Cobblestone streets dusted with snow. A stunning haunted castle looming over an ancient city and an icy river. Sweet, sticky maple syrup rolled in cold snow. Rich, piping hot poutine and flaky meat pie. Quebec City, Canada is absolutely charming – and no, it’s not just because of all the yummy food! We spent 3 days visiting Quebec City between Christmas and New Years Eve, and fell in love with this romantic slice of French Canada (and a few slices of maple syrup pie, which we also found out is a thing).
Visiting Quebec City in the winter is the perfect time to embrace the snow. And coming from California, snow is exactly what we want around this time of the year. Although Quebec City winters are cold, don’t worry – you’ll be too enchanted to even notice! Also, we included hella winter packing tips so you literally won’t be cold at all. Here are all the best things to do in Quebec City in the winter!
Need a handy dandy checklist to help you pack? We’ve got a printable version of our Canada in Winter packing list that includes EVERYTHING you’ll need for your trip to Quebec City in the winter. Sign up in the box below and we’ll deliver it right to your inbox. Just call us the fairy godmother of packing lists!
Psst: Looking for more wintry Canadian inspiration? You can see everything we did in Quebec City, Montreal, and Banff in our Instagram Story highlights located on our profile. You can also see a slightly different version of our Quebec City activities on the Quebec Region Instagram Account , which we took over during our trip! Look for the Highlight called “takeovers.” Also, check out these guides to other Canadian and nearby destinations:
- 12 Epic Things to do in Banff in Winter: The Ultimate Banff Winter Guide
- 14 Things to Do in Montreal in the Winter: The Ultimate Montreal Winter Guide
- 8 Magical Winter Getaways in Ontario
- What to Pack for Canada in Winter: 31 Canada Winter Essentials
Quebec City Winter Travel Tips
Before you start planning your trip to Quebec City in the winter, here are a few necessary travel tips to help you plan.
- How cold is it, really?
Quebec City in the winter is cold, but not insanely cold. The coldest months of the year, December through February, will likely be in the 20s during the day and drop to the teens at night. With proper layering and warm clothing, you can spend all day outside exploring (which is exactly what we did)!
Snow is common and likely during your trip – in fact, our flight out of Quebec City was canceled due to a surprise blizzard! Luckily, we were able to take the train to Montreal and catch a new flight without much of a delay (and, because our flights were booked with Air Canada, without much additional cost – Air Canada will actually exchange your plane ticket for a train ticket in cases like this).
- Is winter offseason?
In Quebec City, winter is not necessarily the off season. Visitors flock to enjoy the decorations between Christmas and New Years (which, incidentally, is when we visited – there were some crowds, but it wasn’t actually too bad). There’s also a big winter carnival in February which is a major attraction, as well as a few other wintertime events. But outside of those windows, and particularly during mid-week, there won’t be many crowds.
- How much English is spoken?
We had no trouble finding English speakers in Quebec City, and nobody seemed to mind that we don’t speak much more French than “bonjour” and “merci.” We do recommend learning a few basic French pleasantries, though – French is by far the dominant language in Quebec City.
- How to get around Quebec City?
We stayed in the heart of Old Town, so we were able to get just about everywhere we needed to go on foot and were glad not to have to worry about parking. A few times, however, we made the mistake of taking an Uber, and discovered after several weirdly expensive Ubers that the local taxis are much, MUCH cheaper! So if you find yourself in need of a ride, put your phone away and hail a cab the old fashioned way.
What to Pack for Quebec City in the Winter
Have you heard that saying “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing?” Well, it’s totally true. Don’t get nervous looking at the weather for your Quebec City winter trip, cuz you’re going to be WELL prepared – and you might not even need to bring a big suitcase! I was able to pack for our 2-week winter trip in Canada in a single carry-on bag.
Packing light for winter travel sounds like an oxymoron – cuz you know, winter clothing is heavy and bulky – but actually, it’s totally possible to stuff everything you need into a carry-on! The beauty of winter travel is that 99% of the time, all anyone is going to see is the very outer layer of your clothing. So as long as you’ve got clothes that can withstand being worn over and over again, you really don’t actually need to bring very many items (ssh, we won’t tell anyone that you’re rewearing the same sweater for 2 weeks straight).
To maximize our packing efficiency, we’ve learned to be really selective about our textiles (thanks in no small part to my degree in Fashion Design, which taught me all about the scientific properties of a whole bunch of fabrics). For example, merino wool is super warm, incredibly soft (no, it’s not itchy!) and much more lightweight than other synthetic fabrics, as well as being naturally antibacterial, which means you can re-wear it without the re-wear funk.
We recommend wearing a merino wool base layer underneath your clothing every day during your Quebec City winter trip – that means that the layer closest to your skin should all be made from merino wool. Or, if wool isn’t your thing, wear an equally insulating textile like hemp or silk. Avoid non-insulating fabrics like cotton, and remember that natural fibers are pretty much always better than manmade textiles like polyester.
After your base layer, you’ll need to add on at least 1 additional layer before your outerwear, like a pair of pants and a sweater. On REALLY cold days, where the temperatures are below 10 degrees, we recommend adding on another base layer before your clothing layer & outerwear. For more winter travel packing tips, head over to our Cold Weather Packing Guide.
Here are our tried and true travel essentials for winter travel.
- Merino Wool Base Layer Leggings: These super comfy 100% wool leggings function just like long underwear. They’re made of soft, super-luxurious wool and make your legs feel like they’re being hugged by an extremely soft sheep. Jeremy has this pair. You’ll likely need to wear these underneath your pants every day during your trip.
- Merino Wool Base Layer Undershirt: Laying is crucial when it’s this cold, and you’ll need to start with a layer of insulation on top and bottom. Although sometimes I can get away with a short sleeved or even sleeveless undershirt, in Canada we both needed to wear a layer of long-sleeved wool. This is mine and this is Jeremy’s.
- Wool Socks: Make sure you don’t just have run-of-the-mill acrylic socks for Quebec City. It gets COLD AF there, and most socks won’t keep your feet warm while you’re exploring! Instead, bring socks that are primarily made of soft, heat-regulating wool, like these or these. I recommend 2 layers of socks – no more, no less.
