 1608, when Champlain landed at Cap Diamant on behalf of De Monts and craftsmen and workers began to build the Habitation de Québec at today's Place Royale. This "dwelling" served as a dwelling place, fort and trading post. Only eight of 28 expedition members, including Champlain, survived the first winter. Gradually, the situation stabilized and a small influx of colonists began. In 1620, the Château Saint-Louis was the first building on the high plateau.
In 1627, under the chairmanship of Cardinal Richelieu, the Compagnie de la Nouvelle France was founded, a state-privileged trading company with an unlimited monopoly on the fur trade. Even before their partners could begin to bring 4,000 settlers to New France under the terms of the contract, France and England had gone to war against each other as part of the Thirty Years' War. An expedition led by the adventurer David Kirke took Quebec on July 19, 1629. With the exception of the family of the first settler, Louis Hébert, the French inhabitants left the settlement, their number had been only 85 people in 1627, all men. The conquest had happened three months after the signing of a peace agreement, which is why France insisted on a return. This was agreed in 1632 in the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. Catholicism had a great influence on society early on. In 1615 the first Franciscan missionaries came to Québec; Jesuits followed in 1625, Ursulines and Augustinians in 1639. While social elite and religious communities settled in the upper town, merchants, sailors and craftsmen populated the lower town.
The company had only moderate success in economic development and the colonization of New France, and the territory was poorly secured militarily. King Louis XIV declared the colony a province in 1663 and placed it directly under the Crown. He designated Québec as the capital and reorganized the administration. At that time the city had just over 500 inhabitants (almost a quarter of whom were clergy), and there was also a great imbalance between the sexes. In order to stimulate population growth, the king financed the passage and dowry for young, unmarried women from poor backgrounds. Between 1663 and 1673 around 800 "daughters of the king" (filles du Roi) came to Québec in this way. In 1665, the king sent 1,200 men from the Carignan-Salières regiment to eliminate the threat of Iroquois raids in the Beaver Wars. After the campaign ended, over a third of the soldiers settled here. The immigrants came mainly from the north and west of France, more precisely from the provinces of Normandy, Île-de-France, Aunis, Poitou, Perche and Saintonge.
Trade was by law restricted to France and other French colonies. New France therefore had a constantly negative trade balance. This resulted in a chronic shortage of cash for decades, so that from 1685 playing cards were temporarily in circulation as a substitute currency. In 1688 King William's War broke out, in which the French and the Wabanaki Confederacy fought the English and Iroquois. In response to incursions in New England, an English fleet under the command of William Phips sailed to Quebec City in the fall of 1690 to take the city. After Governor Louis de Buade de Frontenac rejected the surrender request on October 16, French troops and militias managed to route the English in the Battle of Québec eight days later. In the next of the "French and Indian Wars", the Queen Anne's War, a fleet again tried to conquer the city. The British Québec Expedition ended in disaster on August 22, 1711, when eight ships capsized in the Saint Lawrence River; 890 soldiers and sailors lost their lives. From 1693 a system of walls and ramparts was built around the city, but in 1721 the government decided against expanding the partially isolated fortifications into an actual fortress city. The destruction of Louisbourg during King George's War in 1745 caused widespread public concern. The governor immediately ordered the completion of the fortifications. The Chemin du Roy, completed in 1737, enabled a more intensive exchange of goods with Montreal, since the Saint Lawrence River, which froze over in winter, was no longer an obstacle.
In June 1759, five years after the outbreak of the Seven Years' War
in North America, a British force of 168 ships sailed up the St.
