A trip to Québec City has been on my bucket list for years and I’d dreamt of going during winter. I love winter and I love anything that’s a charming winter wonderland.
With a short jaunt north to Québec City, you’ll find French spoken around every corner and the quaint magic of a European town, without the need for a transatlantic flight. What could be better than that?
A WINTER WEEKEND IN QUÉBEC CITY
I’ve said this before, but Christmas isn’t just a season in Québec City, it’s an entire state of mind throughout the winter season. You’ll see swags of greenery and glittering decorations dotting the streets and there’s a festive energy in the air. The cold doesn’t deter the Québécois. They are out and about even if it’s 10 below 0.
Yes, you’ll be freezing, but it’s just so darn cute that you’ll be giddy from the ridiculously low temperatures. You’ll also find incredible food, effortlessly cool cocktail bars, and rich history and culture. Read on for my recommendations on how to get there, where to stay, where to eat, what to do, and more.
HOW TO GET TO AND AROUND QUÉBEC CITY
This is copied from my Winter Weekend at Château Frontenac post!
Despite feeling a world away, Québec City is super easy to get to from the East Coast. From DC, you’ll often find flights that have one stop in Montréal or the New York area. From New York, you can easily find nonstop flights. We actually flew in and out of Montréal. We had an easy 40-minute flight to LaGuardia and then a quick 55-minute flight to Montréal. The initial plan was to fly into Montréal Friday morning, rent a car, drive 3 hours to Québec City, then drive back to Montréal on Sunday morning and explore the city for a day before flying out Monday afternoon. Well, the blizzard derailed the second half of the trip, but I would still recommend going that route if you want to see both cities.
Once you’re in Québec City, you don’t need a car as ubers are readily available, however, we did benefit from having one. We drove to a few sights outside the city that we might have passed on had we needed to take a lengthy uber ride. Do be mindful that parking doesn’t come cheap in Québec City.
You can also easily catch a train from Montréal to Québec City if you’re choosing to forgo a car for the trip.
WHAT TO PACK FOR WINTER IN QUÉBEC
A trip to Québec City in the winter is not the time to worry about being stylish. You need to dress for WARMTH. While the temperatures we encountered were certainly lower than average, you should expect temps right around 0 degrees. You’ll want layers, you’ll want wool, you’ll want down. Don’t worry, everyone looks like a walking sleeping bag – it’s kind of snow chic, right?! Here’s exactly what you should bring:
- Long, waterproof down coat (I linked the brand I have – I got it 4 or 5 years ago, it’s budget-friendly as far as serious down parkas go, and it’s kept me warm everywhere from DC to Canada to Boston)
- Puffy vest
- Snow gloves (I like to layer my wool gloves underneath a pair of ski mittens!)
- Base layers, both tops and bottoms (I wore thick tights underneath thick velvet leggings every single day!)
- SmartWool socks
- Snow boots
WHERE TO STAY IN QUÉBEC CITY
There’s not shortage of hip boutique inns and hotels in Québec City, but we chose to splurge on a stay at the Château Frontenac. A castle-inspired hotel built in 1892 overlooking the St. Lawrence River, it’s the place to stay in Québec City. Over the years, it has hosted royalty, dignitaries, and politicians from across the world.
The hotel is massive with 611 rooms, and we stayed in one of the Deluxe City View rooms. We enjoyed the modern contrast to the otherwise opulently traditional decor of the property, and I couldn’t get enough of waking up to the amazing views of the frozen St. Lawrence River.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK
Where do I even start with the food in Québec City?! I am so thankful for leggings and spending our days walking all over the city, because I imagine there’s a 0% chance my pants would have fit by the end of this trip. The food is indulgent, rich, and I can’t hold back when poutine is on the menu, right?
- L’Affaire Est Ketchup: If you didn’t make a reservation, don’t even try. This tiny, homey restaurant is like dining in a good friend’s slightly dated, very hipster kitchen. They’ll announce the menu to you that evening, but, don’t worry, every single dish you’ll try will knock it out of the park.
