view of Quebec City's Old Quebec from the Observatoire de la Capitale

The Best View in Town: Observatoire de la Capitale in Quebec City

Observatoire de la Capitale – the viewing deck on the 31st floor of the Marie-Guyart Building in Quebec City, Canada – boasts it has “the best view in town” from “221 meters up.”

And they’re absolutely right – the views are spectacular.

The Views

To the east, you can see the beautiful and picturesque Old Quebec and the citadel:

view from the Observatoire de la Capitale toward Old Quebec and the citadel
view from the Observatoire de la Capitale toward Old Quebec and the citadel

Looking a bit to the north, you can get a glimpse of the expanse of St. Lawrence River, the Quebec City port, and the mountain ranges in the distance:

northeast view from the Observatoire de la Capitale toward St. Lawrence River and the Quebec City port
northeast view from the Observatoire de la Capitale toward St. Lawrence River and the Quebec City port

Toward North you can see how far Quebec City and the suburbs stretch out, and the same mountain range extending West

view toward the North from the Observatoire de la Capitale
view toward the North from the Observatoire de la Capitale

From the windows out toward West, you can get a great view of St. Lawrence River. The oddly shaped building in the foreground is the Hotel Le Concorde Quebec, which houses Ciel! – a revolving restaurant (which unfortunately we have not had a chance to visit).

view toward the West from the Observatoire de la Capitale, with St. Lawrence River in the background
view toward the West from the Observatoire de la Capitale, with St. Lawrence River in the background

The History Lesson

But the Observatoire de la Capitale is more than just a viewing deck. It also offers you a great tour of the city from up above, and a rich history lesson of the region.

Display Panels

As you walk along the floor to ceiling windows, look for display panels that give you the opportunity to explore in more detail the landscape stretching in front of you.

one of the display panels in front of the windows, with information about the Port of Quebec
one of the display panels in front of the windows, with information about the Port of Quebec

The touch screen panels with information in French, English, or Spanish, reflect the view below, with blue markers indicating landmarks for which more information is provided, when touched.

display panel about Palace Montcalm
display panel about Palace Montcalm

From the page about “Fortifications of Quebec,” for instance, you can find out that “Old Quebec is the only inhabited urban neighborhood in North America surrounded by fortifications” and that the first fortifications were started in 1691, at the request of Governor Louis de Buade de Frontenac.

The page about “Place Royale,” on another hand, informs the visitors that this oldest square and marketplace in Quebec City was named “Place Royale” after a bust of King Louis XIV was erected there in 1686.

Audio Narratives

If you are not in a hurry, take time to sit down in the comfortable, egg-shaped seats along the wall and listen to brief (2 minute) audio stories “told by” Quebec region’s important historical figures, such as the Iroquoian Chief, Donnacona, or the founder of Quebec City, Samuel de Champlain.

revolving round seats along audio stations at the Observatoire de la Capitale
revolving round seats along audio stations at the Observatoire de la Capitale

There are several of them, so be prepared to spend quite a bit of time there, if you want to listen to all.

Wall Displays

In addition to a guided tour from above and the audio stories, the Observatorie also showcases Quebec City’s history in illustrated displays mounted on the walls opposite the windows, which often include not only old photos, but also various “artifacts.”

From one of the displays you can learn that during the winter of 1535-1536, the inside of the ships of seamen accompanying Jacques Cartier was covered in a layer of ice “four fingers” thick and that “without the assistance of the Aboriginals, these Frenchmen would have all died of scurvy during that terrible winter.”

Another panel explains the reason why houses in Quebec City were built of brick with sheet metal roofs – the devastating fires that destroyed whole neighborhoods. To reduce the risk of fire, the houses were built with brick walls and sheet metal roofs.

And yet another board informs the visitors that while in the mid-19th century half of the population worked in the shipyard, toward the end of the 19th century, Quebec City’s industry included clothing and shoe factories and that during World War I, the Lower Town factories produced around 25,000 pairs of shoes a week.

an example of a pair of shoes produced in Quebec City's numerous shoe factories
an example of a pair of shoes produced in Quebec City’s numerous shoe factories

The Observatoire’s web site claims, “By the time the trip is over, you will never look at Québec City the same way again” and they’re right. If you take time to listen to all the stories, and read all the panels, you will get a much richer understanding of the city stretching in all directions underneath your feet.

Édifice Marie-Guyart building and the surrounding artwork

By the way, the Édifice Marie-Guyart, the building that houses the observatory, is only 132 m (433 ft) tall, but it’s situated in the higher area of Quebec City (Parliament Hill), that’s why the brochure says the viewing deck is at 221 meters – it’s 221 meters above the sea level.

Édifice Marie-Guyart was built in 1972, and the lower floors of the building house several ministries. The observatory itself opened in 1998, and admits around 70,000 visitors a year.

As you leave, (or as you enter), take a look at the rusty cubical sculpture “1=1+1” by Charles Daudelin on the northern side of the building. Quite simple, but also quite striking. I liked it a lot!

1=1+1 by Charles Daudelin outside the Édifice Marie-Guyart building in Quebec City
1=1+1 by Charles Daudelin outside the Édifice Marie-Guyart building in Quebec City

On the west side, on another hand, you can see on the next door building “Fresque BMO de la capitale nationale du Québec” – a fresco commemorating Québec City’s political history, which, per “Frescoes and Murals” page on the Quebec City Tourism site “depicts the façade of Québec’s Parliament Building and various individuals who—each in his or her own way—left their mark on the province’s political development.”

