If you’re dreaming of a wedding trip to France, but a European honeymoon isn’t in your budget, hop a fast flight to Québec City in Canada. Spend a few days inside the Old City, the 400-year-old walled section, and you just might feel like you’re vacationing on the outskirts of Paris.
This world-class destination, situated atop 200-foot cliffs with stunning views of the Laurentian mountains and the St. Lawrence River, is a perfect romantic destination. Savor Québecois cuisine, stroll charming cobblestone streets and practice your high-school French. Or not. Locals are happy to help Americans, especially if they attempt to embrace their language. But just in case, English is widely spoken by most hotel and restaurant staff.
GETTING THERE: Your first decision is whether to fly or drive. From New Jersey, it’s a 90-minute flight or a nine-hour drive. Flights and accommodations are especially affordable in winter months, except for the weeks of January 29 through February 14, 2016, when international crowds are expected for the annual Winter Carnival.
WHERE TO STAY: During your Canadian honeymoon, choose from a wide assortment of large hotels, quaint bed-and-breakfast inns and even a hotel carved from solid ice.
The Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac is an opulent urban resort within easy walking distance of the Old City’s best attractions. The original structure was built in 1893, and the entire hotel recently underwent a multimillion-dollar restoration. This real-life castle has hosted music and film stars, sports personalities and political figures in its 611 guest rooms and suites. 800-441-1414. Rates start at $299.
If you prefer a more intimate hotel experience, Auberge Place D’Armes is one of the nicest little B&Bs in Québec City. The luxury inn is housed in two historic buildings with 17-century masonry walls, elegant décor and modern amenities. It’s a stone’s throw away from Petit Champlain, the oldest neighborhood in North America. 866-333-9485. Rates start at $149.
Hotel de Glace. For a chilling experience between January and March, the 32,000-square-foot structure is one of the hottest tickets in the area. Completely carved out of ice, the hotel invites you to overnight in an igloo-type room atop a wooden bedspring, mattress and arctic sleeping bag. Not warming up to the idea of an Eskimo-style honeymoon? Just request a fireplace suite. 877-505-0423. Rates start at $295.75.
WHERE TO DINE: French cuisine itself is a magnifique reason to honeymoon in Québec City. You’ll find abundant dining options from casual to sophisticated.
Le Pain Beni. Situated catty-cornered to the Château Frontenac, this small but well-respected eatery is a hidden gem on an historic street. The dining room juxtaposes ancient brick walls and large windows with an eclectic vibe. It’s understated yet elegant with Nouvelle cuisine that focuses on regional specialties. Don’t miss classics like fondue and crème brûlée. 418-694-9485.
Le Quai 19. This cozy dining spot is tucked away near the St. Lawrence River pier, not far from the center of town. The stone and wood atmosphere, reminiscent of an Old-World market, is laidback with blues music every night. An open kitchen, fresh local ingredients and a friendly staff make it a fine choice for lunch, dinner or weekend brunch (try the signature French toast). Not sure what to order? Ask the chef to surprise you. 418-694-4448.
THINGS TO SEE: Whether you stay inside the walls of the Old City or venture out into more modern neighborhoods, you’ll find plenty of boutiques, bakeries, museums and galleries. Duck into taverns for happy hour, or dance the night away at Le Boudoir Lounge, Maurice or Dagobert.
It’s also worth your time to hop on a tour bus and head out on a day trip to see countryside chocolate shops, historic monuments, Montmerency Falls Park and the architecturally resplendent Church of St. Anne de Beaupre, known globally as the “church of miracles.”
After honeymooning in artsy and eclectic Québec City, you might find yourself making the short flight again and again to celebrate wedding anniversaries and other romantic occasions.