13 Feb Hotel de Glace: Sleeping in an Ice Hotel in Quebec
We lie in bed with nothing but a tiny portion of our faces exposed. Our breath creates a cloud of steam when it touches the icy air. The walls surrounding us are made of snow, and the bed beneath is made of ice. Inside, the temperatures hover around 23°F (-5°C), but outside, the temperatures fall to a chilling -5°F (-20°C). Staying overnight at the Ice Hotel in Quebec City is an adventure, indeed.
We booked a last-minute winter trip to Quebec City, and I knew one thing was for sure. There’s no way we could leave without staying in the Hotel de Glace, so that was the number one item on our itinerary for the long weekend.
Hotel de Glace is the only ice hotel in North America, and its design utilizes nothing but ice and snow. It’s a spectacular sight to say the least. The hotel houses 45 rooms, as well as a bar, slide, chapel and plenty of ice sculptures.
Each year, the hotel has to be constructed completely from scratch, and because of this, a new theme and design is developed year after year. In 2019 (the 19th year of operation), the theme is Hotel Gardens.
It takes around 55 days to build the 32,000 square foot hotel, but the open season only lasts around 75 days or so between January and March. Hotel de Glace opened to visitors just a week before our mid-January visit. It wasn’t 100% completed at the time of our arrival, but the majority of the rooms were finished and everything but the ice slide was up and running. Lucky for us, the timeframe of our stay was considered “low season”—it practically felt like we had the place to ourselves, and it was quite a bit cheaper, too!
So, what was it really like to stay overnight in a hotel made of ice? Read on to find out!
Check-In and Orientation
The Hotel de Glace is located on the property of Hotel Valcartier, which is a short 20-minute drive from the heart of downtown Quebec City. Check-in for your night in the ice hotel begins at 4 p.m. at the front desk of Hotel Valcartier. Even though check in is at 4 p.m., you don’t have access to your ice hotel room until 9 p.m. as the hotel is open for daytime tours prior to this. Don’t worry though, you will have somewhere to go in the meantime—in addition to your room in the ice hotel, you will also receive a room in the main hotel. The extra room is there for shower/bathroom access, for you to store your luggage, and to have a warm place for you to change. Plus, if you don’t want to sleep in your ice room all night, you have a warm room to retreat to at any time!
During the check-in process, the front desk staff will give you a briefing on what to expect during your stay, keys for your room in the hotel, a map of your room in the ice hotel, keys for the outdoor hot tub/sauna area, and Hotel de Glace access tags to attach to your jacket. You will also have to sign up for a mandatory orientation session to learn about sleeping in the ice hotel.
Our orientation session took place about 45 minutes after we checked in. The orientation covered a variety of safety procedures for staying in the ice hotel, rules to follow, activities available, and everything you need to know about sleeping in a room made of ice. They go over the type and amount of clothing you should wear to bed, and how to set up and get in your sleeping bag. By the time the session is complete, all your questions should be answered! But there is always staff nearby in case you think of a question or need help with something later, too.
Hotel Valcartier Rooms
Before heading out to the ice hotel, we settled into our room at Hotel Valcartier. As I mentioned, you get a room in this hotel the same night as your ice hotel reservation. We stayed in a king suite, which included a super comfortable king bed, a murphy bed/couch, robes, and a desk. It was so nice to have a warm place to store our luggage, and a spot to warm up between outdoor activities.
If you want to extend your stay and book an extra night before or after the ice hotel night, you will receive a 20% discount on a room. We decided to stay an extra night to partake in some of the other adventures that the property offers: snow tubing and a water park. It was a great decision!
Hotel de Glace Rooms
Hotel de Glace offers several different room types, all at a different price point. You can pick from a basic room, a theme suite, a suite with a fireplace, or a deluxe suite with a fireplace and private hot tub/sauna. We opted to stay in one of the basic no-frills rooms which includes a simple bed and nightstand. The low season price of $349 CAD (roughly $262 USD) was already a splurge for us, so we couldn’t justify spending even more on a suite.
However, if you have some extra cash to spend, the suites were absolutely stunning. Either way, be sure to peek inside every room possible. Each suite in the hotel is designed by an artist and has a completely unique design and layout. Our favorites had features such as a Japanese garden, a garden gnome, stained glass murals, and giant mushrooms.
No matter which room you end up in, be aware that none of the rooms have doors. Instead, you will find a heavy curtain at the entrance to your room. I was a bit bothered by this initially, but once we got settled in for the night, I was shocked how homey and secure our little ice cave felt. You will have exclusive access to your room from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m., so don’t worry about people disturbing you. The only people allowed near the rooms after 8 p.m. are overnight guests.
Amenities & Activities
When staying at the ice hotel, you have the option of several different perks and activities. One of my favorite perks was the hot tub and sauna area under the stars—it is accessible only to overnight guests and the perfect way to warm up before bed. Grab your robe from your hotel room and make your way outside for a heavenly soak. There’s nothing quite like sitting in a steaming hot jacuzzi when the air surrounding you is well below freezing!
