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7 Reasons To Visit Quebec City In Winter

7 Reasons to Visit Quebec City in Winter

Why visit Québec City in the depths of winter you might ask? The city receives up to 400 cm (13 feet) of snow per year and the average daily high in December, January and February is only -5.9°C (21°F). Not quite the Caribbean vacation many envision. And yet Quebec City in winter is a wonderful spot to visit.

The city has an infectious joie de vivre and there’s plenty to do from outdoor adventures to amazing dining experiences to the famous Quebec Winter Carnival.

Here are 7 ideas of what to do in Quebec City in winter

La Fresque des Quebecois
La Fresque des Quebecois

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Wander the historic district of old Québec – a UNESCO World Heritage Site 

As the only city in North America to have preserved its ramparts, Québec is in the enviable position of showing today’s visitors what a fortified city looked like several centuries ago.

The Upper Town sits on a cliff with terrific views of the Saint-Lawrence River. It’s still a religious and administrative center – as you’ll soon see when you walk around. Look for convents, churches and monuments.

Walk the cobblestones streets – especially Rue de Petit Champlain, stop in a cafe and take a horse-drawn carriage ride. You’ll feel like you’ve been transported to a European city.

A walk through Old Quebec is always one of the must-do things on a visit to Quebec City in winter
Old Quebec City is especially pretty decked with lights in winter
Walking in Old Quebec
Walking in Old Quebec

Ski or skate on the Plains of Abraham

The Plains of Abraham was the site of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759. With some of the finest views of the city overlooking the Saint-Lawrence River, the area is now a giant park offering super accessible skiing, snowshoeing and skating near Old Québec.

In total there are 12.6 kilometres of ski trails, a 3.8 kilometre out and back snowshoe trail and 5.6 kilometres of walking trails.

Throw in a fantastic skating rink that’s open from 10 AM until 10 PM, and you have a veritable winter wonderland. The rink is also the site of a Winter Pentathlon. John declared his night-time skating experience sheer magic.

Cross-country skiing in Quebec City on the Plains of Abraham
Cross-country skiing in Quebec City on the Plains of Abraham
Wintry view across the St. Lawrence River
Wintry view across the St. Lawrence River from the Plains of Abraham
The skating rink before it's opening time of 10 AM
The skating rink before it’s opening time of 10 AM

Take a tour of the Hôtel du Glace – or spend the night

Just 10 minutes from downtown Quebec City, sits the Hôtel du Glace (or Ice Hotel). You don’t have to stay overnight to have a tour and trust me, it’s a very interesting place to see.

Since it opened in 2001, it has hosted approximately 43,000 overnight visitors. And yes it’s chilly inside. Fortunately for guests you can spend some time in a hot tub before dashing to your room and slipping under thick, warm covers. 

Want to spend a night in the Ice Hotel? You can book right here. 

Entering the Hotel du Glace in Quebec City
Entering the Hotel du Glace in Quebec City
A tour of the Ice Hotel is a fun thing to do in Quebec City in winter
A tour of the Ice Hotel is a fun thing to do in Quebec City in winter

Take the ferry between the historical centers of Québec City and Lévis

If you’re just looking for photos of the Québec City skyline or you just want to get a taste of the St. Lawrence River than you can do a quick turnaround trip in about 40 minutes via the ferry.

You could also hop off in Lévis and walk a section of Le Parcours des Anses if it was a nice day and not too cold. The ferry runs from 6 AM until 2:20 AM.

View of the Chateau Frontenac from the Levi ferry
View of the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac from the Levi ferry

Attend the Carnaval de Québec (Quebec Winter Carnival)

In 2020, the winter carnival kicks off on February 7th and lasts until February 16th. What you’ll find are sleigh races, canoe races, snow sculptures, nightlife, fireworks and loads of family activities.

I have yet to go but would love to one year. Go meet Bonhomme Carnaval, a 400 pound, 7 foot tall giant snowman – the official mascot of the carnaval and holder of the keys to the city.

Meet Bonhomme - a reason to visit Quebec City in winter
Meet Bonhomme – a reason to visit Quebec City in winter

Go downhill or cross country skiing

Keen skiers should know that Mont Sainte-Anne is only 40 minutes away. Look for superb downhill skiing with stupendous views long with some of the best cross-country skiing in Canada. Over 200 kilometres of beautifully groomed hills – with the possibility of seeing a moose await the Nordic skier.

