From being one of the oldest European settlements in North America to the only Canadian province with French as its official language, there are lots of fun and interesting Quebec facts to learn about.
Quebec is a Canadian province, located on the Eastern side of Canada, west of New Brunswick and east of Ontario. It’s one of the most visited provinces in the country, thanks in part to the world-famous city of Montreal and the historic centre of Old Quebec. Throw in the mighty St. Lawrence River, skiing at Mont-Tremblant, and whale watching in Tadoussac, and it’s easy to see why so many people love exploring this French-speaking province.
Whether you’re looking to explore Quebec or you’re simply interested in learning more about it, enjoy this guide to some really cool facts about Quebec.
Quebec History and Geography Facts
To kick things off, let’s start with some facts about the province itself.
- Out of the 10 provinces in Canada, Quebec is the largest (by area).
- Quebec is also one of the oldest European settlements in North America. It often gets touted as the oldest city in North America, but this is false. Mexico City, for example, is significantly older. Quebec City was founded on July 3rd, 1608, by the French navigator, soldier, ethnologist, geographer, explorer, cartographer, chronicler, and diplomat known as Samuel de Champlain.
- Quebec is also the second-largest province by population in Canada. Ontario is first.
- Why Quebec? The word “Kebec” is an Algonquin word meaning where the river narrows.
- After all, Indigenous people were here first. Most archeologists believe that our indigenous peoples migrated here from East Asia between 12,000 to 23,000 years ago thanks to the Bering Plain that connected the two continents. The Haudenosaunee people are Canada’s largest Native community and historically lived on farms around the St. Lawrence river and Great Lakes in what today is known as Quebec and Ontario. Notable nations include the Algonquin, Huron, Mohawk, Mi’kmaq, Ojibwa, and Ottawa.
- Today, one in ten Indigenous people in Canada lives in Quebec, comprising 2% of Quebec’s population.
- Although Canada has both English and French as its official languages, Quebec is the only province that has only French as its official language. However, English is also widely spoken in Montreal.
- Only 1.5% (approx) of the population speaks English as their only language. However, more than a third of the population can speak both English and French. For more, check out our guide to Canadian languages.
- Once upon a time, Quebec was the most developed colony in New France.
- However, after the Seven Years’ War, it became a British colony. It was known by different names over the course of the next few decades. It was known as the Province of Quebec (from 1763–1791), then Lower Canada (from 1791–1841), and later Canada East (from 1841–1867).
- So in 1791, the official name of Canada was used when the new Province of Quebec was divided into the colonies of Upper Canada and Lower Canada, along with what is now known as Ontario.
- In 1841, these two colonies were united under one name, the Province of Canada.
- Later, on July 1st, 1867, it was confederated with Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, forming the Canadian Confederation.
- Despite being largely French, Quebec also has a large Irish population. During the 17th century, Irish inhabitants of France were sent to Quebec to help populate the area. Historians estimate that about 40% of the population in Quebec is of Irish descent.
- The flag of Quebec was adopted in 1948. The Quebec flag is also known as the Fleurdelyse aka lily flowered. It has a blue background with a white cross, stylized between four fleurs-de-lis. The white lilies symbolize purity and the blue field denotes heaven! For more information on flags, check out our guide to the flags of Canada.
- Quebec has unique civil laws. Whenever there are countrywide promotional campaigns, usually Quebec and/or its residents are excluded. This is because Quebec is the only province in Canada to have a juridical legal system under which civil matters are regulated by French-heritage civil law.
- However, public law, criminal law, and federal law operate according to Canadian common law.
- Quebec also has a legacy of education. Quebec is home to world-class educational institutions, and this is nothing new. Take the Université Laval, for example. It was set up in 1852 and is regarded as the oldest educational institution in Canada.
- Then there is the Ursuline Convent, dating back to 1642. The Ursulines founded North America’s first school for girls in Quebec City.
- McGill University in Montreal is a popular public university in Canada. It was founded in 1821 by a royal charter granted by King George IV.
- Quebec has one of the world’s largest reserves of freshwater, occupying 12% of its surface. It has 3% of the world’s renewable freshwater, whereas it has only 0.1% of its population.
