One of the main attractions in Quebec City is the mega-opulent Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac. It feels a little weird to say that a hotel is such a popular destination, but this place has more of a castle feel than anything else. The 18-storey, 600-room hotel is by far the tallest, most prominent point on the skyline, and for that I really feel a kinship with the building (at 5’9, I can usually see clear over the heads of my friends and “being incognito” isn’t really a thing for me #tallgirlproblems). Once near the hotel, you’ll notice a fairly nondescript boardwalk that looks out over the le Petit Champlain. This is the Dufferin Terrasse (Terrace).
Other than the views of the St. Lawrence and little town below, the Dufferin Terrace really has nothing else to offer. Unless, of course, you’re into archeology, history, or having insider knowledge of cool stuff hidden in plain sight. But other than that, bleh… nothing exciting.
The Dufferin Terrace has this sneaky little historical gem hidden safely beneath the unassuming pedestrian path. The only little hints of what lies beneath are in the form of several skylights that curious visitors can take a peek.
So what’s under the Dufferin Terrasse?
Lots. Lots of stuff is under the terrace.
The site is the location of the Chateau Saint-Louis, the official residence of the then-current Governor (installed by whichever ruling power was controlling the colony at the time). Construction began in 1620 under the French, and went through a series of build-outs and reconstruction (from damage by fire) until it was destroyed by fire in 1834. At that point, they moved the chateau (to where the Frontenac Hotel is now) and four years later began construction on a series of terraces over the site of the Chateau Saint-Louis.
Before excavation began, it was known that there was something under the terrace boardwalk, but they didn’t realize the magnitude of the project until they started digging. So what do you do when you begin a major excavation and realize that it’s a WAY bigger job that you originally thought? You say “never mind” and rebury everything until you’ve secured enough funding.
What we see today is the result of the archaeological digs that took place between 2005 and 2007.
The stuff hidden underground is seriously cool!
No, seriously! Because it’s technically underground (and I presume the color of the wooden boardwalk helps) it remains cool even on the hottest of days – and is a great way to spend a bit of time if you’re looking to get out of the heat but not keen on finding a shop to duck into.
But other than being literally cool, there are loads of interesting things to see and learn. You’ll walk through rooms and in some cases, walking between rooms will move you through the ages of renovation. You’ll see how food was stored before refrigerators and what luxury items looked like during the heyday of the Chateau Saint-Louis.
Visiting the Dufferin Terrasse and the Chateau Saint-Louis
The official name of the underground exhibit is Saint-Louis Forts and Châteaux National Historic Site and is managed by Parks Canada. This means that if you have a Parks Canada Discovery Pass, you get in for free – or else it’s a small entry fee for adults and free for youth. It can be explored either on your own or with a guide. This is one attraction where I would highly recommend taking the guided tour as it adds an important layer of historical context to the space you’re visiting and the artifacts that you’ll see on display. Our guide, Sebastien was fantastic – not only did he have a wealth of knowledge, but he also managed to infuse humor into his delivery (who says history has to be dry and boring?!).
Visit the Frontenac Kiosk (on the Dufferin Terrace) - you can purchase tickets there. More information on ticketing can be found here.
The Frontenac Kiosk (to grab tickets) is open May 19 to October 8, 2018 every day from 9am to 5:30pm.
The archaeological area (underground) is open the same dates and every day: from 9am to 6:00pm.
Note: they tend to be less busy during the spring and the fall (think: while school is still in session) and get super busy on national holidays- so double check your dates before you go!
For more information on planning your visit, check out the Parks Canada website!
- If you've been to Quebec City, what was your favorite attraction (and food totally counts!)?
- What is a cool- maybe hidden- attraction in your area that visitors might not know about?
- Do you prefer to see attractions like this with a guide or solo? There are totally benefits to both and I'm curious 😀