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Whether you plan gallery trips months in advance or you’re a more eclectic traveler who prefers to fly by the seat of your pants, Québec City’s impressive variety of art and cultural experiences are worth a trip from New England. From celebrated century-old paintings to quirky public sculptures, these eight experiences are an art lover’s dream:
1. Explore the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec
If you visit just one museum in Québec City, make it the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec. Located in the Battlefields Park on the Plains of Abraham, the museum houses more than 38,000 works in three stately pavilions. Head to the Charles Baillairgé pavilion to view modern art, or walk through the Gérard Morisset pavilion, home to an exhibit exploring Québec’s role in North American art history. An impressive rotation of temporary exhibits offers something for every area of interest. Recent renovations reveal the new Pierre Lassonde pavilion, which will house three floors of Inuit art, contemporary pieces, and temporary installations.
2. Admire the quirkiness of Passages Insolites
With installations throughout the Old Port district, Quartier Petit Champlain, and Place Royale, Passages Insolites (“Unusual Passages”) is a collection of 12 pieces of public art by visual artists and architects available to view from June 30 through October. This year’s theme will be “Encounters,” with pieces being revealed soon. In past years, the unexpected installations have ranged from Delirious Frites (“Noodle Delirium”), a narrow alley covered in pool noodles, to Piscine Hors-Terre (“Above Ground Pool”), a collection of beach chairs on a hill where passersby can sit and imagine they’re relaxing near the water. The exhibits are free to the public.
3. Enjoy (free) high-flying circus antics at Crépuscule
Going to the circus can be an expensive undertaking—that is, unless you’re in Québec City. Held on summer nights at the Agora in the Port of Québec, the free outdoor circus Crépuscule captivates audiences young and old. Daring acrobats from troupe Flip FabriQue put on an entertaining hour-long show that runs every Tuesday through Sunday from July 22 to September 4.
4. Take a stroll through spirited Montcalm
Do Québec City like the locals. Recently labeled the “art district” of Québec City, the neighborhood of Montcalm is a lively, colorful district that starkly contrasts the historic stoicism of Old Québec. It’s best known for Rue Cartier, the bustling avenue central to the neighborhood’s charm. Walk down this beautiful street in the evening to enjoy overhead lampshades featuring paintings by artists Alfred Pellan and Fernand Leduc, then grab a cocktail on an outdoor patio, stop inside a trendy gallery, or enjoy a show at the Symphony Orchestra or Opéra de Québec.
5. Browse Canadian culture at Galerie d’art Inuit Brousseau et Brousseau
For a unique look into the world of Inuit (that is, those who reside in Canada’s Arctic) art, stop to browse the vast collection at Galerie d’art Inuit Brousseau et Brousseau. Founded by Raymond Brousseau, an avid Inuit art collector, the gallery features a rotating selection of his 2,500-piece collection. Pieces are carved from whalebone or stone native to the Inuit area, such as soapstone, basalt, or serpentine.
6. Step into the history of the Théâtre Le Capitole
Located in the heart of Québec City’s historic district, the Théâtre Le Capitole is recognized as a national historical monument. When you walk inside, you’ll see why: Details from the theater’s 1927 renovation are impeccably preserved. Dine in the complex’s Italian restaurant before seeing one of the theater’s several touring productions. This summer, check out the ever-popular Elvis Experience, a reproduction of a 1970s Las Vegas Elvis Presley concert.
7. Find local artists work for sale on Rue du Trésor
Situated in a quaint alley between the Holy Trinity Anglican Cathedral and the Notre-Dame Basilica, Rue du Trésor (“Treasure Street”) is an open-air gallery where artists set up and sell their work each day. Just a city block in length, it’s a wonderful place to take a stroll to see unique paintings, etchings, and silkscreen art on your way to the Château Frontenac.
8. Keep an eye out for richly detailed public frescoes
You don’t have to look far to find bits and pieces of Québec City’s history and culture painted with vibrant admiration all across the city. Located in the rapidly gentrifying Saint-Roch district, the fresques des piliers (“murals on the pillars”) are a creative solution to what was once an eyesore of a bridge supporting Autoroute Dufferin-Montmorency. The Fresque des Québécois, located in Place Royale, tells the story of Québec City, highlighting its unique architecture and well-known historic figures (who can be seen in the windows of the various buildings).