Whether or not you’re a religious person it’s hard to deny a certain warm feeling that walking through a great city during the holidays provides. Some cities do this better than others and my all time favorites tend to be in Europe. But if you’re looking for that Old World holiday charm in North America, fear not because it is alive and well in the Petit Champlain neighborhood of Quebec City.
The heart of the city’s old town, the Petit Champlain is a remarkably well preserved area of town that captures the romantic feeling of the city. Its position next to the Saint Lawrence River has guaranteed its popularity throughout the ages, but after falling on hard times in the 1970s and 80s this neighborhood has made a remarkable comeback. Like many other historic neighborhoods around the world, today the Petit Champlain is full of restaurants and shops, catering not only to tourists but curious locals as well. Looming high above is the mighty Chateau Frontenac, the Gilded Age hotel that is a constant companion as you wander through the narrow streets and alleys.
The Petit Champlain is a great place to explore on an average day, but during the holidays it transforms into a place of Old World beauty. I could have easily been wandering through a village in northern France instead of Canada, the look, the feel and even the smells are the same. We were there on the day they put up the annual Christmas tree in the ancient square, fulfilling a tradition that has been going on for longer than I’ve been alive.
Sure, some of the festive nature of a great European city during the Christmas holidays was lacking, but I didn’t mind. I could do without the hoards of people smelling of mulled wine and crepes. Instead we were able to walk peacefully around the quarter, admiring its beauty and already planning a return visit before we even finished our first.
I was in Quebec as the guest of Quebec Tourism.