Quebec City in winter is an absolute fairytale. Walking through the city was like living inside of a snowglobe, with quaint stone buildings, charming cobblestone streets, and even its own castle – all of which look especially spectacular covered in a layer of fresh snow.
I had the opportunity to spend 2 days in Quebec City (along with Montreal) in December, and the city really becomes extra magical, with authentic Christmas markets (just like the ones in Munich and Prague), festive storefronts, and twinkling lights that hang above its streets.
Quebec City came onto my radar when I had to cancel (yet another) Europe trip (thanks to you-know-what). I’d intended to visit the Christmas markets, and was looking for an alternative when I started reading about how incredible winter in Quebec City is.
While I’ve traveled to several destinations in Canada (Vancouver, Banff, and a few others) and fallen in love with them visiting Quebec City during winter has a whole special kind of magic.
The city has a very European vibe, thanks to its unique history, and visiting Quebec City is the next best thing to being in Europe (like Leavenworth, WA). You’ll find charming historical buildings, cobblestone streets, and hear French being spoken all around you. The best part – you get all of this without having to leave North America!
I’d been told that I would fall in love with Quebec City – I just didn’t realize exactly how much.
If you are looking for an idyllic winter getaway, or want to experience some fairytale European vibes without having to go all the way to Europe (hey – the plane ticket is much cheaper!), then look no further than Quebec City.
Read on for everything you need to know about visiting Quebec City in winter!
**Disclosure: This post is written in partnership with Destination Quebec Cite. As always, all opinions are my own.
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Winter Weather in Quebec City
Yes – winter in Quebec City is definitely cold (especially at night), so pack accordingly! Average temperatures in during the winter months are below:
- December in Quebec City: 26°F (-3°C) high / 14°F (-10°C) low
- January in Quebec City: 20°F high (-6°C) / 6°F (-13°C) low
- February in Quebec City: 24°F high (-4°C) / 8°F (-13°C) low
- March in Quebec City: 33°F high (0.5°C) / 18°F (-8°C) low
Snow and ice are also common during the winter months, which means that you will need sturdy, slip-proof shoes when visiting. I also recommend getting a pair of ice grips to help with walking on the ice – it is no joke (and I slipped a few times)!
However, the snow does really turn the city into a magical winter wonderland!
I visited in early December and not gonna lie, it was cold. As someone who has lived in California all her life, I tend to avoid the cold, so I was a bit afraid upon seeing the weather forecast!
The highs were in the teens Fahrenheit during the daytime, and with proper layers, it didn’t feel so bad. It got into the single digits Fahrenheit at night and I definitely got cold super quick! It also snowed pretty much my entire time there (I didn’t mind it though – it truly felt like I was living inside a snow globe).
What to Pack for Winter in Quebec City
As I mentioned earlier, packing the proper layers and gear are absolutely key when visiting Quebec City in the winter. Having good layers will keep you warm in those cold temperatures!
Here are some of the items to pack for your Quebec City winter getaway:
- Base layers/thermals: I’ve been wearing the Uniqlo Heattech shirts for years and they definitely came in handy during my time in Quebec City! I love that they are lightweight but keep you warm without making you sweaty and moist. I packed a few of the standard ones, but kind of wish I got some Extra Warm or even Ultra Warm ones.
- Warm Winter Coat: I wear a coat similar to this one, that has served me well on my winter trips.
- Puffy Jacket: For winter days that are less cold, OR as an extra layer of warmth under your coat. I recently got a Patagonia Nano Puff jacket and LOVE it – it is lightweight and packable, but super warm!
- Thermal tights or underwear: I packed a couple pairs of Uniqlo Heattech tights to wear under my pants.
- Snow Boots: You NEED something that will withstand the snow. These (they’re being discontinued so stock is low, but here is also a similar pair from the same brand) are my winter boots and I love them – they’re waterproof, sturdy, and comfortable!
- Ice Grips: I don’t think I was expecting as much ice as there was on the streets, and it can be slippery AF – it is no joke! I definitely ate it a few times. Definitely wish I had thought of getting some ice grips – they are pretty compact and very affordable.
- Fleece Lined Leggings: These are super comfy and warm. I ended up wearing these over my tights. These are my favorite pairs – they come in a bunch of colors too (and you can even choose ones with pockets)!
- Sweaters: For a warm, stylish layer.
