Place Royale is a historic square located in the Lower Town (Basse-Ville) neighborhood of Old Quebec. Most notably, it’s where French Civilization originated in North America. Place Royale contains one of the largest collections of well-preserved 17th and 18th century buildings in the continent, and it’s one of North America’s oldest colonial settlements. Wandering around Old Quebec and Place Royale in particular needs to be on your Quebec City itinerary, even if you’re only spending one day in the city.
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History of Place Royale Quebec
Place Royale was a thriving hub of trade and commerce under the French regime. Not only was this square a bustling marketplace, but it was a site of criminal executions. It was the site of Samuel de Champlain’s first and second habitations, dating back to 1608, the year Quebec was founded. The dark stone circle on the ground in the photograph above represents the site of Champlain’s second habitation, a stone building which served as a home, a warehouse, a trading post and a fort. The church, Notre-Dame-des-Victoires was built where the habitations once stood.
Nowadays, Place Royale still serves as a central area in Old Quebec where visitors can marvel at the historic buildings, visit the church, enjoy a meal or beverages on a patio, take plenty of photographs, and do lots of people watching. Place Royale, along with the rest of Old Quebec, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Notre-Dame-des-Victoires is a small Roman Catholic church in Place Royale. The church was built between 1687 and 1723. It was almost completely destroyed by bombing during the Conquest of 1759. Thankfully, it was fully restored in 1816. Today, it remains as a historic monument, a fully functioning place of worship, and a tourist attraction.
Entering the church is free of charge, so we took a peek inside. It’s a very small, cute church, but it’s very intricately decorated. There’s also a small gift shop inside the church.
Bust of Louis XIV
In the middle of this town square, there is a bust of Louis XIV that has an interesting history. The original was erected in 1686, and this one is a replica of the original. Le Bernin, a master Italian artist, architect and sculptor, created the original bronze bust in 1665. However, the original work was removed in 1700 as it was thought to disrupt traffic in the square.
Unfortunately, no one knows the whereabouts of the original Louis XIV bust. In 1928, French Minister of Commerce and Communications presented Canada with a replica of the original sculpture. In 1931, it went back up in Place Royale. Again, it was removed in 1944 as it was thought to disrupt traffic. Finally, in 1964, the bust found its permanent home back in the square.
Things To Do in Place Royale
Place Royale is a great place to take in the sights, take lots of photographs, and visit the church. Occasionally here, you might see some street performed in Place Royale. We heard some musical performances by a traditional French band, a man playing the harp, and saw a woman pretending to be a statue. It reminds me a lot of Europe.
Take a Walking Tour of Old Quebec
If you’d like to learn more about Place Royale and Old Quebec, consider taking a walking tour of Old Quebec with a knowledgeable guide. You’ll visit many places of interest in Quebec City, like Old Port, La Citadelle de Quebec, the Fortifications, and other sights around Old Quebec.
Take a Bike Tour of Old Quebec
Is cycling more your style? Take a historical guided bike tour of Lower Town, Old Quebec. You’ll cruise along cobblestone streets and learn about the rich history of Quebec’s old town. Along with a visit to Place Royale and other historical places in Quebec City, you’ll take a carefree ride beside the St. Charles River. Of course, you’re welcome to rent bicycles and go cycling around Quebec City on your own, too!
Musée de la Place-Royale
Musée de la Place-Royale (Museum of Place Royale) is an interpretive center with illuminating exhibits about the history, the people, and the buildings of Old Quebec. The museum studies the history of Place Royale and Old Quebec in great detail. It’s operated by the Musée de la civilisation on the site of the Smith and Hazeur houses. Traces of aboriginal people dating back 5000 years were detected at the Hazeur House. If you are a fan of museums and you’re a history buff, you’ll want to check it out.
Have Drinks on the Patio of La Pizz
One of our most memorable times on the trip was sitting out on the patio of La Pizz in Place Royale. We ordered a pitcher of sangria and admired our surroundings. After such busy days walking all over the city to see everything, it was wonderful to be able to relax on a patio and enjoy some cold drinks.
