Cozy, Charming, Quaint Quebec City
Quebec City Canada offers fairy-tale charm reminiscent of historic European streets. The winter season has an especially fascinating lure; the city still bustles during a snowy day, and the evenings are perfect for a snowy walk through lantern-lit streets. The Chateau Frontenac stands royally on top of the hill and you will marvel at its castle-like beauty in the backdrop of your photos. This is one of the oldest European settlements in North America, founded by Samuel de Champlain in 1608. You’re going to love exploring this cozy city, especially the history, food and shopping it has to offer. If you visit Quebec in the winter, you’ll find yourself in a winter wonderland, since there are plenty of things to do in Quebec City in the winter.
When visiting Quebec City, you’ll notice the the geography (a plateau, river and huge hill) makes the area unique. The famous Chateau Frontenac rises above on top of a hill (actually, a plateau, sometimes referred to as the promontory of Quebec). The main, and oldest parts of the city are divided: “upper-town” (Haute-Ville in French) and “lower-town” (Basse-Ville). The UNESCO World Heritage site includes both of these areas. The St. Lawrence River keeps great shops and restaurants nestled in on the banks. This river gave Quebec City its unique history, since trading allowed ships in centuries ago. We’ll show you places to visit in Quebec in upper town, lower town, across and on the river!
Top Things to do in Quebec City: Ride
Ride the Old Quebec Funicular
The views from the upper town are incredible, thanks to the height from its location on the plateau. Of course, you’ll want to explore lower town by the base of the river, so thank goodness for the funicular to connect them. The “upright” railway first opened in 1879, but don’t worry; it’s since been converted to electric and is perfectly safe. This is more than transportation to and from lower to upper parts of the downtown Quebec city. It’s just a short ride, but you’ll most definitely enjoy the view as it carries you to the bottom.
Ride the Quebec City-Levis Ferry
This river journey is one of the great things to do in Quebec City. The ferry offers spectacular views of Old Quebec City, Cap-Diamant, the Château Frontenac and Dufferin Terrace from the water. This mode of transportation is much more than a delivery from one river bank to the other! Experience life like the "Québécois" (the term for a resident of the city). You’ll find commuters and tourists alike on the ferry ride.
The winter season presents an especially fascinating ferry ride. Watch as the ferry effortlessly “plows” through the ice on the St. Lawrence river, leaving large slabs of ice behind. Dress warmly so you can sit outside on top of the ferry and get the full effect. Don’t forget to glance back at Quebec City behind you; the other side of the river lets you see it all! Even if you’re not interested in seeing the town of Levis, the ferry ride is so worth the ride over just to come right back. Plus, it’s not costly and great for Quebec sightseeing.
Top Things to do in Quebec City: Explore
Explore Old Port Market
Stroll through one of Quebec City’s most bustling spots. This is open year-round (most days 9-6). Since you may not be looking for local produce to travel home with, you can still find arts and crafts. During the winter, many of the stands participate in the “Christmas Market.” The snow on the streets , the warmth of the people, and the wine in your hand will inspire you to take home some handcrafted souvenirs.
Stroll on Dufferin Terrace
Located on the top of the hill along the Chateau Frontenac, this promenade offers some great views during all seasons in Quebec. In the winter, you'll still see couples bundled up on a park bench overlooking the sights below. From that spot on the edge of the railing, you can watch the ferries and the old town city lights below.
Explore Old Quebec
This is one of the “musts” for things to see in Quebec City. Stroll down the narrow winding streets, past the quaint stone buildings. Old-time wooden signs, lanterns and twinkling lights line the way. Stop in one of the charming cafes, or artisan shops (there’s a neat glass-blowing shop with beautiful trinkets). This neighborhood, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, includes some famous Quebec tourist attractions: The Citadel, Quartier Petit-Champlain, and the Notre-Dame Basilica.
Explore Petit-Champlain District
Whether you’re here for the day or visiting for a week, this is definitely one of the important things to see in Quebec City. You’ll want to spend lots of time in this incredibly quaint neighborhood. In the winter, the snow nestles in around doorways, and gives a quiet wonder to the boutiques, bistros, cafes and bars. You’ll see some of the colony's first houses, and you’ll feel cozy with the old stone and wood storefronts along the narrow streets.
Top Things to do in Quebec City: Experience the History
Tour the Citadel
You’ll find the Citadel on the southern end of Old Quebec. It’s actually still an active military base, but the soldiers will take you on a guided tour, for a fee. The museum, grounds and tour are open through the winter.
