When we think of a winter getaway we’re usually looking at deals to the Caribbean. But your social feeds have probably been crowded with the charming winter pictures that look straight out of a European winter wonderland. But wait, it’s actually on our continent! Our neighbor to the north! Quebec is creeping up the lists on several blogs and travel sites for “Best Places to Visit in 2018” and it’s easy to see why. You can literally drive there (or a take a quick flight) and experience the charm that’s pretty damn close to being French (although the French would probably disagree) and experience another culture.
I first visited Quebec on a middle school trip with my French class. (I know … God bless the chaperones of 50 eight-graders in another country.) This was obviously before Instagram and before I even visited Europe, so I went into my recent trip to Quebec going off of strong memories and a shoebox full of photos developed from a disposable camera. The city was just as charming as I remembered it. And this time, I could go to bars!
For this trip, we went for a New Year’s Eve getaway with our local ski club, but while skiing was the primary reason for our visit, really we just wanted to see the city of Quebec. (There were some people that didn’t even ski at all.) We did end up visiting during a cold spell, even for Canada, and it was about -12 F during the day. So “wandering” the city was limited to about 15 minutes increments which then turned into a bar crawl through the city to get nice and toasty between tourist sites. But we sure did find lots of good bars …
Quebec City is the capital of the province of Quebec and sits on the Saint Lawrence River. While Montréal is more the party capital (and therefore where many bachelor parties take place), Quebec is a little farther north and much more quaint. It emanates history throughout the old city (or “Vieux-Quebec”) which is fortified, the ramparts providing the division between old and new, and also the upper and lower city near the river. Château Frontenac is the centerpiece of the city – the historic castle dating back to 1893 which is now a hotel.
French is the official language here and governmental efforts have preserved the use of the language so much so that you will find people that speak ONLY French. However, we didn’t run into this often – most people speak fluent English. Uber makes it easy to get around the city when it’s subzero temperatures, but typically the city is very walkable.
Canada is very credit-card friendly. We converted $100 to Canadian and we didn’t really need any of it. Everywhere took credit and when going out in Quebec City the restaurants are very accommodating when it comes to splitting checks multiple ways. (They also have those handheld credit card machines which are seemingly in EVERY country except the USA!)
Where to Stay in Quebec
- Château Frontenac – Obviously famous, if it’s in your budget it’s a fabulous place to stay.
- Hilton Quebec – We stayed here, which was great for accommodating big groups. It’s just outside the city walls but still super close to walk, and also around the corner from the busy Grande Allée. It’s a high-rise building so although it’s not historic it has excellent views of the city.
- Auberge Saint-Antoine – A luxurious Relais & Châteaux property, this hotel is in the lower city, closer to the river. It’s adorably renovated and has a great bar and restaurant inside that’s worth a visit whether you’re staying here or not.
What to See in Quebec
- Château Frontenac – The famous historic castle (and now Fairmont hotel) that can be seen from most parts of the city. Even if you can’t afford to stay overnight, it’s worth walking through the shops and dining at one of the recently renovated restaurants.
- Notre-Dame de Québec Basilica-Cathedral – Just like Europe, there are gorgeous cathedrals!
- Trésor Street – An artists’ open air gallery in the old city.
- Escalier Casse-Cou (Breakneck Steps) – Aptly named, these steps will guide you to the lower level of the city. It’s also the spot for Instagram-worthy photos of adorable winter street scenes.
- Plains of Abraham – For history buffs, the battlefields where the French and British fought.
- Montmorency Falls – This is a day trip just outside the city but it’s worth it during the summer months.
- Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré – Also a day trip, this famous cathedral is known to heal those that enter. There are even crutches and canes on the walls from those that healed.
Where to Eat & Drink in Quebec
- Buche – If you go anywhere for brunch, go here. In an historic building, with adorable cabin décor and live music. The bathroom is interesting – you’ll see why.
- Artifact – A stylish bar in the Relais & Chateaux hotel, adjacent to the popular Chez Muffy.
- 1608 – The wine and cheese bar in the Chateau Frontenac feels like an upscale library and has amazing views. A must visit for a drink and the best meat & cheese plate you’ll ever have!
- 3 brasseurs – Just outside the old city walls this is great for beer flight which we forgot to convert to the metric system (hint: it’s big)
- Cochon dengue – There are several locations. Good for brunch or a casual dinner. Has a diner feel but much more adorably French. Try the poutine with mini sausages.
- Marchee Vieux-Quebec port – A market down by the waterfront that has food and craft stalls.
Skiing in Quebec
- Le Massif – Just over an hour’s drive from the city. One of those mountains that you park and start at the TOP of the mountain.
- Mont Saint-Anne – A little over a half an hour from the city. Also has dogsledding and other winter activities.
- Stoneham – Closest to the city, under a half hour away.
Check out our Quebec City map and travel guide here.