The Historic District of Old Québec

The Historic District of Old Québec © 2007 Parks Canada / Éric Le Bel. All rights reserved.

For the week of December 2nd.

On December 3, 1985, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) inscribed the Historic District of Old Québec on the World Heritage List.

The World Heritage Convention, established in 1972, is a vital tool in protecting culturally significant places. It is rooted in the recognition that some heritage places have such exceptional qualities they can be considered to be of Outstanding Universal Value (often referred to as OUV), and are the shared responsibility of the international community as a whole. The Convention therefore seeks to identify, protect, conserve, present, and transmit to future generations cultural and natural heritage of Outstanding Universal Value.

To be eligible for inscription, nominated sites must meet at least one of ten OUV criteria, as outlined by the World Heritage Committee. The Historic District of Old Québec, in Québec City (PQ), was designated as “an exceptional example of a fortified colonial town,” according to UNESCO. First Nations lived in this region for thousands of years before the arrival of French explorer Samuel de Champlain, who established a trading post in 1608 that soon became the capital of New France and then, in 1763, the capital of the new British colony.

The Historic District of Old Québec is an urban area, roughly 135 hectares in size. There are two distinct sectors within the district: Lower Town grew around Place Royale, the original location of Champlain’s Habitation, while Upper Town overlooks the St. Lawrence River from atop cap Diamant and extends to the surviving colonial fortifications and their immediate surroundings. There are nearly 1,400 buildings in the district. They evoke its historic commercial, cultural, financial, institutional, military, religious, and residential functions. Some dating back to the 17th century reveal the ways in which buildings of the French Régime preserved the fundamental characteristics of architecture in northern France, while others integrate elements of Palladian, Neoclassical, or more eclectic styles.

The Historic District of Old Québec is a World Heritage Site.


2019 marks 100 years since the founding of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada (HSMBC). Find out more on the HSMBC website.