Tour the Town: Quaint, cobbled, and impossibly pretty, the UNESCO-designated Old City is easily covered on foot. To make the most of it, all you need do is download a gratis English-language walking map. Using that as a guide, feel free to meander the labyrinthine streets lined with meticulously-preserved 17th- and 18th- century buildings, many now occupied by shops and bistros. Along the way, pop into some of the city’s divine churches, among them Église Notre Dame des Victoires erected in 1688. Then, for a more secular experience, take a break on Terrasse Dufferin: a riverside boardwalk, backed by the castle-like Fairmont Château Frontenac (which is a magnet for buskers, balloon sellers, ice cream peddlers and people watchers). Afterwards you can tackle those iconic and frequently fought over ramparts. Oh, if your feet do get sore, don’t panic: an electric 20-seat minibus provides free scheduled service within the Old City.
If the intricacies of imperial politics and the long-running battle between colonial French and English forces leave you baffled, you can get a high-tech history lesson courtesy of The Image Mill. It’s an after-dark sound and light show masterminded by acclaimed artist/director (and hometown hero) Robert Le Page – the same man who is responsible for bringing The Ring cycle to New York’s Metropolitan Opera. Fast-forwarding through four centuries in about 50 minutes, The Image Mill projects a series of très cool images on side-by-side silos which together make up the world’s largest screen. The best spot to view it from is behind the Espace 400e Pavilion in the Old Port neighborhood where standing room spaces are plentiful… and free. The show runs Tuesday through Saturday until September 3; starting at 10 pm in July, 9:30 pm in August, and 9 pm in September.
The province of Québec gave Cirque du Soleil its start back in the 1980s. Now the legendary company returns the favor by staging a summertime extravaganza with 100-odd performers exclusively in the capital city. And mais oui! It’s free. Like most Cirque productions this one features mind boggling acrobatic and an ambiance that is decidedly eccentric: Les Chemins Invisibles (aka “The Invisible Paths”) has a Nightmare before Christmas vibe. The costume designer, for instance, seems to have been equally influenced by Mad Max and Edgar Allen Poe. Even the outdoor venue – an assemblage of scaffolding and Baroque-looking concrete beneath a highway overpass in the Lower Town – qualifies as quirky. See for yourself Tuesday through Saturday until September 3. The hour-long show begins at 9:30 pm in July, 9 pm in August, and 8:30 pm in September.