- Chez Jules: If you read my Château Frontenac post, you know that we ended up getting totally snowed in during a blizzard. By the evening, the winds had died down a bit and it just seemed as if we were living in a real-life snow globe. This is where we ventured out that night to find a warm, classic French meal.
- Le Chic Shack: Our first night, we stopped in here after a few hours of a few too many cocktails. Burgers and poutine were exactly what we needed. Think of this as elevated fast food – and it’s right next to Château Frontenac.
- Café La Maison Smith: While strolling through the Place Royale, we stopped in here to warm up with a hot drink. That’s the secret to surviving in Québec City. Know when to give up on the elements and find a warm place to hang out.
- Place Dufferin: Even if you aren’t staying at Château Frontenac, the breakfast buffet, a wonderful mix of European and North American breakfast options, is an indulgent way to set yourself up for the day.
- Chez Ashton: Y’all know I love fast food (sorry I’m not sorry!). So, fast food poutine was a must have for me.
- Kraken Cru: Our first stop in Québec City after checking into our hotel was Kraken Cru for cocktails and oysters. It’s a tiny bar with a seafaring vibe, a local ambiance, and knowledgable bartenders.
- La Korrigane Beer Garden: Craft beer is always worth checking out and a thick stout was just the thing I needed to escape the cold. We got a few bar snacks and enjoyed the rowdy atmosphere – honestly, I could have stayed here for even longer than we did.
- 1608 Wine and Cheese Bar: A hotel bar is always worth a visit and the sophisticated yet warm vibe of this one is just up my alley.
- Hôtel de Glace: Yes, it’s super touristy and it’s 25 minutes outside the city, but, if you have the time, go. It’s a cool experience, literally and figuratively. I’m not sure Adam expected to enjoy it, but he was captivated as we wandered around admiring the hotel made entirely out of ice.
WHAT TO DO IN QUÉBEC CITY
Even with frigid temperatures, there’s so much to do in Québec City, even outside! The cold doesn’t even begin to deter the locals from getting outdoors, and it shouldn’t deter you. As long as you’re prepared, you’ll be too wrapped up in the beauty of the area to care about the cold.
- Stroll around the Old City: Of course, you should spend some time just strolling the streets of the Old City. These pictures are true to the beauty of this real-life storybook town.
- Quartier Petit
Champlain: This is the area you see in the image above. It’s an adorable street filled with shops where you can pick up everything from rustic wool goods to fun home finds.
- Place Royale and the Old Port: Two of the oldest spots in Québec City, these are a must-see to understand the history of this port town. You’ll find the oldest stone church in Canada at the Place Royale.
- Marvel at the winter sporting events: We stumbled upon an ice fishing competition while we were walking along the river, and contemplated whether to join the cross-country skiers and snowshoers at the Plaines d’ Abraham. Whether or not you choose to participate, it’s a fun activity to watch.
- Toboggan Slide: This is absolutely a must-do if you want an amazing view of the city as you wiz by at 40 mph. I was definitely a little apprehensive at the top, but it’s 100% worth doing. It’s open from mid-December to mid-March.
- Musee National des Beaux-Arts du Québec: When the cold became too much, we retreated to the art museum. Our journey through the three buildings started with an industrial design exhibit featuring many mid-century pieces, so you know I was hooked.
- Montmorency Falls: We didn’t get the full view of the falls from below because we started getting freaked out…we were told to go at night, but it was so desolate that I was scared we’d slip and die and no one would ever know…and Adam thought we were going to be killed by someone coming out of the woods. BUT, it’s an impressive natural wonder that I would absolutely liked to have spent more time at.
A FEW FINAL TIPS ON QUÉBEC CITY
While we both love cold weather and were delighted at the wintery charm of Québec City, I imagine that, for many people, the fall, spring, and summer are ideal for a visit, particularly if you love outdoor activities. There are so many outdoor areas to explore around the region, and you’ll discover the European quaintness of the city no matter the season.
If you have any questions about logistics or what we did, please feel free to reach out! I’m happy to chat more about our trip and go on and on about my love for Québec.