When I rented my first apartment in Québec City in 2014 several locals asked why I’m living in Old Québec (Vieux-Québec). Surely other neighbourhoods are cheaper. Why would I want to be so close to the tourists? Personally, I didn’t think it was a big deal. Old Québec is filled with history and character and marvellous architecture, why wouldn’t I want to live in Old Québec?!
The BEST Part of Living in Old Québec
Old Québec is known for its European charm, architecture dating back to the 18th and 19th-centuries, and sumptuous French foods like croissants and raclette intermixed with Québecois comfort foods like poutine and tourtière.
As someone who travels quite a bit (when not nursing a back injury), choosing to establish a home base is not easy. I travel because I may or may not have commitment issues. The idea that if I don’t like a place or situation, I can pack up and leave at any time, is a seriously wonderful one. It’s freedom and independence. Signing a one-year lease, on the other hand, that is a commitment which makes it difficult to pack things in if I decide I don’t like things.
The city’s ‘European charm’ is the main reason why I chose to live in Old Québec –– it is easier to trick my mind into thinking I am in Europe and not Canada –– when I first moved to the city.
Over time, I have walked every street and alley in Old Québec; studied intricately carved door knobs and quirky door knockers, admired beautiful stained-glass windows and sat in quiet cafes. I have come to know my neighbourhood like the back of my hand and can see every street when I close my eyes.
And when Festival d’été de Québec (the city’s massive 10-day music festival) is taking place, I can sit in my apartment, open my windows and hear almost every performer who plays on the stage at the Plains of Abraham – the acoustics are THAT good!
That is not all, of course…
- Close to Château Frontenac, which, let’s be honest, is damn nice to look at.
- Heart of the action ––festivals and parades almost always take place in Old Québec, making them easy to get to and enjoy.
- Paillard makes one of the BEST croissants in Québec City
- Plenty of delicious restaurants. My personal favourite is Le Chic Shack.
The Not-So-Great Parts of Living in Old Québec
I’m just going to come out and say it. The main downside to living in Old Québec is the tourists. Don’t get me wrong, they are great for the economy and we are all thankfully for them, but living among them is not always unicorns and rainbows. Actually, it is never unicorns and rainbows.
Before this year, the best tourism year in Québec City was in 2008. This year the city surpassed 2008’s numbers by 5.8%. As I don’t know the exact numbers I shall simplify things. There was a shite-load of tourists in Québec City this year, making it difficult to get around the old city. Restaurants were full. Cafes were overcrowded. And I have never seen so many selfie sticks in my entire life (In case you’ve been blessed to never encounter one, this is what they look like).
Tourism is a very good thing for Québec City, but living in the heart of the tourism action is less than ideal. The acoustics that I love during Festival d’été de Québec play against me the rest of the high season as the conversations and shouts of people walking down my street at all hours of the night bellow into my apartment. Living on the same street as the HI Québec hostel doesn’t help.
There are reasons ––aside from tourists–– that living in Old Québec can be a drag.
- There are no grocery stores, just épiceries with limited (and pricey) food options.
- I live on a big hill, which is fine in summer, but a nightmare in winter (too many opportunities to fall and injure my back, again!).
- Lack of ‘normal’ shops –– I scoured the neighbourhood for a frying pan, nothing! Don’t get me started on looking for an iron.
- Traffic is insane during the high season and big events.
- There are only a couple of laundry mats. I’m lucky enough to have laundry in my building, but if you’re not, doing laundry could be an adventure.
Looking For a New ‘Hood
Over the last couple weeks, I have been contemplating a move. I still love Québec City and want to keep it as my home base in Canada, but I think it may be time to move to another neighbourhood.
The romance of Old Québec is intoxicating, and if you’re in the city for short periods of time it is the perfect location. I love spending time at cafes like Maison Smith and Comptoir Boulay, eating at Le Chic Shack and Petit Coin Latin. Going for early morning walks and watching the sunrise over the Saint-Lawrence River from the benches on Dufferin Terrace.
I don’t have to continue living in Old Québec to do those things.
While I could see myself living in Vieux-Port (hello farmer’s market and train station!), I spend a lot of my time down in Saint-Roch. It’s a good neighbourhood with plenty of cafés and yummy restaurants and shops and grocery stores and quiet corners (and as an added bonus, it is flat). Sure, there are more bars and microbreweries in the neighbourhood, which means I trade drunk tourists for drunk locals, but I can live with that. I hear rent is a little cheaper, but I will likely need to buy my own appliances ––which I could live with as well.
My lease in Old Québec expires Dec 31st, 2018, so I have plenty of time to look for a new apartment, but a part of me would like to be in a new ‘hood before the high season starts next year.