When I traveled to Quebec, Canada a few years ago to have some winter fun at Mont-Sainte-Anne and Stoneham ski resorts (and tackle my fear of heights!) I first spent a few days getting through my list of top things to do in Quebec City in winter.
The center of Quebec City has quite a European feel to it, with walkable distances between the main sights and a historic feel to it. My ex-partner and me spent three days checking out its sights and wandering its streets. Here's what I think are some fun things to do in Quebec City.
- 10 best things to do in Quebec City in winter
- 1. Wander the Old Town
- 2. Stroll by the harbor
- 3. Learn about the history of Quebec at the Place Royal
- 4. Look for the graffiti at the Quartier Petit Champlain
- 5. Admire the view from the Terrasse Dufferin and the Promenade des Gouverneurs
- 6. Visit the Citadel of Quebec
- 7. Walk the Plaines d'Abraham
- 8. Have poutine
- 9. Visit the Ice Hotel
- 10. Go on a walking tour
- Where to stay in Quebec City
- How to get around in Quebec City
- How to get to Quebec City
- Don't forget travel insurance
10 best things to do in Quebec City in winter
1. Wander the Old Town
With its small houses and sights, Quebec's Old Town is a fun place to simply wander around. After all, it was designated UNESCO World Heritage Site for a reason! Just make sure you dress up warmly when you go in winter.
In the area, you’ll find the historic Notre-Dame de Quebec cathedral, built and rebuilt several times since the 17th century. It also has a small museum open to the public on the weekends.
There’s also the beautiful Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac, a former castle turned luxury hotel.
Visit the Chateau Frontenac
Although the Chateau Frontenac is a hotel now, it's possible to go on a one-hour tour of the castle.
While the spots you’ll get to see inside the hotel depend on availability (it is a working hotel, after all!), a visit to the historic Chateau definitely deserves a spot in your top 10 things to do in Quebec city. You’ll learn about its history, architecture, and what life in the castle used to be like back in the day. You can book a spot on a guided tour for $22.
2. Stroll by the harbor
Maybe not one of the most spectacular Quebec city sights, the Port of Quebec is still a nice place to go for a stroll.
There are a few picturesque coffee shops where you can enjoy a warm drink, grab a bite to eat and just take a break and warm up before venturing back out into the Canadian winter. Or if you’re visiting in the warmer months, a stroll around the Corridor du Litoral offers the perfect opportunity to see the cruise ships arriving to the city.
In winter, the Louise Basin where the Marina is located freezes over, creating a different kind of vibe. You can also find the Naval Museum and a Museum of Civilization nearby.
See, there are cool things to do in Quebec city in winter!
3. Learn about the history of Quebec at the Place Royal
Walk along Place Royal on your way back to the Old Town. Aside from being a cute place with fun stores, it's considered the birthplace of the French colony in North America and the perfect place for sightseeing in Quebec city.
The sheer number of quirky coffee shops and interesting bars makes the area super lively, but you’ll find more than that at the Place Royal. It’s so vibrant with culture coming not just from the architecture, but also from the many art galleries and boutiques that call the Place Royal a home.
Its interesting combination of historic French and British architecture makes the area truly special! Also, there's an interpretation center for people who want to learn more.
4. Look for the graffiti at the Quartier Petit Champlain
From the Place Royal, it's only a short walk into the Quartier Petit Champlain, probably the most quaint and European-like neighborhood of Quebec City. Here, you can find small boutiques and restaurants, a cable car taking you up to a higher part of the city and a massive mural.
Or if you’re looking for things to do at night in Quebec City, check out the Ghost Tours that take you on a spooky lantern-lit stroll to uncover the secrets of the streets of the Quartier Petit $23.
5. Admire the view from the Terrasse Dufferin and the Promenade des Gouverneurs
From the Rue de Petit Champlain, you can go up to enjoy the sights from the Terrasse Dufferin via funicular, which operates all year round from 9am to 9pm.
When you take that funicular up, you'll reach the Terrasse Dufferin by the Chateau Frontenac. It's a walkway and a viewing point that overlooks the St. Lawrence River. At the south end of the Terrasse, there's a 19th century slide from which people can slide down on their sleds in winter!
Behind those slides, lies the Promenade des Gouverneurs, a lovely path that runs high up along the riverside and takes you past the back of the Citadel of Quebec and all the way to the Plaines d'Abraham. This can be a great starting point for you to quickly access some of the places and sights that surely are in your top ten things to do in Quebec City.
If you'd rather see the city from the water than looking at the water from the city, you can go on a 90-minute river cruise along the Saint Lawrence River. And one of the most unique things to do in Quebec City at night is to take the cruise after dark — You'll get to see the city lit up and experience it in a whole new way.
6. Visit the Citadel of Quebec
The Citadel of Quebec may be over 300 years old, but it’s both an active army base with a museum and activities for visitors.
I got to walk the grounds with a guided tour and entered some of the buildings that were set up as little exhibition spaces. The museum has permanent and temporary exhibitions too. When I visited, you could also see a Changing of the Guard here, but this has been canceled for the 2022 season.
