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NIGHTLIFE

Although Québec City can't pretend to match the volume of nighttime diversions of exuberant Montréal, there is more than enough after-dark activity to occupy your evenings during an average stay. Apart from theatrical productions, almost always in French, knowledge of the language is rarely necessary to enjoy nighttime entertainment.
Drop in at the tourism information office for a list of events, especially during the annual Festival d'Eté (Summer Festival) in July (tel. 877/643-8131; www.infofestival.com), when free concerts and shows are staged all over town in the evenings, and the upper portion of rue St-Jean is closed to cars and becomes a pedestrian promenade. Also check out events during the Carnaval d'Hiver (Winter Carnival) in February (tel. 418/626-3716; www.carnaval.qc.ca), when the city salutes the season with a grand ice palace, ice sculptures, and parades.

Concerts and theatrical performances usually begin at 8pm. Most bars and clubs stay open until 2 or 3am. A clear advantage of a night out in Québec City is that cover charges and drink minimums are rare in the bars and clubs that provide live entertainment. Mixed drinks aren't unusually expensive, but neither are they generously poured, which is the reason most people stick to beer, usually Canadian. Some popular brands brewed in Québec are Belle-Gueule, Saint-Ambroise, Boréale, and Maudite (with a winged Satan on the label).

Only in Québec City--The Basilique Notre-Dame schedules son et lumière (sound-and-light) shows projected upon the city's loveliest church eight times daily, May 1 to October 15. Tickets cost C$7.50 (US$5.35) for adults, C$5 (US$3.55) for seniors and students, free for children under 6.

An after-dinner stroll and a lounge on a bench on Terrasse Dufferin, the boardwalk above the Lower Town, may well be your most memorable night on the town. Ferries glide across the river burnished by moonglow, and the stars haven't seemed that close since childhood.

Finding Out What's On--Check the "Culture and Entertainment" section of the Greater Québec Area Tourist Guide for suggestions. You can find the guide at any tourist office. A weekly information leaflet called L'Info-Spectacles, listing headline attractions and the venues in which they are appearing, is found at concierge desks and in many bars and restaurants, as is the tabloid-sized giveaway Voir, which provides greater detail. Also widely available is Le Guide Québec Scope, a free monthly. The Greater Québec Area Tourist Guide has both French and English editions, while the rest of the guides are in French, but salient points (time, place, price) aren't difficult to decipher.


Classical Music, Opera & Dance
Many of the city's churches host sacred and secular music concerts, as well as special Christmas festivities. Among the churches are that give concerts are the Anglican Cathedral of the Holy Trinity (31 rue des Jardins), Eglise St-Jean-Baptiste (470 St. Jean), historic Chapelle Bon-Pasteur (1080 rue de la Chevrotière), and, on Ile d'Orléans, the Eglise Ste-Pétronille. Outdoor performances in summer are staged beside City Hall in the Jardins de l'Hôtel-de-Ville, in the Pigeonnier at Parliament Hill, on the Grande-Allée, and at Place d'Youville.

L'Orchestre Symphonique de Québec (tel. 418/643-8486; www.osq.org), Canada's oldest symphony, performs at the Grand Théâtre de Québec from September to May. The Québec Opéra (tel. 418/529-0688; www.operadequebec.qc.ca) mounts performances there in the spring and fall, as does, more occasionally, the Danse-Partout (tel. 418/649-4715) ballet company.

Rock, Folk, Blues & Jazz Clubs

Most bars and clubs stay open until 2 or 3am, closing earlier if business doesn't warrant the extra hour or two. Cover charges and drink minimums are all but unknown in the bars and clubs that provide live entertainment. There are three principal streets to choose among for nightlife: the Grande-Allée, rue St-Jean, and the emerging avenue Cartier.

Bars & Pubs

Check out the strip of the Grande-Allée between place Montcalm and place George V, near the St-Louis Gate, which has been compared to the Boulevard St-Germain in Paris. That's a stretch, but it is lined on both sides with cafes, giving it a resemblance. Many cafes have terraces abutting the sidewalks, so cafe-hopping is an active pursuit. Eating is definitely not the main event. Meeting and greeting and partying are aided in some cases by glasses of beer so tall they require stands to support them. This leads, not unexpectedly, to a beery collegiate atmosphere that can get sloppy and dumb as the evening wears on. But early on, it's fun to sit and sip and watch.

Gay Bars

The gay scene in Québec City is a small but vibrant one, centered in the Upper Town just outside the city walls, on rue St-Jean between avenue Dufferin and rue St-Augustin, and also along rue St-Augustin and nearby rue d'Aiguillon, which runs parallel to rue St-Jean. Just off Place d'Youville, is a three-zone club called Le Drague ("The Drag"), at 815 rue St-Augustin (tel. 418/649-7212), which has a basement disco, a bar with a pool table, patrons who wear leather, and -- you guessed it -- drag shows on Sunday. There are live performances of other kinds Thursdays through Saturdays. Lesbians form most of the clientele at L'Amour Sorcier at 789 côte Ste-Geneviève (tel. 418/523-3395). There's a low-pressure bar inside the old building and a terrace out front. Gay men aren't turned away. It's about three blocks west of place d'Youville. The local Gay Pride march and festivities have had financial troubles in recent years, but appear to be on firmer footing now. They've been held over Labour Day weekend, but check ahead with the tourist office to confirm.

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