With its fusion of indigenous, Canadian and European cultures, Québec is a truly distinctive destination, home to a variety of activities, wildlife and gastronomy that can only be found in the province. From its very own Big Five to North America’s only ice hotel, the largest log cabin in the world to the first international Dark Sky Reserve, not to mention the highest suspended bicycle ride in the world, whether it’s big, small, quirky or one-of-a-kind, here are 15 top facts you may not know about Québec…
1. Québec is home to the world’s first International Dark Sky Reserve
Located near the United States border, Mont-Mégantic is home to the world’s first International Dark Sky Reserve. It encompasses the regional county municipalities of Granit and Haut-Saint-François, the city of Sherbrooke and Mont-Mégantic National Park, its observatory and visitor centre.
2. Québec is three times the size of France
At 1.667 million km², Québec is the largest province in Canada, three times the size of France and even larger than Alaska! With 7,500,000 inhabitants, it is the second largest province in Canada by population after Ontario.
3. There are over one million lakes in Québec
As a result of the remnants of the glacier that covered the area in the last ice age, Québec is home to over one million lakes ranging from just 15km² to some that are over 2,000km².
4. Montréal has the highest number of restaurants per capita in Canada
Montréal has over 26 restaurants per 10,000 people, making it the city with the highest number of restaurants per capita in Canada and the second highest in North America after New York. Some of the city’s most famous restaurants include Toqué, Joe Beef and Europea.
5. Vélo Volant in the Eastern Townships is the world’s highest suspended bicycle ride
Québec’s VéloVolant ‘Au Diable Vert’ or ‘The Green Devil’ allows visitors to soar through the treetops between the summits of Mont Sutton, Jay Peak, and Owl’s Head in Eastern Townships, Québec, on a horizontal bicycle suspended in the air. At 1,000 feet, the circuit is the highest suspended bicycle ride in the world.
6. Québec has its own ‘Big Five’
Lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo and leopard are often what spring to mind when people think of the ‘Big Five’. But Africa isn’t the only place in the world with a Big Five, in fact, Québec has its very own special five species. These are the grey wolf, blue whale, snowy owl, black bear and moose.
7. Canyon Sainte Anne is the world’s first winter via ferrata
30 minutes outside Québec City, Projet Vertical is the world’s first summer and winter via ferrata. The mountain sports trail combines hiking and rock climbing with circuits adapted for all levels. The trail is set up on a rock face equipped with cables, beams and a variety of bridges and footpaths to facilitate the hike whilst ensuring safety.
8. The Hôtel de Glace is the first and only ice hotel in North America
Just 10 minutes’ drive from downtown Québec City lies the Ice Hotel (‘Hotel de Glace’) which is the only ice hotel in America entirely made of ice and snow. The structure is rebuilt each year and takes 50 workers, including fifteen sculptors, six weeks to build and requires over 30,000 tons of snow. This year, it is open until 25th March.
9. Québec gave the world Cirque du Soleil
Cirque du Soleil or ‘Circus of the Sun’ originated from Baie-Saint-Paul, near Québec City. In 1984, Québec was celebrating the 450th anniversary of Canada’s discovery by Jacques Cartier and they needed a show to take the festivities across the province. Guy Laliberté presented a proposal for a show called Cirque du Soleil and succeeded in convincing the organisers. Cirque du Soleil has evolved into one of the world’s most famous live spectacles, starting off as a company of 73 people in 1984, Cirque du Soleil now employs 5,000 worldwide and entertains millions of viewers yearly. Today, its headquarters are located in Montréal.
10. Québec is the only place in the world people can do ice canoeing
Ice canoeing was originally a means of transport between Québec City and Lévis, located on opposite sides of the St Lawrence River, when there was too much ice on the river for the ferries to cross. Today, it is a competitive sport and the only place in the world you can try in. Ice canoeing involves crews of five alternately pushing their canoe across the ice on the frozen parts of the river and the biggest competition of the year takes place in February during Québec City’s Winter Carnival.
11. Québec City is the only walled city in North America north of Mexico
The fortified ramparts surrounding Québec City date back around 400 years and were designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1948. Québec City is the only walled city in North America north of Mexico and Old Québec, which is almost completely surrounded by the wall, was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1985.
12. The world’s oldest fossils have been discovered in Québec
A recent study published by scientists claims they have discovered the world’s oldest fossils, thought to have formed between 3.8bn and 4.3bn years ago, in the rocks of the Nuvvuagittuq Supracrustal Belt in Inukjuak, in the Nord-du-Québec region. The findings could help scientists find life on other planets such as Mars.
13. The modern day snowmobile was invented by Québécois Joseph-Armand Bombardier
In the early 20th century, the original snowmobile model was found to be unsuitable for dealing with humid snow areas in places such as Québec and New England. In 1960, inventor Joseph-Armand Bombardier, from the small town of Valcourt in Québec, designed the snowmobile as we know it today using a different caterpillar track system which made it equipped for all kinds of snow conditions. Today, there is a museum dedicated to the legacy of Mr Bombardier.
14. Fairmont Le Château Montebello is the largest log cabin in the world
Founded as an exclusive private club in 1930, four star Fairmont Le Château Montebello is a red cedar log cabin located in Outaouais, Québec. Set amongst 65,000 acres of forested wildlife sanctuary and with 211 rooms, the luxury hotel is the largest log cabin in the world.
15. Québec was the only region in North America allowing alcohol sales during the prohibition
On 10th April 1919, Québec held a referendum on the legalisation of alcohol with the ‘yes’ side winning 78.62% of votes. This made the province the only place in the US or Canada not to impose prohibition and, as a result, sales for alcohol sky rocketed in Québec from all over North America.