When a New Yorker is looking for a place to escape for a long weekend, she can pretty much take her pick. There’s Newport, Boston and Portland to the north, Washington, Cape May and Philadelphia to the south, and plenty of other worthwhile places to visit all around and in between. But none are so European—and so close—as Canada’s Québec City.
Roughly 500 miles north of Manhattan, with direct, 90-minute flights available daily from Newark, Québec City offers romantic, cobblestone streets, breathtaking views of the Saint Lawrence river, history, culture and world-class eats. It’s home to Festival d’été de Québec—an incredible, superstar-studded music festival that attracts more than a million festival-goers—each July, and the Québec Winter Carnival—one of the world’s largest of its kind—each February. Basically, picture your favorite small European city, minus the jet lag and add exciting events and poutine. (Have you already booked your flight?)
Go for a long weekend and splurge on a stay at the Chateau Frontenac. An iconic, historic hotel dating back to 1893, the Château Frontenac is famous for more than just its stunning, castle-like presence in the Québec City skyline; during World War II, the hotel hosted two important, strategic conferences that both Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, among others, attended. Today, however, the château is renowned mostly for its extensive, old-world luxury.
While you’re there, be sure to take the funicular—or the stairs, post-poutine—down to Quartier du Petit Champlain. This especially picturesque part of town is home to great shopping and two restaurants you’ll definitely want to try during your stay: Le Lapin Sauté and Cochon Dingue. Head to the latter for excellent, inspired crepes for breakfast and to the former for lunch or dinner to enjoy some of the best, freshest rabbit there is.
Do not even think about leaving Québec City, however, without enjoying a meal at iX pour Bistro. Don’t be dissuaded by its location out of the old city; this wonderfully whimsical, nine-table restaurant is worth the Uber ride. Just note that reservations are required and can be hard to come by. Visit the bistro once and you’ll understand why. Owned and nightly operated by just two guys, chef Benoit Lemieux and Vincent Ouzilleau, iX pour Bistro serves expertly executed, imaginative cuisine alongside an extensive, impressive wine list. The prices are reasonable (in fact, when compared to New York, they’re almost on the cheap side), and their French onion soup is so universally adored that the restaurant frequently indulges its fans by posting the recipe—in both French and English—on Facebook.
Of course, Québec City has more to offer than just food. Take a tour of the surrounding countryside and enjoy stops at Montmorency Falls, a large waterfall one-and-a-half times higher than Niagara Falls, the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, one of the five national shrines of Canada, the quaint Island of Orléans and more.
And if you’re itching to head south, but not all the way south to New York just yet, drive roughly two-and-a-half hours in that direction to the beautiful Eastern Townships. Spend a night or two at Manoir Hovey, a gorgeous Relais & Châteaux property in North Hatley, where you’ll be invited to feast on stunning views of Lake Massawippi and Michelin-level cuisine at the in-house restaurant.
This historic hotel is a destination in and of itself, but it’s also a perfect base from which to explore the surrounding area. Set aside a full day to take in the sights, beginning with the Abbey de St-Benoît-du-Lac. Attend the Gregorian chants and then head to the abbey’s shop to pick up some cheese, cider and fruit cake made on-site by the resident monks. Next, visit La Grange du parfumeur, the “Perfumer’s Barn,” where owner Alexandra Bachand elevates fragrance to an art.
If, after this, you’re getting hungry, head to Fromagerie La Station, an organic dairy farm famous for its award-winning cheeses, and treat yourself to a grilled cheese that’s so good you’ll spend the next several months dreaming about it. (Trust us.) Don’t be afraid to pick up some cheesy souvenirs before leaving to visit some of the region’s wineries; the shop’s friendly staff will gladly vacuum-seal any of their products to ensure they make it home safely—and freshly—to the States.
End your night back at Manoir Hovey, in front of the hotel’s dreamy, wood-burning fireplace. Order a cocktail from the bar and toast to all the treasure you found on your trip here—just an hour-and-half flight from New York City.
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