Quebec City is beautiful, historic and it’s a winter wonderland. Heading to this city during the chilly months is a unique experience. It offers many fascinating winter activities and events, which makes it the perfect place to explore and try out new things. Whether you want to spend time wandering the streets, visit the Christmas market or simply hit up one the free ice skating rinks, there is plenty to do both indoors and out. Take a look at these 15 things to do in Quebec city that’ll make your winter amazing.
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1. Explore the old town
The old town of Quebec City became a UNESCO world heritage site in 1985 and is clearly one of the most picturesque places in North America. With its cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages, and historic buildings, Quebec city is charming in all seasons. In winter, you’ll find the streets decorated with lights and Christmas trees, which make the old town even more charming. You’ll love wandering down the streets, it will almost make you feel like you’re in Europe. Highlights of the old town include admiring the Château Frontenac, shopping in the Quartier Petit Champlain, and visiting the beautiful Notre Dame basilica.
2. Stay at the Château Frontenac
Château Frontenac is the most photographed hotel in the world, and probably the most iconic landmark of Quebec City. Set on a cliff overlooking the St Lawrence River, Château Frontenac is now home to a Fairmont Hotel.
Are you looking for a unique experience? Stay at the Château Frontenac, it’ll make you feel like you’re in a real castle. The hotel is decorated with stunning Christmas trees and lights over the winter season. You can also go in and visit the lobby, eat at the restaurant and browse the shops even if you’re not a guest at the hotel.
3. Check out the Hôtel de Glace
The Hôtel de glace (Ice hotel) is the perfect place to spend magical snow‑filled moments with family, friends, or that special someone. Open from January to march, this unique hotel is located only 20 minutes from the city center of Quebec. Built using 500 tons of ice and 40,000 tons of snow, Hôtel de Glace is the only ice hotel in North America. Every winter, a new theme inspires the architecture and the setting of this ephemeral masterpiece.
The ultimate nordic experience is to spend the night at the ice hotel, but you can also simply take a tour of this beautiful place. With room temperature at around -5° (23°F), get ready to spend an unforgettable night at the ice hotel. Don’t worry though, you will be able to relax and warm up in the sauna and hot tubs before going to sleep.
4. Try ice skating at the plains of Abraham or Place d’Youville
Ice skating is one of the best things to do in Quebec City in winter. If you want to try ice skating right in the city center, head to Place d’Youville where there is an ice skating rink that you can use for free. With its beautiful location, right next to the Porte St-Jean, you’ll have an unforgettable experience. If you don’t have your own skates, you can rent a pair at the rink.
Another great spot for ice skating in the beautiful parc of the plains of Abraham. It’s a big ice rink that can accommodate 350 skaters, and it’s free of charge. On-site, you’ll find a skater’s chalet where you can rent ice skates, snowshoes and skis.
5. Go tobogganing at the Dufferin terrasse
Terrasse Dufferin is a wide boardwalk offering a panoramic view of the St Lawrence River, the town of Lévis on the opposite shore, Ile d’Orléans and the Laurentian mountains to the north. This walkway was constructed by Lord Dufferin, governor of Canada between 1872 and 1878.
After admiring the view, head to Au 1884 where you’ll find unique toboggan slides that attract thousands of visitors each year. This fantastic activity is so much fun, and kids will definitely love it!
6. Visit the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Quebec
The Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Quebec (MNBAQ) is one of the best museums in Quebec City. This big museum located near the plains of Abraham is home to thousands of beautiful works spanning from the 16th century to the present day. The complex is made of 3 buildings, which are all linked together.
If you plan on visiting the MNBAQ, I recommend allowing at least half a day, as there is a lot to see. My boyfriend and I visited the museum on a rainy day, which ended up being a great day of learning about Quebec and its numerous artists. On top of that, the museum is home to old jail cells, which for me, was the highlight of the visit.
7. Take a tour of the aquarium
Aquarium du Quebec is a 16-hectare facility home to more than 10,000 animals. Located in the former city of Sainte Foy, the aquarium has a garden, indoor and outdoor pools, and exhibits. If you’re traveling with children, then a visit to the aquarium is definitely one fo the best things to do in Quebec City.
With over 300 species of fish, crustaceans, mollusks, reptiles, birds and other marine mammals, this aquarium is really amazing. It specializes in boreal and arctic wildlife and also hosts an annual light festival called Festi Lumière. The main exhibit, called “The Awesome Ocean”, allows visitors to walk through a tunnel in a seawater tank and see the marine life through the glass.
8. Discover the Quebec Winter Carnival
The winter carnival of Quebec City is one of the biggest winter carnivals in the world. Dating back to 1894, this unique event takes place every year in February. With parades, concerts and ice sculptures, the Carnaval de Quebec is a fantastic event to attend to celebrate winter with your friends and family.
