25 Jan A Photo Essay: Winter in Quebec City, Canada
It was a cold winter day in Minnesota. We were thinking about taking a last-minute break somewhere warm, so I was browsing flights. We had been to Alaska the past two winters, so we weren’t in the mood for another winter to winter escape. I started playing around with the “fly anywhere within ___” option on Google Flights. I worked my way through searching the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, and so on. When I saw Quebec City pop up on my screen with a fairly cheap flight option, I felt a sudden urge to snatch it up. Why? I really have no idea. It certainly wasn’t an escape to anywhere warm, but I tried to convince Micah that it would be a good idea. And, that we should probably stay in the ice hotel while we are at it. We could always go somewhere warm next time, right? He surprisingly agreed. And with that, a winter trip to Canada was on the books for the upcoming weekend.
Our agenda consisted of lots of winter adventures with a few inside activities thrown in for good measure. We wandered the magical and snowy streets of Quebec City, sipped coffee and hot chocolate in cozy cafes, ducked into basement pubs with roaring fireplaces, tobogganed down a giant hill right in the city, ate too many delicious meals, got our wellness on with massages and accommodations in a monastery, slept in a hotel made of ice, worked our way through a Nordic spa cycle, and flew down hills and slides at both an outside winter tubing park and an inside water park. It was a packed long weekend to say the least. Here’s a look at our trip in photos:
The streets of Quebec City are so pretty! Our visit was just after the new year, so there were still a lot of holiday decorations lingering around town. Pair that with a heavy coating of snow and it’s a magical sight. We loved walking along Quartier Petit Champlain with its cobblestone streets and historic architecture.
One of the most iconic sights in the city is the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac. The hotel was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway and was one of the “first grand railway hotels” in the country. It looks like a giant castle and overlooks the river while towering over the rest of the city.
Quebec City is the only remaining walled city north of Mexico in North America. Throughout most of our visit the temps were around 0ºF (-17ºC), but that didn’t keep us inside. We spent many, many hours wandering around the historic city streets despite the chilly weather—we just couldn’t get over the sparkling city lights.
When we needed a break from the cold, we would duck into a coffee shop or a cozy pub to warm up. One of our favorite pubs was L’Oncle Antoine with its roaring fireplace. The pub is located in a stone cellar in the basement of one of the oldest houses in the city.
L’Oncle Antoine is located close to the beautiful street, Petit Champlain, so on our way back to our hotel, we couldn’t resist stopping for a few more photos. Isn’t it gorgeous?!
Speaking of hotels, for the first three nights of our visit, we based ourselves at Le Monastère des Augustines, which is a monastery that has been converted into a hotel and wellness facility. There are several Augustinian nuns still living on site, and the focus of the property is sustainability, wellness, and health. You can stay in a traditional room like the ones the nuns live in, or you can stay in an updated contemporary room like the one we stayed in. There are a variety of programs and activities to participate in during your stay, such as yoga classes, meditation classes, massages, healthy and organic meals, and more. Breakfast is served in silence and quietness is encouraged throughout the hotel. You can even leave your electronic devices at the front desk if you really want to disconnect during your stay.
We didn’t have a chance to participate in any of the classes during our visit, but we did enjoy our silent breakfasts in the morning. We also indulged in a massage to help us relax and unwind. It was one of the best massages I’ve ever had.
There is also a museum and church on the property where you can learn about the life and the history of the nuns at the monastery. Admission to the museum is included with your stay, so we had to stop in for a look around. It was interesting to learn more about the facility we called home for a few days, and we loved learning about how the monastery gives back to the community, even today.
We also popped into the Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Québec. The cathedral is a national historic site and the inside is stunning with its intricate gold designs.
Quebec City is filled with steep streets around what felt like every corner. One way to avoid a hike up hills and stairs? Take the Funicular that connects upper town and lower town. It climbs along its tracks at a 45-degree angle and it’s a fun way to give your legs a break.