- Fleece zip-up: I love, love, LOVE my Columbia fleece zip-up for an extra warm layer under my outerwear!
- Wool socks: I packed these and never once did my feet get cold.
- Leg warmers: Not only do they add a cute element to your outfit, they add another warm layer.
- Beanie: I also packed a knitted headband to switch it up a bit.
- Warm Gloves: These also allow you to use your touchscreen smartphone without taking them off.
- Scarves: I packed a thick infinity scarf, as well as a blanket scarf (this one is my FAVE).
- Hand Warmers: I was gifted some and I was sooo glad I had them! You can get the standard single-use ones, or a rechargeable one!
- Power Bank: To keep your devices charged as you explore Quebec City in the winter! The cold makes your battery drain faster, so this is a must. I never travel without this one – one charge will give five full charges to your devices.
- Lotion: Winter weather tends to dry out your skin, so be prepared with some good moisturizing lotion!
- Lip balm: Same with your lips. This is my favorite lip balm, especially for those winter months.
Getting to Quebec City
Quebec City’s Jean Lesage International Airport (YQB) offers direct connections to destinations in Canada, North America, and even Europe. The airport is located 16 kilometers (~10 miles) outside the city.
From here, you have several options for getting to the city center:
- Car rental: If you plan to explore attractions outside of the city, or want to visit surrounding areas in Quebec, renting a car may be the best option for you. The airport is served by several major car rental agencies, including Avis, Budget, Enterprise, and Hertz. They are located on the ground level of the administrative building.
- Taxi: There are a number of taxi companies that serve the Quebec City area. The fare to destinations in downtown Quebec City is a flat $35.10, and the trip takes about 25 minutes.
- Public transit: There are two RTC bus lines that serve the airport. Take the 76 or 80 bus to connect to downtown Quebec City. You can transfer to another bus from either of these to get to the Old Town. Buses depart every 30 minutes, and the fare is $3.50.
Daily rail service is offered by VIA Rail, which connects Quebec City to Montreal and Ottawa. From here, you can connect to other Canadian destinations as well.
I took a train for one way of my trip to Quebec City from Montreal and found it a relaxing way to travel! The trip took about 3.5 hours and there are several departures available throughout the day.
Do note that fares are based on demand, and do fill up quickly during busy times, so book as early as you can! When I first started looking, a one-way ticket was around $30, but by the time I booked it was around $70.
There are two train stations in Quebec City. The Gare du Palais is the city’s central station, and is a few minutes’ walk from Old Quebec. However, if you have a lot of luggage (or don’t want to carry it on the icy sidewalks), there are also taxis waiting outside the station.
The second station is Gare de Sainte-Foy, located about 15 kilometers outside of downtown Quebec.
Daily coach bus service from Montreal to Quebec City is also offered from Orleans Express. The trip takes 3 hours, depending on traffic.
I took the bus for the other part of my trip and was pleasantly surprised to find it to be a comfortable way to travel! The buses had reclining seats, tables, power outlets, and even WiFi.
The thing that I liked most about taking the bus is that it offers more departures than the train, so it felt more convenient. However, keep in mind that much like the train, pricing is based on demand and can sell out during busy periods, so book as early as you can!
How to Get Around Quebec City in Winter
Many of the best things to do in Quebec City in winter are located within its Old Town, which is relatively compact and super walkable. Exploring the city on foot is the best way to take in its magical winter wonderland vibes.
Just keep in mind that the ground can be covered in snow and ice, so wear sturdy, waterproof shoes (and consider getting a pair of microspikes – I definitely wished I had some!) and dress warmly!
For reaching attractions outside Old Quebec (or if you just don’t want to walk), Quebec City has a relatively well-connected bus system operated by Réseau de transport de la capitale (RTC). I used it once during my stay and found it very efficient and easy to use!
Fares start at $3.50 for a single ride, and can be paid with cash on board, or via the RTC app. One-day, weekend, and five-day passes are also available.
For getting in between the Upper Town and Lower Town in Old Quebec, you can also take a funicular (which saves you from having to climb up stairs).
While Uber supposedly operates in Quebec City, I did not find any available cars in the app during my stay. However, there are several taxi companies that serve Quebec City to help you get around easily.
There were taxis lined up in front of the train station upon arrival, and my hotel was able to easily call for one upon request (without much of a wait). I was also given a dispatch number – (418) 525-5191. I did not use it, but was told that there should be someone who speaks English if you call.
