Baby, it’s cold outside! But that’s no reason to hide inside. At least not when you are in Quebec City; one of the most charming cities in Canada. Quebec City in the winter is truly a winter wonderland. From the snow-covered streets decorated with fairy lights, to cozy cafes, hotels, and restaurants, not to mention all the fun outdoor celebrations. So grab your toque (that’s a winter hat in Canada, for those who have zero idea what I’m talking about) and a good pair of boots to try these 15 fun things to do in Quebec City. Because if anywhere can make you fall in love with the cold, it’s Quebec City in Winter.
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The Best Things to do in Quebec City in Winter
Toboggan Down the Giant Ice Slide
I am a firm believer that you are never too old for tobogganing. If you are of the same mind, then you will love the giant ice slide in front of the Chateau Frontenac Hotel. It’s known as the Toboggan Slide Au 1884 and is one of the oldest, traditional past times in the city. Enthusiastic sliders pay a fee to rent a sled and make a run down one of three tracks. Depending on conditions, you can go up to 70km/hour. It’s SO MUCH FUN. Just be cautious walking up the ramp with your toboggan. It can be slippery and falling and letting go of your sled may result in a little bit of a disaster.
Not that I’d know anything about that.
But even if I did, I’d still say it’s one of the best things to do in Quebec City in the winter.
Toboggan Slide Au 1884 is very weather dependent but is usually open from January til March.
Carnival is celebrated around the world and while the most popular celebrations involve neon feathers and glittery bras (I’m looking at you Rio!), it’s not quite the same in Quebec City. It’s more like dress in as many layers as possible and wander around with a cane of caribou (a warm, Canadian, alcoholic drink that is actually served in a big, plastic cane).
Carnival is one of the best things to do in Quebec City in winter. It’s fun for the entire family with parades, ice sculpture competitions, and fun Canadian activities like dog sledding and human foosball. Don’t forget to find Bonhomme- the friendly snowman mascot- for some photos as well! You can learn more about Quebec City’s Carnival including this year’s dates here.
Visit Quebec City’s Christmas Markets
You all know how much I love Christmas markets (if you don’t, then take a peek at my European Christmas market round-up, and my guides to Christmas in Vienna, Christmas in Paris, Christmas in London, and Christmas in New York). Quebec’s Christmas markets are smaller than the other destinations that I’ve written about, but the fact that you are almost always guaranteed snow makes them pretty darn magical. Quebec City’s Christmas markets tend to run from late November until right before Christmas. You can read more in my Quebec City Christmas getaway post here.
Check out the Hotel de Glace
Have you ever stayed in an Ice Hotel? Well you can in Quebec City. Quebec City’s Hotel de Glace is the only ice hotel in North America. The hotel is made entirely from snow and ice and promises to be an enchanting experience for people of all ages. The design of the hotel changes from year to year and really offers a unique experience. Quebec City’s ice hotel opens in early January (weather dependent).
Stroll Down one of the Prettiest Streets in the World
If you have seen any photos of Quebec City online or in travel magazines, it’s no doubt a photo from Rue Petit Champlain which has been named as one of the prettiest streets in the world. It’s a cobblestone street lined with adorable little shops that have bright coloured doors and window sills and cute little wooden signs. It’s pretty year-round but it’s down-right magical during the winter with the white snow and glittering lights. Walking down Rue du Petit Champlain is an absolute must when it comes to things to do in Quebec City in the winter.
Visit a Sugar Shack
Maple syrup and Canada go hand and hand so if you are a maple enthusiast then be sure to check out one of the local sugar shacks. Maple season will depend on the weather, but can start as early as mid-February (although early March is more common). At this time the sugar shacks, which produce maple syrup, will open up to tourists. You can visit these properties and see and learn how maple syrup is made plus try out the products. Expect to find all things maple including syrup, butter, sugar, and yes maple taffy (which is poured over cold snow and wrapped in a popsicle stick). Oh, and make sure to stay for the breakfast. Sugar shack pancake breakfasts are a big deal in this part of Canada!
Warm Up with Poutine and other French Canadian Cuisines
Canada doesn’t have a ton of traditional food, but one thing that we are known for is poutine and there is no better place to try it than in the province of Quebec. For those who have no idea what I am talking about, poutine is a French Canadian dish made up of French friends, cheese curds, and gravy. You can even get some crazy flavours with bacon, pulled pork, and more. It’s a must try in Canada and you can find it all over Quebec City.
While poutine is the most famous French Canadian dish, there are lots of other delicious things to try. I’m a big fan of tourtiere (a meat pie) and you can’t go wrong with Quebec sugar pie for dessert. One of the best places in Quebec City for this type of food is Aux Anciens Canadiens. It’s pricey, but a good meal here is worth a splurge.
Quebec City also has an amazing fondue restaurant. While it’s not typical French Canadian fare it’s super yummy and definitely a warm meal to warm you up in the winter. The restaurant is called Le Petit Chateau and they have delicious 3-course fondue options.
While you’re at it, don’t forget to try some Canadian drinks too such as ice wine and ice cider!
Ice Climb up a Frozen Waterfall
Just outside of Quebec City is a beautiful waterfall: the Montmorency Falls. At 83 meters high, Montmorency Falls is actually higher than Niagara Falls. They are beautiful to visit year round, but if you come in winter you get a couple extra fun activities to try, including ice climbing up the waterfall.
Not quite what you had in mind? You can still enjoy the area by foot, by snowshoes, and (weather dependent) cable car. Plus, if you visit during the evening you’ll get to see it all lit up and illuminated. So pretty!
