Honestly, the initial reason my friends and I chose to visit Québec City was because multiple filming locations in a popular Korean drama were shot there. One of my friends (a die-hard fan of the drama) mentioned that some of the filming locations looked stunning. After doing research on the city, we were completely persuaded.
Recognized by its traditional French architecture and cobblestone streets, Québec City makes you feel as though you've been transported to Paris- for half the price and travel time. As one of North America's oldest cities, this town is steeped in 400 years of French-Canadian history and is the only remaining fortified city north of Mexico. With the famous Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, quaint Old Town, and ample belles rues inhabiting the city, you will find yourself immediately immersed in its rich culture and history.
Despite the extremely cold weather (picture native Californians in -5°F weather), visiting Québec City during winter becomes a unique, unforgettable experience on its own. The picturesque town becomes blanketed in snow, and essentially becomes an IRL winter wonderland.
Where to stay
With Château Frontenac being out of the question, we decided to stay in an Airbnb. Upon entering our Airbnb, we were greeted by a charming loft. I loved that there was a large, screen-less window which provided unhindered views of snowfall in the city. The loft was the perfect size for three of us, and was conveniently located near numerous local restaurants and markets. Luckily, it was also a short distance away from popular spots such as Old Québec.
Old Québec is best explored on foot. You'll quickly notice that this popular part of town consists of narrow, winding streets- driving a car here seems like a nightmare! Walking is a great opportunity to see sights you may otherwise overlook. We primarily walked in Old Town, but we used Uber to get to less accessible spots, such as Hôtel de Glace and Montmorency Falls.
Things to do
1. Quartier Petit Champlain: Quartier Petit Champlain is a gorgeous quarter in the city that is unmistakably reminiscent of Europe. Perhaps the most instagrammable spot in all of Québec City is the quarter's main street, Rue du Petit-Champlain. It is distinguished by its dainty boutique shops, local bistros, cobblestone streets, and beautifully-designed stone buildings affixed with baskets of flowers.
2. Place Royale: Located in the Lower Town of Old Québec, Place Royale is a picturesque square containing several historic buildings. One of these buildings is the Notre-Dame-des-Victoires, which is the oldest stone church in North America. During winter, Place Royale is incredibly lovely as it is adorned with Christmas decorations, including a large Christmas tree.
3. Montmorency Falls: Unfortunately, we only spent ten minutes at the falls because we were freezing. However, we were still able to witness the impressive falls, which were roaring and encompassed by an immense amount of snow. Montmorency Falls boasts a 275-foot height, which exceeds that of Niagara Falls. It is definitely worth making the 20-minute trip from Old Québec.
4. Fairmont Le Château Frontenac: Château Frontenac is the most photographed hotel in the world, and with good reason. Perched above the St. Lawrence River, this beautiful hotel is designed with intricate architecture and provides stunning views. Walking inside and around the Château Frontenac makes you feel as though you've entered a castle. Outside of the hotel, Québec City offers a fun attraction for all ages- toboggan slides. The ride down is short, but exhilarating- I highly recommend it.
5. Hôtel de Glace: You must visit Hôtel de Glace if you're visiting Québec during winter. It is the only ice hotel in North America, and visiting it is truly a magical experience. The hotel is completely made of ice and snow. Upon entering, there are several ice sculptures and an ice bar that serves delicious hot chocolate. We were able to explore a large portion of the hotel; the rooms were open for us to walk through. Each room was individually themed, and included detailed carvings and more ice sculptures. You can purchase tickets online or in person.
6. Québec City-Lévis Ferry: The best way to view the entire city and the fortified walls surrounding the city is on the Québec City-Lévis Ferry. We went during sunset, and the views were jaw-dropping. The ferry sails along the St. Lawrence River; and during winter, the river is replete with massive chunks of ice. You can purchase your tickets from the ticket booth.
Restaurants to try
1. Poutineville: This was our first time trying poutine and we absolutely loved it. Crispy fries, warm gravy, and cheese curds- what more can you ask for?!
2. Sapristi: Sapristi is an Italian restaurant with an inviting and warm atmosphere. We had the carbonara, salmon pasta, and duck pasta. All of the dishes were flavorful and creamy.
3. Bügel Fabrique de Bagels: As someone who's tried bagels in New York City, I can confidently say that this little bagel shop is as good as if not better than those in NYC. Bügel Fabrique de Bagels is a small, cozy restaurant that serves mouthwatering bagels at an affordable price.
1. Pack warm clothes: As I mentioned, it was -5°F on our first day in the city. Cold is an understatement; we were freezing. Layer up and pack thermals! My Patagonia Down Jacket was a lifesaver- I recommend investing in one for any chilly trip.
2. Learn the basics of French: French is the most spoken language in Québec City. We had trouble communicating with some of our Uber drivers, servers, etc. Try learning the basics of the language to make communication a little easier.