Fortification Wall of Quebec City, UNESCO and National Historic Site

Porte St-Jean

Quebec City is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was selected due to its historical significance as a European settlement in the Americas. The heritage of the city as a fortified colonial town is incredibly well maintained. In fact, it’s the only city in North America, north of Mexico, to be surrounded by fortified ramparts, a citadel, and other defensive structures. When we visited Quebec City, we explored this area and walked along Canada’s “Great Wall”. Although we didn’t walk along the entire wall (it spans 4.6km!), we discovered a good portion of it. Come along for the journey as we detail our experiences at the Fortification Wall of Quebec City!

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The History

The fortifications were developed between 1608 and 1871, erected under both French and British regimes. The English began fortifying the existing walls after they took command of Quebec City from the French following the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759. At the heart of the Fortifications lies the Citadel, the largest British fortress in North America. The Citadel, a star-shaped fort, is located on Quebec City’s highest point, Cape Diamond. After narrowly defeating the American invasion of Canada during the War of 1812, the British decided to construct the Citadel (from 1820 to 1850). While the Citadel was originally occupied by British troops, it remains an active garrison today. It is home to the Royal 22nd Regiment of the Canadian Forces – the only sole French-language regular force infantry regiment. If you’re really into military history, you can take a tour of the Citadel and its museum.

We’ve highlighted the fortification walls for you in purple, and you can see the Citadel in the bottom left of the map. As you can see, the walls completely surround what we now call the Upper Town of Old Quebec, built fully around the city to the edge of the hill. We started our journey at Porte Saint-Jean, one of the rampart gates. Porte Saint-Jean was originally built back in 1694 and has been rebuilt on a couple of occasions over the years. The present gate was reconstructed in 1939. We climbed the stairs to the top of the gate at Porte Saint-Jean and began walking south towards the Citadel.

View of Rue Saint-Jean

The views from the top of the fortifications were amazing; you could look over the wall or through the strategic spaces in the walls, making it a very unique experience. We could truly sense the military’s dominating presence during war times and the defensive measures taken to protect the city.

On top of Porte Saint-Jean

The one thing that I did notice that left me only slightly dismayed was the graffiti on the walls and towers. It is unfortunate that vandals have spray-painted the walls in this manner, and we only really noticed it when we were on top of the walls. I’m not sure to what extent the city does clean up the graffiti or if anything can be done to prevent it from happening, but it would be nice to see such a historic place kept free of vandalism.

Porte Kent

We continued our walk along the walls, taking in the city views. Some of the grassy paths on top of the walls were quite wide, showing us just how thick these fortified walls really were!

The next gate we reached was Porte Saint-Louis, spanning over Rue Saint-Louis. It was built also back around 1694, and reconstructed over the years with the present gate being established by Lord Dufferin in 1880. There are pedestrian tunnels on either side of the road, and one central tunnel over the street.

Porte Saint-Louis
The Wall below Porte Saint-Louis


View from on top of Porte Saint-Louis

From there, we continued our walk along the wall down towards the Citadel. We were able to walk into the Citadel’s main front gate and along the fortress walls without paying any sort of admission. For a tour of the Citadel and its museum, the cost is $16 for an adult, $6 for a child, and there are discounts for students, seniors, and family rates. The price also includes the Changing of the Guard ceremony during the summer months at 10:00am. We did not see the Changing of the Guard ceremony or look inside the museum, but it would definitely be worth checking out if that interests you.

The Citadel

We did see two guards at the Citadel entrance on duty in their regimental dress. We arrived on the hour, and watched as the two guards marched across the wall and back into place. These guards reminded me of the type you would see at Buckingham Palace – people kept running up beside them and snapping pictures of themselves with the guards, and the guards wouldn’t even flinch! We took our pictures from a bit of a distance and chose not to disturb them in their duties.

From the Citadel, we were right beside the Plains of Abraham Park and one end of the Governor’s Promenade boardwalk, which was where we walked next!

We recommend checking out the Fortifications of Quebec as they are a valuable part of the city’s history. The walls allow you to see the city streets and buildings from a different perspective. It was convenient for us to begin our walk at Porte Saint-Jean as we were already walking along Rue Saint-Jean, but you could walk around the entire perimeter following the map posted above.


25 Responses

  1. Ashley and Alex
    | Reply

    Such a great idea for sharing new places! We are happy to be apart of it! And who knew Quebec had a citadel? Looks like it is about time we made it up north

    • Lauren | Justin Plus Lauren
      | Reply

      I think you should definitely visit! Quebec City has such a neat vibe, and lots of places that make it not feel like Canada but more like Europe!

  2. CarmensTravelTips
    | Reply

    I didn’t know that most of Quebec City lays inside the walls of a fort. It’s a shame about the graffiti on the walls. Why do they still have guards on duty?