Lawrence River. The Siege of Quebec began on June 26 and lasted over two
and a half months. The French repelled a first attempt at storming on
July 31 at the Battle of Beauport. The decisive Battle of the Plains of
Abraham on September 13 ended in British victory and allowed the siege
ring to be closed, after which the French garrison surrendered five days
later. Both commanders-in-chief, James Wolfe and Louis-Joseph de
Montcalm, did not survive the battle. Seven months later, French troops
attempted to retake Québec from Montreal. Although they won the Battle
of Sainte-Foy on April 28, 1760, they could not take the town. They
retreated to Montreal, where they finally had to bow to British
superiority. With the Peace of Paris in 1763, New France finally became
British property. Quebec became the capital of the new British province
of Quebec and the principal administrative center of British North
Despite severe damage from artillery fire, the city quickly recovered from the effects of the war. Fearing riots and a reconquest by France, the British repaired the fortifications. For financial reasons, they initially refrained from expanding. The Quebec Act, enacted in 1774, guaranteed freedom of religion and restored French private law. In this way, the British secured the loyalty of the landowners and clergy. This law was one of the Intolerable Acts that increased unrest in the southern Thirteen Colonies and helped start the American Revolutionary War there the following year. In the early months of the conflict, the Continental Army tried to push the British out of Quebec province and win the French Canadians over to the revolution by pushing north. At the Battle of Quebec on December 31, 1775, American troops led by Richard Montgomery and Benedict Arnold entered the lower city, but were repulsed. They broke the subsequent siege in May 1776 without result.
Even after the British conquest, Québec remained an important trading city, although many French wholesalers left the city. Increasingly, they were replaced by the British, who benefited from a much larger trade network. They took control of the fur trade, fishing, shipbuilding, and troop supplies, while the French Canadians were pushed into the intermediate and retail trades. The timber industry initially played a minor role, since Great Britain covered its timber requirements through imports from the Baltic Sea region. The situation changed abruptly in 1806 when Napoleon Bonaparte imposed the continental blockade. A decade-long boom began, which, thanks to favorable customs tariffs, continued unabated even after the end of the coalition wars. Most of the timber exported from Québec came from the Outaouais region and was transported here by raftsmen. For a time, Quebec was the third busiest port in North America, behind New York and New Orleans. The export of timber also stimulated shipbuilding: at its peak around 1860, 28 shipyards were in operation, building sailing ships of all kinds. There were also numerous suppliers such as sailmakers or rope makers.
Between 1786 and 1812 the fortifications were strengthened again, e.g. with four Martello towers. The Québec Citadel was built between 1820 and 1832 as the last and most important element. After its completion, the military claimed around a quarter of the city area for itself, the garrison was between 1000 and 1500 men strong. In the middle of the 19th century, the facilities were felt to be a hindrance to the city's expansion, especially since they were now considered technically outdated. In the Romantic era, however, it was precisely the medieval town complex embedded in the surrounding natural beauty that attracted numerous travelers from Europe and the USA from the 1820s onwards. In 1842 Charles Dickens described Québec in his Notes from America as "the Gibraltar of America". In contrast to this was the deprivation of the inhabitants. The numerous immigrants passing through repeatedly brought in epidemics, in 1832 alone 3292 people died of cholera. Inadequate building regulations in the suburbs encouraged major fires: on May 28, 1845, around 1,600 houses were destroyed in the Faubourg Saint-Roch, and a month later another 1,300 in the Faubourg Saint-Jean; more than 20,000 people were temporarily homeless.
During the French colonial period there was no independent city administration, administration was carried out directly by the colonial authorities. After the conquest, the city was initially under military administration for five years. From 1764, justices of the peace appointed by the governor were responsible for municipal affairs. Although they were able to increase their powers over time, this simple administrative structure soon became inadequate for the rapidly expanding city and complaints were frequent. Eventually, in 1833, Québec received a charter (municipal ordinance) and an elected mayor. The governor temporarily suspended the charter three years later and reinstated it in 1840. From 1791 Quebec was the capital of the British colony of Lower Canada. In the province of Canada, founded in 1841, the capitals changed several times; Quebec held this status from 1852 to 1856 and from 1859 to 1866.
In October 1864, the Québec Conference took place, at which delegates
from several colonies negotiated the future of British North America.
They agreed to form the Canadian Confederation. From July 1, 1867,
Québec was the capital of the province of the same name within the new
Canadian federal state. The legislatures of Lower Canada and the
Province of Canada had once met in the former bishop's palace until it
burned down in 1854. The building that was created as a replacement did
not meet the requirements, as it was also used as a post office.
Therefore, the representative Hôtel du Parlement was built between 1877
and 1886. Another important event was the withdrawal of the British
garrison in 1871. Several city gates had previously been demolished to
improve traffic flow. A committee led by Governor-General Lord Dufferin
successfully campaigned for the preservation of the historically
significant city walls and the reconstruction of two gates. The last
significant major fire occurred in the Faubourg Saint-Sauveur in 1889
and destroyed around 500 houses. In the same year, boulders from Cap
Diamant fell on the lower town; the Quebec rockslide claimed 45 lives.
