Quebec City is a fairy-tale destination anytime of the year. The cobblestones streets, stunning architechture and quaint cafés make it hard to believe you’re not in Europe.
But in the winter months, Quebec City is even more magical, with snow-covered buildings, outdoor ice rinks and a uniquely Canadian winter experience.
Even though the weather is chilly, there are many fun things to do in Quebec City in the winter.
From experiencing the Winter Carnival to ice skating on the Plains of Abraham or tobogganing down the hill at Dufferin Terrace, there are plenty of activities and adventures if you enjoy being outdoors in the winter.
So bundle up and get ready to experience the best things to do in Quebec City in the winter!
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19 Things to Do in Quebec City in the Winter
1. Stroll Through Old Quebec
There’s no better way to explore Quebec City any time of the year than by strolling through its historic streets.
The stunning architecture and cobblestone alleys make it look like a European city, and in the winter, with snow-covered rooftops and buildings draped in icicles, it’s even more magical.
Take some time to wander around and explore this UNESCO World Heritage Site, and you’re sure to stumble across a charming little shop or café to warm up in.
2. Visit the Christmas Markets
If you visit Quebec City in December, the Quebec City German Christmas Market is a great way to kick off the winter season and get you in the festive spirit.
The Christmas Market is open from late November until December 23rd, and while that’s technically not winter yet, the weather is chilly and there’s usually snow on the ground, so it counts as winter for me!
Quebec City has one of the best Christmas Markets in Canada, with different markets spread throughout the Old Town and plenty of festive events to enjoy.
Wander past the vendor stalls and pick up some unique presents, fun souvenirs or delicious treats.
There are traditional German Christmas treats like gingerbread, glüwhein and bratwurst, as well as local Quebec products from maple syrup to locally-made jams.
Whether you come for the festive atmosphere, the unique gifts or the delicious food, there are plenty of reasons to visit the Quebec City Christmas Market.
3. Experience Quebec Winter Carnival
The Quebec City Winter Carnival, or Carnaval de Québec as it’s known in French, is one of the city’s most popular winter attractions. The annual event takes place for two weeks in February and celebrates all things winter, with ice sculptures and plenty of fun activities for the whole family.
And of course, there’s the famous Bonhomme, a 7-foot snowman who is the mascot of the carnival. He can be seen all around town during this time, or you can visit his Ice Palace, which is in front of the Parliament Buildings of Quebec.
Carnaval also features colourful night parades, horse-drawn sleigh rides, chances to make your own maple taffy and canoe races through the ice-strewn St. Lawrence River.
The Winter Carnival is a unique experience and definitely one of the best things to do in Quebec in the winter.
This year, Quebec’s Winter Carnival is held from February 3 – 12, 2023.
4. Explore the Ice Hotel
Located just outside of Quebec City, the Hôtel de Glace is a unique and truly memorable experience. It’s one of the few ice hotels in the world, and the only one in North America.
The hotel is made entirely out of ice and snow, and each year it’s redesigned and reconstructed with new sculptures, designs and activities. The walls are made of ice blocks that have been sculpted into various shapes, and the rooms feature beds and end tables made of ice.
Tours are available where you can walk through the rooms, check out the chapel or stop for a drink at the ice bar, where of course, you’ll have your drink served in a glass made of ice!
For the adventurous, it’s possible to stay the night, although staying overnight is not recommended for young kids.
The Hôtel de Glace is open from early January until mid-March.
5. Ride Down Dufferin Slide
Another unique and fun attraction can be found right in the heart of Old Quebec City.
Located on the Dufferin Terrace is the Au 1884 slide, an iconic toboggan run that has been a part of Quebec City winters for over a century.
Ride down on a long wooden toboggan and feel like a kid again!
Groups of up to 4 can ride down on the toboggan, making it a great activity for families.
The slide is open every day from mid-December to mid-March, weather permitting.