- Warm Walking Boots: We recommend boots that can withstand ice or snow, are totally waterproof, and are comfortable enough to walk in for HOURS. Sounds darn near impossible, right? Well, it’s not. We’ve found the best boots for winter, and we’re OBSESSED with them (and yes, we both have the same ones. Because we’re kinda gross like that). They’re cute, they’re insanely comfortable, they’re waterproof leather and lined with shearling to keep your toes toasty warm, and they’re extremely lightweight and foldable so you can stuff them in your bag when you travel. Oh, and they have thin and flexible soles that let your feet function as if you were walking around in the cold completely barefoot! Note: you might find yourself in need of some calf strengthening if you’re not used to barefoot-style soles. We can’t recommend these boots enough. They’re made to last and they’re worth every cent. Here are my boots and Jeremy’s boots. You can read more about them in our round-up of our favorite travel shoes for women or for men.
- Travel Jeans: My favorite travel jeans have 6 POCKETS. 6!! And 2 of them are zipped and hidden inside other pockets, for extra pickpocket protection. They’re super stretchy and buttery soft, dry quickly even after walking through the snow, and roomy enough to layer over an insulating base layer. They’re cozy enough to wear on a plane, stretchy enough to accommodate that 5 extra pounds of holiday weight I always seem to bring back home with me, and they’re super cute! We’re both obsessed. You can get a pair of men’s or women’s jeans on the Aviator USA website.
- Warm Flannel Shirt: I’m in LOVE with the MerinoLux flannel button-down from Royal Robbins. It’s stretchy, it’s cozy, it’s blended with merino wool (yassss) and most importantly, it’s warm AF and super breathable. It’s also wrinkle resistant, odor resistant, and moisture wicking, and has a hidden zip pocket – so basically everything you could ever ask for in a flannel shirt. I’ve been searching for the perfect flannel for YEARS (you know, like one that didn’t give me that annoying button-down boob gap and allowed me to actually cross my arms) and this is The One. I love it! Here’s mine and Jeremy’s.
- Lined Leggings: On incredibly cold days, I add an extra layer of insulating warmth by throwing a pair of lined leggings on over my base layer and under my jeans (I’ve also worn them without extra pants on top of my base layer because leggings are real pants, fight me). I have two pairs of warm lined winter leggings, one lined with merino wool and one lined with fleece.
- Warm Hat: A warm hat is an absolute necessity for chilly Quebec City in the winter. It also doubles as a super cute accessory! You want a hat that will stay on your head even in blustery gusts of wind and keep your ears nice and warm – bonus points if it’s lined. Personally I’m a fan of the ones with poofs on top, like this or this. Jeremy is more of a purist, and likes to wear beanies like this one, which is made from earth-friendly recycled wool and nylon.
- Warm Coat: Your jacket is arguably the most important thing you’ll bring to Canada in the winter other than your shoes. It has a big job – namely, keeping you warm but not sweaty, allowing you to actually move your arms, and letting you explore for hours without feeling heavy or restrictive. Plus, it’s gonna be in almost all of your photos. I have a beautiful camel-colored A-line wool coat like this one that I usually wear on winter trips, but for this trip I switched it up and brought along this cozy fleece-lined coat. Jeremy wears a wool-blend coat similar to this one and this one.
- Packable Down Jacket: Jeremy and I each bring two jackets each on our winter trips: our heavy/bulky coats, and a lightweight, travel-friendly packable down jacket. It’s perfect for those days when I want the freedom of not wearing a big heavy coat, and it’s also a fantastic added layer of warmth on super cold days. For this trip, I brought this down jacket and Jeremy brought this down jacket.
- Gloves: Don’t go outside in Canada in the winter without gloves on – we actually needed two pairs most days! Jeremy and I both have these wool gloves that work with touchscreens, because let’s face it, I have a hard enough time using my phone without wearing gloves. Over those gloves we layer on a thicker pair that allows us to do things like throw snowballs at each other.
- Scarves: I LOVE a chunky scarf. They’re my favorite accessory! And you will absolutely need a good scarf for a trip to Quebec City in the winter. I love this super soft scarf from Royal Robbins, which is blended with wool and turns into a cute shawl or infinity scarf with a few well-placed buttons. I’m also a big fan of scarves that are big enough to double as blankets, like this one or this one.
- Day Bag: You’ll want a bag with you to store things like extra layers, your camera, a phone charger, and souvenirs – you know, the essentials. I carried this day bag with me every single day packed with my packable down jacket, an extra pair of gloves, and anything else I needed for the day. We also have this theft-resistant camera bag specifically for our camera gear, because we’re extra AF professional bloggers or whatever. If you don’t have like … camera gear, you probably don’t need it, but if you do, it’s REALLY nice.
Things to Do in Quebec City in the Winter
We packed as much as we could into the 3 days that we visited Quebec City, and still felt like we wanted more time to explore! From wandering the charming streets to snowboarding and soaking in a Nordic spa, here are all of the best things to do during your Quebec City winter visit.
One quick note: the two weeks we spent in Canada opened our eyes to how incredibly ignorant we are about Canadian history – somehow, absolutely nothing about Canada was ever covered in our history classes at school in the USA. We’ve been trying to remedy our ignorance with a bunch of nerdy non-fiction books and guided historical tours, and we’ve sprinkled a couple of recommendations throughout this post in case your history lessons were similarly US and Euro-centric. Let us know if you have any recommendations!
Explore Old Quebec City
Old Quebec City is a UNESCO World Heritage site and frankly, one of the most picturesque places in all of North America. The whole area honestly looks more like a town you’d find in Europe, with its cobblestoned alleys and historic buildings. We spent hours just wandering down each of the snow-dusted streets and peeking around corners, each view more charming and adorable than the last.
All throughout the winter, Old Quebec is cheerfully decorated with lights and Christmas trees to add an extra layer to the “most charming town you’ve ever seen” vibe. Be sure to wander the cheerfully lit streets at night, when the crowds have cleared out: It’s the perfect time to stroll hand in hand down empty streets in the softy falling snow.
