I’ve made a few trips to Quebec City in winter, and each time, I find myself in search of more things to do and see. In this post, I’ve put together a list of things to do in Quebec City during the winter season.
For me, the dream in Quebec City is a walk through the Petit Champlain quarter. It doesn’t matter the time of year, the pedestrian streets lined with old European buildings, little shops and cafés and bakeries it’s like a European dream. During the Quebec winter carnival, Christmas decorations and ice sculptures stay throughout the entire city, but in Petit Champlain, it just has an even more magical vibe.
This one little district sets the tone for the entire city, filled with winter activities. Quebecers know how to embrace all the seasons, and during winter, they swing into high gear. Whether you are interested in a romantic site seeing escape, some winter activities like tobogganing, ice fishing or snowshoeing, Quebec City has it all.
Getting to Quebec City
Fly into Québec City Jean Lesage International Airport
There are many flights to Quebec City out of Montreal’s Trudeau International Airport (YUL), and you may find direct flights, too, depending on your departure city.
Quebec City By Train
Getting to Quebec city by train is easy for both Canadians and US travellers. There are Amtrak and ViaRail trains, which run through Toronto and Montreal. In Montreal, transfer to a Via Rail train, which travels directly into Quebec City’s train station located in the old city.
Quebec City By Car
Driving to Quebec City, you will likely plan a route via New York City or Montreal. From Montreal, you will follow Autoroute 20 or 40 (which is more scenic), and the drive will take you approximately 3 hours. From New York City, follow Interstate 91 to the Canadian Border and then take Autoroute 55 to Autoroute 20, which will take you into Quebec City.
Where to Stay in Quebec City
There are plenty of great hotels in Quebec City. I can recommend two that I’ve stayed out both with optimal locations to explore all the attractions.
Hilton Quebec City
Ideally located next to Parliament Hill, the Hilton Quebec City features many rooms that overlook the old city. The hotel is steps from local attractions, including the old city, local nightlife and shopping districts. During Winter Carnival, the hotel is walking distance from all the celebrations, including the Ice Palace.
Swim in the Hilton’s Outdoor Heated Pool
One of the perks of staying at the Hilton is another high Quebec winter activity – outdoor swimming. Their heated rooftop pool is open in winter and offers some pretty spectacular views of the city.
Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac
The Fairmont is a Quebec City activity and bucket list moment for many. Travellers will flock to see it and tour its historic grounds all year round. For a luxury 5-star winter vacation Le Chateau Frontenac is ideally situated right in the heart of the old city and next to the famous Quebec Toboggan Ride.
Packing Tips For Your Quebec City Winter Vacation
Don’t let the weather forecast deter you from planning a winter getaway in Quebec. Packing for winter is all about having the right gear and the critical 3 layer rule.
- First Layer – Intimates and thermal layer
- Second Layer – Winter Clothing
- Third Layer – Outwear Protection from the Elements
Quebec City Winter Carnival
If you are lucky enough to explore Quebec City during their annual Winter Carnival, you’ll find the city magically transformed into a winter wonderland filled with special events and fun celebrations. Christmas decorations and lights are kept up through February and add to the excitement of the Carnival season.
There are plenty of fun carnival traditions, with snow tubing, ice sculpting competitions and plenty of winter carnival food and celebrations to enjoy.
Read More: Things to do during the Quebec Winter Carnival.
Quebec City Winter Activities
Ride the Funicular down to Petit Champlain
Petit Champlain quarter is my favourite spot in the city especially, during Quebec’s Winter Carnival. Decorated with twinkle lights and covered in snow, it’s like a European village. Head down with the Funicular and explore all the little shops and cafés.
Ride the Famous Quebec City Toboggan Ride
Make your way behind the Chateau Frontenac to the Dufferin Terrace, where you will see the Famous three sled run. Be sure to take a ride on and prepare for the thrill of hitting speeds 70 KM. The only challenge is lugging the heavy wooden sled up the steep hill, but it is all downhill from there. The traditional toboggan ride is open from December to March weather permitting.
