Visiting Old Quebec City in the winter is like living in a snow globe. The beauty and wonder of the city is all around you. Locals and visitors skate on outdoor ponds and rinks, and children laugh straight from their toes as they slide down a hill on an old-fashioned toboggan. Snow surrounds you, and the hooves of horses crunch through newly fallen snow on the beautiful cobblestone roads. You can see your breath in the air as you take in the sights, smells and sounds around you. Life is good!
Visiting the toboggan sled (glissade), located on the Terrasse Dufferin, will be one of the highlights of your trip. There are three lanes of thick, frozen tracks of ice waiting for you.
For $3 per trip, you drag your old-fashioned toboggan up a hill and you and your family/friends start to pile on. Many sleds look like trains of people laughing it up together. I was seated at the very front and had a size 14 pair of winter boots plopped in my lap. I held on tight with both hands, not sure how to stop the toboggan. No worries…. that is taken care of for you.
There is a short track of wood at the end of the slide that slows down most toboggans. If this doesn’t work, your toboggan slows down as it starts to climb a small mound of snow. Last resort? You go up and over the snowbank where the toboggan tips you over. In other words…. get off! By this time, I was laughing so hard, while family and friends ran to buy more tickets! After an hour of sledding, and wet butts, it was time for a new adventure!
Old Quebec City is filled with small streets that open into big courtyards and new surprises! It has the familiarity and charm of an old European town, but the vibrancy of an amazing city.
The sides of old buildings have beautiful murals painted on them, some with a social message.
We witnessed an intimate, outdoor winter wedding which included a small number of invited guests and nosy visitors in the Church Square area! The bride wore a beautiful, winter white gown and faux-fur coat and was serenaded by a traditional Quebec fiddle player! It doesn’t get more authentic than that!
Sitting high above Old Quebec City is Le Chateau Frontenac. The hotel was beautifully decorated for the holidays, with parties going on in many rooms and the sights and smells of the holidays in every corner.
Walk up and down the narrow streets and check out the boutique shops to find that special something. As the main language is French, don’t worry! Most shop owners and tourists can help you ‘parlez’ to make your purchase or help with directions.
You must try lunch or dinner at a fondue restaurant. This way of eating is unique and forces you to slow down and enjoy the experience. Most fondue restaurants serve beef and fish as the main course, but cheese and bread are another option with fruit and melted chocolate for desert. There are no words!
Another option is to ask for tourtière at your restaurant of choice. This is a Canadian meat pie dish which originates from Quebec and is usually made with minced pork, veal or beef and potatoes. If you are lucky enough to drive to Quebec, stock up on this delight and fill your freezer. You won’t regret it. This won’t help my vegetarian/vegan friends but there are many options to choose from that will make you very happy!
One of my favourite treats is always located within the shopping district. Find a man dressed in a red and black lumberjacket and a hat with ear flaps and you have hit gold! He is most likely a maple syrup farmer. Using (fresh) snow, watch as he drizzles maple syrup on the snow and adds a stick on the end.
In minutes, the maple syrup freezes and you are the owner of an authentic, maple syrup sucker. So tasty!
Make sure you take a ride on the funiculaire. This is an old railway that climbs at a 45-degree angle for 210 feet and connects the upper village to the lower village. This saves you a 100-stair climb after a fun-filled day.
If you have never tried ice skating, now is your chance! Check out Place D’Youville in front of the Palais Montcalm. This is a public square in the heart of the city, which marks the boundary between Parliament Hill and Old Quebec City. You can rent skates, and lockers are also available both for a nominal cost. Outdoor skating is the way the sport is supposed to be experienced. Kids and adults of all ages are bundled up in hats, scarves and mittens and big smiles as they skate to the music. If this is your first time…no worries! Ask for a skating rack to help keep you up!
There is so much to experience in Old Quebec City. The city itself will make you smile, and you will feel like you have stepped back in time when life was simple and kept a slower pace. Step into the snow globe and experience all that Old Quebec City has to offer!
Nice to know
Place D’Youville hours: Mon-Thurs 12pm-10pm and Fri-Sun 10am-10pm. Free!Skate rental $8, sharpening $7, skating rack $4
Funiculaire de Quèbec: $2.25 per ride (one way) 16 rue du Petit-Champlain
Le Chateau Frontenac1 Rue des Carrières, Quebec City, Quebec
Terrasse Dufferin Slides (Glissade)42 Delorme, Quebec City, Quebec