December is not traditionally a time for tourists in Quebec City and as such it’s a great time to go. Prices are lower, there’s lots to do both inside and out and there’s a real magic to the city – especially with so many Christmas lights and beautiful decorations.
Over a weekend you could easily fit in a visit to all of the following places. Park you car for everything but the aquarium. Quebec City is a great walking city and easy to navigate.
Rue de Petit Champlain
Considered to be one of the prettiest streets in Canada, Rue de Petit Champlain is at its festive best in the winter months when it’s draped in garlands and covered in lights. A little snow makes it that much prettier – though this year it’s late in coming.
Home to galleries, boutiques and local restaurants you’ll have no problem finding lots of French onion soup and poutine – along with vin chaud and hot chocolate to warm you up. Château Frontenac serves as a backdrop and is easily accessed via a climb on the famous breakneck staircase or via a quick ride up on the funicular.
German Christmas Market
Looking for some Christmas cheer with an authentic German twist in old town Quebec City? Head for the German Christmas market – now in its eighth year. Wooden kiosks sell traditional German crafts, woolen socks, cozy slippers, children’s toys, local food and drinks as well as favourites like gingerbread, roasted chestnuts, churros and glühwein (a delicious hot mulled red wine) under a backdrop of holiday lights. For a taste of real German food don’t miss the food tent where you can chow down on a traditional currywurst with sauerkraut while listening to music. It’s open until December 20th on a Wednesday to Saturday basis from 11 AM until 8 PM, and until 6 PM on Sundays.
Le Monastere de Augustine
When you need a break from the craziness of the holidays, whether it be for a few hours over lunch or a multi-night stay, check out Le Monastere de Augustine, in the heart of old town Quebec beside Hotel Dieu.
Recently transformed from a monastery to a hotel, it already holds the rank as one of the top three healing hotels of the world. You feel a sense of peace and calm the minute you walk in the door. Visitors can tour the museum – an incredibly interesting space and very well presented. Or show up for lunch.
If you only have a few hours, lunch is what I’d suggest. Start at the soup and salad bar where you can load up on chickpea, beet, quinoa, lentil, carrot and several other super healthy, visually appealing salads. Fill a bowl with soup, grab a few slices of artisan bread – and then wait for your main course…and a small dessert. The all-inclusive price is $25.
Take a few hours to enjoy your lunch in this serene setting. You’re only a block or two from Rue St. Jean so you can get back to shopping and sightseeing very easily.
I didn’t even know there was an Aquarium in Quebec City until last weekend. It was primarily filled with families but I thought it was a fun and educational place to visit. You could easily spend two hours here checking out all the displays. There’s a pavilion devoted to seahorses and jellyfish while another one is full of fish and creatures from the St. Lawrence River. A selection of northern mammals can also be seen including seals, walruses and Arctic fox – perhaps even some polar bears but I missed that. It’s decorated for Christmas so show up after the sun goes down so you can enjoy the beauty of the light display.
Walk the Wall
In Quebec City, the Ramparts are the only fortified city walls remaining north of Mexico. The wall surrounds a good chunk of the old city. In theory you can walk on or beside the wall for about 4 kilometres – but not as a continuous stretch. I did a beautiful section from the St. Louis gate up towards the Citadel so I could get views over the St. Lawrence River. If you grab a detailed city map, you’ll see where you can follow the wall. It’s a great walk – loaded with history and beautiful scenes.
I’m a fan of Quebec City – and always have been. It’s a city where people embrace winter and get out to enjoy it. December is no exception. There’s a real joie de vivre; people are friendly and it’s full of atmosphere. And although I was a guest of Quebec City Tourism, my thoughts on the city are mine alone and I’d go back in a heartbeat.
Have you ever had a chance to visit Quebec City?