Fresque BMO de la capitale nationale du Québec on a building next to the Édifice Marie-Guyart building
Fresque BMO de la capitale nationale du Québec on a building next to the Édifice Marie-Guyart building

Visiting Details

Opening hours

The Observatoire de la Capitale is open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. between February 1 to (Canadian) Thanksgiving (mid-October), and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday to Sunday between (Canadian) Thanksgiving (mid-October) to January 31.

Evening or early morning access for groups is available by reservation.

Admission Price

Adults : $10.45 (Canadian)
Students : $8.40 (Canadian)
65 years and over : $8.40 (Canadian)
12 years and less : Free

Taxes included

Guided Tour

If you want, you can schedule a guided tour, by reservation, though I’m not sure what the cost is. The Thematic Visit mentions “starting at $3.57.”

Events

By the way, you can also book the Observatoire for events. The rates are not listed on their website, so I have no idea how expensive that would be, but it sure would be quite impressive to host a party there!

Getting There

Observatoire de la Capitale is located at 1037 Rue de la Chevrotière.

The closest bus stop, where buses # 3, 10, 11, 25, 28, 37, 65, and several others stop, is just a few steps away on Boulevard Rene-Levesuqe E.

You can search for the right bus, and the right schedule on the Réseau de transport de la Capitale website.

Webcams

If you can’t go to the Observatoire de la Capitale in the near future, you can at least see the view through their webcams.

Note the “search | find a point of interest” feature on the right. If you click on that, little blue dots pointing out the most important buildings appear over the image.

Observatoire de la Capitale on Social Media

You can follow the Observatoire de la Capitale on Facebook, and look at their collection of photos on Flickr.

Disclaimer

We wish to thank the Québec City Tourism Office for providing us with press passports to several city attractions, including the Observatoire de la Capitale. While we were guest of the Québec City Tourism Office at this attraction, the format of the article and all opinions are ours.

By the way, the Office du tourisme de Québec / Québec City Tourism is present on Facebook, Twitter,YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram. Give them some love by following them!

Where to Stay in Quebec City

We stayed at Le 760 Honore Mercier Apartment 604 when we visited Quebec City (click on the link to see our review of this place). You can book it, as we did, through Booking.com.

Or, you can stay at one of the other hotels, B&Bs, hostels, or apartments available in that great city. There are plenty to choose from.

Québec City Pinterest Board

If you’re planning a trip to Québec City, feel free to pin this article on Pinterest, or follow our Québec City Pinterest board where we included links to all of the attractions mentioned above, plus several blog posts by other travel bloggers.

Invitation to the #WeekendWanderlust Link Up

#WeekendWanderlust, hosted by Chris & Heather from A Brit and a Southerner, Jessi & Tara from Outbound Adventurer, Ashley from A Southern Gypsy, Justin and Lauren from Justin Plus Lauren, and yours truly, is a collaborative effort to share travel blog posts, and to discuss all travel-related things.

The hosts organize each week a link up through which travel bloggers from around the world can promote their posts, in exchange for a promise to give some attention to other travel bloggers. (One of the rules for linking up is to comment on three linked up posts.)

If the link up is still open, feel free to add a link to one of your posts below, then comment on at least three other linked up posts.

If you leave a comment on this post, I will reciprocate with a comment as soon as I can!

Also, don’t forget to join the #WeekendWanderlust chat on Twitter, every Saturday, at 11am EST, 3pm GMT, 11 pm SGT. See the list of upcoming topics on Travelogx.

#WeekendWanderlust link up logo
#WeekendWanderlust link up logo


31 thoughts on “The Best View in Town: Observatoire de la Capitale in Quebec City”

    1. Thank you for reading, Sally! And yes, Quebec City is a much better place to practice French than Montreal, though most people are bilingual.

    1. Thank you for reading, Paula! I hope you’ll have a great time in Quebec in November, though it might already be a bit cold. It will still be lovely, though.

    1. Thank you for reading, Shobha! That’s why I liked the Observatoire – I learned a bit of history, while the kids were spinning in the listening pods :)

  1. I think observation decks are really cool and always try to go if there is one in a city I am visiting. This one seems to really be worth the price, especially for all the information that is given. I’ve been to some that are extremely overpriced and have a lot less. I really like the touch screen panels too.
    Vicky and Buddy recently posted…Stonehenge: Is It Worth Seeing?My Profile

    1. Thanks for reading, Vicky & Buddy! You are right that some observation decks seem really expensive, compared to what they offer. I like to learn, so I appreciated the additional historical touch.

    1. Thank you for reading, Amanda & Brian! And you are right, the photos from the Observatoire that I saw taken at different times of the year look amazing. I hope you will get to see Quebec City some time. It’s worth the trip.

    1. Thank you for reading, Brianna! Yes, the combination of history and the view is what makes the trip to the Observatoire worthwhile.

    1. Thank you for reading, Victoria! I like getting a bird’s-eye view of cities, just like I like bus tours, so I chose this attraction over a few others, because I wanted the views :) The kids did like it too. I think it gave them a good perspective of how big the area is.

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