There is no lack of things to do at the Quebec Winter Carnival. For example, you can take a picture with Bonhomme, the carnival’s ambassador and visit its beautiful ice palace. You can also enjoy seeing ice sculptors at work, eat a beavertail and watch the ceremonies.
9. Check out Place Royale
Place Royale is one of the most iconic spots in Quebec City. Located in the upper town, this stunning plaza is the heart of the old town, and this area has one of the largest numbers of 17th and 18th-century buildings in North America. You’ll feel like you’re in Europe!
Don’t miss the beautiful church Notre Dame des Victoires, check out the big Christmas tree and grab a bite at the Café la Maison Smith. There are also many shops, craft galleries, painted walls and restaurants around the plaza and on the street Petit Champlain.
10. Visit the German market
The German Christmas market of Quebec is definitely one of the prettiest markets in Canada. With its festive lights and wooden kiosks, the Christmas village is not to be missed. This fantastic market is located in the heart of old Quebec and is the best place in town to buy unique Christmas gifts for your friends and family.
On top of that, you can enjoy German foods (such as bratwurst, and hot wine), fun activities, live performances and more. Admission to the market is free, and it’s definitely one of the most Instagram worthy spots in Quebec city, so why miss it?
11. Enjoy a Nordic Spa experience
Going to the spa is one of the best things to do in winter in Quebec City. It’s the best way to keep warm, release stress and soothe muscles and aching joints. Lucky for you, there are plenty of spas to choose from in Quebec. The most memorable spa is probably Spa du Château, located in the iconic Château Frontenac. The spa offers beautiful views of the Saint Lawrence River, an indoor pool, a mani-pedi room, and a steam bath. Treatments include traditional body wraps, massages, and facials. Looking for another unique location? Try Le Monastère Des Augustines. Their team of professionals offers holistic health consultations, but also massages, relaxation and meditation sessions.
12. Visit the Citadelle
The Citadelle of Quebec City was built between 1820 and 1850 and is now the largest British fortress in North America. This stunning star-shaped fortress is home to a museum with a permanent exhibit relating the history of the Royal 22e Régiment, the only french-speaking infantry regiment in Canada. They also offer guided tours in English and french.
The citadel is located atop Cap Diamond, which is the highest point of the area. So, the Citadelle terrasse offers a fantastic view over the whole city and the surrounding mountains.
If you’re interested in seeing the changing of the guard and meet the famous goat of the regiment called Batisse, you’d have to visit the Citadelle in summer. Indeed, this ceremony only runs from June to September.
13. Walk along the ramparts
Quebec City is the only remaining fortified city north of Mexico. Its beautiful fortifications and ramparts were erected under the French and British regimes, and officially designated a natural historic site of Canada in 1948. There are four remaining gates which you can all see: Porte St jean, Porte St Louis, Porte Prescott, and Porte Kent.
Unfortunately, in winter you cannot walk on the ramparts (which is something you can do in summer) due to the snow. However, you can still explore the area and walk along the fortification wall that encircles the entire city.
14. Take the ferry to Lévis
If you’re staying in Quebec city for a few days, I recommend taking the ferry to Lévis. This scenic trip across the St Lawrence River offers great views of Quebec’s old city. The crossing lasts about 12 minutes, so find a seat and enjoy the views. In winter, you can also see the movement of the ice on the river, which is truly impressive. When you reach the other side, disembark in Lévis and explore this charming city. You can go shopping, take pictures of Quebec from the shore or grab lunch in a nice restaurant.
15. Eat sweet maple taffy
Eating a sweet maple taffy is an experience you cannot miss in Quebec city! This sugar candy is made by boiling maple syrup and pouring it onto fresh snow. It’s a popular winter tradition in Canada, and especially in Quebec. It’s simple but delicious! You can find these maple candies at outdoor winter carnivals, sugar shacks, and maple syrup festivals.
There is definitely no lack of things to do in Quebec City in winter. I recommend spending at least 3 or 4 days there. It should give you enough time to enjoy the many winter activities Quebec city has to offer. If it’s really cold, head to one of the museums. You can easily spend half a day in the Musée des Beaux-Arts du Quebec, and then visit a spa to unwind.
Don’t forget to try sweet maple taffy, and go ice skating in one of the many rinks of the city. If you have time, I suggest you take the short ferry ride to Lévis and take in the views from the opposite shore. You’ll definitely be impressed by Quebec city’s skyline. For a unique winter experience, visit the Hôtel de Glace and spend a night in this impressive ice palace, the only one in North America.
Finally, allow some time to explore the beautiful historic buildings and the architecture of Quebec city’s old town. Wander the streets of the lower town, drink hot wine at the Christmas market and marvel at the twinkling lights. Have you ever been to Quebec City in winter? Let me know in the comments below!
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