Visit the Grand Marche de Quebec
If you are looking to get your hand on some local gourmet food then head to the Grand Marche de Quebec. This is a relatively new establishment and a prime spot for foodies to visit. The market is inspired by some of the best food markets in the world and features about a hundred local farmers and artisans. From cheese to beer to fruit and more, it’s a fun place to experience some of the local foodie culture while staying warm in Quebec City in the winter.
Hit the Slopes
Getting out to the hills is something almost all Canadians enjoy. Whether it’s for skiing, snowboarding, or even snow tubing. There are plenty of great hills in the area surrounding Quebec City for all of these activities. If you love to ski or snowboard, then check out Mont Saint Ann or Stoneham Mountain Resort.
If skiing or snowboarding sounds like a bit too much, you can still enjoy winter in Quebec City outdoors with a snowshoe adventure. This tour will take you on a 3-hour tour of one of the most beautiful trails near Quebec City; Jaques Cartier Park.
Go Ice Skating
Ice skating is a classic Canadian winter pastime (especially when you throw in some hockey sticks and a puck). There are some great outdoor rinks in Quebec City and, while they are very weather dependent, you can usually enjoy them from December until mid-March. Favourite spots to lace up include the Place D’Youville skating rink and the Plains of Abraham skating rink. Another great spot, especially in the evening, is the Pointe-aux-Lievres which is lit up beautifully after dark and offers panoramic views of Upper Town.
Check out the Craft Beer Scene
Craft beer is taking over and Quebec City is no exception. While you will need to get out of Old Quebec City to find some of the best breweries, it’s totally worth it.
My last visit to Quebec City I took a tour with Broue Tours who introduced me to three cool breweries and bars serving up some delicious (and interesting) beers. You can take your own tour with them if you are in town on a Saturday (check out their website here). If you aren’t in town for a Saturday, hop on a bus (or grab an uber) to one of these fun spots for a pint or two:
Drink a Bowl of Hot Chocolate
Calling all chocoholics! If you love hot chocolate as much as I do then you HAVE to go to Erico Chocolatier. Not only is it a cute little chocolate shop filled with goodies perfect for snacks…err.. souvenirs. But it also serves up ten- that’s right, I said ten- different types of hot chocolate. Served in a bowl. I don’t know about you, but I’m all about giant bowls of hot chocolate, especially when it’s frosty outside. It’s one of the best ways to warm up in Quebec City in winter. Attached to the shop is also a little chocolate museum showcasing the history of chocolate that is also worth taking a peek.
Erico Chocolatier can be found at 634 rue Saint-Jean.
Relax at a Thermal Spa
Yes, part of the draw of visiting Quebec City in the winter is to enjoy the snow, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be relaxing. Quebec City has a few thermal spas that make for a perfect way to spend a winter day. StrØm Spa is one of the most popular options since it is located within the Old City. But, if you prefer to get out in nature there are several other options on the outskirts of the city such as Siberian Station Spa or Nordique Spa Mont Saint Anne.
Take in the Scenic Views at the Observatory
I’m a sucker for a good panoramic view so if you are too, then head to the Quebec City Observatory. The viewing space is on the 31st floor of the building and offers 360-degree views of Quebec City. Yes, it is enclosed (so you won’t freeze in the winter) but it’s only open until about 5 pm during the colder months so plan your visit accordingly.
Where to Stay in Quebec City in Winter
When it comes to accommodation options, there are plenty to choose from in Quebec City with options for a variety of budgets. I do recommend staying within the walled part of the city, because it’s the prettiest part that most people come to see.
Looking for recommendations? I can personally recommend the following:
- Fairmont Chateau Frontenac: the most photographed hotel in the world and one of the most famous hotels in Canada. It’s a luxury property but if you can afford to splurge, it’s a good place to do it. Fantastic service and comfortable rooms makes for a memorable stay. Book your stay at the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac here.
- Auberge Saint Antoine: One of my favourite hotels of all time. It’s so cozy and inviting and has the unique factor of being very historical as well. The food served at the on-site restaurant is also to die for. Book your stay at Auberge Saint Antoine here.
For those looking to explore Quebec City in winter on a budget, I’ve also stayed in the HI Quebec City hostel which offers affordable accommodation on a great budget. Book your stay at the HI Quebec City hostel here.
What to pack for Quebec City in Winter
Ah packing. Everyone’s favourite part of travel- not.
Packing for winter can be hard, and packing for winter in Quebec City can be especially hard as it gets pretty chilly, especially once you add in the wind-chill. Good winter attire essentials are a must (check out my Canadian winter packing list for those) but you may also want to tuck a couple of extra things in your bag that will, no doubt, come in handy.
- Handwarmers for when you get chilly. These really do work!
- Thermal socks, especially if you are spending a day out on the hills
- Portable Charger: the cold kills your phone battery much faster than usual, so bring a portable charger with you as a backup.
- Crampons: Quebec City (and much of Canada for that matter) can get really slippery and icy turning the streets into, well, a death trap. Adding crampons to the bottom of your boots will help keep you upright on the ice.
Quebec City in the winter is tons of fun, so dress warm and enjoy these top things to do in Quebec City!
A Note on Travel Insurance in Canada
Please, do NOT travel without travel insurance! I’ve had to rely on mine multiple times. While the cost may seem annoying and better spent elsewhere, trust me when I say you’ll be sorry if you don’t have it. For just a couple bucks a day, you can save yourself a whole lot of stress and money. I like to recommend SafetyWing for travel medical insurance as they are one of the most affordable options I’ve found, plus, they are who I use and I have had great experiences with them. Learn more about the importance of travel insurance here.