Below the Terrace: What’s Under the Dufferin Terrasse?

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.

More reading:  Hometown Tourism: Commuting can be exploring, too

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?!).

Location:

Visit the Frontenac Kiosk (on the Dufferin Terrace) - you can purchase tickets there. More information on ticketing can be found here.

Hours:

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 😀
Posted in Budget Travel, Canada, City Guides, North America, Travel, Trip Planning and tagged , , , , , , .

25 Comments

  1. I love places like this. It always feels like more of an adventure when you head underground! And good tip about a guide they can have so much insight it’s useful to have that resource.

  2. I’m ashamed to admit that even after spending a weekend at the Frontenac I didn’t know about the Dufferin Terrasse! I did peak through the cut outs in the boardwalk, though, and see a bit of the ruins underneath but didn’t have time to learn more. So thanks for the history lesson & inside look – Quebec City is such a fascinating place!

    • When I saw it pop up on the tour list I knew I had to do it! It’s super quick, too – so if you ever go back it’s definitely worth the 30-45 minutes!

  3. I’ve always wanted to visit the Fairmont here! The architecture is just incredible. I’ve never heard of this area around it though. I love historic sites like that so I would absolutely eat this up.

    • The hotel was amazing (the rooms, restaurants – literally everything about it) – so I definitely recommend staying if you have the chance! And the underground site was such a cool thing to have done – especially since its not super well-known

  4. This sounds and looks so cool! I live in Canada and didnt know that this place even existed! Just wow! I would definitely like to visit and explore this place (im pinning this)

    • Thanks, Mayuri! It’s one of those attractions that not a lot of people seem to know about – but the history down there is really fascinating!

  5. Oh how interesting! I’ve been to Quebec a few times but didn’t know about this. Will have to check it out next time I’m there. Thanks for sharing!

  6. How cool is this!? This is how i like to travel – finding hidden treasures and interesting history. I haven’t made it to Quebec yet – but it is so on the list! Thanks for more inspo in making me want to go!

    • Totally agree! Hunting down the cool, lesser-known spots is really fun and rewarding (and I’m sure you see a lot of interesting hidden gems hunting down filming locations!)

  7. I’d prefer to go solo than with a guide, because (although this guide, you said, has a sense of humour), I get bored by history and bla bla bla…
    Having said that I had a negative experience with a tour guide in Stockholm. She was lovely, no doubt, but I was heavily jetlagged, my hip joints were outta commission, was bored af with all the history talk and the tour went overtime. But my next guide experience could be way different!

    Viv x
    sunsurfandcoconut.blogspot.com

    • Oh wow that sounds rough! I’m the same way – I usually like to go solo (because it allows for more natural exploration)… so I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed having a guide. My favorite is when you visit a place and they have staff hanging around – so you can explore on your own, but also have people you can ask questions!

    • hahah I didn’t either for the first like 3 days I was there! There were even skylights on the boardwalk that I straight up walked past…. and then when I was underground I was like “I can’t believe I walked by this like 8 times” lol

  8. So interesting!! I was hoping for a ghost story but it turned out to be governer’s house.. lol Still super interesting to know! Would definitely check it out next time I visit Quebec 🙂

  9. What a fun way to see some great stuff and get a good history lesson in!! I love learning about how people lived back in the day and understand their way of life!

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