Embrace Winter’s Magic in Québec City
Vieux Québec (Old Québec) wears its holiday clothing of lights and decorations proudly, creating an Old World ambience in a vibrant urban setting. The bright aroma of pine boughs mingles with the comforting fragrance of freshly made croissants. Bells jingle as shoppers enter European-inspired boutiques with a friendly “Bonjour.” And throughout the quartier, cafés and restaurants welcome locals and visitors to warm up with a chocolate chaud or café au lait.
Instead of dreading the turn of the season, embrace it with a weekend getaway to Québec City. A destination that is a pure delight any time of year, this city becomes an even more magical place when it transforms into a winter wonderland of adventure, culture, festivals and food.
For anyone looking for the ultimate winter escape, here’s what’s hot in Québec City this winter:
Modeled after the Christmas markets in Munich and Vienna, Québec City’s version is located in Place de l’Hôtel de Ville in the heart of Old Québec. Wander the stalls to see all sorts of wooden toys and decorations, candles, gingerbread cookies so beautiful you won’t want to eat them, Canadian gourmet terroir products and more. Sample glühwein (German mulled wine), bratwurst and pretzels, and listen to carolers singing their way through the square.
Why celebrate the New Year on one day only when you can do it for an entire week? The Grande Allée in Old Québec boasts activities for all ages, from a ferris wheel and urban zipline, to outdoor bars and heated terraces. The fête culminates with a free party on the 31st, complete with fireworks celebrating 2017, Canada’s 150th birthday.
Playing in the snow has never been so much fun! During Carnaval, streets play host to a variety of activities. Watch as artists construct snow castles and carve ice sculptures, tag in for a game of giant foosball, and cheer on the competitors in the annual ice canoe races. While the festival’s mascot, Bonhomme, is a favorite of children, Carnaval can be likened to the famous events in Rio and New Orleans—and is often just as rowdy. Dance the night away in a huge, igloo-shaped dome and enjoy late night treats at the marshmallow bar.
This world cup of big air and slopestyle in snowboarding and freestyle skiing is held at two sites, one in the city’s trendy downtown neighborhood of Nouvo St.-Roch and the other at the Stoneham Ski Resort, just north of the city. The four-day event features riveting snowboard and ski competitions over wild courses, with over 200 competitors racing, jumping and flipping for the gold. Beginners can sign up for skiing and snowboarding lessons, and everyone is invited to shop top brands at the Expo Village for new equipment to take home.
In addition to these grands festivals, Québec City is the perfect playground for anyone looking to experience a winter like none other. Try quintessential Canadian activities like snow kiting, ice canyoning, ice canoeing and backcountry skiing.
Take a ride up (or down) on the Funicular tram that runs between the upper and lower towns. You’ll get a lovely view of the St. Lawrence River and the French-style rooftops below. Stop by the Place Royale for a look back in time at this cradle of French civilization in North America. The nearby Quartier Petit-Champlain is the perfect place to search for souvenirs as it’s both picturesque (imagine narrow cobblestone streets tracing a European-style village) and filled with vibrant shops. If you can only make it to one spot in the entire city, however, stop to gape at the Hôtel de Glace, North America’s only hotel made entirely of ice and snow.
Just outside the city, Montmorency Falls Park is well worth a visit for eager adventurers. Admire the view of the waterfalls from a gondola, a suspended bridge or the stairs that climb up the side of the cliff. At a height of 272 feet, the falls are almost 100 feet higher than those in Niagara. Before you leave, stop in for a meal with a view at Le Manoir Montmorency, the restaurant adjacent to the falls that boasts beautiful views.
Speaking of meals, there are many fine restaurants to choose from in Québec City. Wherever you go, be sure to try some of the local specialties, like poutine (gravy-covered French fries with squeaky cheese), tourtière (a traditional meat pie), cretons (a cold meat spread), and tarte au sucre (sugar pie, often made with maple syrup).
Québec City is an ideal choice for a weekend away — one that will warm your heart and spirit with world-class events, culture, adventure and Canadian charm.This is a paid partnership between Destination Canada and Boston Magazine