A huge thank you to Quebec Cite for hosting my stay. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Maybe it’s the promise of fresh snow or the draw of its fairytale buildings. The piping hot gluhwein or the gooey poutine. The live outdoor music in the brisk weather or the centuries of history. Whatever it is, there is honestly nothing quite like a visit to Quebec City in the winter.
Whether you’re going to Quebec in the winter for business or a mini vacation, here are the things you MUST try to do while you’re in town to jam-pack your trip with as much festive holiday cheer as possible (in this case, there’s no such thing as too much – step aside, Grinches).
RELATED: Want to see an itinerary instead? Check out my 3-Day Winter Itinerary for Quebec!
7 Festive Things to Do in Quebec This Winter
1. Visit The German Christmas Market
Yes, you read that right. European Christmas Markets aren’t only in Europe! Quebec’s German Christmas Market – Noel Allemand Quebec – is open from the end of November to the weekend before Christmas (typically), and literally takes over the center of Old Quebec. Each week from Thursday to Sunday, the heart of the Upper Town lights up with European meals, gluhwein (hot wine), Canadian treats (like the must-try, do-not-leave-Canada-before-eating-this maple pie), vendors, live music, performances, and more! It’s without question one of the most special holiday experiences I’ve ever had.
TIP: Make sure to bring some Canadian currency with you when visiting the Christmas Market, as most vendors and food stalls I encountered while I was there were cash-only. If you’re in a pinch, there’s a Desjardins (a Canadian bank) ATM at 19 Rue des Jardins, right by where the Christmas Market takes place.
2. Stay Overnight in an Ice Hotel
If you time your trip right, you can spend the night in a hotel made entirely of ice! The only ice hotel in all of North America, the Hôtel de Glace is located about 45 minutes – 1 hour outside of Quebec City and is usually open between January and March. Guests can enjoy welcome cocktails (served in ice glasses, of course), a secondary hotel room at the Hotel Valcartier with a hot shower and luggage storage, ice skating, hot tubs, saunas, massages, and more. I didn’t get to try this for myself when I was in Quebec, so this is my number 1 priority the next time I visit!
TIP: If you don’t feel like staying in an ice hotel but are curious about seeing this beautiful hotel in person, you can take a day trip, get a tour of the property, and grab a drink at their ice bar, and enjoy the unique setting for about $18 – $30 CAD.
3. Take a Toboggan Ride
Located next to the famous Fairmont Le Château Frontenac hotel, Au 1884 is a thrilling toboggan ride that allows you to jet down an ice run while admiring stunning views of the Chateau and the St. Lawrence River. It only costs a couple of bucks, and it’s so worth it whether you’re solo or in a group.
TIP: The wait for the toboggan ride can get a bit long. It’s a pretty popular attraction! Make sure to head into the little cafe next to the toboggan slides and buy your ticket(s) before getting in line. Then, after your ride, don’t forget to head back inside and grab a hot chocolate for the road.
4. Go Ice Skating Outdoors
Situated right next to the St Jean Gate and surrounded by city lights and holiday decor, the Patinoire Place d’Youville is an ideal setting for savoring Quebec City’s charm. You can rent skates or bring your own, and there’s a place to leave your shoes and belongings inside!
TIP: Go skating in the evening instead of during the day. The city lights illuminating the nearby buildings make for a magical experience!
5. Stroll the Place Royale & the Quartier Petit Champlain
Located in Old Quebec’s Lower Town, Place Royale and the Quartier Petit Champlain are some of the most photogenic spots in the entire city. They also happen to represent huge cultural and historic significance for Quebec and French Canada as a whole. At a first glance, the Place Royale may just look like a charming, yet simple town square. But if you look closer you’ll see the surrounding 17th and 19th century restored restaurants and flats, the Notre-Dame-des-Victoires (built in 1688!), and a bust dedicated to Samuel de Champlain. This square is, in fact, where Quebec City was founded, and where French Canada was born. In the winter, this square is adorned with a giant Christmas tree and often frequented by carolers. Around the corner, the Rue de Petit-Champlain is what many call a ‘postcard-perfect street.’ It’s one of the oldest commercial streets in North America and one of the most charmingly festive spots in all of Quebec City.
TIP: Keep an eye out for street vendors selling maple taffy! It’s essentially hot maple syrup rolled on ice to create a sweet maple treat on a stick. If you get one, eat it quickly otherwise it can get a bit messy. SO worth the risk, though!
6. Experience Quebec’s Epic 4-Day New Year Party
From the 28th to the 31st, Quebec City turns into a 4-day EDM music festival, a bar crawl, and a live performance showcase – all outdoors! On the 31st, the city offers 2 free parties and a giant fireworks display over Grand Allée. From what I’ve been told, it’s an absolutely essential experience if you ever find yourself considering being in Quebec for the holidays.
TIP: Bundle up for the outside festivities! Check out my guide here for tips on how to pack appropriately for the winter weather. Also, keep an eye out for Quebec’s warming stations – outdoor fireplaces situated throughout the city to warm up your hands and congregate with friends.
7. Take in the Views of the Lawrence River from a Castle
There’s something so magical about enjoying a cocktail while overlooking the St Lawrence River from the vantage point of a real-life castle. This is especially true when it’s snowing outside, and the river is frosty with ice! Head to 1608, the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac’s cozy cocktail bar, and ask for a window-side seat. You won’t be disappointed.
TIP: The cocktail bar is small and will sometimes require a bit of a wait to get seated. If you don’t want to wait and if cocktails aren’t your thing, you can grab a bite at Le Sam or Place Dufferin instead and get the same view!
Have you ever been to Quebec City, or are you planning to go? What are you most excited to do or experience? Tell me in the comments below!