- Quebec has 3 national parks and 27 provincial parks. National Parks include Forillon National Park, La Mauricie National Park, and Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve.
Facts about Montreal
Montreal is one of the most famous cities in Canada thanks to its European vibe, history, and culture. Here are some interesting facts about Montreal.
- Montreal is known as Canada’s cultural capital and is home to world-class museums, international festivals, art, culture, history, and amazing food.
- Montreal is the second-largest city in Canada.
- Montreal was host to the 1976 Summer Olympics, which was the only Summer Olympics held in Canada.
- Montreal’s Olympic Stadium tower is the largest inclined tower in the world. Located next to the stadium and known as The Montreal Tower, it has a height of 175 metres (574 ft) with a 45-degree angle.
- Montreal Olympic Stadium was built for the global sporting event. However, it cost well over budget, and wasn’t even completed for the 1976 Olympics! The Olympic Stadium is nicknamed “The Big O”, referring to its name and doughnut-like shape. It is also referred to as the “The Big Owe”, due to the expenses that the city incurred to have it built. Today it is used as a multi-purpose sporting venue and is open to visitors.
- The Montreal Olympic Stadium has the largest seating capacity in Canada. The stadium has a seating capacity of over 66,000 spectators.
- Montreal is also home to the Formula One Canadian Grand Prix and has been part of the Formula One World Championship since 1967. These annual races have been organized since 1961.
- Festival International de Jazz de Montréal (The Montreal Jazz Fest) is regarded as the world’s largest Jazz festival (as per the 2004 Guinness World Record).
- Montreal is home to one of the oldest breweries in North America. Molson Canadian Beer is produced in Montreal and was founded in 1786 by the Molson family. It still operates from the site of Molson’s first brewery which was located on the Saint Lawrence River in Montreal. Today it is known as Molson Coors, after the 2005 merger with Adolph Coors Company. This is a very popular national beer and has also made some of the most iconic commercials in the country.
Quebec City Facts
Quebec City is one of the most beautiful and unique cities in Canada. It’s also one of the oldest cities in North America. Here are some facts about Quebec City that we found truly interesting.
- Quebec City is the capital city of Quebec. It was named the capital in 1867 when Canada was created.
- Quebec City sometimes just goes by the name Quebec. In French, the city is called the Ville de Québec.
- Quebec City’s location is at the intersection of St. Lawrence and the St. Charles River.
- It is the oldest French-speaking community in North America.
- The French explorer, Jacques Cartier, landed here in 1535. However, It wasn’t until 1608 when Samuel de Champlain arrived that a permanent wooden fort and fur trading post was set up.
- Quebec City’s 400th anniversary was celebrated in 2008.
- Quebec City is the only walled city north of Mexico! The city walls extend 4.6 kilometres (2.9 miles) and were primarily built for defensive purposes by the French in the 17th and 18th centuries. In present-day Quebec City, there are three towers, four gates, and the citadel. It is a wonderful place to explore on foot.
- The oldest part of Quebec City was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. It received UNESCO status as it is the only North American city to have preserved not only its ramparts but bastions, gates and defensive works that you can still see around the old city.
- Quebec City has close to 30 sets of stairs! You may run out of breath just climbing up and down the cobblestone streets.
- Quebec City’s median age in 2021 was 43.3, the oldest median age of any major city in Canada.
- There are 37 National Historic Sites of Canada in and around Quebec City.
Cool Quebec Facts to Know as a Tourist
Before you visit a new destination, it helps to learn about the place first. Here are some cool Quebec facts that involve popular tourist attractions.
- The Chateau Frontenac Hotel holds the Guinness World Record for the most photographed hotel in the world! The hotel was built by CP Railways starting in 1892 and it was named for the most famous and flamboyant governor in Quebec City – Louis de Buade de Frontenac. It was designated as a National Historic Site in 1981 because it is an excellent example of a Chateau-style hotel. The building is 80 metres tall, with 18 floors and 610 guestrooms. Today it’s considered to be a luxury hotel, currently managed by Fairmont Hotels.
