Why A Weekend in Quebec City is the Perfect Winter Vacation

If you’ve been following along with Toast and Travel over this past year, you’ll know that I attempted a trip to Quebec City back in January over MLK weekend but due to weather conditions in New York and Canada, I was unable to board my flights and thus had to cancel the vacation. You can read about my emotions on missing out on the trip here, but if you’re reading this post its obvious that my Quebec City dreams eventually came true! My second weekend in December was spent in COLD snowy weather with beautiful Christmas festive decorations and all the splendor that is Canada. Canada is one of my favorite countries- so many people don’t know about its truly friendly citizens and how European its French Canadian side can get! This was my third time in Canada (I have previously visited Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal), but this visit I really felt like I had left North America and gone to France. The official language of Quebec is French (and only French), which means that all the signs and menus were only in French and many people were not able to speak English. I was so surprised by how immersive this city was in its French roots and I loved that if I closed my eyes I could just imagine myself on the streets of Paris again.

 It was beyond freezing in Quebec City this time of year (although I heard it gets even colder in January), so if you’re visiting in the winter time (which I highly suggest because its just too magical) make sure you pack lots of warm clothes and a good sturdy pair of waterproof snow boots (no Uggs won’t cut it). Don’t let the weather prevent you from visiting the city though! There is plenty to do both indoors and outdoors. The temperature fell into the negatives two of the days we were there and we even took a winter themed walking tour! The key to a successful and comfortable trip is definitely preparation.

 What to Do

Parliament Building Tour- This free tour takes place only during the week and provides an educational look into how the Canadian, and more specifically the Quebec, government operates. Prior to visiting I had little to no knowledge about how our Northern neighbors governed themselves and this tour opened my eyes to how interesting it can be to hear how different even Canada is from the U.S. Quebec has only one legislative body, although there are four different parties represented. All discussions and meetings are conducted in French so if you cannot speak the language you will have a hard time getting elected. Only a maximum of 10 people are allowed per tour and tickets are passed out on a first come first serve basis, so arrive early in the day to ensure you get a ticket!

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Plains of Abraham- This giant park is basically a great big space of open land. All we could see was miles and miles of snow- from the pictures we took it even looked like we were in the wilderness surrounded by deep snow. Plains of Abraham is located right across the street from the Parliament Building so it’s the perfect place to kill some time if you’ve arrived early for your tour.

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Dog Sledding- My main reason for wanting to come to Quebec City was to go dog sledding, which was something that has been on my bucket list for a while. I have to say it did not disappoint! After some research (there are a lot of dog sledding options in the area), I went with a small family operation, Chenil La Poursuite. Since I was by myself, I lucked out and was paired with the guide. This turned out to be a good thing because dog sledding was way more physically challenging than I expected. Stepping on the breaks took all my strength (those dogs are STRONG) so after a while I was glad that the guide offered to take over so I can ride in the sled and enjoy taking pictures of everything. The dogs LOVE being out in the snow and running so it can be hard to control them but they understand basic commands (only in French of course) so its not hard to make them stay the course. I loved visiting the puppies afterwards too and wished I could take one home. Beware that it is really cold and loud here! Its also hard to reach so while an Uber can drop you off, you will have to call a local taxi company to bring you back into the city.

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Old Quebec Walking Tour- I booked this winter walking tour on Airbnb Experiences (one of my recent obsessions) and felt that it was a good price ($20) for 2 hours of guided wlaking around Old Quebec. The guide pointed out to us many things that we ended up going back to after the tour was over. I learned even more about Quebec City history! Although fair warning, towards the second hour I started to seriously freeze. The guide was nice enough to take us on a indoor break inside the Notre Dame church where we were able to see the only Holy Door in North America. I highly recommend taking this tour if you are in Quebec City for a short amount of time and want to gain some knowledge about the city.

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Terrasse Duffrin and Tobogganing- I had never even heard of tobogganing before this trip, but I’m always down to try new winter sports. I grew up in Texas where snow doesn’t even exist so I always feel like I have to catch up on a lifetime of winter sports in the few short years I’ve been living on the East Coast. The Terrasse Duffrin is also a long boardwalk that overlooks the St Lawrence River and borders the Chateau Frontenac. In the winter time its covered in snow and the view is gorgeous.