From the middle of the 19th century, Québec quickly fell behind Montreal, which developed into Canada's economic metropolis. There were a variety of reasons for the decades of stagnation. The export of unprocessed raw wood declined in favor of sawn timber produced elsewhere. Trade flows increasingly shifted towards the USA and western Canada, which favored Montreal and Toronto. Technological progress caused the local shipbuilding industry to collapse completely in the 1870s: wooden sailing ships were no longer in demand and were replaced by ships with metal hulls. The port was also uncompetitive, as the dredging of a shipping lane in the St. Lawrence River allowed ocean-going ships to sail past Québec to Montreal. The connection to the railway network was a long time coming. The Grand Trunk Railway, opened in 1855, ran along the south bank, meaning that goods and passengers had to be awkwardly transported to and from Lévis by ferries. It was not until February 11, 1879 that a route along the north bank of the Saint Lawrence River to Quebec was opened. The city had to content itself with developing into a regional center for the east of the province.
At the turn of the 20th century, the upswing began again. This development was favored on the one hand by several incorporations, which gave the city room for expansion. On the other hand, new branches of industry with thousands of jobs had settled. These included the shoe industry, the textile and clothing industry, the tobacco industry, the paper industry, breweries and the manufacture of ammunition. The largest employer was the underwear manufacturer Dominion Corset with over 1000 employees. The railway network was geared towards the northern hinterland, and there was still no direct connection to the sales markets in the USA. In 1903, construction began on the Quebec Bridge across the Saint Lawrence River. The project, financed by the federal government, was ill-fated. Due to serious planning errors, the nearly completed bridge collapsed completely in 1907, killing 76 workers. An assembly error led to the collapse of the central section in 1916, claiming 13 lives. The bridge was not opened for rail traffic until 1919, and ten years later for road traffic.
A new landmark in Québec was the Château Frontenac. Opened in 1893, this Canadian Pacific Railway railroad hotel was instrumental in the city's development as a major tourist destination. Shortly after the outbreak of World War I, the Valcartier military base for 25,000 recruits was set up near the city in September 1914. On April 1, 1918, four people died during a demonstration against the introduction of conscription, which was controversial among Francophones, when soldiers shot into the crowd. In Quebec City alone, 500 people died from the Spanish flu after the war ended. In the 1920s, the city administration was decidedly progressive and had numerous buildings demolished to make room for wider streets and modern new buildings. This approach was particularly obvious when the Price Brothers paper company was allowed to build its headquarters in the middle of the old town between 1929 and 1931, the Édifice Price. Political resistance arose against the endangerment of the architectural heritage, which gradually brought about a change of heart.
The global economic crisis that began in 1929 hit the industry hard, and the city administration responded to the sharp rise in unemployment with job creation measures. The situation only eased at the beginning of the Second World War, when armaments production caused a sharp rise in employment. In August 1943, the Quadrant Conference was held in Quebec. William Lyon Mackenzie King and Winston Churchill, the Prime Ministers of Great Britain and Canada, and US President Franklin D. Roosevelt discussed Italy's surrender and planning for Operation Overlord. In September 1944 they met for the Second Quebec Conference. The FAO was founded in Quebec in October 1945. The mayor then had the idea that his city should bid for the headquarters of the United Nations - an ultimately unsuccessful endeavor.
In the decades after the Second World War, the capital region
experienced a rapid upswing, caused by the baby boom and a final surge
in industrialization. The core city grew only slowly due to a lack of
expansion opportunities and even had a declining population from the
1970s, while the previously rural suburban communities experienced rapid
suburbanization. The significant expansion of the settlement area within
a few years brought with it a high rate of automobilization. Between
1960 and 1976 a dense network of city highways was built. At the end of
the 1960s, city planners assumed that the Québec metropolitan area would
have a million inhabitants by the turn of the millennium and that a
freeway tunnel under the old town would be essential to cope with the
additional traffic. After almost a hundred meters had been drilled, the
project was stopped in 1976 for financial reasons. Access ramps on the
north slope of the Colline de Québec stood unused for three decades
until they were demolished in 2007. Université Laval moved from downtown
to a sprawling campus in the suburb of Sainte-Foy. The retail trade
increasingly shifted to large shopping centers.
