Place Royale & Le Petit Champlain, Quebec
Here is the history of Place Royal. This is a historically significant district in Quebec and today there are many great bistros and art galleries in the area. You will without a doubt discover this area :-)
Place Royale is the birthplace of French civilization in North America. Samuel de Champlain began construction of his fortified "abitation" at the foot of Cap Diamant, in 1608. This is the first permanent establishment in New France. Rich merchants settle here and lively business develops in the area. In 1686, a bust to the glory of Louis XIV is erected. Place du Marché becomes place Royale.
Wars between France and England reach out as far as New France. Québec occupation by the English occurs for the first time from 1629 to 1632. In 1690, the place Royale cannon play a decisive role in turning back Admiral Phipps' fleet. In 1759 however, French resistance is overwhelmed by cannon ball and fire bombs. The Conquest begins.
Under the British Regime, Place Royale, with its merchants, shipowners and shipbuilders continues its leading commercial role and remains the centre of business. By 1860, the situation is one of decline. Place Royale regresses into a mere, stagnating place du Marché. By 1950, the area has become poor and rundown.
Place Royale is one of the oldest settlements on the North American continent. The architecture and narrow streets bring back four centuries of history. Place Royale is bustling in summertime. This is where you will discover l'église Notre-Dame-des-Victoires (church), only a few steps away from boutiques, restaurants, maison Fornel with its exhibitions and the Place-Royale interpretation centre.
Life in Quartier Petit Champlain captured in a magnificent mural. You can find this mural at the end of Petit Champlain. It is very nice obviously and adds to the walking experience in old Quebec.
A trompe-l'oeil mural measuring 100 square metres (900 square feet). You don't have to be an artist to appreciate the beauty of this outdoor work of art, located at 102 rue du Petit-Champlain, on the wall of the building owned by the Coopérative des artisans et commerçants du Quartier Petit Champlain.
This mural illustrates the origins of the Cap-Blanc neighbourhood, the bombardments in 1759, fires, landslides and other disasters to have befallen Quartier Petit Champlain over the years, as well as the strength and courage of those who built, lived, developed and breathed new life into this part of Quebec City.
For a full indepth interpretation of this mural you can visit the web site I provided. Cheers :-)
Our first night in Quebec City we wandered around Quartier Petit Champlain. Full of souvenir shops, upscale gift shops, and restaurants, it's a great place to spend a few hours just relaxing and soaking up the quaint atmosphere, with Chateau Frontenac towering overhead.
The streets are cobblestone and seemingly pedestrian-only, but actually a van did squeeze past as we were walking along Rue du Petit Champlain.
Don't miss the great chocolates at the shop halfway down Rue du Petit Champlain. (I'm kicking myself for not taking note of the name.) The proprietor is an American and his wife makes all the chocolates by hand. Try the port-filled dark chocolate truffle!
There is free admission to this great church at Place Royal.
Built in 1688, it is the oldest stone church in North America. Destroyed by shellfire in 1759, the church was restored twice. Remarkable interior. A scale model suspended in the nave depicts the vessel "Le Brézé", which transported the commander Marquis de Tracy and soldiers of the Carignan Regiment to New France in 1664.
It may be closed sometimes during weddings, funerals and christenings.
I just took pictures of it one time in Place Royal and during a second visit to the area I explored around inside :-)
Le Petit Champlain is known as the oldest shopping district in North America. It is probably the most charming area of the city, but unfortunately, some visitors miss it altogether since they don't know about this little gem located at the foot of Cap Diamant, below the Terasse Dufferin. Some of the buildings in this area date back to the 17th century and have been beautifully restored, in keeping with their humble New France origins. They are now filled with specialty shops that are quite popular with locals and tourists alike since they are in general less tacky than some of the stores located up on rue St-Jean. You'll also find some of Quebec City's best restaurants in this area - just make sure to make a reservation as most restaurants fill up very fast, especially when cruise ships arrive.
Place Royale is where it all began! When Samuel de Champlain arrived in America in 1608, he decided to build the first house in New France where Place Royale now sits (if you look on the pavement near the church, you'll see the outlines of where his house used to be). Soon enough, the area around Champlain's house became the marketplace and when a bust of King Louis XIV was erected in the middle of it in 1686, it became known as Place Royale. As you walk through the streets surrounding Place Royale, 400 years of history come to life before your very eyes - just think of Rue St-Pierre, which used to be Quebec City's Wall Street!
All summer long, it is possible to go on a free guided tour of Place Royale. Tours start at the "Centre d'interpretation de Place Royale", at 27 Notre-Dame Street. Tours last about 45 minutes and will help you get better acquainted with the history of the city and life in New France.
