Baby it’s cold outside, but that’s no reason to stay indoors. Quebec City comes alive in the winter, with festivals and attractions that will make you forget all about the chill. Whether it’s watching people fly down a track on ice skates or going to bed in an ice hotel, the city’s hottest winter events will leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy.
The Quebec Winter Carnival
Ice carving, dogsled races, and maple syrup are all key elements of the world’s largest winter celebration: the Quebec Winter Carnival.
The carnival comprises 17 days of non-stop festivities. Feel the excitement as canoes race through snow and ice-choked water across the St. Lawrence River and back. Watch artists from 30 international teams compete in creating giant, fantastical sculptures from a remarkable 360 tonnes of ice. Stare in wonder as a dogsled race speeds through the narrow, snowy streets of the Old City.
Or, if you’d rather, just keep it casual on a carriage ride through cobblestone streets. Tap your feet to fiddle music to keep warm outside a towering palace made of ice. Smell the sugary aroma of warm maple syrup and stop in for a sample. Ice skate in the shadows of the ramparts of the only walled city north of Mexico, then stroll streets lit by Victorian lamps before dining in a cosy gourmet restaurant on local Quebec specialities.
The Quebec Winter Carnival is big enough that there’s always some new experience to try. So put on your woolly hat—or toque as the locals call them—and come and get a hug from mascot Bonhomme Carnaval.
Jamboree is a huge snowboard and skiing festival that takes place right in downtown Quebec City. You can walk a few blocks from your hotel and come across massive snow jumps that have been built next to the road.
The highlight of Jamboree is the Big Air World Cup, during which some of the world’s best riders try to perform groundbreaking tricks high above the crowd. Even if snowboarding isn’t your thing, you can join in the party. Last year, Jamboree hosted Igloofest, a one-night outdoor party during which spectators don crazy winter outfits and dance the night away in the snow.
The Hôtel de Glace (Ice Hotel)
Sleeping on ice takes on a new, much more positive meaning at the fairytale-like Hôtel de Glace. Located 20 minutes north of downtown Quebec City, this is the only ice hotel in North America, and has provided guests with the story of a lifetime for the last 16 years. An astounding 30,000 tonnes of snow and 500 tonnes of ice are used to make the hotel and its 44 theme rooms and suites each winter.
Step inside what feels like a glacier and marvel at its majestic lobby where statues, columns—even chandeliers—are made of ice. Keep your mittens on as you pick up a champagne flute made from ice to sip sparkling ice cider. Spend an hour in the outdoor spas and sauna, and then head to your room where the walls are ice, the ceiling is ice, and, yes, the bed is also ice.
Even if you’re going to have to layer up to stay warm, there really is no other experience quite like a night in the Hotel de Glace. Between January and March, drop by for a visit, create and event, get married or spend the night in this work of art.
It really doesn’t feel like the holidays until those coloured lights start shining. Festi Lumière takes care of that in extreme fashion.
This light festival, hosted by the Quebec Aquarium, uses more than 500,000 lights to create a magical display through trees and ice sculptures. You’ll walk along an outdoor path through “the Enchanted Forest,” gazing at so many reds, greens, blues, and yellows that you’ll forget that it’s night time. The Festi Lumière also has an outdoor bar, fire pits to keep you warm, and music to get you dancing. A great, casual event to enjoy a winter night in Quebec City.
Quebec City’s German Christmas Market
A little taste of Germany right at the town hall? That’s what on the menu at the annual Quebec City German Christmas Market.
A small village of wooden kiosks appears each year outside of the town hall, with the entire area covered in Christmas decorations and lights. As you walk through the market you’ll smell bratwurst cooking, taste mulled wine and gingerbread, and hear choral singing as you browse a variety of Christmas-themed gifts and souvenirs. Stop for a drink at the Lufthansa WinterBar and don’t forget to say hello to the man in the big red suit. The entire event is “exquisitely European.”