During the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s, a fundamental social change took place. The Quebec provincial government secularized education and health care, which had previously been controlled by the Roman Catholic Church. In addition, several sectors of the economy were nationalized. The numerous new areas of responsibility of the state led to a significant increase in the number of civil servants. Since there was a lack of suitable premises, a new representative government quarter was created. Due to its exposed location near the highest point of the Colline de Québec, it symbolized the new self-image of the state. The deindustrialization and austerity measures of the government, which stopped the growth of public administration from the 1980s, required a reorientation towards the knowledge-based economy. In April 2001, Québec was the site of the third America Summit, the main theme of which was a proposed American Free Trade Area. More than 20,000 globalization critics protested against the summit for days and tried to break through the three-kilometre-long security fence around the conference venue in the old town. Two years later, an investigation report accused the police of using excessive force against the demonstrators.
Until the end of the 19th century, the urban area was limited to the
old town and immediately adjacent suburbs. Saint-Sauveur was
incorporated as the first municipality in 1889. Saint-Malo (1908),
Limoilou (1909) and Montcalm (1913) followed. Thus, Québec covered an
area that roughly corresponds to today's central borough of La
Cité-Limoilou. It was more than five decades before the next expansion.
1970 saw the incorporation of Duberger and Les Saules. Neufchâtel was
added in 1971, and Charlesbourg-Ouest in 1973. These communes roughly
correspond to the borough of Les Rivières.
In 2001, the provincial government led by the Parti Québécois decided to merge numerous municipalities; for example, the provincial capital should be merged with twelve suburban municipalities. Despite strong political resistance, the government ordered the merger of Quebec with Beauport, Cap-Rouge, Charlesbourg, L'Ancienne-Lorette, Lac-Saint-Charles, Loretteville, Saint-Augustin-de-Desmaures, Saint-Émile on January 1, 2002 , Sainte-Foy, Sillery, Val-Bélair and Vanier. In the provincial elections in April 2003, the Parti libéral du Québec won. One of their election promises was to subsequently subject the mergers to a referendum. However, the new government laid down conditions that were difficult to meet. First, a tenth of all registered voters had to sign a petition to get a vote. Second, at least 35% of all registered voters had to agree (so a simple majority was not enough for secession). Referendums were held in all former municipalities on July 20, 2004. Six voted to secede from Québec, but only L'Ancienne-Lorette and Saint-Augustin-de-Desmaures achieved the necessary quorum. These congregations were re-established on January 1, 2006, but had to relinquish some of their previous powers to the Association of Congregations.
On May 10, 2016, Statistics Canada determined the following
population figures: Québec City had 531,902 inhabitants, the Québec
Agglomeration (Québec City with L'Ancienne-Lorette, Notre-Dame-des-Anges
and Saint-Augustin-de-Desmaures ) 569,717 inhabitants and the
metropolitan area Communauté métropolitaine de Québec 800,296
inhabitants. This makes Québec the second most populous city in the
province after Montreal and eleventh in Canada.
The table below shows the population development according to the Canadian census supplemented by censuses during the French and British colonial periods. A distinction is made between today's urban area and the urban area before the municipal mergers of 2002. The number of inhabitants rose continuously up to the 1870s, only to then flatten out significantly for three decades. Another boost followed until the middle of the 20th century, after which growth increasingly shifted to the suburbs, which were still independent at the time. In the core city, the population fell in the 1970s and then stagnated. The mergers eventually resulted in a tripling.
The most spoken language in the city has always been French. After
the end of French rule, English quickly gained influence, partly because
of Québec's importance as the administrative center of British North
America, and partly because of the city's role as the main port of call
for European immigrants, often British. Significant waves of immigration
from the British Isles (particularly Ireland) began after the Napoleonic
Wars, and by 1861 almost half the city's population was
English-speaking. A decade later that proportion had fallen to a third
as Anglophones began to migrate to other parts of Canada. It continued
to decline as Montreal developed into the country's economic hub. In
1971, only 6% of the population spoke English.
