With temperatures dropping here in New England, I can’t help but think back to last winter and our decision to visit Québec city during one of the coldest weeks of the year. It snowed every. single. day. that we were there, but despite this was still an awesome and enjoyable time.
Québec City is situated on the St. Lawrence River, about 3 hours north of Montreal and 4 hours north of Burlington, VT. The first iconic glimpse you get of Québec City as you drive over the river is the Chateau Frontenac; a grand hotel atop the walled portion of the city. Old Quebec (Vieux-Québec), refers to the portion of the city within the citadel walls. Looking for a cheaper option, Chris & I opted to stay in a part of the city outside of the old town, called Vanier. We found it to be really easy to still access the walled city, as well as some of the attractions in surrounding towns.
Château Frontenac & Vieux-Québec
If you’re planning to visit the city, I definitely recommend checking out the old portion of the city. The streets are narrow and reminiscent of Europe, and are packed with great restaurants and cute shops. Surprisingly, there is also a park at the top of the city, which in the winter has a few trails for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
To navigate from the top portion of the city to the bottom, you have two choices: the funiculaire, a railway car that gives passengers an awesome view of the city, or the escalier Frontenac, a narrow set of stairs that winds between alleyways. I have used both modes of transport, but Chris & I decided on the stairs for our venture as it’s free to use. There is a nominal fee for the funicular. Word of caution: the stairs are pretty slippery in the winter and very steep in parts.
One of our recommended must-do’s is the ice slide next to the Château Frontenac. For just $2 CAD per person, you get to ride a toboggan down an ice luge, topping at reported speeds of 70 km/h! This slide has been a tradition in Québec City since 1844. Chris & I both hollered the entire way down, and laughed hysterically like kids when we reached the bottom. I had a serious case of jelly legs afterwards. I honestly can’t remember a time we laughed so hard.
Once you’ve recovered from your jelly legs and need a place to warm up your frozen toes, check out Le Cochon Dingue. They serve a great chocolat chaud (hot chocolate). Or, you can swing back over to the stand in front of the Frontenac and order up some hot maple syrup that’s drizzled over snow to make a delicious maple taffy. It’s a Canadian specialty and one of my absolute favorite desserts.
In the nearby town of Beaupré is the ski resort Mont Sainte-Anne. In the days leading up to our visit the mountain received almost 2 feet of snow, resulting in lots and lots of fresh powder. I’m admittedly a pretty inexperienced snowboarder, so I spent a lot of time that morning pulling myself out of snow banks. By the afternoon, trails were beaten down a bit and much easier for me to ride. There were lots of great trails to choose from, so we were kept busy all day exploring different parts of the mountain. Aside from Mont Sainte-Anne, there are other ski resorts in the area including Le Massif and Stoneham Mountain.
A final pit stop on our trip to Québec was to see Montmorency Falls. Only a few minutes outside of the walled city, this is a beautiful park with walking trails and a tram that visitors can take to the top of the falls. Once at the top, you can walk the suspension bridge directly over the falls. Chris & I were also there to check out some ice climbing routes at the base of the falls, but unfortunately sub-freezing temperatures made the ice too brittle to climb. Perhaps another time…
So, although it was frigid and snowing for the entirety of our trip, we had an excellent time in Québec City. If you’re looking for a place that has an old-world feel and a balance of activities for history buffs and outdoorsy folks, then it’s certainly worth a look. Just remember to pack your base layers & brush up a bit on your French.