Justin and I chatted and reflected on our trip to Quebec, did some people watching, and simply relaxed. It’s important to take restful moments like these, especially when you have relatively packed itineraries. You will definitely burn out if you rush around from place to place, so be sure to balance your time wisely and soak in your surroundings!
Sitting on the patio, I was able to admire all of the details in the historic stonework houses, and take pleasure in the brightly-colored flowers hanging from window boxes. The sangria was also super refreshing!
Visit Place Royale in the Evening
I also highly recommend checking out Place Royale at dusk. It is wonderful to see the church and the buildings all lit up. Walking around Quebec City at night is perfectly safe as crime in the city is incredibly low. I felt absolutely safe walking around in the evening hours!
Movies Filmed at Place Royale
Place Royale is a modern-day movie site. In fact, while we were visiting this region, we walked past a film shoot in progress! The movie, Catch Me If You Can, features scenes filmed at Place Royale, which represented an area of France. The Angelina Jolie movie, Taking Lives, used Notre-Dame-des-Victoires as a filming location.
Nearby Places of Interest in Quebec City
There are tons of things to do and see in Old Quebec. Aside from Place Royale, there are numerous attractions in Lower Town alone. Quartier Petit Champlain, the Breakneck Stairs, and the Funicular are just around the corner. Read more about the staircases of Quebec City to see all the interesting ways to get between Lower Town and Upper Town). A round-trip ferry ride to Levis and back allows you to admire gorgeous scenery of Old Quebec from the water.
There’s some interesting street art just beyond the historical area of Old Quebec in Lower Town beneath a highway overpass. If you’re traveling to Quebec City in the summer and you love public art, you won’t want to miss Passages Insolites, an outdoor art festival.
Looking for food and drink in Lower Town, Old Quebec? I mentioned that we got some sangria on the patio of La Pizz in Place Royale. You’re welcome to browse our vegan guide of Quebec City for some ideas. Specifically, we can vouch for Chez Victor, a gourmet burger spot near Old Quebec and a lovely independent coffee shop called Les Cafes du Soleil.
Where to Stay in Old Quebec
Justin and I have stayed at two beautiful properties in Basse-Terre (Lower Town) of Old Quebec. We highly recommend both of these hotels as they’re both lovely in their own way.
Le Saint Pierre Auberge Distinctive
First, Le Saint Pierre Auberge Distinctive is an enchanting boutique hotel that will make your stay extra special. Located inside a historic building, this property feels like its straight out of Europe. I really loved the exposed brick walls and preserved structure of the room. As this building used to be owned by an old insurance company, our bathroom had an interesting layout. It used to be the room that held the insurance company’s safe. I love little interesting details like that.
Similarly, Hotel 71 is relatively close to Le Saint Pierre Auberge in Lower Town, Old Quebec. Hotel 71 is a slightly more modern hotel in its design and decor. The building itself is an old architectural gem, once home to the National Bank of Canada. We adored the contemporary elegance of our room and the views of the St. Lawrence River from our room. It’s also wonderful to always have access to delicious coffee, both in the room and downstairs in the public seating area.
Map of Place Royale
Here’s a map of Place Royale so you can plan your visit with regards to other attractions around Quebec City.
|Essential Quebec City Travel Guide|
|Getting There: If you’re arriving by air, you’ll fly into the Quebec City Jean Lesage International Airport. From there, it’s about a 20-25 minute taxi ride to Old Quebec. Search for the best rates on flights to Quebec City.|
Getting Around: When you’re in Quebec City, you won’t need a car. Renting a bike is a fun idea to get around the city, but you can walk everywhere. If you’d like to visit nearby attractions outside Quebec City, I suggest renting a car. Compare car rental prices for the best rate.
Fast Facts: Canadian Dollar is the currency. Power voltage is 110-120 V 60 Hz using Power Sockets A and B. You’ll need an adapter if you’re visiting from an international destination outside of North America.
SIM Cards & Mobile: You can rent a portable Wi-Fi device with unlimited data that works in 130+ countries worldwide. We’ve used our portable device all over the world and love how we’re always connected!
Travel Safety: Don’t forget to get travel insurance before your trip. Whether you have an accident, have a flight delay, experience a theft, or need to return home sooner than anticipated, it’s always best to cover your bases. Get a travel insurance quote now for the best rates.
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