If you plan to do some Quebec City winter activities that lie outside of the city center, take day trips, or you want to explore other destinations in the Quebec province, you may want to consider renting a car for maximum flexibility.
Do exercise caution when driving on winter roads, and note that special regulations are in effect during the winter months. From November 1-April 15, it is prohibited to park in streets where snow removal needs to be carried out. Pay attention to flashing orange lights, which are activated before snow removal. Also note that between December 1-March 15, all vehicles (including rental cars) must have snow tires if it is registered in Quebec. However, they are highly recommended on all vehicles for safety reasons.
Rentals can be easily secured at Quebec City’s Jean Lesage International Airport (YQB), which is served by many major car rental companies, including Avis, Budget, Enterprise, and Hertz.
Other things to know about visiting Quebec City
Language in Quebec City
Do you need to speak French in Quebec City?
Since French is the official language of the Quebec province, a common misconception is that one must speak French, otherwise people will be rude to you.
While, yes, 80% of the province’s residents are French native speakers and many of the signs and storefronts are in French, you will find that English is commonly spoken in the main tourist areas.
Even though I tried to cram in some French lessons on Duolingo before I left for Quebec City, I found that I really did not need to use it at all. While it is helpful and polite to know a few basic French phrases, it is not necessary at all.
If you want to practice your French, Quebec City is a fun place to do it! A few people humored me as I stumbled through my broken French and I was so appreciative.
Currency + Tipping
Canada’s official currency is the Canadian dollar. The exchange rate works out to around $1.25 USD to $1 CAD (it ends up being like an automatic 25% discount if coming from the United States, yay!).
I found that virtually all places that I visited during my Quebec City took credit cards, so you probably won’t need to take out any cash. The one notable exception to this is the Christmas Markets – you will definitely want to have a little bit of cash on hand as not all vendors accept cards! I took out some Canadian dollars when I first arrived in Montreal for this purpose.
Canada has a tipping culture similar to the US, so expect to tip 15-20% when dining out. Tips are also expected for taxis, hotel housekeeping, and bag service.
Canada entry requirements (for US citizens)
Please note that the entry + health requirements are constantly changing and evolving. Be sure to check to see the current entry requirements here.
As of September 2022, pre-departure testing is no longer needed when traveling to the United States. If your destination after Quebec City is not the US, other countries may have other travel and testing requirements, so double check before leaving Canada.
If you do need to test, my hotel recommended getting in done at Sante Medical in Sainte-Foy (I visited while pre-departure testing was still in effect). It is an easy 10-15 minutes cab ride, or you can even take the bus there (which is what I did and it was super easy!). An antigen test cost $100 CAD.
If traveling back to the United States: Do note that most Canadian airports offer pre-departure clearance when traveling back to the United States (including Montreal YUL airport). This means that you complete customs and immigration screening BEFORE departing Canada, not upon arrival in the US. As lines can sometimes be long, especially during busy times, be sure to leave some extra time at the airport when leaving.
Where to Stay in Quebec City
I stayed at the Monsieur Jean Hotel and loved my stay! Located in the heart of Old Quebec, this beautiful boutique hotel is conveniently located just steps away from many of the best things to do in Quebec City in winter (you can even see some of them right from your window).
The hotel’s design is inspired by its founder, and is meant to invoke a dreamlike state. You’ll find colorful art pieces, elegant furnishings, and a cozy atmosphere throughout the hotel, making it a unique place to stay.
I loved the quirky touches in the lobby and common areas, including a machine that prints out a short story for you to read, and a self-playing piano.
The rooms are beautiful, spacious, and comfortable, with fully-equipped kitchenettes, stylish accents, and beautiful views of the city. I enjoyed waking up each morning and gazing at the fairytale winter wonderland right outside my room!
My suite even came with a beautiful free-standing bathtub that had the most amazing view of the city – coming back to my room and soaking in here was something I looked forward to each night! [BOOK YOUR STAY HERE]
Things to Do in Quebec City in Winter
Take a Walking tour of Old Quebec
With its historic charm and storybook architecture, Old Quebec (also known as Vieux Quebec) feels like a place straight out of a fairytale. The best way to start off your visit to Quebec City in winter is to take a walking tour of the area!