In addition to its charm, the area is historically important and houses the majority of buildings and establishments dating back to the founding of not just Quebec City, but all of “New France” and French Canada.
Le Château Frontenac
The most iconic building in Quebec City, the Château Frontenac is a giant Fairmont hotel that sits perched on a cliff above the Lower City overlooking the Saint Lawrence River. Staying here (or just visiting) feels like being in an actual castle!
But as with most castles, the Chateau Frontenac is home to a few ghosts: legend has it that the hotel is haunted by its former resident, Louis de Buade de Frontenac, who sent his actual heart in a box to his sweetheart after his death. She was like “ew, gross” and sent it right back, so now he wanders around the hotel being all sad and mopey. You’ll know if you spot him because he looks EXACTLY like Captain Hook.
Also, don’t be alarmed if a woman wearing white hops into bed with you. Actually, feel free to be alarmed, because she is dead and that means there is a ghost in bed with you. Eager to learn more? Lean into the kitsch and take a historical tour of the Frontenac led by a tour guide in full period costume.
We recommend visiting the Château Frontenac for the beautiful Christmas decorations and displays, as well as several incredible restaurants and bars – we enjoyed a dinner at Bistro LeSam and it was one of the most romantic meals we’ve EVER had.
- Le Château Frontenac | Address: 1 Rue des Carrières, Québec, QC G1R 4P5, Canada
Quartier Petit Champlain
Down the steep hill from the Chateau Frontenac, the Quartier Petit Champlain is the heart of the commercial district of Old Quebec, and is said to be the oldest commercial district in all of North America. Its main street is the Rue du Petit-Champlain, one of the oldest streets in North America, which is ridiculously charming and insanely photogenic and transports you to Europe. There is even a tiny little wooden cabin with a mailbox labeled LETTERS TO PERE NOEL and I died of cuteness.
All of the cobblestoned streets and alleys in this area are lined with adorable shops selling countless things featuring moose and red plaid and wood (#myaesthetic tbh) and every variety of maple syrup-themed treat you could possibly imagine, so leave some room in your suitcase!
At one end of the Rue de Petit-Champlain you’ll find the Escalier Casse-Cou (Breakneck Steps) – be sure to climb up them and look back for a breath-taking view (literally! get it? cuz stairs). Next to the stairs, keep an eye out for the Fresque du Petit-Champlain. It depicts milestones in the history of Cap-Blanc, Québec City’s working-class waterfront neighborhood, from the founding of New France through present day.
- Quartier Petit Champlain | Address: 61 Rue du Petit Champlain, Québec, QC G1K 4H5, Canada
Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Quebec City’s Fortification Wall is a historic landmark surrounding the city. Climb atop these stone walls and explore its nearly 5 kilometers of trails, which offer different perspectives and views of the city from above. For more details, Justin Plus Lauren has a fantastic and detailed guide!
- Address: 2 Rue d’Auteuil, Québec, QC G1R 5C2, Canada
Place Royale is an adorable little square filled with a giant, cheerful Christmas tree and the historic Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church, the oldest stone church in North America built in 1688 (both pictured above). In addition to being incredibly photogenic, the square is both historic and meaningful: it’s site of the first permanent French settlement in North America, where Samuel de Champlain chose to erect his “Abitation,” which served as a fort, storehouse, trading post, and residence way back in 1608.
To read more about the complex history of “New France,” this biography of Samuel de Champlain is expertly researched and written in an enjoyable narrative style (IE it won’t put you to sleep). Or, take this historic walking tour to learn about the founding of “New France” at the very places where history occurred!
You can see the history of Quebec City illustrated in the giant Fresque des Québécois mural just around the corner from the Place Royale.
- Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church | Address: 32 Rue Sous le Fort, Québec, QC G1K 4G7, Canada
- Fresque des Québécois | Address: 29 rue Notre Dame G1K 4E9, at the bottom of Côte de la Montagne
Take a Walking Tour
There’s no better way to explore the heart of this amazing city than by taking a walking tour. You can do a self-guided walking route or book a guided winter walking tour of the city.
Take in the View
Along with its charming European vibe, Quebec City has a stunning skyline of historic buildings surrounding the towering Chateau Frontenac. There are a few spots around the city where you can take in some of the most breathtaking views of Quebec City.
The short Funiculaire car ride connects the picturesque Lower Town with the steep terrace upon which Chateau Frontenac perches overlooking the whole city. From the funiculaire ride – and the plateau behind the Frontenac where it deposits you – you can see beautiful views of the Lower City as well as the icy river far below. This modest Funiculaire has been in operation since 1879!
- Funiculaire | Address: 16 Rue du Petit Champlain, Québec, QC G1K 4H4, Canada
Observatoire de la Capitale
Head to the Observatoire de la Capitale for a bird’s eye view. This is the highest view of Quebec City, perched atop a tall building in the city’s downtown area, and offers panoramic views of the entire city, all the way to Île d’Orleans.
There’s a fee of $14.75 CAD to enter the observatory, but the breathtaking views below are well worth it. Just make sure you check the webcam before you go to make sure that the view is clear!
- Observatoire de la Capitale | Address: 1037 Rue de la Chevrotière, Québec, QC G1R 5E9, Canada
Ferry on the Saint Laurent River
To capture the full view of Quebec City’s skyline, board the ferry across the river to and from Levis. The ferry is easy to access and only a 12-minute ride each way, and it offers one of the best and most photogenic views of Quebec City.
From the boat, you can see an icy waterfront and stunning views of the Chateau Frontenac rising above Quebec City’s picturesque Old Town. We didn’t find out about this view in time for our trip, and we’re still kicking ourselves for the lost ‘gram opportunity! The cost of the ferry is $3.60 CAD each way.
- Ferry on the Saint Laurent River | Address: 10 Rue des Traversiers, Québec, QC G1K 8L8, Canada
Visit a Food Market
Quebec City is the home of delicious French Canadian food, and you can dive into the European-ness of it all at a Quebec City food market! Farming is a significant industry in the Quebec region, so you’ll get a chance to sample locally-sourced ingredients and handmade treats.
