Maybe it’s the narrow cobblestone streets, or the stone-faced storefronts, or the small city squares complete with fountains and statues — but there a more than a few aspects about Quebec City that make you feel like you’re strolling the streets of a small French town.
The city’s charm alone is reason enough to make a trip there, even if only for a weekend. But if you, like us, find that you like to get to know a city’s history when touring for the first time, then visiting Quebec City can be about much more than quaint shops and scenic walking tours. Our favorite part about visiting was touring the Citadelle along with the Governor’s General Residence.
Quebec City is the capital of Quebec and as such has a special status for the Francophone part of Canada. Since Canada is still a constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II as the current reigning sovereign, Quebec City is the home of the Royal 22e Régiment, headquartered at the Citadelle of Quebec. The french-speaking regiment is made up of three Regular Force battalions, two Primary Reserve battalions, and a band, making it the largest regiment in the Canadian Army.
The Citadelle is an active military base and therefore can only be accessed as part of a guided tour. You can view the tour schedule and fees on the Citadelle website ($16 CAD per adult as of the time of this posting). The tours are offered year-round in both French and English, but we recommend visiting during the summer months as it will allow you to also see the Changing of the Guards ceremony.
The Changing of the Guards
The Changing of the Guards ceremony takes place during the summer months from the end of June through Labor Day at 10 AM every day. The ceremony marks the arrival of new sentries to relieve those on duty at the garrison and is based on the Changing of the Guards ceremony at Buckingham Palace. It is a colorful military tradition and includes the inspection of the guard by the officers, the Regimental Band, and the regimental mascot Batisse the Goat.
That’s right, I said goat. Batisse the Goat was originally gifted as mascot for the regiment by Queen Elizabeth II in 1955. When we visited earlier this year, we saw the 12th Batisse and were told that the 13th is currently in training but not quite ready to handle the responsibilities of the ceremony yet.
The Governor General’s Residence
The Citadelle is also home to the second official Residence of Canada’s Governor General. You can tour the residence for free (with your admission to the Citadelle), and we highly recommend that you do. The Residence is a beautiful building and the tour is both informative and usually not very crowded — most people visit the Citadelle and watch the Changing of the Guards but don’t make it to the Residence. Depending on the time of year, reservations may be required. You can see the full schedule and tour times here.
Maximizing Your Time in Quebec City
If you’re visiting Quebec City during the summer and want to visit the Citadelle, we recommend following the below schedule:
- 9 am: Arrive at the Citadelle as it opens and catch the first tour of the day. The tour will take approximately an hour, finishing in time to watch the Changing of the Guards.
- 10 am: Watch the Changing of the Guards ceremony
- 11 am: Tour the Governor General’s Residence. Following the Changing of the Guards ceremony, an announcement will be made letting you know where to meet for this tour.
Arriving early at the Citadelle made for a very enjoyable experience, as we found that most people arrived around 10 am for the Changing of the Guards ceremony and then took the tour of the Citadelle afterwards. By the time we left it was very crowded, and we enjoyed our early morning tour much more so because of the lack of crowds.
Even if you’re just visiting Quebec City for a short weekend trip, there’s plenty of time to visit the Citadelle and still enjoy the walkable downtown afterwards.
Have you visited Quebec City before? What was your favorite part?