Quebec City is the type of destination that almost makes you forget that you are in North America instead of Europe. The perfect blend of old and new in a city that speaks French as the primary language and English as the second.
As you walk the snow-filled streets it feels as if you are a character in a Hallmark movie….only it’s not as cheesy and it’s a whole lot more magical.
The hanging lights above the walkways, the decor outside the shops, colorful architecture spanning centuries, and the ice sculptures along the way set the tone for a beautiful Canadian winter getaway.
If you visit during the Winter Carnival you will spot “Bonhomme” the friendly snowman and international symbol of winter tourism greeting you in some form throughout the city.
Take a Walking Tour of Quebec City
I love taking tours when I visit a city for the first time. You learn so much more when you have access to someone who is knowledgable about the area.
A guided tour from Québec Cicérone Tours provides such a great introduction to the city’s history, architecture and local culture. Old Quebec City is a UNESCO World Heritage Site dating back to the 17th Century and it’s still an architectural wonder today.
Our guide aka cicerone, Jean Gagnon arrived at our hotel authentically dressed in a period costume. He answered all of our questions both modern day and diving into Quebec’s history.
He showed us significant architecture throughout the city and shared interesting stories of the buildings along the way.
Historic Churches in Quebec City
We stepped inside several gorgeous churches during our tour that were also a nice break from the cold. We spent some time inside the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity and the Notre-Dame-de-Québec Basilica which one of seven churches in the world with a Pope-designated Holy Door.
Save a few steps on the Old Quebec Funicular
The Old Quebec Funicular provides another perspective of the city and the St. Lawrence River while you travel up or down at a steep 45-degree angle.
I don’t have a fear of heights but we did ride with a stranger who did and found it easier to look up toward the station versus back at the lower town. The rest of us in the car enjoyed the unique perspective of the St. Lawrence River and beyond. The ride is smooth and moves at a steady pace.
If you want to save going back up several flights of stairs, start your ride at the lower station located at Louis Jolliet House in the Old Port and travel up to Dufferin Terrance near the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac.
Take a ride on the Toboggan Slide Au 1884
A unique adventure for thrill seekers of all ages, a toboggan ride with an incredible view of the St. Lawrence River is a must! This toboggan tradition on the Dufferin Terrace in Quebec City dates back over 100 years..to 1884, and you can reach speeds up to 70km on your way down!
You can ride on the toboggan with up to four passengers and make sure that your hat is secure and that you wear gloves because it can be really chilly with the wind.
After your ride, warm up inside with a delicious cup of hot chocolate at the cafe located at the base of the run.
Le Cochon Dingue
The seafood pot pie (Lobster, crab, shrimp, scallops, salmon and diced potatoes in a cream sauce)is a very popular menu item and I can confirm that it is delicious. My husband ordered the Burgundy stew (beef braised in Burgundy with seasonal vegetables served with seasoned potatoes)
For dessert, the carrot cake and the maple pie are a MUST! I’ll admit that we were already stuffed but we powered through it… in the name of research.
After our guided tour of Quebec City, we decided to start our meal by warming up by adding a little kick to our coffee with some local whiskey. I ordered the Bison Skirt Steak, I don’t eat bison very often but I thought I might as well since I’m in Canada. My husband ordered Quebec Shepperd’s Pie (Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes, Creamy Corn, Bacon, Red-Wine-Braised Beef and Fruit Ketchup)
The meat was delicious and tender but as someone with a sweet tooth, the dessert was my favorite.
For dessert, the poor man’s pudding with ice cream is absolutely dreamy. Definitely get it ala mode so that the warm sauce and the ice cream make their magic with the cake!
The bathroom area in the basement at La Buche is also noteworthy because it’s so unique. Guests wash their hands at the bathtub and can mark their visit by signing their name to a section of their choice.
Try the Maple Taffy
Warm messy magic in your mouth! I noticed a couple walking down the street while they were trying to keep the taffy from making a mess as they walked…so of course, I had to know what it was and try some at a local “sugar shack”.
The maple syrup is poured onto the snow in a tray and then molded onto a popsicle stick. We opted for the snow tray indoors because you can control more of the elements.
The maple taffy basically melts in your mouth so be prepared as you eat it because it can get messy if you don’t consume it quickly.
Don’t forget to try poutine!
Many restaurants have their own versions of poutine. If you want to try a fast-casual version of the popular dish, make a stop at Chez Ashton.