Les Halles Cartier
This is a cute, boutique food hall filled with shops, fromageries and charcuteries, chocolatiers, pâtisseries, bakeries, and other yummy local treats and snacks that sound less fancy if you say them in English. Stock up on gifts and plan to eat at one of the restaurants inside for lunch!
- Les Halles Cartier | Address: 1191 Avenue Cartier, Québec, QC G1R 2S9, Canada
Market at the Old Port
For seasonal foods, local baked goods, artisan souvenirs, and free samples, head to the Market at the Old Port. During the month of December, this marketplace turns into a full-blown Christmas Market, with all kinds of Canadian and European winter treats to indulge in. Stock up on tiny bottles of maple syrup (or, if you have room, a full can of Syrup – those are the best quality) and some tins of foie gras – we won’t tell anyone if you keep them for yourself.
- Market at the Old Port | Address: 160 Quai Saint-André, Québec, QC G1K 3Y2, Canada
Revel in Holiday Cheer
Quebec City in the winter is a holiday wonderland. The city, particularly Old Town, is decked out in brightly colored decorations, cheerful lights, and wintry amazingness – all throughout the winter. In December, there are also Christmas Markets (aka our favorite holiday activity) and several holiday light displays.
One of the best ways to soak up as much holiday cheer as possible is to layer up and spend a day wandering through the cheerfully decorated streets of Old Quebec! This Christmas Magic walking tour will take you to all the best spots.
Here are a few more ways to get as much holiday cheer as possible in Quebec City:
European-Style Christmas Markets
In December, Quebec has two holiday markets: a German Christmas Market and Marché de Noël du marché du Vieux-Port de Québec (aka Old Port Market, if you don’t speak French, which we super don’t).
At the German Christmas Market, you can find traditional German Christmas treats like gingerbread, gluhwein, and bratwurst, as well as souvenirs and trinkets. The market is located in the stunning Place de l’Hotel-de-Ville, one of the most holiday-cheer-filled plazas in Quebec City! You’ll be able to catch this market from late November until just before Christmas.
- German Christmas Market | Address: Place et Jardins de l’Hôtel-de-Ville, Québec, QC G1R 5M1, Canada
The Old Port Market building gets dressed up in holiday decorations and filled with dozens of Christmas-themed stalls selling sweet treats and gifts.
- Old Port Market| Address: 160 Quai Saint-André, Québec, QC G1K 3Y2, Canada | Open the whole month of December
In addition to its historic importance (which we mentioned earlier), Place Royale is a gorgeous spot for photos, and in the dead center of the square you’ll find a giant Christmas Tree and an ice slick that’s best for using as ice skating practice or bum-sledding, according to the crowd of children gleefully practicing their skills – don’t attempt to walk across it unless your camera isn’t breakable.
Directly on the square you’ll also find La Maison Smith, an adorable (and popular, especially on the weekends) coffee shop, which is the perfect place to get a hot cup of coffee and a pastry and watch the goings-on in the Place Royale from somewhere warm and cozy.
On certain days, a Maple Taffy stand (aka Sugar Shack) also sits directly in front of La Maison Smith, selling hot maple syrup rolled in the snow to create a cold maple candy treat, a quintessentially Canadian treat that you CANNOT skip. Just don’t do what we did and try to take photos of your Maple Taffy, because in about .05 seconds it will have melted all over your gloves and hair. Just eat it quickly and enjoy 😉
- La Maison Smith | Address: 23 Rue Notre Dame, Québec, QC G1K 4E9, Canada
Rue du Petit Champlain
In the wintertime, the picture-perfect Rue du Petit Champlain is even more enchanting, coming to life with charming holiday cheer. Take a stroll here in the evenings, when you can enjoy the beautiful Christmas lights and decorations hand-in-hand with someone wonderful.
Go Snowboarding, Skiing, or Snow-Shoeing
Visiting Mont-Saint-Anne has sort of a crossing into Narnia effect. One minute you’re in the heart of Quebec City, then you’re driving along the Saint Lawrence River, and finally you turn and, holy sh*t where did this mountain come from?
At Mont-Saint-Anne, you’ll find a variety of snow activities to suit your personal athletic abilities: you can ski or snowboard down the mountain (Jeremy), or you can go snow-shoeing or dog-sledding or cross-country-skiing (never tried it? take a lesson!) like a much less athletically inclined person who is terrified of going very fast downhill (Lia). We split up for the day, but met up during lunch at the delicious Le Brez (order the duck salad, it’s so good).
I will now hand my keyboard over to Jeremy to talk about the actual runs on the mountain, so real quick switch your mental voice from me to him. Ahem. Ready?
Mont-Saint-Anne is fit for skiers and riders of all abilities, but about half of the runs are in the black or double black range. However, as a terrible snowboarder banished to green runs for my entire life, I still had a blast.
On La Ferreolaise, a particularly mellow run, riders will see a small trail that splinters off called La Foret Enchantee, aka The Enchanted Forest! This run is a gentle glade decorated with woodland creatures and holiday magic. It has its fair share of trees, but you will be going slowly.
For a slightly more grown-up surprise, take the blue run called La Pichard and you’ll run into the absolute best thing you can find on a mountain in Canada: a sugar shack! (Note that I said slightly more grown-up.) It should be known that La Pichard is pretty tough if you’re at my skill level. I crashed a whole bunch only to find out the sugar shack didn’t even open until noon. Womp womp. Don’t be like me: arrive later…. and maybe be better at snowboarding or skiing, too.
The easiest way to get to Mont-Saint-Anne is to book a shuttle with Tours du Vieux-Québec for $28 CAD round trip. They pick up at the easy to find Chateau Frontenac in the morning (even the two most consistently lost travelers in the world, aka us, have no difficulty locating the Chateau Frontenac. If you can’t find it, just look up and find the nearest castle). The bus drops you off in front of the entrance, a short trip to the slopes right as the lifts open, and picks you back up at 4:30 PM, by which time you will be exhausted and ready to go home.
Mont-Saint-Anne also has a great rental shop for those of you who understandably don’t want to travel with your gear. They also offer ice skating, Nordic spa-ing, and even para-gliding and ice-canyoning (more info about everything here). We’re starting to think we need to go back and stay for a few more days!