In the 2016 census, 93.5% of the population spoke French as their mother tongue, while the proportion of English speakers was 1.4%. "Allophones" were 5.1%, i.e. people whose mother tongue is neither of the two official languages of Canada. The most important languages spoken by the immigrants were Spanish (1.2%) and Arabic (0.9%). Knowledge of both official languages had 40.2% of the population, only French spoke 59.2%. Linguistically, Québec is thus far more homogeneous than Montreal, where native Francophone speakers make up just over half and allophones a third of the population.
The majority of the population is Roman Catholic. In 2001, 89.0%
stated that they belonged to this denomination. 1.5% were Protestant and
7.6% non-denominational. The high proportion belies the fact that the
Roman Catholic Church has lost a significant amount of social and
political influence since the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s; moreover,
the percentage of regular churchgoers in the province of Québec fell
from 90% to 6% between 1960 and 2008, the lowest in the western world.
The Archdiocese of Québec has existed since 1819. It was founded in 1658 as an apostolic vicariate and was raised to a diocese in 1674, which at the time encompassed almost the entire North American continent. This is the oldest Roman Catholic diocese north of Mexico. The Quebec Diocese of the Anglican Church of Canada has existed since 1793.
The vast majority of the European-born population is of French, British and Irish origin. As "visible minorities" (minorités visibles) those residents who are not of European origin are designated by the Canadian statistical authorities (this does not include the natives). According to the 2016 census, 6.4% of the population in Quebec City belonged to a visible minority. Afro-Canadians make up the largest proportion at 2.4%, followed by Latin Americans (1.3%), Arabs (1.2%) and Southeast Asians (0.5%). The proportion of natives was 3.4%. 15,040 people identified themselves as members of an Indian First Nation, 2,915 as Métis and 210 as Inuit. More than 1,500 members of the Wyandot live in the enclave of Wendake, which administratively belongs neither to the city nor to the agglomeration.
Dealing with people whose behavior or appearance deviates from the
accepted standard is subject to change. Since the beginning of the
millennium, visible drunkenness has been banned more and more from
public spaces. Fines and evictions accounted for 37% of all tickets in
Quebec in 2013 (61% in Montreal). These measures mainly affected
homeless people in popular places such as parks or tourist attractions.
In 2002, there were 16,194 homeless people (itinérants) in Quebec City,
a number that has changed little since then. 89% of them were men.
Dealing with generally less visible minorities in Québec is also idiosyncratic. In 2005, Québec had the highest proportion of disabled people who were considered poor among Canadian cities, at 58.4%. Public safety is high: Out of 33 Canadian metro areas surveyed, the Québec metropolitan area had the lowest crime rate in 2016.
The Communauté métropolitaine de Québec (CMQ) is an overarching
special-purpose association to which the city of Québec, 26 other
municipalities in the Capitale-Nationale region and the city of Lévis in
the Chaudière-Appalaches region belong. The CMQ has planning skills in
the areas of spatial planning, economic development, art and culture
promotion, tourism, infrastructure financing, waste disposal, nature
conservation and local public transport.
In addition to the city, the Québec agglomeration also includes L'Ancienne-Lorette and Saint-Augustin-de-Desmaures - i.e. those communities that were merged with Québec in 2002 and split off again in 2006. The agglomeration council has nine members, seven of whom represent the city. He is responsible for the provision of inter-municipal services: police, fire brigade, civil protection, drinking water supply, water mains, sewage treatment, garbage collection, social housing, public transport and main road maintenance.
The municipal charter (Charte de la ville de Québec) regulates the
responsibilities of the various authorities at the municipal level. The
city council (conseil municipal), elected every four years by majority
voting, is the legislative branch. It consists of 21 city councilors and
the mayor. He determines the budget, approves the loans necessary for
the administration of the city and the boroughs and issues regulations.
In Canada, federal and provincial political parties are typically
separate (members of one party do not necessarily belong to the other).