Not only is the Citadel the biggest fortress built by the British in North America, it's also home to Canada's only French-speaking infantry contingent, the Royal 22nd Regiment. You'll learn all about its history during the tour.
7. Walk the Plaines d'Abraham
The Plains of Abraham is now a large urban park on what was once a massive battlefield. Inside the park, you'll find a museum commemorating the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, walking lanes, picnic tables and – in winter – a snowshoeing area and cross-country skiing options.
8. Have poutine
I'd heard quite a few people rave about poutine when I told them I was going to Quebec but must admit it wasn't for me. Being Belgian, I see the art in preparing a proper pack of fries, but covering those fries in some kind of gravy and white, chewy cheese… Nope, I wasn't too fond of it.
Still, it's such a typical dish that you need to give it a try. You can find poutine all around the city and with all kinds of toppings but cheese with gravy is the classic combination.
If you really want to dig into Quebec cuisine (see what I did there), consider going on a food tour around the city. Many tours include several tastings in the city's top foodie neighborhoods – definitely a must do in Quebec City if you’re a foodie.
9. Visit the Ice Hotel
If you visit Quebec from early January to early March, the Hotel de Glace or Ice Hotel is a must. I didn't stay there (brrr, hell no!) but I did visit and it was worth the bus trip from the city center!
And to top it all, no visit is the same. At the end of the season, the hotel is torn down and then rebuilt again in January with a different design and theme. So even if you’ve visited the city before, the Hotel Glace will have something unique to offer, making it one of the most interesting places to go in Quebec City.
10. Go on a walking tour
We did all of the above by ourselves, but if you'd rather get a good introduction to the city, including historical information from a professional tour guide, consider going on going on this 2-hour walking tour around the city. It gets amazing reviews.
As I only had a few days in the city, I certainly didn't see it all. I didn't go to the Aquarium or spend a lot of time visiting museums and roaming the shopping streets. But I hope this post gives you an idea of a few what to do in Quebec City, Canada. I sure had fun in Quebec City!
Where to stay in Quebec City
Budget option: Hotel Chateau Bellevue
The three-star Hotel Chateau Bellevue is where I stayed on my trip to Quebec. It's located in Quebec's historical district, right by the St. Lawrence river, the Terrasse Dufferin and other sights. Its perfect location will make it easy for you to find what to do around Quebec city. WiFi is free throughout the property while breakfast and valet parking come at an extra cost.
Boutique option: Hotel Cap Diamant
This small three-star hotel offers rooms with an authentic Victorian interior and modern facilities such as air conditioning and free WiFi. A continental breakfast is included in the room price and when the weather's nice, guests can enjoy the hotel's garden. Its location in Old Quebec right next to the Citadel is ideal to enjoy a stroll in this charming historic area and keep discovering what to see in Quebec city.
Luxury option: Auberge Saint-Antoine
This four-star hotel is located in the beautiful Vieux-Port area of Old Quebec, by the river St. Lawrence and surrounded by the best places and activities in Quebec city. It offers luxurious rooms and has two on-site restaurants as well as a gym. WiFi is free throughout the property while breakfast can be booked extra.
Apartment option: Les Lofts St-Pierre by Les Lofts Vieux Québec
Les Lofts St-Pierre by Les Lofts Vieux Québec offers affordable and spacious four-star apartments right in the heart of Old Quebec. WiFi is free, toiletries are provided, and parking space is available upon request.
How to get around in Quebec City
The historical center of Quebec City is very walkable but if you'd rather save your feet or make sure you don't miss any of the most interesting things to see in Quebec City, consider getting a ticket for the sightseeing bus.
How to get to Quebec City
Quebec has an international airport that welcomes flights from all over the world. To find the best flight options from your destination, check Skyscanner.
From the airport, you can either get a taxi, bus 78, or an Uber.
If you'd like to try Uber but don't have an account yet, you can get a discount on your first ride if you create your account using my links.
Welcome Pickups is great for booking airport transfers. Their site is super userfriendly and you can cancel up to 24 hours beforehand if needed.
Winter in Quebec City is a great time to visit the city and experience all that it has to offer. From its historical places to its unique winter outdoor activities, there is something for everyone. Make sure you check out some of these amazing things to do in Quebec City in winter!
Don't forget travel insurance
No matter how well you plan your trip to Quebec, there's always something that can happen that's beyond your control. Maybe your luggage never arrives or you can fall and break something. When something like this happens, good travel insurance has you covered.
I've had ongoing travel insurance ever since I started traveling to make sure I'm covered for every trip I go on but if you travel just a few times a year, you can get insured for each trip separately too.
Don't have travel insurance yet? Check out SafetyWing. They offer super flexible plans that you can even sign up for while you're already on your trip. On top of that, they were the first travel insurance to cover COVID, and when I got COVID, they reimbursed all of my expenses without making a fuss. Their customer support team is great and I can personally recommend them.
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