- Mont-Saint-Anne | Address: 2000 Boulevard du Beau Pré, Beaupré, QC G0A 1E0, Canada
Psst: you can switch back into Lia’s voice now. FWIW, she also has a California accent, but like, with a slight Kentucky twang. You know what, just read it in whoever’s voice you want.
Ride a Toboggan
Hopping on a toboggan is the closest thing we currently have to time-travel, because there’s no way to ride a sled down a giant hill without squealing in delight like you’re a little kid on a snow day. The lack of snow days is one of the great misfortunes of adult life, so we made a beeline of the toboggan runs in Quebec City to let our inner children out to play in the snow.
Lucky for you, at the Au 1884 Slide – which has been one of Quebec City’s main attractions for over 1oo years – you can whiz down the slopes on a toboggan with a view of the gorgeous Le Chateau Frontenac looming above Quebec City, with the river slowly meandering by down below. If you’re nervous about things flying at top speed down icy hills (me), bring someone to ride with you – preferably someone who won’t mind your vice-like grip and high-pitched screams.
The toboggan is open from December to mid-March-ish. We recommend visiting as early as possible to avoid a line. The slide closes around sunset. Rides cost $3 CAD each (or even cheaper in packs of 4) or you can book a slide + hot chocolate duo for maximum nostalgia and only $7 CAD.
- Au 1884 Slide | Address: Place Terrasse Dufferin, Québec, QC, Canada
Attempt a Winter Sport
There are LOTS of winter sports in Quebec! We’ve already covered snowboarding and down-hill skiing, but we’ve got a ton more suggestions.
Snowshoeing is my favorite winter sport, because it’s literally just walking, except on top of snow. You need minimal gear and minimal athletic ability, so it’s the perfect entry-level winter adventure! Any guided tour will provide snow-shoes, or you can bring along your own pair of travel-friendly crampons to wear over your regular hiking shoes (which makes the whole “hiking, but on snow” thing feel a lot less foreign). Here are a couple of spots to get your snowshoe on.
Mont Sainte Anne: Mont-Sainte-Anne is home to tons of snow-shoeing trails with varying distance and levels of difficulty (fwiw, my level of difficulty is pretty much just walking on flat ground). As a bonus, the entrance to the trails is just past the dog kennel, so you can say hi to some adorable huskies on your way! The trails are well marked, frequently used and easy to navigate, so even I didn’t have trouble staying on the trail without worrying about getting lost (once I found it, that is).
You can rent snowshoes at the Nordic Center if you don’t have crampons. Along various routes you’ll find heated cabins where you can stop and take a break from your Legolas-ing (get it, cuz he walks on the snow?).
- Mont-Saint-Anne | Address: 2000 Boulevard du Beau Pré, Beaupré, QC G0A 1E0, Canada
Jacques-Cartier National Park: Located just half an hour away from downtown Quebec City, this national park is best known for its beautiful glacial valley. The park has 12 snow-shoe trails winding through its valleys and mountains, and you can rent snowshoes on site. Or, this guided tour will take you through stunning winter landscapes as you learn about the history of the area and of Quebec. One major advantage of taking a guided tour is that you won’t need to worry about navigating! If you’ve never tried to figure out which way to go to return to civilization when everything is white and looks the same, trust us, that’s a big plus.
If you’re eager to try both cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing, how about ski-shoeing? Yes, that’s a thing and I did not just make it up. Here’s a guided tour in beautiful Jacques-Cartier National Park.
Psst: Planning to visit a few ski resorts this year? Check out the Epic Ski Pass, which includes unlimited access to this resort & a ton of others all over the world!
Ice Skating is a romantic, wintry thing to do in a romantic, wintry city. You don’t actually have to be terribly athletic to reap the romantic benefits of ice skating … but at least one of you probably should be, otherwise you might just be cozying up with the ground. Hold onto your partner’s hand for dear life as you take in views of Quebec’s Old City. There are two places in Quebec City you can go ice skating.
Skating at Place d’Youville: A beautiful, central location near the Old Fortified City Walls, you’ll feel like you’re literally ice skating around a castle in this beautifully-located rink. It’s super romantic and picturesque…at least until you slip and fall!
- Skating at Place d’Youville | Address: Rue Saint-Jean, Québec, QC G1R 3P1, Canada
Skating at Plains of Abraham: Located in a scenic park bordering the river, this rink is perfect for those who want a bit more of a nature vibe while romantically whizzing around the ice (or slowly and reluctantly sliding around on the ice) with a loved one.
- Skating at Plains of Abraham | Address: Wilfrid-Laurier Ave, Quebec City, QC G1R 2L3, Canada
Warm Up in a Museum
Let’s face it: you can only take 20-degree weather for so long before you forget what it feels like to not have a completely numb face. When you reach that point, it’s time to head inside. Visit one of Quebec City’s many museums to learn stuff about stuff while you regain feeling in your fingers!
Museum of Civilization
One of the most visited museums in Canada, the Museum of Civilization is a fascinating look at the history of Quebec, including the indigenous groups that inhabited the region before the arrival of European settlers. It’s a journey through the history of Quebec that offers visitors an immersive experience.
- Museum of Civilization | Address: 85 Rue Dalhousie, Québec, QC G1K 8R2, Canada
This building has served a variety of purposes since its construction in the early 1800’s, including functioning as Quebec City’s first prison, a university, and now, a library and museum. There are tours you can take within this historic site/museum that explain its strange and tumultuous history. You can even still see the holes on the outside of the Morrin Centre building where the window bars used to be! Additionally, the Victorian library that now operates in the building is absolutely gorgeous, perfect for that Instagram shot.
- Morrin Centre | Address: 44 Chaussée des Écossais, Québec, QC G1R 4H3, Canada
Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec
A celebration of Quebecois art and culture, this museum hosts thousands of works that were produced in Quebec, including Inuit art. It’s a look into both the history and artistic contributions of the Quebec region at large.
- Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec | Address: 179 Grande Allée Ouest, Québec, QC G1R 2H1, Canada
Musée de l’Amerique Francophone
If you’re wondering why on earth everyone speaks French in Quebec City and French Canada, this museum is for you. Housed in this museum are thousands of artifacts that illustrate the history and colonization of the French Canadian area, and how French-speaking North America evolved into what it is today.