Bounded by the fortified gates to the city, Old Quebec is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site and the best explored on food. You’ll walk through quaint streets, see charming historical buildings, and see some of the sites where significant events and battles took place.
I took a self-guided audio tour from Tours Voir Quebec, which was the starting point to kick off my visit to Quebec City in winter. It gave me an awesome overview of the area, as well as the history behind it.
The tour took about 45 minutes and can be done at your own pace. It is also easy to follow, using your GPS location to help guide you through the tour. You’ll also get a lesson in the city’s history, as well as its significant events and figures.
If you’d like to explore the area with a local guide, this 2-hour walking tour comes highly recommended.
Visit an authentic German Christmas Market
Did you know that you don’t have to go all the way to Europe to experience an authentic Christmas Market? This is one of the best reasons to visit Quebec City in December, and one of the things that intrigued me about winter in Quebec City!
The Marche de Noel Allemand de Quebec runs roughly from the end of November to Christmas week every year (November 24-December 23 in 2022), taking place in the heart of the Old Town. There are 4 different sections of the Market, placed throughout the Old Town, each with its own look.
In total, there are almost 100 vendors at the Christmas Market, selling everything from traditional German specialties, such as pretzels and gluhwein (mulled wine), to Canadian specialties, such as wool and maple treats.
There were so many things to try, and so many festive decorations to look at that I had to stop by several times! And I’ve gotta say – not only is the gluhwein delicious, it absolutely does wonders for keeping you warm while visiting Quebec City in winter!
The Christmas Market features authentic German elements, such as wooden huts and decorations imported from Germany. This is because it was originally started by a group of German locals who wanted to share their heritage and traditions with the local community.
Honestly, if you can’t get yourself to Germany, then coming to the Christmas Market in Quebec City is the next best thing! I loved being able to experience the magic of it all, without leaving North America. At times I swore I’d somehow transported myself to Germany!
Go ice skating at Place d’Youville
As an ice skating enthusiast (who still kinda sorta has aspirations to be the next Kristi Yamaguchi), one of my favorite things to do every winter is to hit up as many outdoor ice skating rinks as I can. So, obviously, I was super excited to see that there is one in Quebec City!
The outdoor ice skating rink at Place d’Youville is a part of the Christmas market, and skating here was one of my favorite Quebec City winter activities!
You’ll glide past the Christmas decorations of the market and the Theatre Capitole on one side, and the majestic fortified gates and the Old Town on the other.
It is said to be absolutely magical at night, when all the decorations are lit up! However, I was too scared of the cold (I mean, it was single digits so can you blame me?) so I skated in the daytime and it was still beautiful!
The snow was falling softly that day, and it felt like I was skating inside a snow globe. It was seriously one of my all-time favorite skating experiences!
The rink is open from early December until mid-March, making this one of the best things to do in Quebec City all winter long! Admission is free (skate rentals are $9, unless you bring your own skates, which YES I DID!), but you must make a reservation in advance here.
Admire the Christmas decorations around town
One of the best things about visiting Quebec City in winter is seeing the festive Christmas decorations around town. Quebec City is known as one of the best Christmas cities in the world and it’s easy to see why – you’ll feel like you’re living inside a Hallmark movie!
You’ll find plenty of storefronts decked out with festive Christmas garb, as well as plenty of lights, installations, and displays all around town. There’s even a Christmas boutique here! The best part? Some of the decorations stay up through the entirety of winter, so you can keep that festive spirit going for just a bit longer.
Here are some of the best places to see Christmas decorations in Quebec City:
- Quartier Petit Champlain (these decorations stay up until March!)
- Place Royale Christmas tree
- German Christmas market
- Place d’Youville
- Grand Alee
- Parliament Building
- Avenue Cartier
- Place l’Hôtel-de-Ville
- Le Château de Frontenac (the inside of the hotel gets decked out, and there is a display right outside as well)
This 2 hour walking tour is a fantastic way to get in the festive spirit and see some of the best decorations in the city!
Admire the Château Frontenac
The Fairmont Le Château Frontenac is one of Quebec City’s most recognizable landmarks. It is also one of the most beautiful sights when visiting Quebec City in winter. Seeing the Château covered in snow makes it seem like a scene straight out of the movie Frozen – I definitely lived out my Princess Elsa fantasies here!
