How to Spend 3 Days in Quebec City During the Holidays
A true winter wonderland, Quebec City is one of Canada’s snowiest cities which sparkles during the holiday season. Lights strung across low rooftops, buildings decked out in festive decorations, and regular fresh flurries of snow blanketing cobblestone streets all create an enchanting atmosphere like nowhere else in North America. While average temperatures of 23°F (-5°C) mean that a December visit to Quebec is not for the faint of heart, wrap up warm and enjoy all the city’s best holiday activities, from tobogganing and ice skating to shopping at a Christmas market.
Morning: Get your bearings on a walking tour of Old Quebec
Discover what makes the holiday season in Quebec City so special on a private or small-group walking tour of the UNESCO-listed Old Quebec (Vieux-Québec). In the company of a guide, learn about its 400 years of history and soak up the festive atmosphere as you stroll the charming streets of the fortified town, including the Petit Champlain District, one of North America’s oldest shopping streets. This is a great way to get your bearings in the city, learn about its history, and get ideas for places to visit independently and spend more time afterward.
Afternoon: Tour the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac
Take shelter from the cold with a guided tour of the castle-like Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, just a few minutes’ walk from Petit-Champlain. The hotel, which overlooks the St. Lawrence River, is believed to be among the most photographed in the world and it’s especially beautiful when adorned in its holiday splendor. You’ll learn all about the storied history of the grand hotel as your guide, wearing period dress, shows you around its majestic interiors, including places that are not open to the general public—plus, a tour costs much less than staying the night. Afterward, go tobogganing on the run on Dufferin Terrace at the foot of the hotel.
Evening: Explore the German Christmas market
From late November through late December, the German Christmas Market in Old Quebec recreates the cozy festive atmosphere of its European counterparts with colorful lights and quaint wooden kiosks from which the smells of cinnamon and gingerbread waft through the crisp air. Shop for souvenirs, admire the traditional decorations, sample tasty German treats, and keep warm with a few cups of glühwein (mulled wine). The market is open all day long, but is at its most atmospheric under the twinkling lights that illuminate the dark evenings.
Morning: Ski-shoe at Jacques-Cartier National Park
Try some wintery outdoor activities such as ski-shoeing (a mix between cross-country skiing and snowshoeing) and traditional cross-country skiing in Jacques-Cartier National Park, which is just a 40-minute drive from Quebec City. If you don’t have your own transportation, you can take a half-day, small-group tour that departs from the center of Quebec City. Tours typically include ski-shoeing instruction and gear, as well as lunch and hot drinks to keep you warm as you follow your guide along snowy trails and through the forest.
Afternoon: Sample the city’s best flavors on a food tour
Back in the city, refuel by embarking on a small-group food tour. In the company of a guide who will fill you in on the city’s multicultural culinary heritage, you’ll wander through the city streets while sampling the best cheeses, chocolates, pastries, apple cider, and wine that Quebec City has to offer. As you visit the local restaurants, wineries, and boutiques selling handcrafted items by local artisans, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to complete your gift and souvenir shopping list. Or, stop by the Christmas Market at Le Grand Marché, which has more than 100 vendors selling local produce.
Evening: Go ice skating at Place D’Youville
Right in the heart of Quebec City, at the St-Jean Gate to the Old City and just a stone’s throw from the Notre-Dame de Québec Basilica-Cathedral, Place D’Youville transforms into a giant ice skating rink in the winter months.The rink is even equipped with a refrigeration system that guarantees an excellent ice surface, even in less than freezing temperatures. Open from morning through evening, there’s always a festive atmosphere and it's the perfect place to soak up the ambiance of Old Quebec. Afterward take a stroll to Avenue Cartier to see the lights decorating the storefronts.
Morning: Explore the Ice Hotel
Around a 30-minute drive north of Quebec City, you’ll find the famed Ice Hotel (Hôtel de Glace), a 44-room building constructed entirely from snow and ice—the only one of its kind in North America. If you don’t have your own transportation, you can either visit as part of a guided tour of Quebec City or book a round-trip transfer (with included admission) and embark on a self-guided tour to see the rooms, suites, and ice sculptures, before enjoying a cocktail served in a glass made of ice at the ice bar.
Afternoon: Enjoy snow sports at Valcartier Vacation Village
The Ice Hotel lies within the sprawling Valcartier Vacation Village (Village Vacances Valcartier), which is home to the largest outdoor winter recreational center in North America. Spend your afternoon enjoying the family-friendly Winter Playground where activities on offer include snow tubing, snow rafting, and ice skating, then refuel and warm up in one of the village’s several restaurants and bars. You can combine a visit to the Ice Hotel with an excursion to the Valcartier Vacation Village by booking a two-in-one tour from Quebec City.
Evening: Dine in Old Quebec
Cap off a great three days in Quebec City with a delicious dinner. While it’s certainly not the season for enjoying the city’s sidewalk café culture, the restaurants of Old Quebec are perhaps at their most inviting in the chilly evenings of the holiday season. The Buffet de l’Antiquaire is a classic, as well as a festive favorite, for its hearty and warming Québécois dishes. Holiday specials typically include dishes such as turkey and a traditional French-Canadian dish called Cipaille, a veal, pork, beef and potato pie. Afterward, stop into nearby Boutique de Noël for some last-minute gift shopping.
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