Check out the Notre-Dame Basilica
This church will teach you that it’s about what’s on the inside that counts. Though the exterior isn’t anything over-the-top, you’ll be glad we told you to check out the inside. Attend a mass, just step inside or take a tour. You can even tour the crypt: spooky! The neo-Baroque interior is quite impressive. The cathedral stood proudly in the middle of Old Quebec since 1647. You’ll want to stop inside during your trip, since it’s one of the Quebec City points of interest.
Tour the Morrin Centre
This stately-looking building was formerly a prison, but now serves as a cultural center. Tour guides through here love to impress you with interesting stories, and they’ll show you the Victorian-style old library, old-time chemistry center, and the workings of the old prison. If you’re looking to take a break from wandering the snowy streets, spend an afternoon in here! It’s one of many great tourist attractions in Quebec, and it’s often not very crowded!
Check out the Fortifications of Quebec National Historic Site
Check out the power displayed in the stone structures that defended Quebec long ago. The blue-green pointed caps rest on stone walls of these fortresses. The area makes great photo backdrops, and are just nice to walk near. The guided tours are available through the end of October, but these neat walls, gates and turrets are cool to see anytime.
Visit the Museum of Civilization
This museum is set up well and exhibits have interesting contents and topics. It’s about the history of human society in Quebec. This museum does a good job engaging you with the various exhibits. It’s a smaller museum, but worth it, especially for the small entry fee. The architecture is modern and neat, so it's enjoyable to walk through.
Top Things to do in Quebec City: Dine and Drink
Try an Old Quebec Food Tour
This tour is a double-whammy for best things to do in Quebec City. You’ll get to walk the city, AND taste some scrumptious food along the way. You’ll taste local specialities, of course, inspired by French flavors. Often the neat part about food tours (besides the great food) is the company you’ll make as you journey and dine together. Tours Voir Quebec does a great job providing you with an authentic Quebec dining experience!
Grab a drink
You’ll want to cozy up in Old Town Quebec, snuggled in a bar with the snow falling outside. There’s a good amount of microbreweries in the area, so try out some of those beers at these places. These bars/restaurants are located in a great setting, and offer excellent options for an authentic Quebec experience.
Enjoy a fancy tea at the Chateau Frontenac
Dress up a little bit (dress code is “smart casual”) and feel like royalty while you sip on tea in a castle-like atmosphere. You’ll pay in advance, and you’ll need to make a reservation. Afternoon tea is available Thursday through Sunday from 2:00pm to 3:30pm. For the price, you’ll get tea, scones, sandwiches and other treats. The afternoon tea is a great chance to get to be inside one of the iconic Quebec attractions. The chateau isn't technically a castle, but you’ll be impressed with the grandeur and elegance. As if you need extra reason to visit one of the most important places in Quebec, the Chateau Frontenac turns 125 in 2018! Check out the hotel's website to make a reservation here.
Top Things to do in Quebec City: Play
Ride the Snow Toboggan Slide
This is probably our favorite part of winter in Quebec City! There’s actually a huge ice slide where you can load up with four friends in a toboggan sled. The slide is open from mid-December to mid-March. Even if you’re not up for the potentially 40-mph adrenaline rush, it’s still fun to watch both adults and children laughing and sliding. The wooden track with hanging lights will entice you to come play.
Experience the Quebec City Winter Carnival
This is one of the world’s largest winter carnivals, and the snowy, yet cozy destination makes a perfect playground. All ages will enjoy the ice canoe race, night parades, snow slides, ice skating, snow sculptures. The area bustles with visitors in town for this famous Quebec attraction. Add this to your must-see list of things to do in Quebec City. 2018 winter carnival dates are January 26- February 11.
Stroll in wonder during the Lights Festival
Quebec City knows how to create a perfect holiday atmosphere. The snowy streets are already a winter wonderland for most of the season, but the festival of lights boosts the whole celebration. The main Lights Festival happens at the very end of December through the first week of January, but they host other times during the winter season in Quebec City. You’ll enjoy the festive music while you stroll through trees and shapes all lit up. Plus, there’s even outdoor bar and fire pits! Check in with events here to find out locations and times.
All things considered, Quebec City should most definitely make it on your list of incredible travel destinations. Take some extra days off around the holidays, and you'll be especially amazed at the beauty Quebec City in the winter has to offer you. With plenty of things to do in Quebec City, you'll have a great time.
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