Last updated: March 23rd, 2020
For those wanting to witness the beauty of Canada’s colder months, winter in Quebec City is a great time to visit. From world-renowned festivals to hotels made of ice, there are all sorts of things to do in the winter months.
Québec City sits along the St. Lawrence River in the mostly french-speaking province of Quebec. Dating all the way back to 1608, it features a unique European charm, a fortified colonial core, a parliament building modelled after the famous Louvre Museum in Paris, and a variety of stone buildings and cobblestone streets. It’s easily one of Canada’s most beautiful cities and is only a 3-hour drive from world-famous Montreal.
Like most Canadian cities, it’s busy in the summer. But if you’re okay getting bundled up in winter clothing, you’ll find fewer crowds in the winter months and equally beautiful scenery, exciting activities, and the same delicious French food you’ve come to expect.
10 Things to Do in Quebec During the Winter
Below are just some of the top things we recommend doing during the winter months in Quebec City.
Explore historic Old Quebec (Vieux-Quebec)
There are lots of things to do in the winter but perhaps the most special of them all is simply exploring the streets of Old Quebec. This UNESCO World Heritage Site and the only fortified city north of Mexico is beautiful in all seasons, but when snow blankets the ground, it’s just plain gorgeous. It’s certainly a cold time to visit, so you’ll want to wear proper clothes for the winter season in Canada, but once you’re bundled up, it’s a fantastic place to walk around. Although it’s in Canada, it will feel like you’ve stepped into an old European city. From charming little shops and restaurants to beautiful historic buildings, you’ll want to spend a good half day here.
Some of the areas you’ll want to check out include:
Petit-Champlain: Also known as Lower Old Quebec, this is the most picturesque spots in the entire city. Thanks to its narrow (and car-free) cobblestone streets, walking around this neighborhood is a real treat. Known as one of the oldest commercial streets in North America, you’ll still find a variety of charming stores, little cafes, restaurants, and souvenir shops. It’s a simple walk from Dufferin Terrace but you can also hop on the funicular, which takes you right from the Fairmont hotel to the most scenic street in the city in less than 30 seconds.
Place Royale: This beautiful little plaza is also in the lower area of Old Quebec and features a variety of stunning buildings and the historic Notre-Dame des Victories cathedral.
Grand Allée: This is a massive street just outside the walled city. It’s actually the street where the Quebec Winter Carnival parade takes place and is home to many great bars, restaurants, nightlife, and hotels. We actually stayed on this street at the historic hotel c3 and had dinner with a view at the 360-degree rotating restaurant – Ciel!
Rue Saint-Jean: An area frequented by locals, the street is lined with boutiques, cafes, and restaurants. It’s also home to quaint J.A. Moisan, which is the oldest grocery store on the continent.
Hit the Slopes and Go Skiing
For those looking to hit the slopes, there are actually four different ski areas within driving distance, including Le Relais Centre, which is only 20-minutes or so from Old Quebec. If you haven’t tried night skiing, you may want to visit Stoneham Mountain Resort, which is home to Canada’s largest night skiing area. Other options include Mont-Sainte-Anne and Le Massif de Charlevoix, both of which offer jaw-dropping views of the St. Lawrence River.
Experience the Quebec Winter Carnival
Without a doubt, the star attraction of the colder months is the Quebec Winter Carnival, which is one of the largest winter festivals in the world. Held each year in February, this world-famous Quebec Winter Festival brings all sorts of Quebec winter carnival activities for all ages, including a spectacular night parade, ice slides, interactive games, full-on dance parties, the infamous ice canoe race, and regular meetings with their mascot Bonhomme. It’s truly an incredible time to be in Quebec City and if you’re thinking about it, check out our full guide to Quebec’s Winter Carnival.
Ride a Toboggan at Au 1884
Perhaps the most iconic attraction of Quebec’s winter is the toboggan slide at Au 1884, which is right next to the Fairmont on the Dufferin Terrace. This slide has been here since 1884, making it the oldest attraction in the city! For just $3, you’ll get to pull an old-school wooden sled up the steep ramp, which will then hurl you down the icy track at speeds of up to 70 km/h. Each toboggan has a fixed track, so you don’t need to worry about going off track or tipping over. It’s totally safe and quite exhilarating, not to mention the stunning views of the semi-frozen St. Lawrence River.
You’ll see the Au 1884 kiosk right beside the bottom of the track, which is also a great place to get a hot chocolate or a baked treat. Iconic, historic, fun, and cheap. What more can you ask for?
Visit Hotel De Glace (The Ice Hotel)
Another world-famous winter attraction in Quebec City during the winter months is Hotel De Glace, otherwise known as the ice hotel. Built each winter just 10-20 minutes from Quebec City, this massive ice hotel is created out of thousands of pounds of ice and snow. Ever since we first heard about this hotel, we wanted to visit. Finally, in 2020, we had the chance to visit for the day and it is spectacular. We didn’t spend the night but we did do the day tour, visiting each one of the themed rooms, admiring the incredible artwork, and enjoying a cold drink at the frozen ice bar.