In Québec, this system continues at the local level. The last city
council elections took place on November 5, 2017. Currently represented
in the council are the centre-right Équipe Labeaume (15 seats), the
left-wing Québec 21 (3 seats) and Démocratie Québec (1 seat) and two
The ten-member executive committee (comité exécutif) is appointed from among the ranks of the city council. It exercises executive power and is responsible for individual departments of the city administration. The chairman of the city council and the executive committee is the mayor (maire), who is considered first among equals; he is also chairman of the CMQ and the agglomeration council. Bruno Marchand has held this office since November 14, 2021.
Quebec is divided into six arrondissements. The boroughs are responsible at the local level for certain assigned tasks. Each arrondissement has its own district mayor (who is also a member of the city council) and a district council (conseil d'arrondissement) with three to five elected members. The district councils can submit proposals to the city council, which then require its approval.
The coat of arms has existed in its present form since 1988. The coat of arms tapering to a point at the bottom shows two golden keys on a red background in a gold-edged shield head, overlaid by a green maple leaf, underneath on a blue background a golden sailing ship with full sails over white and blue waves. There are also two ornaments: a silver mural crown with red fields rests on the shield, under the shield lies a banner with the city's motto: Don de Dieu feray valoir ("I will use God's gift well"), with Don de Dieu on takes the name of Champlain's ship. The flag introduced in 1987 shows the sailing ship in yellow on a blue background, with a white crenellated border. For everyday official traffic, the city uses a logo consisting of the sailing ship in blue or white and the lettering Ville de Québec in reverse color.
The Capitale-Nationale administrative region, three quarters of whose population lives in Québec City, generated a gross domestic product (GDP) of CAD 35.1 billion in 2015. This corresponds to a 10% share of the economic output of the province of Québec. With a disposable income of $28,279 per person (2015), Capitale-Nationale ranked first among the 17 administrative regions. The most important economic sector in the city is by far the service sector with a share of 86% of employees, industry and construction make up 13% together, the rest is made up of the primary sector with forestry and agriculture. From 2010 to 2013, the unemployment rate in the Quebec metropolitan area averaged 5.0%, about 2.8 percentage points below the average for the entire province.
Since the early 20th century, forestry has shifted its focus from pure wood production to maintaining the stock and applied research in the field of materials science. Various mining companies are based in Québec, but there are no mines. The agriculturally usable area is about one fifth of the urban area. In 2002, 121 farms were counted. These are mainly located in the fertile St. Lawrence lowlands to the west of the city. The most important sectors are dairy farming, pig breeding, potato and vegetable cultivation and poultry production.
Within the city area there are 26 industrial zones. Most are along
major arterial routes, with a concentration on Autoroute 40 in the
southern part of the Saint-Charles valley. In recent decades there has
been a shift from the domestic market-oriented consumer goods industry
to export-oriented high technology, in cooperation with the local
research institutions. In 2003, the Québec International organization
was founded with the aim of promoting targeted foreign investment in the
"knowledge-based" economy. A particularly large number of companies are
active in the life sciences, information and communication technology,
electronics industry, material development, environmental technology,
energy technology and food industry.
Various international companies are represented in the city with branches and business premises. These include AkzoNobel, Asea Brown Boveri, CGI, Fujitsu, General Electric, GlaxoSmithKline, STERIS, Thales Group and Veolia. The once thriving wood processing industry, which shaped economic development to a large extent for three centuries, is of secondary importance today. After a concentration process, only one paper mill is still in operation: The Stadacona plant, founded in 1928 by the Anglo-Canadian Pulp & Paper Mills and part of the US company White Birch Paper since 2004, is North America's third-largest producer of newsprint.
Public administration has a high share of the service sector with 15%
of all employees (almost three times higher than the provincial
average). In addition to the ministries of the provincial government and
the departments of the city administration, various state or
state-related companies also belong to this category. Quebec is u. a.
Headquarters of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (pension
fund), the Institut national d'optique (research institute), the Société
des établissements de plein air du Québec (national park
administration), the Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec
(vehicle insurance), the Autorité des marchés financiers (Financial
Supervision) and the Société des alcools du Québec (Alcohol
In addition, Québec is home to several international organizations. These include the Organization of World Heritage Cities, an association of 250 cities with world heritage sites, or the Inter-American organization for higher education, which promotes exchange between universities in North and South America. Two sub-organizations of the International Organization of Francophonie are also based: the Institut de l'énergie et de l'environnement de la francophonie coordinates the environmental and energy policies of the member states, while the Center international de documentation et d'échange de la francophonie promotes cultural exchange .