- Quebec is home to one of the largest winter festivals in the world. Quebec City organizes the Quebec Winter Carnival known as “Carnaval” every year in February. It is the oldest winter festival of its kind, dating back to the 1890s. Visitors from near and far come to participate in the winter festival and to enjoy skating, ice sculptures, sledding, night parades, music, and more. In 2006, one million people attended this festival and in 2020, we attended for the first time. (watch on Youtube).
- You can sleep in a nun’s cell in Old Quebec! In the 1600s, Augustine nuns established a hospital in Old Quebec. Hotel-Dieu de Quebec National Historic Site of Canada is a religious hospital complex that was the first of its kind on the North American continent north of Mexico. Part of this complex is now a wellness hotel. Part of us thinks this would be creepy.
- Quebec City is home to the oldest church in Canada. Although Paris is well known for its Notre-Dame Cathedral, there is also the Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Quebec. The name stands for “Our Lady of Quebec City”. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese that resides here is the oldest north of Spanish colonies in New Mexico and Florida. It is a National Historic Site of Canada and part of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Old Quebec. The Notre-Dame de Québec Basilica-Cathedral near the Chateau Frontenac is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Quebec. It ranks as the oldest Catholic parish in North America and remains on the same site where it was first built in 1647.
- The first commercial brewery in Canada was started in Quebec City by Jean-Talon in 1668. It was called “La Brasseries du Roi” which means “the kings brewery”. During this time there was a lack of safe drinking water and a surplus of grain.
- Quebec is home to falls that are higher than Niagara Falls. Not far from downtown Quebec City, Montmorency Falls is located on the Montmorency River in Montmorency Park, roughly 12-km from Old Quebec. At 270 feet (83 metres) tall, they are 100 feet (30 metres) higher than Niagara Falls. You’ll find lots to do around the falls, including ziplining and a walk along a boardwalk that provides some stunning views. The falls were given their name by Champlain and were named for the Duke of Montmorency.
- Some famous people born in Quebec include Celine Dion, Glenn Ford, Vanessa Lengies, Anna Hopkins, Norm Macdonald, Leonard Cohen, and many more.
Facts about Food in Quebec
From maple syrup to poutine, Quebec has some of Canada’s most distinct food.
- Quebec is the world’s largest producer of Maple Syrup, producing more than 11 million gallons of maple syrup annually. This is 72% of the world’s maple syrup production, and this also accounts for more than 90% of all Canadian domestic production.
- Poutine originated in Quebec. Poutine consists of french fries topped with cheese curds and gravy. It is believed to be originated in rural areas of Quebec in the 1950s when a trucker named Fernand Lachance invented ‘poutine’. The word, “Poutine” is Quebec slang for “a mess.” Today, you can order poutine from anywhere across Canada and the most expensive poutine can be found in Montreal at Au Pied de Cochon.
- There is a Quebecois version of Shepard’s Pie. It is called “Pate chinois”, which means “Chinese pie”. However, there’s nothing Chinese about it. We don’t know how it got its name but one theory is that Chinese cooks made it for French Canadian workers during the building of the North American railroads. The French Canadians enjoyed it so much that they brought it back to their communities. It is a savoury pie that is made up of ground beef, onions, maize or creamed corn, mashed potatoes, and vinegar.
- Another famous meal in Canada comes from Montreal and is known as Montreal Smoked Meat. This is “kosher-style” deli meat that developed out of Montreal’s Jewish delis in the early 1900s. It is similar to pastrami and corned beef but unique in its own way. You can order this meal across the country but if you want it done right, you must go to the source, where the brisket is house-cured, house-smoked, house-steamed and hand-sliced. It is then piled high between two slices of rye bread and served with yellow mustard.
- Also famous in Montreal is the Montreal Bagel, which was also invented by the Jewish community. Each bagel is made by hand and is poached in honey water before being baked in a wood-fire burning oven. This cooking process gives the bagel its distinctive chewiness, golden colour and crust.
Want More Fun Facts?
We love learning about cool, interesting, and fun facts. So, if you do too, check out our other fact guides below:
- Fun Facts About Canada
- Fun Ontario Facts
- Nova Scotia Facts
- Interesting Alberta Facts
- Cool Toronto Facts
- Fun Facts about Calgary
- Facts about Vancouver
If you know any other cool facts about Quebec, please let us know in the comments!