Sitting at the confluence of the Saint-François and Magog rivers is the lovely city of Sherbrooke. The city has a long history, with known residents dating back some 8,000 years. But it wasn’t until the 20th century that it really made its mark.
Being the economic, cultural and institutional centre of the region, Sherbrooke was nicknamed the ‘Queen of the Eastern Townships’. And a queen it is, what with its urban core and numerous green spaces, which are surrounded by mountains, lakes and rivers.
Sherbrooke is a city of heritage sights, cultural sights and natural attractions, making it a great place for a holiday. If you ever find yourself spending time in the city, be sure not to miss the 15 best things to do in Sherbrooke:
1. Get your adrenaline pumping
Whether you are visiting in winter, spring, summer or fall, Mont Bellevue Park is sure to have something to do to get your adrenaline pumping. The 200 hectare park is the largest in the city, with its highest point reaching 333 metres above sea level.
The park has around 30 kilometres of trails where you can go hiking, mountain biking, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. You can also go tubing in the water in the summer, or down a hill in the winter.
If you are a skier or snowboarder, head to Mont Bellevue Park in the winter. If you enjoy hiking and spotting wildlife, go in the spring or fall to see the beautiful flowers and plethora of wildlife.
2. Gaze at art
In 1982, local art lovers founded the Sherbrooke Museum of Fine Arts. Today, it has a prominent permanent collection that showcases the work of artists throughout Quebec’s Eastern Townships.
Visit the gallery and gaze at art that is displayed throughout its three levels. The first two levels feature travelling exhibitions, while the third level is dedicated solely to artists from the region.
The gallery is housed in a historic 19th century building in downtown Sherbrooke. The former bank was converted into an art gallery that has over 4,600 works in its collection.
3. Learn about the city’s natural diversity
This can be done indoors year-round at the Sherbrooke Nature and Science Museum. The museum has over 65,000 objects and specimens to showcase the diverse flora and fauna of the province.
Plant and animal fossils, minerals, scientific instruments and animal specimens are all displayed within the museum. There are also archaeological artefacts to be seen.
In addition it its permanent collection, the Sherbrooke Nature and Science Museum also has special exhibitions. After wondering around the museum, be sure to head to its boutique for some unique souvenirs.
4. Look at castles
Or castle-like residences that are located in the city’s Rock Forest neighbourhood. The former farming village is today home to some of the city’s most elite residents.
Take a stroll along some of the streets in the area and bee in awe of the magnificent houses. There is also a large recreational centre that features tennis courts, racquetball courts, volleyball courts and a restaurant.
Rock Forest is mainly an Anglophone neighbourhood in a predominantly francophone city. Residents are friendly and welcoming to tourists walking around.
5. Visit an armoury
The Sherbrooke Armoury is not only the home of the Sherbrooke Hussars, but also a Canadian Army Sherman Tank. The building is also a national historic site.
The Sherbrooke Armoury features a low-pitched gable roof and a large drill hall space. It is also home to the Les Fusiliers de Sherbrooke Regimental Museum.
The museum promotes the military history of both Sherbrooke and the rest of the country. It displays material related to the regiment as well as others.
6. Have tea
Enjoy tea in true English tradition at the Uplands Cultural and Heritage Centre. Afternoon tea is served every weekend throughout the year, as well as on weekdays in the summer.
Tea, scones, Devonshire style cream and homemade strawberry jam are always served, with cucumber sandwiches and pastries also being served in the summer. Go for the full high tea and also enjoy snacking on quiche and savoury bites.
Depending on the season, tea can be enjoyed in the gardens, on the terrace or inside the stately house. The house itself is also worth looking around, as it features display rooms that are decorated to match the period of the house.
7. Go to the theatre
Although the Granada Theatre is now a national historic site, it also features shows. It was originally built as a cinema, but there are rarely any films shown here today.
The Granada Theatre opened its doors in 1929. The building was built in the Spanish Revival style, with its interior designed by well-known local theatre decorator Emmanuel Briffa.
The city owns and runs the theatre to ensure that the building and its history are protected. Check the website for its programs and to buy tickets to a show.
8. Wander around a prison
Winter Prison closed in 1990, but today it is a major attraction. The prison was built in 1865 and is one of the oldest buildings in the city.
The prison is now completely abandoned and said to be haunted. It once held some of the worst criminals in the province.
Winter Prison can be visited, although most don’t actually enter the doors and instead just opt to admire the historic building from the street.
9. Enjoy a festival
Being the cultural hub of the region, Sherbrooke hosts numerous fabulous festivals. Enjoy a festival at almost any time of the year.
If you visit in the summer, be sure to check out the Fête du Lac des Nations. This six-day festival takes place every July and features music, fireworks and rides.
Get a glimpse at the cultural diversity of the city at the Festival des traditions du monde, which is also in the summer. Visit Sherbrooke in the winter and enjoy Carnaval de Sherbrooke.
10. Hike through a forest
The Bois Beckett Forest is not like any other forest in the area. It is a forest made up of old maple and beech trees.
Hike through the 70 hectares of forest and admire the old trees and wildlife. Over 100 species of birds live in the forest, and if you are lucky, you will be able to spot a few of them.
There are eight marked trails in the forest, with a total of 6.1 kilometres of hiking to enjoy. In the winter, the Bois Beckett Forest is a great place for cross-country skiing.
11. Sip on wine
Sip on wine at La Halte des Pèlerins, an award-winning vineyard in the northeast corner of the city. You should also go on a tour of the lovely vineyards.
La Halte des Pèlerins offers three different tours; Péché Mignon, Péché Gourmand and Péché Mortel. All include learning about the history of the wine and the different winemaking stages, as well as a tasting.
If you would like food with your wine, go on the Péché Gourmand or the Péché Mortel tour. You can also purchase a few bottles in its shop.
12. Visit a mill
The Windsor Powder Mill is not in Sherbrooke itself, but just north of it in the town of Windsor. Visit the powder producing mill to learn all about the history and making of gun powder.
Take a tour and learn how to make the powder yourself with your guide acting as the foreman. Afterwards, head to the old factory to enjoy a multisensory show that demonstrates what life was like for workers of the mill.
Visit in the summer and go on a lovely walk of the grounds, which boasts 25 kilometres of hiking trails. On the way, see the remains of 56 historic buildings.
13. Taste local beer
The Boquébière micro-brewery is the perfect place to taste local beer. Tastings are available right onsite that allow you to discover and enjoy local brews.
You can also just go to their onsite bar and have a few pints. The micro-brewery also hosts special events, like swing dancing and love music.
Beer at Boquébière is served right from the cask, just like the English tradition. This means the flavours and aromas are more potent.
14. Walk around a lake
Lac-des-Nations promenade is the perfect place to do this, especially on a sunny day. Walk around the lake and enjoy the scenery.
If you would prefer not to walk, hire a bike or in-line skates. Walk, cycle or skate around the lake, stopping at rest points to enjoy the surroundings.
The Lac-des-Nations promenade is a 3.5 kilometre loop that is open year-round. In the summer, continue along Marché de la Gare and enjoy the local cheeses, meats, sausages, gelato and more at the outdoor farmers’ market.
15. Dine on a train
Travel through the magnificent Eastern Townships countryside on the Orford Express Tourist Train. Board the train and enjoy a gourmet meal while being memorised by the scenery.
The train runs between Sherbrooke, Magog and Eastman from May to December. Book your journey for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
For a special treat, board the Orford Express in the summer and go on an overnight outing. This includes dinner and breakfast, leaving Sherbrooke at 6pm.