Did you know that the Château Frontenac is known as the most photographed hotel in the world? The Château is visible from many parts of the city, but there are several spots that offer the best views of it. Some of the best places to photograph it include the Dufferin Terrace , Pierre-Dugua-De Mons Terrace, and from Rue du Marche Champlain in Lower Town.
The Château Frontenac has a fascinating history, and has stood in Quebec City for over 125 years. Many famous people have stayed in the hotel over the years, and it was even used as a filming location for an Alfred Hitchcock movie. The hotel is also said to be haunted!
The inside of the hotel is equally stunning as the outside, with a grand lobby area and elegant rooms, with Art Deco details and wooden accents. It was especially beautiful when visiting in December, as the hotel was decked out in festive Christmas decorations! You’ll also find a collection of artifacts in the lobby that tell the story of both the hotel and the city.
Guided tours of the Chateau are also available, and take you to some areas of the hotel that are not accessible to the general public.
Wander the charming Quartier Petit Champlain
Located in Quebec City’s Lower Town, the charming Quartier Petit Champlain is one of the main shopping streets in Quebec City, as well as one of the oldest in North America. You’ll find the street lined with boutiques, galleries, restaurants, cafes, and souvenir shops.
Its picturesque cobblestoned streets are decked out in festive decorations all winter long (and not just during the Christmas season!), making it seem straight out of a fairytale. It is especially spectacular when covered with a dusting of fresh snow!
Seeing magical photos of the Quartier Petit Chaplain covered with a dusting of snow, with twinkling lights overhead is what really convinced me to visit Quebec City in winter – and it really did not disappoint! It was an absolutely gorgeous sight and I could not get enough – I had to return a second time to see it again.
The Quartier Petit Champlain is most beautiful when you can see the lights twinkle against the sky – I suggest waiting until later in the day to visit. The lighting was a bit harsh when I first visited around noon, but I returned again about 30 minutes before sunset and it really was much more magical!
Also do not miss the view of the Quartier Petit Champlain from the Breakneck Steps (Escalier Casse-Cou), which connects the Lower Town to the Upper Town. This is the oldest staircase in Quebec City and one of the best places to photograph the Quartier Petit Champlain.
Visit Place Royale
Located in the Lower Town, right next to the Quartier Petit Champlain, Place Royale is known as the birthplace of Quebec City. It is here that Samuel de Champlain built the first French settlement in North America in 1608.
The square was originally known as the Place du Marché and primarily served as a marketplace. In 1682, a fire burned down all the buildings in the settlement, which were made of wood. Because of this, new buildings were required to be built out of stone.
Place Royale is also home to the Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church, the oldest stone church in North America. The church is built on the ruins of the home of Samuel de Champlain – you can still see the outline. It was damaged again during the Siege of Quebec, but was eventually restored and is now a National Historic Site.
When visiting Place Royale, do not miss the Fresque de Quebecois, a giant mural that tells the story of Quebec City. It serves sort of like an illustrated history of Quebec City, with depictions of some of the most notable buildings, fortifications, historical figures, writers, and artists.
Take the funicular
The historic Old Quebec Funicular (Funiculaire du Vieux-Quebec) connects the Upper Town with the Lower Town. It has been in operation since 1879, and takes you up 210 feet at a 45 degree angle.
You’ll not only save yourself from huffing and puffing up stairs (and escape the cold for a little bit), but enjoy some stunning views of the St. Lawrence River, the Quartier Petit Champlain, and the Lower Town. It is one of the most fun things to do in winter in Quebec City!
I suggest taking the funicular up from the Lower Town, near the base of the Breakneck steps. At the top, you will end at the Dufferin Terrace, right near the Chateau du Frontenac.
The funicular operates from 9am to 9pm, seven days a week. A one-way ride costs $3.75.
Go down a toboggan slide
This was one of my highlights of visiting Quebec City in winter (definitely not something I get to do often at home in California)! The toboggan slide at Dufferin Terrace is one of the city’s oldest attractions – the wooden slide has been here for over 135 years and it is SO much fun!
For $3.50 (a bargain if you ask me!), you can rent a toboggan at Au 1884. You’ll have to carry the sled for a bit, then up the ramp (be careful as the snow can be a bit slippery).
Once you get to the top, the fun begins! Hold on nice and tight and zoom down the slide at speeds of up to 40 miles per hour, while you gaze at the beautiful views of the Chateau du Frontenac and the waterfront in front of you.
