Place Royale in Québec City is part of the historic area that brought it recognition from the UNESCO in 1985 and a place among the World Heritage towns and cities. In fact, Place Royale is counted among the oldest settlements in North America, and it is considered to be the original birth place of French Civilization in this part of the world. Samuel de Champlain started construction of this city in 1608 at the foot of Cap Diamant, in an effort to make the first permanent settlement in New France. Rich merchants soon began to gravitate towards this place, which eventually gave the settlement it’s name of Place Royale.
The town, located around the trading post, began to do good business until 1682, when there was a fire. Since a major part of the town was built using wood, very little survived after the inferno. The good people of Place Royale learned their lesson and began reconstruction of the town using fire-resistant stone, and the market square returned to its days of popularity and flourishing trade and commerce.
By the end of the eighteenth century, Place Royale started losing its importance as the hub for merchants, ship builders and ship owners and fell into decay. It was only in the mid-twentieth century that the Government initiated a restoration project to bring back glory to this historic site. Today Place Royale is replete with museums, historic buildings, dining establishments, and retail outlets.
Place Royale has become one of the busiest places in Québec City today. Visitors flock to this quaint little place, especially around dusk when the entire place comes alive with the illumination of the historic buildings.
If you are here during the day time, you can content yourself by walking down the streets of Place Royale and admiring the 17th and 18th century architecture. One example is the Eglise Notre-Dame-des-Victoires, Québec’s oldest church, made of stone. This church was built after the devastating fire mentioned before took place. It is a classic example of architecture and workmanship of its time. The church is open all the days of the week, from May to October and there is no admission fee for entry.
Yet another place that is worth a visit is the Centre d’Interprétation de Place-Royale. The Centre d’Interprétation came up in an empty lot that was located behind the stone façade on the west side of the town. Once you are inside, you can check out the 20-minute multimedia show that takes you through the city’s history, going back 400 years. There are interesting exhibitions too, and you can also participate in guided tours in both French and English. On your way out, don’t forget to take a look at the trompe l’oeil mural, which depicts the citizens of the Place Royale during early times.
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Featured Image: Mathias Reichle