The Toboggan Slide Au 1884 is one of the oldest attractions in Quebec. It is located next to Chateau Frontenac, and you can reach speeds of up to 70 km/hr while flying down the three icy runs. We tobogganed down the hill a couple of times and I have to report that it was an absolute blast!
After flying down the toboggan run, we ducked into Café La Maison Smith for a hot chocolate topped with whipped cream. This coffee shop has a few different locations around town, and it quickly became one of our favorite spots to go for a coffee warmup.
There are so many great restaurants in Quebec City, but unfortunately, during our early January visit, many of the restaurants on our list were closed for winter break. I was bummed we couldn’t try Le Billig, Tournebroche, and a couple of others, but we did find plenty of delicious spots to try instead. One of our favorites was Le Chic Shack where we indulged in burgers and poutine (aka french fries covered in gravy and cheesecurds).
Cantook Micro Torrefaction was another great coffee shop. They roast their coffee in house and have a wide range of brews to pick from.
After eating too many meals of poutine (seriously, we couldn’t stop…it did originate in Quebec after all!), we switched it up and went out for Italian at Sapristi. Micah got a pizza and I had the beef stroganoff—both were wonderful!
L’Atelier is another restaurant that we enjoyed. It was recommended to us by a friend and is a popular spot for its innovative cocktails!
I can never resist a good French bakery, so Pailard Café-Boulangerie was another necessary stop. We stopped in twice: once for coffee and pastries and another time for breakfast.
After a couple of days wandering around the city, we made our way north for more relaxation at the Siberia Station Spa. It is a Nordic spa where you are encouraged to enjoy the thermal cycle of hot, cold, and warm stations (similar to a spa we visited in Winnipeg, called Thermea). The hot stations are a combination of saunas and hot tubs, and the cold stations are cold pools with waterfalls or a dip in the river. The warm stations are hammocks or chairs in relaxation zones such as yurts or igloos, many of which have toasty warm fireplaces nearby. There is a café and spa onsite, and it’s the perfect place to go for a relaxing afternoon even in the winter!
The first portion of our trip was filled with relaxation and rejuvenation, so we figured we needed a bit more adventure to close out our visit. Our next stop was the Hotel de Glace, aka the only ice hotel in North America! The entire hotel is made of snow and ice and the design is nothing short of amazing.
Each room has a unique design, one more beautiful than the next. Some of the rooms have fireplaces, too, but we just stayed in a basic room to save a few bucks. We figured we could tour the hotel and we wouldn’t see the designs when we were sleeping anyways. As far as sleeping goes, every guest is provided with an extremely warm sleeping bag. Most people wonder if it’s too cold to actually sleep in the rooms, but we were surprised to say we stayed super warm. Micah even had to shed a couple of layers once he was wrapped up in his bag.
In addition to the hotel rooms, there is also an ice bar (with glasses made of ice!) and ice chapel on site. We were simply in awe every time we walked into the building.
The ice hotel is located on the Hotel Valcartier property, and when you stay in the Hotel de Glace, you thankfully get a room at the regular hotel, too. That way, you can store your bags, shower, and sleep if you want to come in from outside. The hotel is also home to a spa, water park, outdoor winter tubing, and several restaurants. We stayed an extra night at the Hotel Valcartier on our last night in town. We wanted to check out the largest winter playground in North America, so it made sense to stay put. In the summer, the hotel is home to a giant water park, but in the winter, the hills and slides turn into snow tubing slides. There are over 35 slides to fly down and we had an absolute blast on the slopes!
There is also an indoor waterpark open year-round called the Bora Parc. After a day on the slides outside, we figured we had to check out the indoor variety, as well. The Bora Parc was a ton of fun, too, and we loved the lazy river, surf wave, and multitude of waterslides.
On our way back to the airport, we encountered some sketchy roads and lots of snow—such is winter I suppose! Thankfully, we left early enough and didn’t run into any problems. Our long weekend in Quebec was one for the books with a fantastic mix of relaxation and adventure!
Have you ever been to Quebec? Would you visit during the winter?