Tickets are purchased per person, although up to four people can ride on the toboggan. Combo packages are also available, which include maple taffy and hot chocolate.
6. Go Ice Skating at Place D’Youville
If you’re looking for something a little more traditional, head to Place D’Youville in downtown Quebec City for some outdoor ice skating.
During the winter months, the public square on Rue Saint-Jean is converted into a large ice rink where you can skate laps and admire the views of Old Quebec.
It’s a great way to get outdoors and enjoy one of Canada’s classic winter activities!
The rink opens when the Christmas Markets begin in late November and stays open until mid-March, weather depending.
Skating at Place D’Youville is free, and you can bring your skates or rent a pair there for a small fee.
7. Ice Skating on the Plains of Abraham
The Plains of Abraham is another great spot to go ice skating outdoors in Quebec City.
Located just outside the old city walls, it’s one of the flattest skating areas in the region and offers great views of both Old Quebec and the St. Lawrence River.
The ice is well maintained, and there are plenty of spots to rest and take a break. There’s a snack bar on-site and skate rentals are available as well.
Skating is free but there is a charge to rent skates.
This ice skating rink is open from mid-December to March, weather depending.
8. Go Snow Tubing
Just a short drive outside the city, you’ll find Village Vacances Valcartier, which is the place to go snow tubing in Quebec. In addition to the Ice Hotel, mentioned above, Valcartier is also home to the largest winter playground in North America.
Hop on a large inner tube and ride down the hill at this fantastic winter play area. There’s a few different snow slides, ranging from moderate to extreme, as well as snow rafting and skating.
At night, glide along the kilometre-long illuminated skating path or skate the day away while listening to music.
9. Hit the Slopes at Mont-Sainte-Anne
Located about 45 minutes from downtown, Mont-Sainte-Anne is one of the best ski resorts near Quebec City and a great place to get out on the slopes.
With slopes of all difficulty levels, it’s a great spot for skiers of all abilities. There’s a ski school for those just starting out, and mogul slopes and difficult runs for more advanced skiers.
You can also go snowboarding, as well as cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. Equipment can be rented onsite.
Other nearby slopes to go skiing include Stoneham Mountain Resort, Le Massif and Le Relais, the latter which is the smallest, but also the closest to Quebec City and only a 15 minute drive away.
10. Ride the Funicular
Summer or winter, taking a ride on the funicular is one of the best things to do in Quebec City.
The funicular takes you up the steep incline from the Lower Town to the Upper Town and offers great views of the city along the way.
It’s a quick 3 minute ride and one that you won’t forget!
11. Explore Quartier Petit Champlain
No matter the season, Quartier Petit Champlain is one of Quebec City’s most charming districts.
Located in the Lower Town, Petit-Champlain is the oldest shopping street in Quebec City. In the winter, it’s especially beautiful when the buildings are covered in a blanket of snow.
Stroll through the cobblestone streets, explore the boutiques filled with local arts and crafts, and stop for a snack at one of the many cafes and restaurants.
It’s hard not to feel like you’re in Europe here!
12. Experience Village Nordik
For one of the most unique things to do in Quebec City in the winter, why not try your hand at ice fishing?
Village Nordik in the Port of Quebec has inflatable igloos where you can stay warm while ice fishing.
There’s also music, family play areas and other activities to keep you entertained. It’s a great way to experience the winter and get a taste of traditional Quebec culture.
Village Nordik runs from February 10 to March 12, 2023.
13. Ride the Ferry to Lévis
For a great view of Quebec City, hop on the ferry from Old Quebec to Lévis.
The 12-minute ride takes you across the Saint Lawrence River for great views of the city skyline and river ice.
It’s especially spectacular after dark when the city lights up! It will be chilly but it’s worth it for the view!
14. See a Hockey Game
Watching a hockey game is a classic Canadian thing to do, and while there’s no longer an NHL team in Quebec City, you can still catch a hockey game while visiting the city.
