There’s tolerating winter, and then there’s celebrating winter. And few places embrace winter in all its splendour quite like Quebec City. Here in the capital of Canada’s only fully Francophone province, winter is a way of life. Whether you love the cold, you’re not so enthusiastic, or you’re entirely new to snow, Quebec City in winter is something you must experience at least once.
Here, you’ll find our step-by-step guide to making the most of a road trip to Quebec City in winter. From indoor and outdoor activities to great restaurants, world-class accommodations and more, this winter wonderland has so much to offer! Read to the end for our tips to ensuring your drive to Quebec City in winter is safe and enjoyable.
The best outdoor activities in Quebec City in winter
Quebec City is definitely worth visiting in winter to experience quintessential Canadian winter activities in this country’s most historic city. On average, Quebec City gets 315 centimetres or 124 inches of snow each winter. Expect to encounter typical winter conditions in Quebec City from December to February each year. Cold weather can extend as early as November and as late as March depending on conditions. That means there’s plenty of time to play in the snow amongst the city’s distinct architecture and jovial atmosphere!
Take a historic toboggan ride at Au 1884
Whether it’s your first time in Quebec City or your hundredth, your top priority should be visiting the toboggan slide at Au 1884. As of 2024, this historic attraction has been operating on Dufferin Terrace for 140 years! Tickets are just $4 per person in early 2024. You’ll have the authentic Canadian experience of dragging a wooden toboggan uphill to the top of the chute. The staff there will help you get into position for a safe descent.
Once you’re released, you’ll zip downhill at speeds of up to 70 kilometres per hour with breathtaking views of the Château Frontenac and the St. Lawrence River. Au 1884 is a Quebec City tradition that you absolutely must try for yourself!
Enjoy ice skating in Quebec City in winter
Another great activity to try in Quebec City in winter is ice skating. The skating rink at Place d’Youville is just outside the Porte Saint-Jean. This means it offers some of the most iconic views of the famous city walls. If you have your own skates, bring them with you and this activity is free of charge. Should you prefer not to drag a set around, you can also rent ice skates in the pavilion. As of January 2024, it costs $10 to rent a pair of adult skates or $5 to rent for children.
Experience Quebec City in winter by walking
If you ask us, the best way to appreciate Quebec City in winter is simply to walk around. The streets of Old Quebec are full of surprises at any time of year. But winter brings unique sights like lights shining through snow and crews shoveling on the rooftops. For your first visit at any time of year, we highly recommend seeking out a walking tour. This will help you learn more about Old Quebec and its role in establishing Canada.
Don’t forget to take at least one trip on the funiculaire. This outdoor inclined elevator travels between Dufferin Terrace and Quartier Petit-Champlain. The latter is consistently voted one of the prettiest neighbourhoods in Canada. Tickets for the funiculaire are $5 for adults. These can can only be paid for in cash, so be sure to have some Canadian or U.S. dollars on hand.
Indoor activities for extra-cold days in Quebec City in winter
No matter how cold-hardy you are, there are bound to be days in Quebec City in winter where you may want to stay huddled up inside. Fortunately, there are plenty of activities that will keep you at least partially indoors.
Citadelle de Quebec
Quebec City’s position atop Cap-Diamant made it strategically important to defence in Canada’s earliest days. If this military history interest you, consider the Citadelle de Quebec an essential stop on your itinerary. Today, the Citadelle remains an active military base and is the home of the Governor General of Canada. Admission covers access to the museum, which examines the history of the 22nd Regiment, a Francophone army regiment that served in both world wars and the Korean War. You can also see the Citadelle’s interior, but to do this you must join a one-hour guided tour. Much of this tour takes place outdoors, so be sure to dress for the weather.
Aquarium du Quebec
The best family-friendly attraction in Quebec City is the Aquarium du Quebec. With pavilions dedicated to freshwater, saltwater and deep-sea aquatic life, you’ll see dozens of fish, seahorses and jellyfish up close. Kids can interact with sea life through touch tanks and the stingray petting pool, and an underwater tunnel lets you examine see life from below!
Be sure to dress for the outdoors so you can walk between the pavilions and see the seals and polar bears. If you time your visit right, you can attend feeding sessions. Watching the seals practice their tricks is a treat! You’ll need a car to visit this attraction as it’s a 20-minute drive from the city centre, but it’s worth taking a drive to see it. Families can expect to enjoy three to four hours on site, and there’s a café serving lunch that may allow you to extend your visit even longer.
Museum of Civilization
If you’d like to learn more about Quebec history and culture, visit the Museum of Civilization (link). This dynamic museum is constantly evolving through new exhibits and displays that tell Quebec’s stories. During our January 2024 visit, we toured exhibits on Quebec’s hip hop culture, gender identity, and the province’s many and varied Indigenous peoples. New exhibits are added and updated constantly, so check the museum’s website to see what will be offered during your visit.
Warm up with great food in Quebec City in winter
According to the readers of Conde Nast Traveler, Quebec City is one of the top foodie destinations in the world. Once you’ve enjoyed a few meals here, you’ll find it’s easy to see why! From quintessential Quebecois cuisine like poutine and tartare to diverse options and world-class fine dining, Quebec City has it all.