    • Lauren | Justin Plus Lauren
      | Reply

      You know, I’m not entirely sure as I didn’t tour the museum at the Citadel, but it is still an active military base so it could be as part of a formality / tradition type of thing. I think the Changing of the Guard ceremony is a tradition type thing, plus something for tourists to watch!

  3. Amanda
    | Reply

    Very cool and great photos! I didn’t realize Quebec was soo cute!

    • Lauren | Justin Plus Lauren
      | Reply

      It really is! I love all of the cobblestone roads in Old Quebec, too. Lots of cute cafes and restaurants with great patios!

  4. Esther
    | Reply

    Very cool photos, at first I thought it was Luxembourg City. They seem very similar, esp with the Citadel. Just discovered your blog, I love your pictures. Well done!

    • Lauren | Justin Plus Lauren
      | Reply

      Oh cool, I didn’t know Luxembourg City looked like that! Learned something new today :) Thank you for stopping by!

  5. Mary Solio
    | Reply

    You have made me keep wanting to visit Quebec City. This fortification wall is a great place to visit and those views are stunning. Thanks for the virtual tour and history lesson. It’s a shame about vandalism. I hope the city fixes it soon. Those guards do look like the ones in Buckingham. Unfortunately, we’re those types of tourists who will pose next to them ;-)

    • Lauren | Justin Plus Lauren
      | Reply

      The vandalism wasn’t CRAZY bad but it was noticeable enough. I hope they can clean things up a bit! Haha lots of people were posing next to them, I think that they likely realize that it comes with the territory of dressing like a Buckingham Palace guard… it’s inevitable to happen ;)

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    […] last on our trip to Quebec City. After a busy few days wandering the city streets, marveling at the fortified walls, and exploring the sites of this historic UNESCO site, we ventured outside of the downtown area to […]

  7. Katie @ The World on my Necklace
    | Reply

    Oh I loved Quebec City and walking the fortification walls was a great wya to spend an afternoon :)

  8. Tamara Gruber
    | Reply

    This looks great! We are hoping to make a trip to Quebec City this winter so I’m sure it will look quite different but hopefully equally lovely.

  9. An Instagram Travel Photo Review of 2014 - Justin Plus Lauren
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    […] has many preserved historical sites, such as its fortification walls and architectural marvels. […]

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    […] we walked up Rue Saint-Jean, we came across the fortification wall of Quebec City. It is one reason why Old Quebec is a UNESCO World Heritage site, as it is the only […]

  11. Samuel Edmond Brosseau Carter
    | Reply

    why u guys gotta delete my comments :((((( all i did was spread a little vegan love.

    • Lauren
      | Reply

      While it was entertaining, you and your friend got a little carried away ;) But I do appreciate the vegan love and thanks for stopping by!!

  12. Art
    | Reply

    Are the fortifications walkable in winter?

  13. Arch
    | Reply

    The fortification pics of Quebec City are fantastic! Very reminiscent of St Malo, France. I wonder if it’s possible to get inside any of the towers and the wall, looks like they are wide enough to accommodate guests.

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    […] Quebec City is the only North American city, north of Mexico, to be surrounded by fortification walls and defensive […]

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    […] I said, from the ice bars it’s downhill to my snow cave inside the walled city and return to […]

  16. Lorian Bartle
    | Reply

    Our tour guide was proud to say, “We built fortifications so we were ready for anything… and then nothing happened.”

    Lorian Bartle

  17. Donald R Miller
    | Reply

    The photo story you provided is quite compelling and informative. We will be there in three weeks and staying in a hotel on Rue Sainte Jean. I plan to walk the same route and more if I can. Volunteer graffiti is common in our national parks as well. People whose life experience is from McDonalds and souvenir shops lack the understanding or breeding to not deface a place whose value is beyond their understanding. Millions of people who will see it over the hundreds of years must be faced with a lessor experience.

  18. Gene Basler
    | Reply

    Perhaps one’s definition of “vandalism” is subject to challenge. The expression of the disenfranchised, using as canvas the very walls of power that daily remind them of their oppression, while not always rising to some people’s narrow sense of “art”, nevertheless Is often remarkable, sometimes even thought-provoking, and frequently worthy of photographing in its own right. Moreover, from a purely logical standpoint, vandalism from a tort perspective could be narrowly defined as destruction of legitimately owned property. Since everything any government ever “owns” is stolen, its title claim is inherently illegitimate; therefore isn’t it logically impossible to vandalize government property?

  19. Kenneth So
    | Reply

    Found your website super useful and would like to use it for my essay citation. I am writing an essay on Francophone cities in the world. Would you be able to help providing your Last Names? Much appreciated

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