A view to the back side of the Mont Ste -Anne downhill ski resort
A view to the back side of the Mont Ste -Anne downhill ski resort
One of the warming huts at Mont Sainte-Anne
One of the warming huts at Mont Sainte-Anne

Visit Montmorency Falls

On the way to the hill and just 20 minutes from downtown, you’ll drive past 83 metre high Montmorency Falls – a particularly beautiful site at night. If you choose to stop, you can explore the area around the falls via a cable car – and it’s also possible to climb stairs to the top of the falls.

In the winter the area is a veritable winter wonderland.

View from the top of Montmorency Falls
View from the top of Montmorency Falls

Check out the German Christmas Market in December

Old town Quebec City places host to an authentic German Christmas Market which is going into its twelfth year in 2019.

Look for wooden kiosks selling a range of locally made products like local food, children’s toys, cozy woolen slippers and of course traditional Germany crafts. As you’re wandering through the market sip glühwein (a delicious hot mulled red wine) under a backdrop of holiday lights. Grab a bratwurst and follow it up with some gingerbread. 

It’s a fun way for the whole family to get into the spirit of Christmas.

German Christmas market in Quebec City - one if the things to do in Quebec City in winter
German Christmas market

Where to stay in Quebec City

If you are planning to visit Quebec City in winter over the Quebec Winter Carnival book accommodation as far in advance as you can. 

Up for a splurge? Then stay in what is called the most photographed hotel – Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac.

I personally recommend the Hotel Marriott Quebec Centre-Ville and Hotel Chateau Laurier near the Plains of Abraham.

One summer I had a very good B&B experience at a reasonable price in the downtown core at Auberge La Chouette.

Further reading on Quebec City

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

5 Reasons to Visit Quebec City in Winter

Thank you to Québec City Tourism  for showing John and I your beautiful city. All thoughts and opinions as usual are my own.

 

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 23 Comments
  1. I’ve only visited Quebec city once. It was on a high school trip back in the dark ages and it was summer. I absolutely loved it and would love to see it in winter. It looks like a city that wears snow very well. Carnaval would be much fun, too.

  2. Oh my – you have made this look and sound like such a fun winter outing . . .even to this warmth-weather-sun-seeking traveler!

    1. @Jackie You appreciate the warmth all that much more if you’ve been outside for several hours – and Quebec City is such a romantic place to visit, that I’m betting you and your husband would love it – yes, even in winter.

  3. I’m not a big fan of winter but I visited Quebec City during Carnaval last year and had a fabulous time! I love the city during the summer too but it’s magical when the snow is falling – I’d go back in a heartbeat!

  4. This is actually very high up on my travel list! I went to the Outaouais Region a few years ago in February and had the BEST time, the cold wasn’t even that bad! Would love to plan a winter trip to Quebec, that ice hotel seems incredible!

    1. @Jess We did a 10 day winter ski trip last year and really it was as much fun as anything I’ve done in the summer. The only issue is snowstorms and driving. But if you catch a good weather window, it’s a great way to enjoy the winter.

  5. This area reminds me of the Upper Peninsula in Michigan. You would not think that visiting would be interesting in the winter unless you like to ski, but there are other interesting things to do you would not expect.

  6. -5.9C in January almost seems like a tropical vacation to me. I haven’t been to Quebec City, but I think it’s one of the few cold(er) places I’d want to travel to in the winter.

  7. Looks to be a beautiful city, but I don’t think I’d enjoy the ice hotel! We were just looking at a map of Canada yesterday. Thinking of heading north to escape the summer heat and humidity when it rolls around next summer!

  8. We agree 100% with all of your praise for Quebec City, having just returned from there 2 days ago. However, we’d like to add one more reason to go–perhaps the best of all: During the Christmas season, it is absolutely the most romantic city in North America! Paris may be the City of Lights, but in December, Quebec City is the City of Love! Not only is the Old City completely decked out in its holiday best (the German Market is enchanting), but everyone we met was in a grand mood. Warm, inviting people who quietly enjoy living life to the fullest. What’s not to love?

  9. Hoping to try cross country skiing this February in Quebec City! However, does anyone know a place to rent the gear? or at least boots? I’ll be there in the second half of February

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