Quebec City is often cited as a slice of Europe in North America. As one of the earliest settled cities in Canada, founded by Samuel de Champlain in 1608, the buildings, history and gastronomy bring back old-world Québec. I’m rounding up 10 things to do in Quebec City in a weekend, as well as the reasons why it’s the most romantic city in Canada.
In this post, I am wearing a Club Monaco Daylina coat in grey, La Canadienne waterproof Jojo Boots, a Senreve mini Maestra bag in Blush, a cashmere Halogen infity scarf, a white wool beret and jeans from Topshop.
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10. Visit Quartier Petit Champlain
Located below the hill along the water, Quartier Petit Champlain is very charming. You can take a funicular down the hill, or take the classic break neck stairs (my preferred method) to access the streets. Even deep into January, Christmas decorations, fairy lights and cozy fires dot the scenery. I enjoyed checking out the shops in this neighbourhood, and took home a lovely sweater from Caméléon, a contemporary ladies’ fashion store that stocks local and Scandinavian designers.
It’s very easy to navigate the linear streets, but I love that with each street, you can discover a new restaurant, shop or landmark. I suggest going both late at night (more on that further in this post) or early in the morning to avoid the crowds.
9. Stay next to the Chateau Frontenac
On this trip to Quebec City, it was paramount that we stay in Old Quebec. The fortified walls around the city date back to the 17th Century, and many of the old buildings and hotels remain. We were tempted to stay in the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac itself (Janaury is a great time to go with low hotel rates), but we did even better and booked a lovely hotel with a view of the Chateau! It was incredibly romantic waking up to this beautiful view and being able to walk around the Chateau and Terrasse Dufferin. Did you know that the Château Frontenac is the most photographed hotel in the world?
We stayed at Manoir Morgan, a boutique hotel that was newly renovated. Parking was offsite in an underground garage (which is expected at any central, European city), and a delicious, Québecois breakfast was included! I couldn’t recommend this hotel enough for the convenience and location.
I also recommend stopping by Chateau Frontenac to see the lovely lobby, resident dog for cuddles and perhaps a drink at one of their iconic dining spaces.
8. Indulge in local Quebec food
A few highlights from our Quebec trip included an INCREDIBLE romantic dinner at Chez Boulay. This restaurant was recommended to me from a girl who worked at La Canadienne in Montreal, and I’m so happy we were able to sneak in. During high season, I strongly suggest you make a reservation. Chez Boulay is known for its Nordic cuisine, rich in Omega-3 and 6 fatty acids. Most of the items on the menu are game and I will never forget the Venison gravlax with reindeer lichen (yes, lichen!) appetizer and braised beef cheek with Labrador tea. I can still close my eyes and taste that beef cheek. I am gluten intolerant and was able to completely enjoy the menu!
For lunch the next day, we went to Chic Shack, located across from our hotel and the Chateau Frontenac. I had an incredible farm-to-table burger, while Daniel had one of the best poutines of his life, topped with fresh Montreal smoked meat.
Sorry vegans, our gastronomic adventures in Quebec City were certainly meat-oriented. For a quick pick-me-up, we visited Café la Maison Smith, which had a couple convenient locations in Old Quebec.
7. Visit a cat cafe in Quebec City
While we were waiting for our table at Chez Boulay, we explored the lower part of town and stumbled upon Café Félin Ma Langue aux Chats, a cozy cat cafe. Bless Quebec and it’s lax health rules, as this cat cafe allows you to dine and enjoy a tea latte with an assortment of exotic, friendly felines. I fell in love with the Sammy the Ragdoll and Boucle D’Or the ginger Persian. I didn’t get along too well with Jack the Bengal cat, but it was fun seeing so many exotic breeds in one place! All of the cats belong to the owner, and are well taken care of. It was a great place to relax while we were waiting for our reservation.