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Quartier Petit Champlain- This area consists of a few streets that are so cute and so ready for the holidays! We took our time strolling along the streets, shopping and taking in the sights. At the bottom of the street there is a spot to take the most perfect picture of the Chateau! Also, if you are a Korean drama fan like me you will recognize many of the filming scenes from the popular drama, Goblin, in Old Quebec. The Chateau is featured heavily in the drama as well we the red door in which the Goblin uses for time travel. Our tour guide told us that when the drama was first release, hordes of tourists would line up to take pictures with the famous red door. I’m happy to report that since the drama can be considered “old news” now there is no line to snap the elusive picture of the door!

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German Christmas Market- This market was a little smaller than expected- most likely because we’re use to the huge Christmas markets in New York. But it was just as festive! We warmed ourselves by the fire with churros and even met Santa Claus. The market is divided into three different sections so make sure you walk through all three sections and don’t miss out on any of the adorable stands.

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What to Eat

 Chocolato- Warm up with a nice cup of hot chocolate in this chocolate themed café! There are over 20 different types of chocolate that you can choose from to make your hot chocolate with. I’m the most indecisive person ever so it too me a while to finally make a decision (I mean who can decide between strawberry, white chocolate blueberry, and nutella), but I finally chose the cookies and crème white chocolate for my drink. Despite all this chocolate, the drink was not too sweet. Instead, it was the perfect balance of chocolate and milk. Chocolato is located on Rue Saint Jean near Old Quebec and so many other delicious restaurants.

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La Lapin Saute- This cozy restaurant is right in the middle of the famed Quartier Petit Champlain and is known for its rabbit dishes and its cheeses. Be prepared for a bit of a wait no matter what time of day it is because the food is that good! We ordered the cream of brussel sprouts soup, fried cheese fondue (yes this actually exists!), rabbit poutine, vegetable casselote, and duck lasagna. The taste of everything was different from what we expected, but it was still delicious. I especially loved how creamy the brussel sprouts soup was- perfect for a cold wintery day.

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Aux Anciens Canadiens- This restaurant was recommended on several websites I came across in my research as one that served genuine Quebec food. We came here wanting to try one thing and one thing only- the famous Quebec meat pie. But what we didn’t realize was that the menu is pre fixe only so for the price of $20 Canadian dollars were only able to eat the meat pie, chicken and vegetable soup, and a slice of maple pie. If you are into flavored and seasoned food, the food here may seem a little bland to you, but still give it a try as you immerse yourself in the Quebec culture!

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Paillard- Such an amazing bakery! We actually came here twice because we loved it so much. Paillard serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well as dessert. Its known for its bread and pastries so with my major sweet tooth, I couldn’t pass up the raspberry neopolitan and the fruit pastry. The café is also located on Rue Saint Jean and has a big open space so you don’t need to worry about waiting for seats.

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La Maison Smith- Another delicious bakery, although this one is a chain and located at several locations throughout Old Quebec. It reminded me of the cuter, better version of Starbucks. We stopped here before our walking tour to warm up and snack on some flaky buttery croissants.

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Bugel- We ate our last Quebec City meal here and boy was it a treat! Many people don’t know that Canadians are also known for their bagels, which are slightly different from American bagels in that the shape is thinner and bagel itself not as fluffy. Although New York bagels will always hold a special place in my heart, I loved that the bagels here tasted like bread- it’s a little hard to explain so you have to visit Montreal or Quebec City to see for yourself! Also, support local Canadian businesses by ordering the matcha lemonade iced tea.

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If you’re wondering why this post is more about food and less about activities, its because we had to take so many indoor breaks because of how cold it was outside and because French food is truly amazing. Despite how cold it was, I wouldn’t suggest going to Quebec City during any other season. There is something so magical about the streets of Old Quebec around Christmas time and it is definitely something to be experienced. I know many people seek out warm temperature vacations around this time of year, but experiencing winter at its finest is not to be missed out on!

Have you guys been to Canada before? What were your favorite cities? Where should I visit next?