When most people describe Quebec City, they grant it the label North America’s piece of Europe. With cobblestone walks, fortifications, and quality spins on French food, Canada’s lovely little city could certainly feel like some gateway to the Champagne region. However, in the winter, when the cobblestones are blanketed by slush and it’s too cold to take much note of your surroundings, this excommunicated European city still offers plenty of reasons to visit. Here are the best things to do in Quebec City in the winter.
The Best Things to do in Quebec City
To the Plains of Abraham
A few kilometers outside of the Old City sits the city’s best stretch of barren, snowy field. These biblical-sounding plains, though they have nothing to do with any near-son-sacrificing characters, are perfect for a morning of cross country skiing along the trails winding above the St. Lawrence River or a snowshoe-jog through the fields. However, participation in most of the sports will require your own gear, which you can bring from home or rent from a local outfitter.
After a morning in the park, the Old City is the place for lunch. One of the tastiest joints for steak frites, with a quality cut of meat and a ridiculously-sized pile of fries, is L’Entrecote Saint Jean. The staff is friendly and if you happen to enter with a screaming baby, who eventually does settle down after some bread and butter, there’s only hospitality.
Take to the Streets of Upper Town
One of the best ways to experience Quebec City is to walk it. It’s cold in the winter and exposure might be limited, but there are plenty of shops to duck into and cafes serving good coffee and tasty breads. Some sites worth a visit include:
The Boardwalk: Here you can gaze upon the icy flume of the St. Lawrence river as the rooftops of Lower Town. Visitors will only have this panorama interrupted by the roar of tourists on toboggans, which can reach speeds of up to fifty miles per hour.
The Church of the Magic Door: More appropriately named Notre Dame de Quebec, this is the oldest parish church in North America north of Mexico and the only church outside of Europe to have a holy door that absolves those who walk through the threshold.
Stop to Skate: If pop culture of the ’80s could make a claim that one must walk like an Egyptian, travelers to Canada could propose that a visit to this country would require one to skate like a Canuck. And Quebec City’s rinks are set feel both out of place and a magically situated. Try the rink outside the gates on Saint Jean, where skaters circulate between sidewalk and street, fortifications and the big screen illuminated with hockey.
Traverse Lower Town
The only trick to getting to Lower Town is to follow the hills down. And to not slip. For those less mobile or on icy days, you can always pay for a funicular ride. Once down in Lower Town, traverse the quaint streets, where you’ll find fudgeries that serve jalapeno hot chocolate, fabulous ribs at Cochon Dingue, and ferries that bust through the ice to Levis, the city across the St. Lawrence. (If you decide to boat across, pay careful attention to the schedule as the return trip isn’t as frequent in the winter.)