Going down the slide was so fun and so thrilling (not gonna lie, I totally screamed haha) and is definitely one of the best Quebec City winter activities!
Learn about Quebec’s military history
Quebec City has a fascinating history as being the only fortified city north of Mexico. It has also been the site of many significant battles that have played a pivotal role in French and British history.
The Fortifications of Quebec surround the Upper Town of Old Quebec, spanning some 4.6 kilometers. I suggest admiring the fortifications from one of its gates. The Saint-Jean gate opens up into Rue Saint-Jean, one of the main streets of the city, and is also bordered by the Christmas Market on the other and looks especially beautiful in the winter (especially when covered with a dusting of snow).
From here, you can climb to the top of the fortifications for a view of the Old Town – although keep in mind that the steps can be slippery from ice and snow in the winter (I unfortunately passed on going to the top for this reason). From here, you can spend some time strolling along the fortification walls.
Guided tours are also offered of the Fortifications, which gives an insight into the significance of the structure, as well as Quebec City’s history.
Further along in Old Town, the Citadelle of Quebec also provides a unique look into the city’s history. Known as the “Gibraltar of the Americas,” the star-shaped Citadelle is the largest British fortress in North America and is a key part of the city’s fortifications.
You’ll also find a museum, as well as a collection of historical buildings, including the oldest French military building in Canada. The Citadelle is also the official residence of the Governor General of Canada.
Nearby the Citadelle is the Plains of Abraham, the site of the famous Battle of the Plains, when the British army defeated the French in a pivotal battle of the Seven Years’ War. The French never regained control of the territory, essentially making this moment the birth of Canada.
Today, the Plains of Abraham is a National Historical Park, featuring a number of interactive exhibits, as well as noteworthy monuments, commemorative plaques, canons, and more.
It is also known as one of the most prestigious urban parks in the world, presenting a number of outdoor recreation opportunities, especially when visiting Quebec City in winter. Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are some of the activities that you can partake in. In addition, there is an ice skating rink here that is open from mid-December to mid-March.
If you are craving some retail therapy, Quebec City is full of one-of-a-kind shops where you can find unique local treasures.
You’ll find plenty of shops to check out while wandering the streets of Old Quebec. Rue Petit-Champlain not only looks straight out of a Christmas postcard, it is one of North America’s oldest shopping districts. You’ll find an array of local artisan boutiques here, as well as tons of shops selling unique Quebec souvenirs – I picked up a few maple products here to take home!
Nearby, the streets bordering the Old Port and Place Royal (such as Rue Saint-Paul and Rue Saint-Pierre) are teeming with art galleries and antique shops.
Rue Saint-Jean, one of the main streets in Old Quebec, is dotted with plenty of shopping opportunities as well. You’ll find plenty of souvenir shops here, as well as clothing boutiques, and specialty shops.
Aside from these, be sure to explore the side streets of Old Quebec as well, and you’ll find some one-of-a-kind shops tucked away in them. One can’t miss boutique is the La Boutique de Noël de Quebec, where it’s Christmas all year round! You’ll find plenty of unique items to get you into the holiday spirit, from ornaments, decorations and more.
Eat hearty French Canadian food
One of the things I was looking forward to most about visiting Quebec City was the food – I’d heard that French Canadian cuisine was delicious and it absolutely did not disappoint! It is hearty, a bit gluttonous, and divine – the perfect way to fill your belly when spending winter in Quebec City.
Some of the things you should try –
Poutine: Probably the most famous dish from French Canadian cuisine! If you’ve never had it before, you’re in for a treat – poutine is a dish consisting of French fries topped with fresh cheese curds, and smothered in gravy. You’ll find a variety of other toppings as well.
Meat pie (Tourtière): Basically a Quebecois meat pie, with minced pork or beef that’s cooked in spices and baked in a flaky pie crust. Traditionally, it’s eaten on Christmas Eve or New Year’s Day. Every restaurant, sugar shack, or family has their own version, so you can try different ones!
Baked beans (fèves au lard): Literally translated as “beans in fat,” this is a dish consisting of beans, often seasoned with maple syrup, slow cooked in pork fat. It dates back to the days of pioneers and fur trappers, who consumed it as a hearty meal to keep them warm throughout the day.
