In winter, Quebec City transforms from charming city to magical Christmas wonderland in a spell that lasts well beyond the bookends of the December holidays. It’s a romantic vignette that can only be replicated by travelling to Europe or back in time. Sure, packing snow boots instead of sandals is a less conventional vacation choice this time of year, but in Quebec the joys of winter peak as the temperature falls. With unforgettable attractions that are only available in the colder months – like a hotel constructed of ice, an urban toboggan track and a waterfall frozen in time – we’re compelled to ask, have you really experienced Quebec City if you haven’t visited in winter? 

Indoor FunWendake Hotel First Nations Museum Indigenous Long House© Francis Gagnon, Destination Québec cité

First, orient yourself with a sense of place and a quick lesson in a long history that ranges from Indigenous peoples to early European settlers. The Huron-Wendat Museum, located at Hôtel-Musée Premières Nations, is a great place to start. In this architecturally stunning space, learn about the Indigenous groups who were the first to call North America home. Easily pass an afternoon by taking a guided or self-guided audio tour of the exhibits, attending a “Myths and Legends” activity and dining in at Restaurant La Traite to sample Indigenous fine dining made from seasonal ingredients. There’s even an opportunity to spend a night in the Ekionkiestha’ National Longhouse. Hôtel - Musée Premières Nations is located about 20 minutes outside of the city centre, so you’ll want to consider a car rental, rideshare or private transport.

Back in the city, pay a visit to Musée de la Civilisation (the Museum of Civilization) with exhibits that range from poop (seriously!) to Pompeii to the Indigenous peoples of Quebec. Nip into nearby Artefact, the lobby bar of the five-star Auberge Saint-Antoine hotel, where historical relics have been unearthed and put on display.

Petit Champlain Quebec City© Stéphane Audet | Destination Québec cité

Amble over to Rue du Petit-Champlain, the darling street that’s so picture-perfect it feels lifted straight from a postcard. Ascend from Basse-Ville (Lower Town) to Haute-Ville (Upper Town) on the Funiculaire du Vieux-Québec, enjoying the view and nostalgia of this century-old cable railway.Fairmont© Steven D'Avignon, Destination Québec cité

At the tippy top of the city is the Fairmont Château du Frontenac, the most photographed hotel in the world. The 610-room property is so special that it has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. Within its walls are reminders of the famous personalities who once dined and stayed. Just downstairs from the lobby is a hallway featuring odes to these former guests, including Queen Elizabeth II and Franklin D. Roosevelt, Eleanor and their pup Fala. Guided tours of the Château are available and the sweeping city views from 1608 Bar are spectacular. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, cross the street to order from the poutine menu at Chic Shack. Bourdain fans might make a reservation at nearby Restaurant Le Continental, where the late chef dined during an episode of Parts Uknown.


Outdoor Fun Au 1884© Gaëlle Leroyer | Destination Québec cité

Cold weather isn’t a reason to congregate indoors. If you stay at the Fairmont, you’ll be at the centre of the action, and on a good weather day, you might hear a street performer playing his saxophone. Chances are, he’s out on the Dufferin Terrace and you’ll pass him on your way to ride the Au 1884 toboggan. As long as there is snow on the ground, you can enjoy a (literal) breathtaking view of the city hugged by an ice-capped St. Lawrence River as you descend the 135-year-old icy chute.Frozen Waterfalls Quebec© Yves Tessier, Destination Québec cité

About 15 minutes from Old Québec is Montmorency Falls, which are absolutely worth a visit in winter. The falls freeze over, so be sure to have sturdy footwear if you intend to walk across the bridge that spans the falls. Alternatively, admire the icy cascade with a bird's eye view by taking the cable car to the top of the cliff.Hotel De Glace© Dany Vachon, Destination Québec cité

One of the most notable Quebec City winter attractions debuts each January. That’s when the province is cold enough to preserve Hôtel de Glace, the world-famous hotel made entirely of ice. Don’t worry, you won’t freeze. You’ll be bundled up in a thick sleeping bag and if you do catch a chill you can nip into the traditional hotel room that every guest is issued. The unique lodging is located at Valcartier Vacances Village, a destination resort that transforms into a winter playground as soon as the first snowflakes of the season hit the ground. Think: snow tubing, a skating trail and snow rafting.

Carnaval ice sculpture quebec city© Stéphane Audet | Destination Québec cité

If you happen to visit Quebec City in early-to-mid-February, you’ll receive the warmest welcome of all at Carnaval. It’s a celebration of all things winter that includes an ice palace built in honor of Bonhomme, the festival’s frosty, official ambassador. Carnaval runs February 4 to 13 in 2022. Note: some events will be impacted or scaled back by COVID-19 safety measures.


What to Pack

Family in quebec city cold weather clothing© Stéphane Audet | Destination Québec cité

While visiting Quebec in winter, you’re bound to hear someone say, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.”

To embrace the snow, be sure to pack all the layers: snow pants, an insulated jacket, toque, gloves and for extra comfort, thermal base layers. Activate single-use mitt and boot warmers to keep toes and fingers toasty and wear sunglasses to shield against the bright white snowscape. Old Québec has many winding streets and steep hills which can be tricky to navigate in compact snow, even for the sure-footed. Bring comfortable boots with a thick tread.