I’ve been to Quebec City a couple of times before but it amazes me what I remember (or don’t) from each trip! Turns out, there are way more winter activities than Carnival in Quebec City than I could have imagined. Quebec City is beautiful and can be visited during any season. Quebec City winter is Christmas card perfect with events like the Quebec City Winter Carnival; the summer is hot and perfect for patio season on Petit Champlain; the fall has gorgeous fall foliage; and the spring brings a fresh feel to the city. You really can’t go wrong visiting at any time of the year!
Quebec City is a great road trip from Ottawa or Montreal, or a short flight from Toronto or even destinations from the United States. It is a French Canadian city (but don’t worry, most people speak English, especially in the main tourist locations) and is located on the north bank of the Saint Lawrence River with a ton of interest in Canadian history. In the winter, you’ll be able to experience the Quebec Winter Carnival (including the ice canoe race), enjoy sweet maple taffy (which is maple syrup poured on fresh snow), go ice skating on rinks around the city, and Christmas markets (enjoy a German Christmas Market style in Canada).
Quebec city is cold in the winter, so be prepared to bundle up! You’ll want all the winter things: warm jacket, winter boots, scarf, hat and mitts. My post here has lots of tips for dressing for a Canadian winter.
Old Québec City
Old Québec is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is the part of Quebec City within the historical city walls. It has an European feel with a great mix of restaurants, shops, architecture and festivals.
We stayed at Hotel Clarendon in Old Quebec and last time I went we stayed in the Auberge Maeva. If you’re feeling fancy, check out the Chateau Frontenac, one of the Fairmont’s beautiful hotels (it’s also the most photographed hotel in the world).
For parking, we parked in the municipal lot across from the Hotel Clarendon for $17.50/24 hours which seemed very reasonable for the weekend! Note: it would be worth it to pay for your hotel’s valet parking if you were planning on taking your car during the day (Hotel Clarendon charges $28/day and you can come and go as you’d like); however, since we planned on leaving our car and walking all weekend it was cheaper to park the car ourselves.
Cochon Dingue for brunch in Quebec City is a must. Check out Lapin Saute for lunch and L’Entrecôte Saint-Jean for the best duck confit in the city! You can never go wrong with Afternoon Tea at a Fairmont (TIP: you can split a tower between two people and order a second pot of tea to save some cash).
Stop 1: Montmorency Falls
You can visit year round and each time will bring you stunning views of waterfalls that are taller than Niagara Falls! Year round a cable car is available to take you up to the falls and 480+ stairs can be taken to the top during the summer: in the summer a zipline is available and in the winter you can rent snowshoes.
It’s $6/person and $4/car for parking (half price if you’re a Quebec citizen) and the cable car is an additional $16/person. (TIP: we did not pay for the cable car and were able to show our receipt to drive to the top to cross at the bridge). Check out their official website here.
Stop 2: Place D’Youville skating rink
We did not bring our skates, but there’s a skating rink in Place D’Youville, just outside the historic walls. Skating is a Canadian winter must-do so if stopping in Quebec City is one of your stops in Canada, I recommend renting skates somewhere and participate in skating outside at least once on your visit.
Stop 3: Hotel de Glace
Unfortunately we did not make the trek up to the Ice Hotel but this is a fun one to check out and, as I’m sure you guessed it, is only available to see during the winter. It’s about a 35 minute drive north of Quebec City and you can either visit for a tour during the day or, if you’re braver than I am, stay for the evening!
Stop 4: Toboggan Slide
If there’s one thing you HAVE do in Quebec City during the winter, it’s the Au 1884 toboggan slide. For only $3/slide/person (or you can get 4 slides for $10) it’s worth going multiple times! We checked it out during the day and the evening and both times were such great fun. The line looks worse than it is: it was only about a 20 minute wait to get a toboggan to walk to the top.
Stop 5: Carnival and Maple Taffy
If you’re fortunate to visit during Carnival, there are tons of events around the City for the 10 days of the festival. Don’t forget to grab some maple taffy!
Stop 6: Quartier du Petit Champlain
Probably the second most recognizable place in Old Quebec City is the Quartier du Petit Champlain. Take the breakneck stairs from Chateau Frontenac and don’t forget to look back, the views of the Chateau are stunning. (If stairs aren’t your thing, you can take the Funicular).
You can visit for both food and shopping (I have the best earmuffs from Ecogriffe) or just wander the street for the ambiance or to take photos (I recommend all the above).
Stop 7: Fairmont Chateau Frontenac
Easily the most recognizable place in Old Quebec City is the castle on the hill: Fairmont Chateau Frontenac. You are allowed to enter and wander the halls to check out the most photographed hotel in the world. Like I mentioned above stop in for Afternoon Tea or just wander along Dufferin Terrace.
Stop 8: Plains of Abraham
We didn’t stop on our trip but I have been in the past. It’s about a 15 minute walk to the east end of the park from Chateau Frontenac and gives amazing views of Old Quebec City. Bring your skates for the outdoor skating rink, snowshoes to trek through some trails or cross country skis for a workout!
If you stop by in the summer or fall, it’s the perfect location for a picnic in the park.
Stop 9: Ferry to Levis
We planned to take this across one night for some night photography; however, it was far too foggy so we didn’t make it! For about the price of a latte, you can cross the St. Lawrence River to visit Levis.
Stop 10: Citadel and Walkway
If you visit during Carnival, you’ll stop at the hill where the Citadel is located. There was a toboggan hill and a cross-country ski hill (so many fun outdoor winter activities). You can walk along the outside of the walls along La Promenade des Gouverneurs or take pictures in the gazebo on the hill.