Pâté chinois: Think deconstructed Shepherd’s pie, consisting of mashed potatoes sitting on top of ground beef, onions, and corn. This is a meal that many people have at home, but there are a few restaurants that are serving it in town as well (I had it and it was delicious – the perfect way to warm up in winter in Quebec City!). While this translates to “Chinese pate,” there isn’t any influence from Chinese cuisine – it is said that pâté chinois was eaten by Chinese railroad workers as a hearty meal after a long, hard day of work.
Poor man’s pudding (pouding chômeur): Originating during the Great Depression, this dessert was originally made out of sugar, flour, cream, and stale bread baked in maple syrup. These days, it’s made out of white cake instead. I will admit that when I originally read the description, it didn’t appeal to me; however, the staff at one of the restaurants I visited convinced me to try saying it was their favorite. I ended up loving it! It’s kinda like a maple syrup bread pudding but better!
Read more about traditional Quebecois cuisine here.
Where to try French Canadian cuisine in Quebec City:
La Buche: This was probably my favorite out of the spots tried in Quebec City! La Buche is a modern take on a sugar shack, serving traditional Quebecois cuisine in a cozy atmosphere. I had the pâté chinois and poor man’s pudding and both were amazing! They are known for their venison tourtière as well.
Le Chic Shack: They mostly serve burgers and shakes, but this is one of the best places to eat Poutine in Quebec City. Their version uses potato wedges instead of fries, and it soaks up the delicious gravy so well! I tried the mushroom poutine here and it was SO. FREAKING. GOOD.
Beclub: This was a recommendation from my hotel and it is Canadian comfort food at its finest! They are known for their smoked meats here, which you can try on poutine or their version of a club sandwich. I had the mac and cheese here, which came with smoked bacon and it was absolutely divine.
Aux Anciens Canadiens: Sadly, I did not get to try Aux Anciens Canadiens, but it is known to have some of the best French Canadian food in the city. It’s actually operating inside Quebec City’s oldest house, which was built in 1675, and it has the cutest red and white exterior! You’ll find a variety of traditional Quebecois dishes here, but I’ve heard that the baked beans and meat pie here are phenomenal.
Eat alllll the maple treats
Did you know that the maple syrup produced in the Quebec province accounts for 71% of the worldwide supply? Quebec produces a whopping 11 million gallons of maple syrup a year, from over 13,500 producers and 7,600 sugar groves.
That’s a whole lot of maple syrup, y’all! So obviously, you have to try some maple syrup while visiting Quebec City in winter.
You can sample a variety of maple treats without leaving the city – everything from candy, cookies (my favorite), taffy, cocktails, pastries…you name it, they have it.
If you get a chance, you definitely should try some maple taffy made in snow. Maple syrup is boiled and then poured into fresh snow, and popsicle sticks are inserted into them to create a sweet, chewy lollipop.
You can find it at La Petite cabane à Sucre de Québec in the Quartier Petit Champlain, which is a miniature sugar shack right in the heart of Old Quebec. It also sells a variety of other maple products that are perfect for souvenirs (I picked up a few other things here to bring home)!
If visiting Quebec City at the end of winter, why not visit an authentic sugar shack? There are several sugar shacks located just outside of the city, which can make a fun day trip and is one of the traditional Quebec City winter activities for many local families. You can sit down for a traditional meal, enjoy live folk music, and enjoy all the maple treats!
You can read more about sugar shacks and see where to visit here.
Take a ferry ride across the river
For some of the best views of Quebec City in winter, take a 12-minute ferry ride across the St. Lawrence River to Levis.
From the water, you can truly appreciate the beauty of Quebec City, taking in spectacular views of the skyline, waterfront, and the Chateau Frontenac perched on top of the Upper Town.
At only $3.60 each way, it is also one of the most affordable Quebec City winter activities as well.
Visit Maison de Littérature
As someone who loves visiting libraries when traveling, I knew I had to visit Maison de Litterature when I saw photos of it. Known as one of the most beautiful libraries in the world, Maison de la Littérature is housed in the former Wesley Church building which dates back to 1848.
The building was completely renovated in 1999, and has won numerous architectural awards for its innovative design and building concept.
Maison de Littérature combines the modern with the traditional – you’ll see the traditional arched windows from its origins as a church, combined with an all-white interior, geometric chandeliers, and silhouetted signs using sans serif typefaces.
