In the capital of La Belle Province, winter weather is nothing to shy away from. In fact, Québec City honours its chilliest season with the utmost style and flair. From its world-famous Winter Carnival to its unforgettable outdoor activities and romantic European atmosphere, this small city is big on winter charm. Save the trip to the southern climes and embrace the magic of winter in one of the best getaway spots in North America.
Québec Winter Carnival
Even in the darkest and coldest part of winter, Quebecers have found a way to have fun: by throwing the spectacular Winter Carnival, a colourful 16-day festival that’s one of the largest in the world.
This year, Québec Winter Carnival inaugurated the impressive iron throne honouring HBO’s Game of Thrones. The iron throne replica was created by ice sculptor Marc Lepire, sitting next to a giant ice palace built for the festival’s iconic mascot, Bonhomme Carnaval.
The Carnival hosts the International Ice Sculpture Competition which sees teams from around the world build awe-inspiring sculptures. Three spectacular Carnival parades take place in different quarters of the city, and other winter-defying competitions including a canoe race across the St. Lawrence and a group snow bath. Festivities held on the Plains of Abraham include dogsled rides, hot tubs, ice fishing, horse-drawn sleigh rides, snow slides, family-friendly musical entertainment and more. Carnival-goers warm up with Caribou, a sweet Quebecois alcoholic drink traditionally served during Carnival. Joyeux Carnaval!
Ice Hotel (Hotel de Glace)
The magnificent Hôtel de Glace is a work of art made entirely of snow and ice. Each year, the hotel is built from scratch using a new themed design. This year, the design theme is Space and Time. Eras from the Big Bang to space travel are reflected in the impressive architecture and translucent ice sculptures in the hotel’s 44 rooms and thematic suites, grand hall, chapel and Ice Bar.
Visitors can spend the night in one of the sparkling guest suites (thermal sleeping bags are provided) or take a day or evening tour of the hotel. Visitors discover the secrets of how the ice hotel was built and stop off at the ice workshop, where they can make their very own ice glass. With an ice hotel guide, guests will learn about the fascinating architecture of the Hotel de Glace before taking a trip to the Ice Bar serving cocktails in sparkling glasses made of ice.
The outdoor slide and snowshoeing trails are open again this year, with equipment rentals available on site.
Old Québec Walking Tours
As you wander past period buildings along cobblestone streets lined with charming boutiques and art galleries and hearing the clip-clop of horse-drawn carriages, you’ll forget you’re in North America. Quebec’s old town, a UNESCO world heritage treasure, has become a kind of living museum, made only more beautiful by a coating of sparkling white snow.
Tours Voir Quebec offers group, private guided and culinary tours. Stroll pedestrian-only Petit Champlain District, enter the stunning Cathedral-Basilica Notre Dame de Québec, discover beautiful cityscapes and see how the walled city’s defenses developed under the French and English regimes. Take a ride up the “funiculaire” to get breaktaking views of the frozen city. There’s magic in the air!
Cross-Country Ski or Snowshoe the Plains of Abraham
The scene of the 1759 battle between generals Wolfe and Montcalm is now one of the world’s largest and finest urban parks. The Plains of Abraham are perfect for cross country skiing and snowshoeing. Glide through sparking snow in one of the most accessible and enchanting sites offering a lovely view of the Saint-Lawrence River. Guided snowshoe tours including traditional snowshoes, arrow sashes, lanterns and hot chocolate are perfect for those seeking a lantern-lit look at the history of winter sports and recreation on the Plains of Abraham.
Need to warm up? The Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec—renowned for its exhibits and collection of Québec art—is only a short walk away.
Village Vacances Valcartier Snow Slide
Ask any Canadian: there’s nothing more exhilarating than sliding down a snowy hill at top speed among squeals of delight from your family or friends. At Village Vacances Valcartier, the largest winter playground in North America, you can take your pick from 35 snow slides, and enjoy ice-karting, skating paths, a half pipe, snow rafting and more. The picturesque outdoor adventure village is a true winter wonderland that’s great for all ages. After getting your fill of snow-fuelled adrenaline, warm up and indulge in sumptuous Quebecois food and drink inside the village’s restaurants and bars.
This adrenaline-pumping Quebec winter activity is reserved only for the most daring outdoor adventurer. Teams of five paddle and push a canoe across the icy Saint-Lawrence River, navigating bobbing ice floes that shift with the tide. It’s a thrilling sport that been taking place in the heart of Quebec City since the beginnings of New France in the 1600s. Led by an expert ice canoeist guide, Quebec Ice Canoeing runs hour-long excursions that include Neoprene gear, ice crampons and a fully equipped canoe. It’s a surreal experience that you’ll never forget!
Photos courtesy Tourisme Quebec & Emily Baillie