If you’re in Quebec City for the winter, this is an absolute must-do. Where else will you get the chance to experience such an incredible work of art? Plus, all the room designs change each and every year, making it a unique place to visit any winter you come. There are 44 rooms, 20 of which are themed. The cheapest rooms have plain ice walls, whereas the themed rooms have intricate carvings, ranging from Canadian wildlife to ancient Aztec art.
There’s even a chapel if you’d like to get married, a bunch of hot tubs and saunas for staying warm, and a bunch of activities such as skating and tubing. Without a doubt, spending a night would be the most memorable thing to do, but if you’d rather not sleep on a bed of ice, you can take a tour in the day, marvelling at the many incredible rooms and the breathtaking architecture.
Go Tubing At Villages Vacances Valcartier
Located in Villages Vacances Valcartier, the same location where you’ll find the Ice Hotel, this is an awesome place to go for winter fun. It’s known as North America’s largest winter playground and is home to some awesome tubing, a bunch of sled runs, skating paths, and even a playground.
If you’re looking for a thrill, you can also soar down the hill on an inflatable snow raft, which holds up to 12 people and reaches speeds of up to 80 km/h.
Eat Delicious Maple Taffy
I love maple syrup. I have it in coffee, on my yogurt, and of course, on pancakes and french toast. However, quite possibly the best way to eat maple syrup is making your own maple taffy. Many vendors around the city offer this delicacy, pouring boiling maple syrup on to snow. You then take a popsicle stick, place it on the far end of the maple syrup stream, and start to roll it up. The snow makes it harden into a soft taffy, allowing you to lick it off the popsicle. Expect to pay around $3. Pure maple syrup = yum yum yum!
Relax at the Scandinavian Spa
Ever since experiencing our first Nordic Spa in Winnipeg, we loved the idea of the hot-cold-warm cycle. Whether it’s summer or winter, the Sibéria Station Spa, which is just 20 minutes from downtown Quebec City, is an awesome place to visit. This Scandinavian spa is based around thermotherapy, where visitors get hot in saunas, hot tubs, and steam rooms before dunking themselves in cold pools. It might sound crazy but it supposedly increases circulation, eliminates toxins and strengthens the immune system. All I can say is that it’s a spectacularly relaxing experience and one I can enjoy for an entire day.
Tip: If you’re travelling around Quebec, don’t miss Nordik Spa-Nature in Chelsea Quebec. Located just 20-minutes from Ottawa, this is one of the biggest spas in North America and one of my favourite spots in the country!
Try Winter Sports on the Plains of Abraham
It might be one of the most historic areas of Quebec City but it’s also a great place to get some winter exercise. Just outside the city walls off Grand Alee, this wide-open area is a popular place for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or skating. It’s home to several kilometres of trails and is just a beautiful place to be. Plus, if you don’t have the equipment, you can rent from the on-site kiosk. When you’re done, you could also head up to CIEL for fine dining in a rotating restaurant.
Visit the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac
It seems weird to list a hotel as a “top things to do” but when it’s the most photographed hotel in the world, I think it makes the cut. You’re guaranteed to see the hotel as it’s the most striking feature in the city, but it’s also beautiful inside. Simply walk in, explore, or maybe stay for a coffee? Maybe you can spend the night. Either way, you can’t leave this old city without stepping foot into its most famous landmark.
Where to Stay in Quebec City
There are all sorts of places to stay in Quebec City, ranging from budget hostels to luxurious hotels. We’ve only stayed in a couple of them but can wholeheartedly recommend them.
C3 – Hotel Art de Vivre: This is where we stayed during the winter carnival. It’s located in a 19th-century house and is walking distance from the Old Quebec gate. It’s also right on the street where the night parade happens during the carnival. The rooms are beautiful, the breakfast is decent, and the location is superb.
Best Western Plus: We stayed here during our first visit to Quebec City back in 2013. It’s centrally located in the main downtown area of Quebec City and is quite modern and spacious.
Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac: If you got the budget, why not stay in the most photographed hotel in the world? It’s literally inside the old city and is walking distance to everything.
Winter in Quebec
As you can see, there’s no shortage of things to do in Quebec City in winter. However, there are lots of other things to do across the province as well, including visiting Montreal, skiing at Mont Tremblant, visiting the Nordik Spa in Chelsea, or spending the night in a wolf cabin at Parc Omega.
For more things to do in Quebec and beyond, check out these articles below:
- The Ultimate Guide to Quebec Carnival
- Things to Do in Quebec
- Whale Watching in Tadoussac, Quebec
- Things to Do in New Brunswick
- Ottawa in the Winter
- Winter in Canada
- What to Wear for the Winter Season in Canada
- Christmas in Canada
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