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Sherbrooke: The Queen of the Eastern Townships
Located in the heart of Quebec’s Eastern Townships, the city of Sherbrooke is renowned for its picturesque settings, welcoming locals, and laidback ambience. Lying about 85 miles east of Montreal, and positioned even closer to the U.S.-Canada border, the bilingual city has emerged as a popular city break destination for travellers on both sides of the border, with many finding it to be un belle ville.
Exploring Historic Sherbrooke, QC
Sherbrooke, QC enjoys a rich history that harks back not only to the British and French occupations, but also to Canada’s First Nations. Take a leisurely stroll around the city and you’ll discover a fine selection of historically-significant, postcard-friendly buildings, nestled amongst hotels, shops, markets, restaurants, and other trappings of a modern city.
Top of any must-see list is the inspiring Saint-Michel Basilica-Cathedral, found in the very centre of the city. While it might not be the oldest cathedral to be found in Quebec, its clifftop location and imposing design certainly add to its character.
Just steps away from the cathedral stands Sherbrooke City Hall (Hôtel de ville de Sherbrooke). The building is another example of the fine architecture on display within the city. It’s also surrounded by well-maintained gardens, which are especially picturesque during the spring.
Other historic landmarks and significant locations in and around the city, include: Bishop’s University, which is designed around England’s famed Cambridge and Oxford Universities; the Sanctuary of the Sacred Heart, a long-standing site of pilgrimage that also offers terrific views of the city; and the Marché de la Gare, the city’s main farmer’s market and a popular meeting spot for locals and tourists alike.
Culture and Entertainment
Sherbrooke is home to a number of museums that further detail the history of the region, with La Société d’histoire de Sherbrooke offering some of the most interesting artefacts to explore. Here you’ll discover comprehensive archives, permanent exhibitions, and a number of temporary exhibits. Other popular museums in the city include: Sherbrooke Nature and Science Museum, Sherbrook Museum of Fine Arts, and the Uplands Cultural Heritage Centre.
When it comes to entertainment, the city has plenty to offer too. In addition to the typical movie theatres and live music bars you’d expect to find in a good-sized city, Sherbrooke also houses a number of theatres and entertainment venues, including the Theatre Granada, La Belle Chapelle, and Place Nikitotek. The latter is an outdoor theatre that routinely hosts live performances during the summer months. In fact, the city itself is known for its alfresco, summertime festivals and events.
You’ll find most museums and theatres within walking distance of your hotel.
Outstanding Natural Beauty
The Eastern Townships are well-known for their natural beauty. Mountain ranges and deep valleys interrupt rolling fields and extensive farmlands, much of which can be seen within a few minutes of leaving the city. Sherbrook has plenty of natural beauty to offer on its own as well.
Both the Magog and Saint-François Rivers pass through the city, offering picturesque backdrops against which to enjoy a stroll. Meanwhile, the Lac des Nations, which forms part of the Magog River, is wildly popular with afternoon walkers, thanks to its scenic walking trails and boardwalk. The Magog Gorge is another popular natural feature, its night time illuminations proving a worthwhile reward for those that visit at dusk.
Elsewhere in the city, you’ll find a host of picturesque parks. Mont Bellevue Park, the largest of Sherbrooke’s parks, offers 19 miles of walking and cycling trails, while Sylvie-Daigle Park is home to an outdoor pool and indoor ice hockey arena. These and other parks also offer spots for birdwatching, skating, football, baseball, picnics, and much more.
Sherbrooke in Winter
When the snow falls and the ponds freeze, the city of Sherbrooke opts not to hibernate the winter months away. In fact, the city is a popular choice with winter sports enthusiasts, who head to these parts to partake in everything from downhill skiing to tube sliding.
Mont Bellevue Park offers a good spot for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, as well as some downhill skiing options. A number of hotels are located nearby for those travellers looking to take advantage of the winter snows. Several other ski resorts can also be found within an hour’s drive of Sherbrooke, making the city a useful destination for those eager to try the local slopes.
Back in town, winter sees locals taking to the frozen ponds for a spot of ice hockey or ice skating. Meanwhile, the town’s cafés and restaurants serve up delicious hot chocolate and hearty meals that are sure to fill you up.
Discover the Eastern Townships
Whilst Sherbrooke may be considered the ‘Queen of the Eastern Townships’, it’s by no means the only worthwhile destination in south-eastern Quebec. Visitors willing to venture beyond the city limits are rewarded with picturesque pastoral scenery, pleasant towns, and a peaceful atmosphere.
Popular places to visit in the region include Zoo de Granby, situated in Granby, QC, to the west of Sherbrooke; the marvellous abbey at St-Benoit-Du-Lac; and the Foresta Lumina in Costicook. Somewhat closer than these, Lennoxville – just a few miles from downtown Sherbrooke – also proves popular with day-trippers.
Perhaps the best way to see the Eastern Townships though is aboard the Orford Express. Operating during the summer and autumn months, the tourist train offers return trips from Sherbrooke to Magog (and vice versa), a journey that takes between 2.5 and 3.5 hours. En route you can expect picturesque scenery, as well as a gourmet meal served in one of the train’s three dining carriages.