6. Have a drink in Canada’s oldest bar, L’Oncle Antoine
It was unseasonably warm during the weekend we visited Quebec City, so after our meal, we went back out in search of a cozy bar. We walked around aimlessly, as many spots were closed until we found Pub L’Oncle Antoine, an incredible bar located in one of the city’s oldest houses dating back to 1754. The pub itself is in a curved cellar, complete with a fireplace and rustic furniture. Daniel had a local pint while I had a cider and shot of maple whiskey, which tasted like candy. We spent the evening people watching a local trio of friends (they likely assumed we didn’t speak french as tourists), and had an amazing time. The atmosphere really takes you back to the old world, and the prices also can’t be beat!
5. Visit the Plains of Abraham
While it was very snowed over when we visited, you must stop and visit the open park that was the site of the famous battle in 1759 that lasted a mere hour, but changed the course of Canada’s history. In years past, my family spent the afternoon in the park visiting landmarks and reading information on the historical significance of the site. We didn’t bring the best snow boots, but stopped by to see the battlefield.
4. Go on an ice slide
Every winter, an ice slide is set up along the Terrasse Dufferin in front of Chateau Frontenac. I secretly regret not doing the ice slide as it looked so fun. The view from the top also offers a lovely vista of the Chateau and river.
3. Learn about Quebec’s history and visit the gorgeous library at the Morrin Centre
The Morrin Centre, as it’s known today, is housed in a building with several past lives. This museum is a must as I learned so much about the criminal system and social structure of Old Quebec.
You can visit the Morrin Centre’s stunning library without a tour, but I highly recommend waiting for an hourly English (or French) tour to visit the buildings past. Back in the 19th Century, this building was a gaol (jail), and one of the first reformed prisons in Canada, designed by John Howard. Instead of crowding all prisoners in one room, prisoners would perform labour during the day, and be housed individually at night, and were separated according to the severity of their crime. Did you know that of the 8 or so prisoners that were executed in the jail’s 60 year lifespan, two of them were guilty of stealing tea? Apparently it was a serious crime back in the day. It was fascinating learning about life in Quebec during the time period, as well as the social hardships amongst sailors, settlers and single women.
The buildings second life came when Joseph Morrin established an English-language college. We toured beautiful rooms, including a fabulous science lab equipped with Canada’s oldest darkroom, old bible texts, microscopes and fabulous retro light fixtures. It was fascinating learning that the college accepted female students, and that they took classes alongside male classmates.
The storybook library now houses the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec and has many rare books, along with an infamous statute of James Wolfe that went missing for many years.
2. Skiing in Mont Ste. Anne
If you love to ski or snowboard, Quebec City is located close to a beautiful ski resort. While we didn’t have time in a weekend to hit the slopes, it’s definitely a must for adrenaline seekers.
1. Visit the Ice Hotel – Hotel de Glâce in Valcartier
Located 40 minutes from Quebec in Valcartier is the Hotel de Glâce, North America’s only Ice Hotel. This incredible resort is made entirely from ice and snow. Inside, you’ll find 42 individually-designed rooms with furniture made completely from ice, an ice bar, a chapel and tons of gorgeous sculptures and details.
Originally, I wrote off the Ice Hotel as a tourist trap, but we were so impressed by the artistry and level of detail in each room. The beautiful chapel has ice benches lined with cozy fur, and a beautifully-designed altar made from ice. You can even get married here…only in Quebec!
Of course, the highlight of our tour was the Ice bar, where you can get a cocktail, shot or glass of wine served in an ice glass. The novelty was definitely worth it, and I highly recommend purchasing the ticket upgrade that includes a discounted drink. One day, I would LOVE to stay at the Ice Hotel for one night. I learned that before you turn in for the night, you visit a sauna to get your heart rate up before sleeping in the sleeping bag. It’s certainly not for the faint of heart, because after an hour or so at the ice hotel, our toes, fingers and noses started to get too cold. It was such a memorable experience and great for adults and children alike.
I hope you enjoyed this recap of my 10 things to do in Quebec City in a weekend in winter. From skiing to ice hotels to delicious food, Quebec City must be added to your travel wish list! It was a memorable, romantic escape, a mere 2.5 hour drive from Montreal. I’d love to return in the summertime to visit Île d’Orléans, pick berries and shop for some local art. The city is packed with charm and beautiful buildings. I was so happy to finally be able to stay in Old Quebec and experience its winter magic.