The Remparts de Québec play in the Québec Major Junior Hockey League and are the hometown team. Check their schedule and cheer on the Remparts at the Videotron Centre!
15. Visit Montmorency Falls
When visiting Quebec City, be sure to make a trip to nearby Montmorency Falls. These impressive falls are actually higher than the world-famous Niagara Falls!
While visiting waterfalls is usually considered a summer thing to do, they’re also worth a visit in the winter when the snow and ice add to the magic of the falls.
Just be sure to bundle up!
Montmorency Falls is only 15 minutes from Quebec City. There’s plenty of parking at the base of the falls. Public transportation is available, or you take a tour from Quebec City.
Interested in trying something uniuqe?
Head to Jacques-Cartier National Park for a ski-shoeing hike!
A mix between cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, it’s sure to be unforgettable adventure!
*Not recommended for children under the age of 14.
For more information or to book your ticket, check out the tour here.
Things to Do in Quebec City in the Winter: Food and Drink
16. Indulge in Maple Taffy
Sweet and absolutely delicious, maple taffy is something you need to try when you’re in Quebec.
Made by pouring hot maple syrup on fresh snow, then dipping a popsicle stick in and rolling it up, maple taffy is an iconic Canadian winter treat.
Maple taffy can be found in many shops and stores throughout Old Quebec, and it’s a popular treat at the Winter Carnival.
17. Drink Chocolat Chaud
No winter visit to Quebec City is complete without a cup of hot chocolate.
Chocolat chaud (hot chocolate) is a classic Quebecois winter beverage and often made with real chocolate or cocoa instead of powder.
Sip a cup of hot chocolate at one of the many cafes in Old Quebec to warm up after a day of winter activities.
18. Try Poutine
No list of things to do in Quebec City would be complete without mentioning poutine. This quintessential Canadian dish consists of french fries topped with warm gravy and cheese curds. It’s oh so good and a perfect comfort food for cold winter days.
You can find poutine all throughout the city, from pubs to restaurants to fast food joints. The best poutine is said to be at Le Chic Shack, but unfortunately, it’s not gluten-free.
For those needing a GF option, try the poutine at Bistro Le Veravin.
Either way, don’t miss out on trying this iconic Canadian dish while you’re in Quebec City!
19. Taste Traditional Tourtiere
And of course you can’t visit Quebec without trying tourtière. A traditional French Canadian food, this meat pie is made with minced meat and spices, although you may find some versions with cubes of wild game.
Tourtière is a popular dish throughout Quebec during the holiday season but can also be found year-round in many restaurants. Served warm, it’s the perfect comfort to eat on a cold day.
Where to Stay In Quebec City in the Winter
Old Quebec has plenty of amazing accommodation options but there are also lots of accommodations outside of the city walls.
Staying in Old Quebec means you will be able to walk to most places, however you will need transportation for some of the things we’ve listed above that are outside the area. We recommend staying in Old Qeuebc, as you’ll be able to walk to most places. For more details on some of these hotels, check out the best hotels near Quebec Christmas Markets for families.
Chateau Frontenac is the most famous hotel in Quebec City and the most photographed hotel in the world. Located at the top of a hill, it offers spectacular views of the city and river below. The castle-like property has been around for almost 130 years, making it a true icon of Old Quebec.
Set in the heart of Old Quebec, Chateau Frontenac has a luxurious vibe and is a magical place to stay. It’s a great option for families, where kids under 18 stay for free, along with discounted meals for kids, babysitting services, and milk and cookies offered to kids at bedtime.
Hôtel Palace Royale
The Hôtel Palace Royale is a beautiful 4-star hotel nestled in the heart of Old Quebec. It’s located close to all the main Quebec City attractions, restaurants and shops in the city.
Hôtel Palace Royale offers standard rooms or suites, some with a private living area which is great when travelling with young kids. There’s also an indoor pool and garden, and parking is conveniently located underground.
