Slade and I visited Quebec City for 4 nights as part of a longer trip to Quebec and Ontario in February 2016. We purposely planned a winter trip so we could catch all the winter festivals and enjoy the last moments of one of our favorite seasons.
Despite experiencing the coldest temperatures we've ever been exposed to, we really enjoyed visiting Quebec City at this time of year. There's so much to see and do! You just have to be prepared and dress warmly.
We decided to stay outside of Old Quebec. It gave us a chance to wander neighborhoods we otherwise wouldn't have gone out of our way to see, and it made us feel like we were really living in the city, not just visiting as tourists. We were also more conveniently located for excursions such as the Hotel de Glace, as well as the train station for when we left to Montreal.
There is so much to see in a very walkable radius in Quebec City. In Old Quebec in particular, every street is picturesque, and there are so many little shops to poke your head into or viewpoints to enjoy. Below are some highlights we'd recommend!
Terrasse Dufferin Boardwalk
This boardwalk is perfectly situated along the Saint Lawrence River, providing ample views for your stroll. The iconic Chateau Frontenac looms in the background, a perfect place to grab some coffee or have a wander through to warm up. If you're up for some adrenaline, be sure to check out the famous toboggan slide along the boardwalk (in operation since 1884!). At $3 a ticket, it's worth every penny.
Quartier Petit Champlain
Founded in 1608, this neighborhood is the oldest commercial district in North America and arguably the cutest part of the city. The narrow cobblestone streets house many shops and restaurants and exude European charm. The main square, Place Royale, is home to the oldest stone church in North America, Notre-Dame-des-Victoires, built in 1688.
There are several staircases leading down to this area, but you can also get there by funicular. Operating since 1879, the funicular links the Lower Town to the Terrasse Dufferin and offers a fun ride with great views.
Carnaval de Quebec
This famous winter event has occurred annually from late January to mid-February since 1955. Bonhomme is the Carnaval's beloved mascot, and always wears a festive red toque and arrow sash. Bonhomme's Effigy (pictured below) is required to enter most sites and activities. There are many things to do at the Carnaval, from riding the Ferris Wheel to competing in winter games. Highlights include watching Bonhomme appear in the opening ceremony and dancing in Bonhomme's ice palace. The entire atmosphere is festive and lively, and it's worth going both during the day and in the evenings!
Observatoire de la Capitale
Located on the 31st floor of the Marie-Guyart Building (Quebec City's tallest), the Observatoire offers the best panoramic views of the city along with an interactive exhibit that walks you through the city's history.
Hotel de Glace
North America's only ice hotel, the Hotel de Glace is rebuilt each year and is open from December to March. Made entirely of snow and ice, the hotel features a Great Hall, chapel, ice bar and ice slide. You can even spend the night in one of the guest rooms (why you would do this, we do not know -- it's very expensive and seems highly uncomfortable). While we do not recommend an overnight stay, we do think the visit is worthwhile. The amount of detail carved into each room is very impressive.
La Maison Smith - charming and delicious cafe in Place Royale
Erico - well-known chocolate shop and chocolate museum
Chez Ashton - fast food chain specializing in poutine
Le Bureau de Poste - inexpensive bar with a fun atmosphere
Le Petit Chateau - traditional restaurant near Chateau Frontenac
La Piazzetta - delicious and popular pizza restaurant
Sapristi - trendy Italian restaurant
Au Petit Coin Breton - authentic French restaurant and creperie
J.A. Moisan - the oldest grocery store in North America
We loved visiting Quebec City in the winter and experiencing the festive atmosphere that the Carnaval brings to the city each year. What's your favorite time of year to visit Quebec? Let us know in the comments below.