I opted for the spicy gravy and I also tried their spicy hamburger because everything is better spicy! This was definitely a heavy meal and I was grateful that we walked for several miles afterward.
Visit Quebec City during Winter Carnival
Quebec City does a great job of making winter feel magical…and dare I say enviable.
There are lots of outdoor activities going on throughout the city which aren’t a problem if you are dressed in layers and have your snow gear on. It’s perfectly acceptable and not odd to walk around wearing your snow pants.
Trust me, you will be glad that you did!
Twice as Nice Day or Night
Make sure that you check the hours of the Winter Carnival events so that you allow for plenty of time to explore. Ice carving demos, ice bars, warming stations, and photo ops galore day and night.
Where to Stay in Downtown Quebec City
Check out that view!
If you like staying close to the action, Hotel Le Concorde is a great option with close proximity to parks, Winter Carnival, restaurants, and it’s only about a 15-minute walk to Old Quebec City. Speaking of walking, it’s easy to get lots of steps in, almost without noticing it. Parking can be limited downtown, and it’s a lot easier to walk instead.
We walked several miles each day during our visit which felt great after so many amazing meals. The hotel also has a revolving restaurant, Ciel! Bistro-bar located on the top floor of the restaurant for incredible 360-degree views of the city.
You can find savings on your hotel room in Quebec City here.
Beans for Breakfast?
Breakfast, Wifi, and parking is included at the hotel and during our stay, we learned that baked beans are a staple on the breakfast buffet. At first, I thought it was odd but it actually makes sense because they are a great source of protein and hearty for cold winters.
Do You Need a Car Rental in Quebec City?
You could easily park once and find plenty to do during your stay downtown within walking distance.
A car comes in handy if you do want to explore beyond the downtown. They also drive on the right side of the road in Quebec City so the only real adjustment is that many of the road signs are in French. The stop lights are pretty much the same except for the blinking green light that allows you to turn left instead of a green arrow.
Your speedometer is in kilometers which is also an adjustment but it’s really not that big of a deal. We had GPS for our rental but we found that it was easier to just use the Waze app from our phones instead.
There are several rental car agencies at the Jean-Lesage International Airport. The airport is about 20 minutes from downtown. If you plan on staying downtown for most of your visit you might be better off using rideshare instead.
If you like the freedom to explore the city and neighboring areas or if you plan on visiting the Hotel de Glace you might want to consider a rental.
Where to Take a Drive
View a frozen waterfall up close at Montmorency Falls
Normally I chase waterfalls when it’s warm outside but a frozen waterfall 15 minutes from Quebec City was too close to miss! Montmorency Falls is an absolutely beautiful sight in the winter and at 30 meters (nearly 100 ft.) it is actually higher than Niagara Falls.
Take the cable car up the mountain for a closer view of the falls and then explore the falls from several different viewing areas, pedestrian bridge, and trails at the top. You can warm up inside Manoir Montmorency and learn more about the history of the area in a small museum on the second floor, grab a bite to eat, and rent snowshoes, the manoir is located steps away from the cable car.
Hôtel de Glace
Worth the drive, Hôtel de Glace is located about 30 minutes from Quebec City and treats guests to a new frozen theme each winter.
During our visit, there were 42 rooms for overnight guests, an ice bar, a slide, and a chapel. Make sure that you wear your snow pants so that you stay warm and you can take a ride down the slide in comfort. A drink at the bar from a glass made of ice is a MUST and if you are feeling extra adventurous you can even sleep in the hotel.
International Travel Tips
Whenever you travel internationally it’s always a good idea to have travel insurance. This will help cover you in case of illness, travel issues or accidents. We purchased our travel insurance policy from Allianz. I’ve used them before and I love that their customer service is available 24/7 if an issue comes up.
You will also need your passport for a visit. If you don’t currently have a passport allow an additional 6-8 weeks in your travel plans for the application process.
The airport that you fly into for Quebec City is Jean Lesage International Airport.
During our flight home, our plane was delayed. The day before we flew home there was a large snowstorm that canceled and delayed most of the morning flights.
Depending on what time of year you visit, you might want to allow some margin in your travel dates so that you have options if you experience a weather delay.
A Visitor’s Warning
Our visit to Quebec City has given so many reasons to want to return!
Quebec City is definitely a four-season destination that travelers will fall in love with from the moment they arrive and dream of coming back the moment they leave.
Thanks again to Quebec Tourism for hosting our visit. All opinions are my own. This post contains an affiliate link.
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