Hiking trail in the fall, Gatineau Park, Quebec© Rob HuntleyHiking trail in the fall, Gatineau Park, Quebec
© Rob Huntley
"La Belle Province" is the heart of Canada's French community, and Montreal is the second-largest French-speaking city in the world. Visitors to Montreal often feel as if they're in Europe, even though they're just an hour's drive from the U.S. border. That is especially the case in Old Montreal, an historic quarter of the city that includes many of its oldest buildings. Visit the Chateau Ramezay, a museum dedicated to that era, to learn more.

But Montreal isn't just history. Its nightlife is arguably Canada's best, whether you are on downtown St. Catherine Street or on St. Laurent Boulevard, which divides the city's English and French halves. Montreal is also home to the Underground City, a vast network of shops, restaurants and entertainment venues. For a true Montreal experience, catch a Canadiens hockey game at the Bell Centre.

If you want to get back to nature, you can do that without leaving Montreal. The cycling track from the 1976 Olympics has been converted into the Biodome, which recreates four Western Hemisphere ecosystems, while Mount Royal is a vast park from which the city gets its name.

Québec's other major urban centre is the capital, Québec City. If you liked Old Montreal, you'll love Québec City, whose historic walled section is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here, history surrounds you and everything is within easy walking distance: the Citadel, the iconic Fairmont Chateau Frontenac hotel, the Ursuline Convent and much more.

Steam train, Wakefield, Quebec© Doug BainesSteam train, Wakefield, Quebec
© Doug Baines
Elsewhere in the province, you can take a memorable drive to Percé, a community at the province's eastern tip known for a much-photographed rock in the bay. The Laurentians north of Montreal are as famous for the views as for the skiing, and the Charlevoix region of the St. Lawrence River—a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve—is popular with whale watchers. In the Eastern Townships you can ski, relax at luxury lakeside inns, or shop for local honey and cheeses.

by Laura Byrne Paquet

Stock Photos from 123RF

Stock Photos from 123RF