Explore the Old City Attractions
After your Toboggan run, take a walk around and inside the Chateau Frontenac. It is a great spot to warm up and grab a coffee or cocktail. Then step outside and walk the many little streets within the old city. There you will find plenty of small shops, museums, cafés and restaurants to explore.
Ice Fishing at Village Nordic in the Old Port
Located in the Old Port of Quebec each winter, you’ll see the blow-up igloos pop up at the Village Nordic. There children and adults of all ice fishing levels will find some unique opportunities to catch some fish. The team Village Nordic will take care of drilling the holes in the ice and provide the gear you need, and the rest is up to you and little luck.
Snowshoe or Cross Country Ski at the Plains of Abraham
Rent a pair of snowshoes or cross-country skis and hit the trails at Quebec’s (National park) the Plains of Abraham. This historic site is a magical open space for those seeking to immerse themselves in nature. Most Quebec hotels will be happy to help make the arrangements, or you can rent skis and snowshoes on site.
Splurge on dinner at one of Quebec City’s Restaurants
There is no shortage of Quebec City restaurants for all budgets. From craft brewers like Les 3 Brasseurs, Quebec original cuisine at La Bûche restaurant to fine dining at Bistro Tournebroche, take a walk through the old city and Petit Champlain village and explore your options.
Read more: Great Places to Eat in Quebec City.
When in Quebec City… You Must
There is no shortage of restaurants serving variations of this Quebec specialty dish: French Fries layered with cheese curds, and hot gravy poured over the top. Many restaurants have developed their unique recipes adding toppings like bacon, sausage and veggies. For fast food, pick me up, hit one of the Chez Ashton locations in the city, or keep an eye on your restaurant menu for Poutine dishes as an appetizer or main course.
Eat French pastries
Visit one of the many bakeries and cafes in the old city and enjoy a delicious French pastry. In the old city, spots like Paillard are great for grabbing lunch or just a coffee and sweet treat. There is no shortage of cafés and bakeries to choose from throughout the old city, so be sure to stop at one during your stay.
Drink Caribou at an Outdoor Ice Bar
During Carnival time, you won’t find it hard to step up to an ice bar and enjoy a shot of Caribou in an ice glass. However, many of the local bars create outdoor patio ice bars during the winter season, so you’ll be able to grab your drink and mark off this Quebec winter bucket list experience.
Eat Frozen Maple Syrup
If you see a table covered in snow, no doubt someone will pour hot maple syrup in lines on it. With a wooden stick, warp the frozen maple syrup, which turns to toffee over the snow. It’s a sweet treat and a memorable winter moment in Quebec City.
Outdoor Ice Skating in the Old City
Rent some skates and enjoy a lovely ice skate on the rink inside the old city walls. The Place D’Youville skating rink located across from Porte Saint-Jean and the Capitole de Québec is a beautiful scenic rink in the old city. Be sure to dress warmly and head there at night to enjoy the twinkle lights and ambience of old Quebec.
Visit the Ice Hotel and Valcartier Village
Also outside Quebec City at the Valcartier Village is the Quebec City Ice Hotel. Families will love its new location amongst the snow tubing and winter activity park. Those brave enough to stay at the Ice Hotel will have the option to warm up inside one of the rooms at the Valcartier resort.
You don’t have to stay at the Ice Hotel you can take a day tour instead and marvel at the construction, the ice decor rooms and of course have a drink in an ice glass at one of the ice hotel’s ice bars.
Read More: Inside Quebec’s Ice Hotel
Relax at the Scandinavian Spa
Visit the Siberia Station Spa for a relaxing escape. This outdoor Scandinavian Spa is located just outside Quebec City and features hot and cold water pools, saunas and relaxation spaces amongst a beautiful winter forest scene.
Disclosure: Travel assistance provided by Tourism Quebec on several media hosted press trips. The opinions in this post are my own.