Founded in 1608, this partially walled city—the only one of its kind in the United States and Canada—is best known as the most authentic European-style destination west of the Atlantic Ocean. And in the past two years, city officials and local hospitality executives have made great strides in putting Quebec City front and center in the minds of meeting and convention planners.
Quebec City Business Destination (QCBD) was launched in 2013, merging the sales teams of Quebec City Tourism and Quebec City Convention Centre. “We wanted to have one point of contact for all meeting and convention activity,” says Emilie Belisle, information officer for Quebec City Convention Centre.
The new setup makes it easier for planners to put together lodging and business-session logistics, in addition to offsite receptions and other activities a DMC might otherwise handle. To date, QCBD has signed up nearly 40 members from the local hospitality community, including major meeting hotels, museums and other venues that host groups.
Last year, the convention center unveiled new spaces that brought total usable space to 294,290 sq. ft. The 73,000-square-foot expansion comprises eight midsized meeting rooms, including a boardroom with videoconferencing capability; 21,175 sq. ft. of prefunction and reception space; a concierge desk and business center; a large client lounge; and three screen walls in the foyer and an even larger one in the registration area. The new space is adjacent to an outdoor terrace overlooking Vieux Quebec, or the Old City.
While the new wing accommodates large groups, Belisle notes that it’s also well-suited for midsized groups that might not have previously considered using convention center space.
“Now the center can handle multiple smaller meetings at one time,” Belisle says. “We constructed the new wing so that the meeting rooms work well for such groups, but then there are large open spaces right outside the meeting rooms to have a cocktail reception or networking event, too.”
Major Meeting Hotels
More than 3,000 guest rooms are located within less than a mile of the convention center. The 571-room Hilton Quebec and 377-room Hotel Delta Quebec connect to the center by underground passageway. Hilton Quebec has 19 meeting rooms, including a 7,623-square-foot ballroom that seats 720 for banquets and 900 theater-style. Hotel Delta Quebec has 14 meeting rooms and can handle 600 theater-style or 500 for banquets in its 5,760-square-foot ballroom. These properties are a four-minute walk to the majestic 19th-century Parliament Building, home to the National Assembly and magnificent gardens.
The 406-room Hotel Le Concorde Quebec has an excellent location near the Plains of Abraham, a historic battlefield that is one of the city’s largest parks and home to National Museum of Fine Arts of Quebec. The hotel features panoramic views of the park and the St. Lawrence River. There are 18 meeting rooms. The 7,000-square-foot ballroom holds 1,000 attendees for presentations and 700 for banquets. One block from Le Concorde is Hotel Chateau Laurier Quebec (pictured), noted for its Francophone heritage. It offers 282 guest rooms and 17 meeting rooms.
The 111-room Quebec City Marriott Downtown has 3,500 sq. ft. of event space and is walking distance to the convention center. The 234-room Hotel Palace Royal Centre-ville is between the convention center and “the fortifications” (the protective wall around Vieux Quebec). It has eight meeting rooms, the largest of which seats 250. Close to Vieux Quebec is the 242-room TRYP By Wyndham Quebec Hotel Pur. It offers 11 meeting rooms, including a 4,704-square-foot ballroom.
National Museum of Fine Arts of Quebec lies within the huge Plains of Abraham park and showcases more than 25,000 paintings, sculptures and other items produced by Quebec artists, some dating back to the 18th century. Event space options include the Grand Hall, with granite facings and glass walls, a restaurant with a terrace overlooking the park, as well as a former jail complete with cells to explore. Receptions and buffets for up to 1,000 people are possible.
Musee de la Civilisation, on the riverfront at Old Port, offers more than 500,000 artifacts that present different ways of life across many cultures, including those of the indigenous population of Canada (called “First Nations”) and the local community of New France that began in the 1600s. Rotating exhibitions offer glimpses into other cultures around the world. For special events, the museum offers its angular, natural-lit Grand Hall that accommodates 800 for buffets and 350 for seated banquets.
Musee de l’Amerique Francophone chapel
Musee de l’Amerique Francophone, in Old City just steps from the magnificent Notre Dame de Quebec, traces the cultural and religious evolution of the French-speaking population and its interactions with other cultures as North America became more populated over four centuries. With its ornate architecture and decor, the chapel is a stunning room for cocktails and group dinners.
Other group-event options include Graduation Hall at Seminary of Quebec, a 17th-century edifice. The intricately designed hall is used for receptions and sit-down banquets. Monastere des Augustines, located in the historic wings of Hotel-Dieu de Quebec monastery, was home to the first hospital north of Mexico. The restored former cloister has a museum with 40,000 artifacts drawn from the Augustinian Sisters’ 12 monastery hospitals, plus a restaurant and several event rooms.
Quebec City continues to modernize meeting space, but it’s the destination’s past that attendees will remember for years to come.
“Being a 400-year-old city, we have museums that are rich and unique, and perfect for event planners looking for something special outside the meeting sessions,” Belisle says.
Exploring Old and New
Vieux Quebec, or the Old City, is a network of narrow cobblestone streets with 17th- and 18th-century homes that exude European sensibility. Attendees can immerse themselves in this atmosphere with a visit to the Place Royale—the original village that Samuel Champlain settled in 1608—and its museum. There’s also Cathedral-Basilica of Notre Dame de Quebec (pictured), a magnificent 1647 structure that represents the oldest Catholic archdiocese north of Mexico. Destroyed by fire several times, the church was rebuilt in 1922.
The fortifications surrounding Vieux Quebec are close to 3 miles long, and walking tours atop these walls provide great views and inform visitors about construction of the defense system by the British in the 18th century. Where the wall looks down on the river, La Citadelle is a massive star-shaped fortress built between 1820 and 1850 on Cap Diamant, the city’s highest point. It’s been home to an active military unit, the Modern Royal 22nd Regiment, since 1914.
The Quebec Conferences in 1943 discussing Allied military strategies to end World War II took place here, and La Citadelle still serves as a diplomatic center that hosts many official events.
Beyond the Old City, Rue Saint-Jean is among Quebec’s most interesting districts, featuring authentic shops (including the oldest grocery store in North America), restaurants and churches. It is adjacent to the newly bustling Saint-Roch district.
Festivals are central to Quebec City life. In the summer, there are fascinating street events featuring musicians, acrobats and actors, while larger events include the 11-day Festival d’ete de Quebec. Held in January and February, Winter Carnival ranks among the largest winter festivals in the world.
The Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac, a 120-year-old signature hotel, is a must-see for attendees even if they are meeting somewhere else. The 611-room Renaissance-style property has hosted politicians, dignitaries and celebrities throughout the decades. Its multiple spires and prime location above the St. Lawrence River make it among the most photographed hotels in the world. It’s also close to the stunning Cathedral-Basilica of Notre Dame de Quebec. With more than 40,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including a 6,100-square-foot ballroom, it can seat 730 theater-style.