Another important pillar is insurance and financial services. Ten insurance companies are headquartered in the Québec metropolitan area, making it the second most important location for this industry in Canada. The most important representatives are the Industrial Alliance and Promutuel. A cluster in computer game programming has developed in Québec. The best known of these game developers are Frima Studio and Ubisoft Québec. The city is also home to a number of service companies, including Chez Ashton (fast food chain), Familiprix (drug stores), Groupe F. Dufresne (fuel retailers) and La Maison Simons (fashion shops).
Due to the numerous sights and cultural offerings, tourism is an important economic factor. In 2017, 4.6 million tourists (1.1 million of them from abroad). This makes Québec the fourth most visited destination in Canada after Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. In 2017, tourism generated sales of $1.59 billion.
As in the rest of the province, four television channels share most
of the French-speaking market; they are each represented in Québec City
with regional branches and broadcasting studios. For the public
broadcaster CBC/Radio-Canada it is the channel CBVT, for the private
networks TVA, Télé-Québec and V it is the channels CFCM, CIVQ and CFAP.
In English, it is broadcaster CKMI of the private Global Television
Network. There are also several radio stations.
In Québec, the daily newspapers Le Soleil and Le Journal de Québec, several weekly newspapers with a local distribution and various magazines are published in French. The English-language weekly Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph has been in existence since 1764 and claims to be the oldest newspaper in North America.
The water supply is ensured by the Service de l'environnement, a
joint operation of the agglomeration municipalities. A little more than
half of the drinking water comes from the Rivière Saint-Charles or the
Lac Saint-Charles, one fifth from the Saint Lawrence River, one sixth
from the Rivière Montmorency, the rest from spring tappings. All of the
waste water is cleaned in two treatment plants, and there are also a
dozen underground retention basins available in the event of large
amounts of rain. Hydro-Québec supplies electricity and Gaz Métro
supplies natural gas.
All of the city's public hospitals have been part of the Center hospitalier universitaire de Québec network since 2012, which is linked to the Université Laval. This includes the Hôtel-Dieu de Québec, founded in 1639 and the oldest hospital in North America. The city's police department, the Service de police de la Ville de Québec, has existed since 1843 and has just over 700 employees. A fire brigade has existed in the city since 1765; today's Service de protection contre les incendies de Québec was created in 2002 through the merger with the fire brigades of various neighboring communities.
Québec is a major hub in the province's highway network. Autoroute 40
connects the city to Trois-Rivières, Montreal and the province of
Ontario. Autoroute 20 runs south of the St. Lawrence River; westwards it
leads to Montreal and Toronto, eastwards to Rivière-du-Loup. The
Autoroute 73 serves as a transverse link between these motorways: It
starts near the northern outskirts of the city, crosses the river and
ends near Saint-Georges. The network is supplemented by four short city
freeways: the Autoroute 440, the Autoroute 540, the Autoroute 573 and
the Autoroute 740. The most important national main road is Route 138;
it runs parallel to the north bank of the St. Lawrence River, from the
New York State border to the Labrador Peninsula. Other national roads
are Route 136 and Route 175.
Three bridges cross the Saint Lawrence River. From the Sainte-Foy district, the Pont Pierre-Laporte motorway bridge leads to Lévis. It was opened in 1970 and is the longest suspension bridge in Canada with a total length of 1041 meters. 200 meters to the west is the Québec Bridge, opened in 1919, a 987 meter long cantilever truss bridge for rail and road traffic. The 4.4 km long Pont de l'île d'Orléans, opened in 1938, leads from the district of Beauport to the Île d'Orléans, an island in the Saint Lawrence estuary.
The bike path network in Québec stretches over 400 km. In addition to the usual cycle lanes, there are four separate, continuous cycle corridors. The longest continuous cycle route is the Corridor du Littoral (48 km), which runs along the banks of the Saint Lawrence River between Cap-Rouge and Montmorency Falls. The Corridor des Cheminots (22 km) follows the route of a disused railway line between the city center and Val-Bélair. The Corridor de la Rivière Saint-Charles (9 km) circles the lower reaches of the Rivière Saint-Charles and the Corridor des Beauportois (5.7 km) crosses the borough of Beauport. The first two corridors are part of the Route Verte and the Sentier transcanadien.