Along with a library, Maison de Littérature houses an exhibition dedicated to Quebec literature, promotes and supports local authors, and is intended as a writing, creating, meeting, and participating.
Relax at a Nordic spa
One of the best things to do in Quebec City in winter is to spend some time at a Nordic spa. Warm up by soaking in a heated whirlpool bath, and relaxing while gazing over views of the St. Lawrence River.
You can also opt to do a traditional thermal experience, which involves alternating between hot and cold baths in order to eliminate toxins and reduce stress.
There are several Nordic spas in the city, but Strøm Spa came highly recommended to me. You can also visit a number of spas located on the outskirts of the city, to soak and relax in a picturesque forest setting.
Visit a Museum
Visiting a museum is the perfect way to warm up after you get cold from doing other Quebec City winter activities. Plus, you get to learn something new!
The city boasts a number of acclaimed museums, where you can both warm up and learn something new. Some of the most notable include:
Musée du Fort: Learn about Quebec’s military history at this quaint museum, located right across from the Chateau Frontenac. They have a unique sound and light show, projected onto a scale model of the area in 1750, which tells the tale of some of the city’s most notable battles.
Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec: This museum complex sits on the Plains of Abraham and is made up of 4 buildings, which houses over 40,000 works and boasts the largest art collection in Quebec.
Musée de la civilisation: This fascinating museum, which is also one of the most visited in Canada, has eye-opening exhibits about the history, culture, and people of Quebec, including the indigenous groups that call the area home. The rooftop terrace also has some amazing views of Old Quebec and beyond!
Attend the Winter Carnival
Quebec City’s Winter Carnival is one of the largest and most famous in the world. Every year, thousands visit the city in order to take part in the lively festival, which takes place every February.
The Winter Carnival has been hosted every year since 1955, celebrating winter long-standing traditions. The festival has plenty of fun events and winter activities for all ages, from an ice canoe race on the St. Lawrence River, a night parade, snow sculptures throughout the city, ice skating, and more.
In addition, an ice palace is built for Bonhomme, the carnival’s snowman ambassador.
Admire Montmorency Falls
Located just outside the city, the towering Montmorency Falls is an impressive sight and one of the highlights of winter in Quebec City. Standing 83 meters high (~272 feet), Montmorency Falls is actually a full 30 meters (almost 100 feet) higher than Niagara falls!
It is especially stunning during the winter months, when snow covers the cliffs, and the water starts to freeze over.
Montmorency Falls is just a 15 minute drive (or taxi ride) from Quebec City’s Old Town, but is also easily accessible by public transportation as well. Simply take the 800 bus departing from Gare du Palais, the city’s main train station. Or, you can take a guided tour.
You can take in the size and scale of Montmorency Falls from the viewing platforms, or from the suspension bridge. On some days, you can also take a cable car up to the top of the cliff, which will provide you with a unique vantage point of the falls and Île d’Orléans. Adventurous types can also take part in various winter excursions, such as snowshoeing or ice climbing.
Sadly, I did not have time to go to Montmorency Falls this visit, but I am dying to go back so I can see it – it looks spectacular!
Visit North America’s only ice hotel
Quebec City is home to Hôtel de Glace, North America’s only ice hotel, which provides visitors with a unique winter experience.
Located 30 minutes out of the city, the hotel takes two months to build and is an architectural marvel made entirely out of snow and ice. Hôtel de Glace is only open for roughly 80 days each year, from January to March.
For an unforgettable experience, you can even spend a night in the hotel, which is one of the most unique Quebec City winter activities (do keep in mind that rooms book up VERY quickly!). Each guest gets a guide, who helps you acclimate and ensure that you are comfortable throughout your stay.
You can also just visit the hotel to tour the grounds, as well as partake in some winter activities at the Winter Playground. You can also order a cocktail in a glass made of ice at the Ice Bar!
Unfortunately, I visited Quebec City outside of the ice hotel season, but I would love to come back to see it in person (the photos look quite impressive!).
More winter travel guides you may enjoy:
2 Perfect Days in Quebec City
Montreal Winter Travel Guide
2 Days in Vancouver Itinerary
Winter in Munich: The Complete Guide
A Fairytale Trip to Neuschwanstein Castle in Winter
The Ultimate Guide to Prague in Winter
The Ultimate Winter Guide to Leavenworth, Washington
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