- Musée de l’Amerique Francophone | Address: 2 Côte de la Fabrique, Québec, QC G1R 3V6, Canada
Eat All the French Canadian Food
Canadian food is known for being comfortingly gluttonous, and the only thing better than Canadian food is French Canadian food (er, except snails. Sorry, but I just can’t). Get your poutine on and stuff yourself silly with all the foods Quebec does best!
- Travel Tip: If you’re short on time, take a food tour like this one to check everything off your list in one day (plus keep you moving in between each stop, so you have more room). Take it from us, masters of efficiency and obsessive foodies: food tours are the BEST way to sample as many foods as possible, all while getting a guided walking tour and learning about local culture and history!
Ah, poutine. If you’ve ever asked about Canadian food, this is probably the first dish that comes to mind. Poutine is basically a dish of crispy french fries topped with “squeaky” cheese curds and gravy. A filling and hearty dish, it’s sold basically everywhere in the city. Le Chic Shack is one of the most famous places to get poutine in Quebec City, and although purists side-eye things like its gravy consistency and potato size and shape (I’m not making that up, btw – we got a few strongly worded DM’s from Canadians with strong poutine opinions, and we love that y’all are so opinionated about this) we thought that the Mushroom Parmesan Poutine at Le Chic Shack was hands down the best bowl of poutine we ate during our entire 2 week trip to Canada. Come at me, purists!
- Le Chic Shack | Address: 15 Fort St, Quebec City, QC G1R 3Z8, Canada
Meat pie (Tourtiere)
Think of a pie crust crossed with minced meat and spices and served toasty hot, and you’ve got the local tourtiere. It’s the perfect meal for a cold day: warm and toasty and perfect with a chunky fruit ketchup on the side (that is ALSO a Quebecois treat. Trust us, it’s better than it sounds.)
- Aux Anciens Canadiens | Address: 34 Rue Saint Louis, Québec, QC G1R 4P3, Canada
Baked beans (feves au lard)
You’ve probably had baked beans before, but not the Quebecois way! This hearty dish comes from the days of fur trappers and hunters, meant to keep them warm and well-fed before a long day working in the winter air. Today, they’re usually served in a small pot at breakfast time. You can also get the traditional baked beans at Aux Anciens Canadiens.
- Aux Anciens Canadiens | Address: 34 Rue Saint Louis, Québec, QC G1R 4P3, Canada
No list of foods in Quebec would be complete without something maple on it! We suggest trying alllll the maple things. Maple syrup. Pastries. Candy. Cocktails. There’s maple flavored treats everywhere in Quebec City, and there’s literally nothing stopping you from trying it all. We believe in you!
If we HAD to choose, we’d recommend the Maple Taffy in Place Royal (we think it’s usually there on the weekends) or the Maple Syrup Pie from Aux Anciens Canadiens, which tastes like Pecan Pie but minus the pecans.
Or, venture into the forest to an authentic Sugar Shack at the foot of a mountain! Érablière du Lac-Beauport is open year-round and serves up traditional dishes like maple beans with pork, maple ham, homemade fruit ketchup, and maple taffy. There’s also a Maple Museum where you can learn all about Quebec’s most famous product.
- Érablière du Lac-Beauport | Address: 200 Lakes Road, Lac-Beauport, Quebec, Canada
Drinks count as food, right? There are numerous spirits that Quebec is famous for, and many of them are as sweet as syrup. Warm up with one… or two … or three. Here’s a guide, and a few of our favorites are below. Psst: You’ll find amazing drinks served at an absolutely gorgeous bar inside the Chateau Frontenac at Bistro LeSam!
- Caribou: A winter cocktail made with red wine, whisky (or brandy or port) and sweetened with maple syrup.
- Ice Wine: Made from frozen grapes harvested in winter, ice wine is super sweet – definitely more of a tasty dessert wine than a dinner drink!
- Ice Cider: Like ice wine, but made with frozen apples. Yum.
Relax in a Thermal Spa
Visiting Quebec City in the winter is hard work, from the whole “attempting to gracefully balance on razor thin strips of metal” thing to the “holding on for dear life as you fly down a giant hill” thing to the “stuffing yourself silly with poutine” thing. OK, maybe hard is a slight exaggeration, but let’s face it: if you did even 1 mildly athletic thing during your vacation, you’re fully entitled to reward yourself. That’s like … the official rule. So take yourself to StrØm Spa Nordique for an incredibly relaxing thermal experience!
What exactly is a thermal experience, you ask? It’s all based around a scientifically proven hydrotherapy technique, which is a fancy way of saying it actually works and it involves water. The technique is this:
- Relax in some very hot water
- Dip yourself into some very cold water
- Relax for like 15 minutes and pat yourself on the back for doing the cold water bit
Here’s the good news: nobody is forcing you to dip yourself in cold water, and if you’re not down to try it, just getting out of the hot water will provide you with a dose of cold: during the winter, the Quebec City air is actually colder than the pool of 50-degree “cold” water. But if you do take the plunge, your body will immediately produce a ton of feel-good hormones that will make you feel incredible!
Here’s the even better news: the hot water thermal pools at StrØm Spa Nordique are SO GOOD. They have a TON of options, ranging from an Infinity pool with a stunning view of ice floating by on the Saint Lawrence River, to a lazy-river style pool with a current that is best enjoyed on pool floaties at top speed. The entire outdoor spa is a quiet zone, and no cell phones are allowed, so you can pretend that you’re alone in the steamy water (and in some spots, the steam rising into the cold air is so thick you can’t see anyone else anyway). Note that no cameras are allowed either, which is why we don’t have any photos from our experience! Leave ’em at home.
We recommend spending an afternoon at StrØm Spa Nordique – watching the sun set over the river from an infinity pool is a heavenly experience, and you’ll want to head straight back to your hotel and relax after your visit. Be sure to eat lunch before you go: although there is a restaurant at the spa and the food is tasty, it took us so long to actually get our order (we’re talking nearly 2 hours) that all of our chill vibes were gone and replaced by irritated discomfort. But other than an apparently understaffed cafe, the spa was a wonderful experience that we highly recommend!