Also, don't forget to walk into Notre-Dame-des-Victoires, the oldest stone church in North America (built in 1688). Movie buffs might also recognize the church and its surroundings from a few scenes from the Steven Spielberg movie "Catch me if you can", starring Leornardo Di Caprio and Tom Hanks. The scenes towards the end of the movie when the characters are supposed to be in France were actually shot at Place Royale.
There are two flights on stairs down to Petit Champlain from Terrasse Dufferin. The first flight is called, of course, the Frontenac stairway. At the foot of this staircase you then turn right and walk along a section of cote de la Montagne. For those on a romantic trip, this would be the place to browse for "adult novelties."
The next staircase is known as Breakneck Stairs - don't lean too far forward! Seriously, these steps were lined with some kind of rubber so they were very safe. There are shops and restaurants as you go down (or up). At the bottom is the funicular station, for going back up!
Located in the Lower Town, the Place Royale was once home to wealthy merchants until they figured out that safer quarters from British attacks could be found in Upper Town. After the French fell to the British in 1759, the Place Royale flourished again with shipbuilding, logging, fishing and fur trading.
The cobblestoned square takes it name from the bust of Louis XIV that was put in the center of the square in 1686. The current bust is a reproduction of the Bernini original which can be found at the Palace of Versailles.
Things to see in the Place Royale:
-Fresque des Quebecois-a mural depicting 400 years of Quebec's history, the the east of the square
-bust of Louis XIV
-Eglise Notre-Dames-des-Victoires (Our Lady of Victory Church)-see separate tip
The first French North American settlement, Place-Royale is over 400 years old.
Maison Chevalier, on rue Marche-Champlain, dates back to the late 1700s. Exhibits on the first floor explain the history of the area, and upstairs typical rooms from the region's past are depicted. Free admission.
The oldest commercial area in North America !
This is one of the nicest area of town. Pedestrian streets lined up with nice restaurants and shops.
The area was in bad shape until the 70s when the Quebec governement invested public funds to give the area it's old look !
One of the most picturesque streets in North America. When the city was first founded, this was the site of a small path that led to "Champlain's Fountain". Houses were built along this path starting in the 17th century. Over time, the path became a street, and was successively known as rue De Meulles, rue Champlain, Petite rue Champlain and rue du Petit-Champlain.
During the French Regime, craftsmen worked in shops along rue du Petit-Champlain, where they lived with their families. In the 19th century, working-class Irish families, whose major breadwinners worked at the docks or in the ship-building trade, made their homes here. Today, dozens of artists' workshops and boutiques line this historical street.
Close by Petit Champlain, Place Royale is also a must see and really have a feel of 16th century New-France.
We kept missing this mural in our routes from the hotel to Petit Champlain - but we spotted the mural from high up on the wall and figured out where we'd gone wrong.
Not far from the Notre Dame church on the corner of cote de la Montagne is a massive mural depicting figures from 400 years of Quebec's history. The mural is so lifelike, you can stand in front of it and blend right in! Another interesting feature is that the mural goes through the four season as you gaze upward. A plaque is posted nearby to help identify the historical figures.
Now this is something special: A fresco of Québec City that displays the city's most important sights and people. In 1999, 12 French and Quebecois artists painted a wall of 420 m² to show QC changing through the seasons.Between the different buildings, you can see different personalities of the city:
* Jacques Cartier, an explorer of the New World
* Samuel de Champlain, founder of Québec City
* Comte de Fontenac, general governor of New France
* Marie Guyart, founder of St. Ursuline's monastery
* Louis Jolliet, explorer of the Mississippi river
* and 12 other important persons.
The fresco is great to look at from one of the benches below - watch out for details, it's worth it
The stairs give a nice perspective of the passage from the Upper town to the Lower town. I highly recommend it instead of taking the funicular all the time. There are even coffee and restaurants along the way.
This staircase is tucked between two rows of buildings and winds precipitously down from côte de la Montagne to rue du Petit-Champlain. A staircase already existed in the same location in 1660. Originally known as "l'Escalier Casse-cou" in French, the Anglophone population of the city named it the "Breakneck Staircase" in the 19th century.
The Breakneck staircase was redesigned in 1968. The most recent renovations date back to the 1990s. The many terraces located along the staircase give onto boutiques and restaurants located in 19th century homes.
Place Royale was the heart of New France. This was the area where wealthy merchants lived. The houses here have steep Normandy-style roofs, dormer windows and several chimneys. At the center of the square was the statue of Louis XIV, erected in 1686.
There is an information center with exhibits, depicting the early lives of the French colony. Admission is $3.
Built in 1688, Eglise Nortre-Dame des Victories was the oldest church in Quebec. It was built on the site of Samuel de Champlain's first residence and has been restored twice. Its name came from the two victories by the French against the attacks by the British.
The wall inside the church hung the paintings by famous European artists. The altar resembles the shape of a fort. There was also a model of the ship Le Breze that carried French soldiers to New France in 1664.