Another perk you will receive? A welcome cocktail served in a glass made of ice! All you need to do is present your voucher to the bartender and you will be sipping on an icy concoction in no time. The ice bar is open late into the night and during our visit club music was playing the entire time. There is plenty of room for you to dance (if you are into that sort of thing), and there are also several booths made of ice to relax in.
You also have the opportunity to carve your own mini-ice sculpture. After a quick introduction to ice carving, we were set loose to chip away at our own block of ice. It was so much fun to create art with ice but let me tell you…it is not easy! I attempted to make a heart with my block of ice, and Micah ended up making a cup out of his.
The ice slide wasn’t open for the season during our visit, but it was getting close and sure looked like fun! We got to peek at the slide while it was being worked on, and from the sounds of it, it was only a few days away from opening.
Also, if you feel like having a wedding during your stay, you are in luck! There are a variety of wedding, elopement, proposal, and vow renewal packages offered with ceremonies taking place right in the chapel.
Sleeping in a Room of Ice
The questions we have been asked most about our night sleeping in a room made of ice are “Wasn’t it freezing and did you even sleep?!”
Our answers: we did in fact sleep, and no it wasn’t cold in our sleeping bags at all!
The beds are made of blocks of ice and then topped with a wood base and comfortable mattress. No matter what the temperature is outside, the temperatures in the room stay between 23°F and 27°F (-5°C and -3°C). So, with sleeping bags built for temperatures between 5°F to 22°F (-15°C and -30°C), we actually stayed warm all night long. Micah even had to shed a layer of clothing during the night as he got too warm!
In addition to the warm sleeping bag, we were also provided with an isolating bed sheet and a pillow. All of our gear was delivered to our room by 9 p.m., so any time after that we were able to cozy up and call it a night. We each received a big black bag that was stuffed with all of our gear.
After spending the evening carving ice, sipping on drinks from ice glasses, ogling the ice sculptures, and soaking in the outdoor hot tubs, we finally decided to go to bed around midnight. We changed into our pajamas in our hotel room (which were basically non cotton long johns, a fleece, and wool socks) and made our way down to our room of ice. We made sure to follow the instructions we learned in orientation to a T. We shook out our sleeping bags, stored our boots and jackets as instructed, and jumped into our sheets. Then, it was time to crawl into our sleeping bag and zip ourselves up like mummies.
It took me a while to fall asleep (I typically go to bed way later than midnight!), and Micah was a bit claustrophobic in his sleeping bag. Other than that, we slept pretty well! We were surprised how quiet the rooms were—all the ice and snow must have been a pretty good noise insulator. The only sounds I could hear were people’s boots crunching on the snow when someone happened to walk past our room.
We had to be out of our room by 9 a.m. the following morning. I was worried that I would oversleep if I made it through the night, but thankfully, they have a wakeup call starting at 8 a.m. Apparently, numerous people have trouble waking up in the morning because they sleep so well—how crazy is that?! We didn’t end up staying in our room until 9 a.m., but we did sleep surprisingly well until sometime after 5 a.m. It was an experience for the books and we loved the entire crazy process.
Ice Hotel FAQS: Things to Know About Your Stay
- Hotel de Glace is open January through March, weather depending.
- Don’t want to stay overnight in the chilly accommodations? Visit for the day and take a tour of the property instead.
- Check in at HotelValcartier starts at 4 p.m., and you have exclusive access to your Hotel de Glace room from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m.
- You get a hotel room inside at Hotel Valcartier, which is great for showering, storing your bags, and having a warm place to relax. You can also sleep here if you don’t want to sleep in the ice hotel all night!
- Orientation is mandatory before you can stay in the ice hotel. The orientation session covers topics such as what to wear to sleep, how to properly use the sleeping bag, emergency procedures, and more.
- There are portable toilets outside at the ice hotel, but you can also go inside to your room if you need to use the restroom.
- Overnight guests have access to a sauna and hot tub under the stars, which is perfect for warming up your internal temperature before bed. The Nordic Area is open from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m.
- A cocktail served in an ice glass is included with your overnight stay.
- Access to the on-site ice skating path is included in your room package. You also receive a 10% discount on other on-site activites such as the tubing park, the water park, and the thermal experience and massages at the Aroma Spa. If you’d like to stay an extra night at Hotel Valcartier before or after your night in the ice hotel, you will receive a 20% discount on your room, as well.
- Make sure to leave your cotton pajamas at home and pack wool or synthetic fabrics. Cotton will soak up moisture and make you cold when you sleep.
- Before you head to the hotel, check out the Hotel de Glace preparation guide to ensure you are ready for your stay. The guide covers items such as what to wear, orientation, check-in and more.
Would you (or have you) stayed in a hotel made of ice?!
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