Access to the Thermal baths starts at $39, which we found to be incredibly reasonable for such a luxurious experience. To get to the spa, you’ll need to take a taxi. Google will make it look like you can walk, but don’t – just trust us. We recommend washing up and settling the bill a few minutes before closing to avoid lines at checkout.
- StrØm Spa Nordique | Address: 1705, Roy Street, Quebec (QC) G1K 0E4, Canada
Take a Day Trip
While there are tons of things to do in Quebec City in the winter, it would be a shame to miss out on some of the gorgeous attractions around the city. You can visit historic churches, beautiful waterfalls, pastoral villages, and more in a quick day trip from Quebec City. Here are a couple of options for day trips that you can take:
The Montmorency Waterfall is a gigantic waterfall – it’s actually taller than Niagara Falls! – that’s located not far from Quebec’s city center. In the winter, the waterfall freezes into a stunning masterpiece of ice and snow. You can explore the waterfall by foot or from a bird’s eye view on a cable car.
The waterfall isn’t too far out of town, and you can get there easily by taxi or car (10 minutes) or by public transit on the RTC bus line 800 ($2, 20 minutes). Be sure to check that the waterfall is open on the date you’re visiting, as there are some closures in Dec, Jan and Feb.
- Montmorency Waterfall | Address: 5300, boulevard Sainte-Anne, Québec, QC, G1C 0M3, Canada
A small town just 30 minutes from Quebec City, Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre is best known for a gorgeous church, Sanctuaire Sainte-Anne, whose beautiful exterior and steeples make it look like a European cathedral. You can visit by car, bus, or as part of a guided tour like this taste tour.
- Sanctuaire Sainte-Anne | Church Address: 10018 Ave Royale, Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, QC G0A 3C0, Canada
This lovely little island near Quebec City is home to fertile farmlands and local boutiques that sell delicious treats from local wines to fruit liqueurs, sweets and candy to cheese. Even in the winter, many of the local farm shops remain open for visitors to the area. The best way to see Ile d’Orleans in the winter is by car, but you can also visit parts of it on a tour like this one.
Hôtel de Glace
Translated to English, Hôtel de Glace means “Ice Hotel.” And this happens to be the ONLY ice hotel in North America! Located just 20 minutes from Quebec City and only open between January and. March, this is one of the most unique experiences you can have in Quebec. Whether you dare to stay the night or just want to admire the ice sculptures, take a drink at the ice bar and go tubing, this is a really cool day trip (GET IT) that will definitely exceed your ice-spectations (BA DUM SSH).
The easiest way to get to the Ice Hotel is by driving, but if you don’t have a car, you can book a shuttle from Quebec City.
- Hôtel de Glace | Address:1860, boulevard Valcartier , Valcartier, G0A 4S0
Where to Stay in Quebec City
We were hosted during this trip at a mid-range boutique hotel called Hotel 71, located at the base of the hill of Quebec City’s Old Town (in a part known as “Lower Town”) and just a few minutes’ walk to the prettiest spots in Old Quebec. Pro’s: close to the street means access to taxis and the port. Cons: sitting at the base of the giant hill means a climb every time you want to go ogle a castle or take in a view. Still, the hotel is incredibly luxurious, from the wine on tap in the lobby to one o the BEST showers we’ve ever used (I know that’s a weird thing to rave about, but take a shower there and you’ll get what we meant). Prices are in the $200 range per night.
- Hotel 71 | Address: 71 Rue Saint-Pierre, Québec, QC G1K 4A4, Canada
If you can swing it – and you might be surprised to find that you actually can, depending on your dates – staying at the luxurious Chateau Frontenac is one of those bucket list things you just HAVE to do. I think we’ll probably end up revisiting JUST so we can stay here.
If you’re looking for a budget option, there’s a great hostel option located right in Old Quebec. We LOVE hostels because they’re affordable, have amenities like kitchens and lounges, and allow you to meet other travelers during your stay. Hostelling International, one of our favorite hostel groups due to its status as a non-profit organization which spends most of its money sending low-income young adults on life-changing trips, runs the Auberge Internationale in a historic building. With 266 beds and both dorms and privates, this is a great budget-friendly option in a fantastic location.
- HI Auberge Internationale Quebec City | Address: 19 Rue Sainte-Ursule, Québec, QC G1R 4E1, Canada
Are you ready to bundle up and explore the snowy, cobblestoned streets of Quebec City? Which of the best things to do in Quebec City in the winter are you most eager to try? Drop us a comment below!
Looking for more to do in Canada? Check out this post on planning a trip to Canada!
Psst: Want more Canadian travel inspiration? You can see everything we did in Quebec City, Montreal, and Banff in an Instagram Story highlight located on our profile! And check out these other posts from other Canadian and nearby destinations:
- 12 Epic Things to do in Banff in Winter: The Ultimate Banff Winter Guide
- 14 Things to Do in Montreal in the Winter: The Ultimate Montreal Winter Guide
- 8 Magical Winter Getaways in Ontario
- What to Pack for Canada in Winter: 31 Canada Winter Essentials
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Disclaimer: We were graciously hosted during our stay by Quebec Region. Any opinions, inaccuracies, insinuations that it takes superhuman athletic ability to ski or snowboard, or bad jokes are entirely our own and absolutely not their fault.
Our Top Travel Tips & Resources
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- What to Pack: Here are the travel essentials that we bring on every trip. We also have packing lists for hot weather, cold weather, and many more. Take a look at all of our packing guides!
Nikki L says
We are heading there for my birthday December 15th, my first time out of the country! I can’t wait… your site is amazing and holds up to its name! I have total wanderlust and am soooo excited for my first trip to Quebec City! Thank you again for all the info, such wonderful information and tips!
Tapas K. Das says
We were wondering where to go as a family as we had one common week of vacations Dec 13-20, 2021.
I kept looking on the web for guidance and finally landed on this page and thats it decided on Quebec City as our
destination. Our older daughter (vacation planner and executioner in chief) accepted the Quebec City idea and kept
running. We had the most wonderful winter vacation ever with Quebec City looking and feeling like a true winter wonderland.