You’re sure to find great food to enjoy in Quebec City, even if you have dietary restrictions. In that case, be sure to check out our guide on where to eat gluten-free in Quebec City, coming very soon! You’ll also find restaurants that can serve the needs of those who eat dairy-free as well as vegetarians and vegans.
Day trips from Quebec City in winter
If you have access to a car while you’re in Quebec City, you’ll have the freedom to explore further. Check out these ideas for day trips to take from Quebec City in winter during your stay.
Tour Quebec’s ice hotel, the Hôtel de Glace
Would you sleep in a bed of ice and under a roof made from snow? Quebec is one of only a handful of places around the world where you’ll have the chance! The Hôtel de Glace is constructed each year at the Village Vacances Valcartier, located roughly half an hour north of Old Quebec.
Now in its 24th year as of 2024, this amazing structure takes nearly two months to build and houses 30 hotel rooms that can be booked from early January until the hotel begins to melt in mid-March. Every year’s hotel is filled with ice sculptures celebrating different themes, and guests can enjoy an ice bar, fireplaces, and outdoor saunas and spas for an authentic northern experience.
While the hotel can be booked for overnight stays, it’s also open for tours during the day. You can combine this tour with Valcartier’s tubing hills, indoor water park, and spa to create your own perfect day trip from Quebec City.
Take a day trip to Wendake for an authentic Indigenous experience
For an authentic Indigenous experience near Quebec City in winter, drive just 20 minutes north to Wendake. This First Nation is home to the Wendat, who warmly welcome visitors to experience their culture and heritage. Wendake offers a beautiful and educational light show journey at Onhwa’ Lumina, Indigenous-inspired fine dining at Restaurant la Traite, award-winning accommodations at the Hôtel-Musée Premières Nations and more. This day trip from Quebec City encourages you to slow your pace and open your mind to the Wendat way of life.
Top tips for visiting Quebec City in winter
How should I dress for Quebec City in winter?
Whether you’re visiting Canada for the first time or you’re a winter-hardy warrior, the weather in Quebec City can surprise you. To make the most of your visit, be prepared with a warm coat, quality boots with grippy treads, and winter accessories like a hat, scarf, and thick gloves or mittens. Lined pants also help a great deal, and pack more pairs of socks than you could possibly need. Few things put a downer on a winter day faster than wet feet!
How long does it take to drive to Quebec City?
On average, a drive to Quebec City will take roughly 2 hours and 45 minutes from Montreal, 4 hours and 30 minutes from Ottawa, and 8 hours from Toronto. However, if you’re driving to Quebec City in winter, it’s important to allocate extra time. Snowstorms or icy conditions can delay your travel, sometimes significantly. Be sure to check the weather forecast so you know what to expect, and don’t plan any scheduled activities for within a few hours of your estimated arrival time.
Before you hit the road, it’s important to make sure your car is ready for winter conditions. Take a look at our checklist of 7 thinks that will prepare your car for winter road trips >
When is a good time to visit Quebec City in winter?
If you want to see Quebec City at its most vibrant, visit in late December during the holiday season or in late January during the Carnaval de Québec, Quebec’s winter carnival. Demand is higher during these periods, so your trip may be more expensive. For a quieter and more affordable experience in Quebec City in winter, try visiting in early January or later in February.
Monsieur Jean makes a perfect home base in Quebec City in winter
There are many great hotels in Quebec City, but our experience at Monsieur Jean is among the best we’ve had. The rooms are beautifully and luxuriously appointed, and they’re accented with fun details. Ducks are a running theme! The top-floor deluxe king room we stayed in has a spacious shower, a kitchenette, and a large balcony with stunning views and a fire table. Valet parking is $35 extra per day, but it’s fast and offers in-and-out privileges, so it’s well worth the cost if you’ll be on the go. The service throughout the hotel is second to none. It’s no surprise Monsieur Jean made TripAdvisor’s list of the best hotels in Canada in 2023!
2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness
For our most recent winter road trip to Quebec City, we undertook the journey in the 2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness. This is the third SUV to receive the Subaru Wilderness treatment, and it joins the larger Subaru Outback Wilderness and Subaru Forester Wilderness in the brand’s off-road ready vehicle line-up.
The Subaru Crosstrek already has plenty of winter-ready capability such as plenty of ground clearance and full-time all-wheel drive. In the Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness, this subcompact SUV’s off-road capability goes even further with an extra 1.5 centimetres of lift, standard 17-inch all-terrain tires, all-weather floor mats, and easy-clean upholstery. It also has more towing capacity than a standard Crosstrek—1,587 kilograms (3,500 pounds) versus 680 kilograms (1,500 pounds)—and can hold up to 317 kilograms (700 pounds) of static load on its upgraded roof rack.
Fuel economy is the Crosstrek Wilderness’s only real downside, which at 8.8 L/100 km combined is a fair bit higher than the rest of the Crosstrek line-up. That’s an understandable trade-off for its added capability. As the new top trim of the line-up and priced at just $1,000 more than the Limited, the 2024 Subaru Crosstrek Wilderness is a great choice for people who will benefit from the extra capability it offers.