Hôtel Best Western PLUS Centre-Ville
For more of a budget option, Hôtel Best Western PLUS Centre-Ville is a good choice. Just outside the city walls, but still within walking distance of Old Quebec, it offers a great price for the quality. Rooms are clean and spacious, with a mini-fridge and coffee maker. There’s an indoor pool and parking is available onsite for an additional fee.
Quebec City Winter Travel Tips
How cold is Quebec City in the winter? Winter in Quebec City is typically quite cold, especially for those not used to Canadian winters.
Temperatures are usually below freezing and can drop as low as -30°C (-22°F) in the winter months with highs around -6°C (22°F).
January and February are the coldest months, while December will see snow but temperatures won’t be as cold.
March is when temperatures start to rise and by mid-month, many winter activities in Quebec City will end.
- December -3°C/ -10°C (26°F/14°F)
- January -6°C/-13°C (20°F/6°F)
- February -4°C/-13°C (24°F/8°F)
- March 0°C/-8°C (33°F/18°F)
What to Pack
When visiting Quebec City in the winter, it’s important to dress for the weather.
Pack warm clothing such as a warm winter jacket, gloves or mitts, a warm hat (or toque as we call it in Canada), a scarf and snow pants if you’re planning on doing outdoor activities such as sledding or tubing.
Layers are key to keep you warm in the cold temperatures. These base layers from Decathlon are great for kids. For the upper body, consider a wool or silk base layer, fleece mid layer and a warm winter jacket over top.
For your feet, wool socks are a good idea, as well as warm snow boots.
And don’t forget about lip chap! Cold winter weather means it will also be dry, so be sure to take care of your lips and also moisturize anything that’s exposed to the cold.
Canada is a bilingual country and you can expect to hear French spoken throughout Quebec, so it’s helpful to know some basic French when visiting.
Many people will also speak English, especially at hotels and tourist attractions, but expect to hear French the most.
Even if you don’t speak French, many locals will appreciate you trying and will try their best to understand you as well.
Attempting a few French words, such as please (“s’il vous plaît“), thank you (“merci“), Do you speak English (“parlez-vous anglais“), will go a long way.
The currency used in Quebec City is the Canadian dollar (CAD).
Credit cards and debit cards are accepted almost everywhere, although you may find only cash is accepted at the Christmas Markets.
ATMs can be found throughout the city and there are plenty of banks where you can exchange foreign currencies.
If you plan on driving, whether your own car or a rental, it’s always important to be aware of road conditions.
Winter weather means different driving conditions and it’s a good idea to be prepared for any sort of weather.
Winter tires are mandatory from December to March (if your vehicle is registered in Quebec) and different parking regulations are in effect for the winter months (to ensure easier snow removal).
Canadian cell phone plans are not cheap and you may find that roaming charges or data plans are not cost-efficient.
Although we don’t need to worry about a SIM card in Quebec (as we’re one of the ones with the pricey Canadian cell phone plans), we do use Airalo eSIM cards when we travel, and they are a great option when visiting Canada.
How to Get to Quebec City
Quebec City can be reached by car, bus, train and plane.
Car: Quebec City is about 2.5 hours away from Montreal and 8 hours from Toronto.
Bus: There are regional buses to Quebec City from most of the major cities in Canada.
Train: Quebec City is served by VIA Rail Canada, with daily services from Montreal and Toronto.
Plane: Quebec City Jean Lesage International Airport (YQB) is the main airport serving Quebec City and the surrounding area.
Final Thoughts: Top Things to Do in Quebec City in Winter
We’ve visited Quebec City several times, both in the fall and winter, and have to say that it’s a great place to visit anytime of the year.
In fact, visiting Quebec City in the winter can be a unique and wonderful experience. Whether you’re visiting in December to experience the Christmas Markets or in February to take part in the Winter Carnaval, there’s plenty of things to do in Quebec City in the winter.
From skiing and snowshoeing to ice skating, winter festivals and more, Quebec City is a great place to explore in the winter. Be sure to dress warm and enjoy!