We found a wonderful airbnb (a standalone house, Le Widor @ 10 Grande Allee O. Quebec, QC G1R 2G6 Canada; super host Sofie) in the middle of town. The house was fully equipped, decorated for christmas, and terrace full of fresh snow (what more do you need to enchant Floridians looking for winter fun). We did toboggan fun, tour of the city and history, dog sledding (most adventure
we had as every two of us were left loose with 5 dogs and a wooden sled, hahaha…very cool), tubing in winter
wonderland at Valcartier, QC, dining at Chez Muffy among others, skiing at Mont Saint Anne, German Christmas market,
shopping at Simon (Macy’s of Canada), and not to forget cooking at airbnb, What fun it was. Having snow boots, woolen socks, snow pants,
thermals, gloves with liner, ear muffs, and a good winter jacket made it all possible and fun. If you are
contemplating a visit, GO FOR IT. (No, I am not the Mayor of Quebec City! 🙂 )
Lia Garcia says
That sounds like the perfect winter vacation!! I’m so glad you enjoyed your trip and happy that our post was helpful for you and your family 🙂
So pretty in the snow, I’d love to visit one day ❄️
Really enjoyed reading your post. Definitely bookmarked the locations mentioned and seriously thinking of buying wool everything. Thank you for sharing!
Lia Garcia says
Honestly, if wool wasn’t so expensive our entire winter wardrobe would just be cozy merino wool everything! It’s the best!!
This is an excellent post! Thank you so much for all the tips and tricks! I’m curious if you guys seriously squeezed in everything on this list in your 3 days there? I’m trying to figure out how to do that because I’m going to spend the same amount of time there soon.
I’m definitely going to the Spa and was wondering if you recommend against going there when it first opens at 10am? I’m hoping to beat some of the crowds but the afternoon is better?
Also, I noticed you guys have an Away carry-on. Was curious if you use the Bigger Carry-On and if so, if you had any issues flying Air Canada with it? I heard the bigger carry-on won’t fit? Thanks!
Lia Garcia says
Hey Maddie, we definitely didn’t do everything on this list during our trip! This is just meant to be a list of options, not an itinerary 😛 We didn’t have a chance to visit many museums or all of the food markets, and we certainly didn’t squeeze in any day trips other than Saint Anne for snowboarding! But because the city is so small and walkable, most stuff is pretty easily accessible within town. I’m not sure what the busiest hours are for the spa, but we were there near the end of the day and it wasn’t too crowded. As for Away, not sure on what Air Canada’s current measurement restrictions are but they should include measurements on their site and on the Away site to compare! I don’t think we had any issues, but this trip was over a year ago so my memory could be faulty or they could have made changes to their policies.
Hi!!! I see you were in Quebec for New Year’s Eve! Do you have any advice on navigating the downtown area that night?
Lia Garcia says
Honestly, the downtown isn’t too crowded or terribly difficult to navigate on NYE at all. All of the New Years festivities are concentrated to one spot, which IS very crowded, but outside of that there aren’t any crowds at all, particularly if you’re staying in or near Old Town.
Deepa Kartha says
Quebec looks beautiful! I love snowboarding & if I go to visit Quebec in winter I will definitely try at Mont Saint Anne :). Thanx Lia, for sharing such a great place with us.
Such a nice and extensive guide! Haven’t even been to Canada yet, so hope to change that soon:) Love the photos too!
You always write the best, most detailed, guides. I LOVE them! And yes, I can whole-heartedly second the notion to visit Quebec City in the winter. We visited a couple of years ago during the US Thanksgiving week and while it wasn’t the snowy winter wonderland you guys experienced it was still a great time. We did many of the things you’ve mentioned in your guide, but many more things that we didn’t see and do – we need to go back!!
Megan McC says
Beautiful photos! Your clothing list is on point. Winter adventures are much more enjoyable when you’re layered up with the right gear. Thanks for all the great places to visit!
Yayy glad you got to explore this charming corner of Canada. 🙂 I love Qubec city. Only been there in the summer but now I want to go during Christmas time! Your insta stories looked lit AF
sue davies says
Great guide. I am avoiding winter in Singapore but think I might visit Quebec in the fall. If I did go in the winter, the thermals bathes and Chateau Frontenac look nice.
I love winter time <3 Specially when everything is covered by the white magic of the snow… Your photos are gorgeous and I would really love to experience Quebec during this time of the year. Thank you for the inspiration and all the useful tips
Love Quebec City, but I’ve only been in the spring. As much as I don’t like snow and cold that is actually one place I would visit in the winter. Looks magical, especially around Christmas!
What a dreamy place to be at for winter. I think the thermal spa would definitely be on my list but the toboggan ride would be on my partners list!!
Quebec looks magical at Christmas, I am so captivated by a white Christmas especially as we never have that here in Australia. We travelled to the USA for a white Christmas in 2017 and went to Boston, we were lucky enough to get snow on Christmas day but I think Canada would definitely be a much better option. Maybe another time, I don’t think the obsession is out of my system yet!
Melissa C. says
Love it! We actually went to QC for our honeymoon and it was so charming in the fall. I’d love to return again one day.
Looks like a winter wonderland! Beautiful. Would love to see the Museum of Civilization, too, has such an interesting name… I’ve never been to Quebec City, and I’m not a huge fan of the real cold, but this trip looks worth it.
This trip looks like a dream! Chateau Frontenac looks beautiful! I’ll definitely need to try the restaurant there too! It’s on my bucket list to go on a toboggan ride too! The price isn’t too bad either! How many days would you recommend??
What a great guide! When I visit Quebec I’ll definitely have to come back to this post, especially if I choose to brave a winter. Seems like an excellent time to go.
This is such a comprehensive and well-written guide!! Maple Syrup Pie?? I’m totally down to try that <3
I loved Quebec City! The Old Quarter is utterly charming and is best explored on foot. I visited for several days in summer and read about how freezing it can be in winter. Glad to hear it isn’t quite that cold and still a walkable city.
What a great post! It is giving me all the winter vibes and I want to go now!