Québec International Airport (Aéroport international Jean-Lesage de Québec) is twelve kilometers west of the city center. It was opened in 1939 and has around 1.75 million passengers a year, making it the second busiest airport in the province in terms of passenger traffic. Quebec's port on the Saint Lawrence River is Canada's oldest; today it is primarily important as a starting point for cruise ships. The Société des traversiers du Québec operates a ferry service between Lower Quebec and Lévis.
From Québec's main train station, the Gare du Palais, several VIA
Rail express trains run daily to Montreal. The Gare du Palais also
serves as a terminal for numerous long-distance bus routes. Another
train station is in the Sainte-Foy district. Trains from Montreal to
Halifax and Gaspé do not go through Québec, but stop at Charny station
on the opposite bank. The railway lines north of the Saint Lawrence
River that leave Québec are now used almost exclusively for freight
traffic. One exception is a tourism-focused service to La Malbaie on the
The Réseau de transport de la Capitale (RTC) transport company operates a dense bus network with several dozen routes in Québec and several neighboring communities. The backbone is formed by four Métrobus lines, which have separate bus lanes at particularly frequent intervals and over almost their entire length. There is a uniform tariff structure using the contactless OPUS chip card. The Société de transport de Lévis is responsible for connections over the Québec Bridge to the neighboring city of Lévis. A funicular, the Funiculaire du Vieux-Québec, opened in 1879, runs between the Rue du Petit-Champlain in the lower town and the Dufferin Terrace above.
The history of public transport began in 1845 with the introduction of a horse-drawn bus service between Québec and Cap-Rouge. Twenty years later, the first horse tram followed in the lower town. Electric trams operated from 1897 until the switch to bus services in 1948, and there was also an Interurban to the pilgrimage site of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré between 1899 and 1957. In 2003, RTC published a feasibility study on reintroducing the tram, but the project is politically blocked.
The Université Laval is the oldest continuously existing francophone
educational institution in the Americas. It was founded in 1663 as a
seminary of the Jesuits (Séminaire de Québec) and converted into a full
university in 1852. It has around 48,000 students, making it one of the
largest universities in Canada. Almost all university facilities are
concentrated on the 1.9 km² campus in the Sainte-Foy district,
individual faculties use the seminar buildings in the old town. The
distance learning university TÉLUQ (Télé-Université), founded in 1972,
belongs to the network of Université du Québec. In addition to the two
universities, there are two other universities, the École national
d'administration publique and the research institute Institut national
de la recherche scientifique.
At the middle school level, there are four state Cégeps (Collège d'enseignement général et professionnel) in Québec, which combine preparation for university education and technical vocational school. Of these, three are French and one is English. There are also nine private middle schools. There are four school boards in the Québec metropolitan area, responsible for kindergarten, elementary and secondary school, adult education and vocational training. French-speaking school boards are the Commission scolaire des Premières-Seigneuries in the east, the Commission scolaire de la Capitale in the center and the Commission scolaire des Découvreurs in the west. The Central Quebec School Board is in charge of the English language classes. Supervision is carried out by school boards elected by the residents of the areas served.
Québec is the birthplace and place of work of many prominent personalities, such as Guy Laliberté (founder of Cirque du Soleil). Due to the close ties that have developed between federal, provincial and local politics in Québec City over the decades, numerous well-known politicians have come from here. Both mayor of the city and prime minister of the province of Quebec were Narcisse-Fortunat Belleau and Simon-Napoléon Parent. Pierre-Joseph-Olivier Chauveau, Jean Lesage, Pauline Marois and John Jones Ross have served as Prime Ministers of Quebec. Hector-Louis Langevin is one of the founding fathers of the Canadian state, Robert Taschenreau was the chairman of the Supreme Court of Canada. Pierre de Rigaud was the only non-European governor of New France. Among the most famous athletes are mainly ice hockey players who have won the Stanley Cup several times. These include Patrice Bergeron, Simon Gagné, Marcel Pronovost and Patrick Roy. Added to this is Myriam Bédard, one of the most successful biathletes of the 1990s.