During the Family Day long weekend, I went to Quebec City to enjoy two of its top winter attractions: the Carnaval de Québec (which lasts 2 weeks in February) and the famed Ice Hotel (2019 dates: January 3 to March 24). Both places have been on my bucket list for quite some time now, so I was glad I finally got the chance to visit Quebec City while the attractions were still open.
It was my first time in Quebec City in the winter, and I was unprepared for the amount of snow and how cold it was there! We drove over from Ottawa on Friday evening, and the last half of the drive felt like driving through a polar vortex. It took us 7 hours instead of the usual 4.5 to get there (and we didn’t even make any pit stops)!
We stayed at an Airbnb ~15 minutes away from Old Quebec, and decided to just stay in the first night and ordered St. Hubert (popular chicken place in Quebec) for dinner. It was very comforting and definitely a good idea because the snow piles were as tall as me – half of the windows were blocked by snow!
Day 1: Carnaval de Québec
The next morning, we took an Uber to Old Quebec (~$15), and had brunch at Le Lapin Sauté, which was delicious. They had the best rabbit rillettes (rabbit confit), and I would definitely go back the next time I visit Quebec City!
After breakfast, we walked towards Grande Allée (in English: Big Road), which is also where the majority of the Carnaval festivities take place. 1/3 of the events required an effigy, which cost $15 per person. We only did effigy-required activities, such as axe throwing, interactive video games, and walking through a huge snow castle. There were lines everywhere as expected, so make sure to dress warmly to ward off the cold. If you have kids, prepare to spend an entire day outside with them! Many of the activities were geared towards children (like ice carving, building things from ice blocks, meeting the mascot “Bonhomme”), but we had fun regardless.
For lunch, we popped into L’Atelier which was situated on Grande Allée. I was so glad to finally warm up! Their specialty is tartar, and we got their tartar trilogy: salmon, tuna, and beef. All three were delicious but I enjoyed the salmon the most. This place is also known for drinks, and my friends who got drinks enjoyed them.
For dinner, we walked to Le Moine Échanson and had oysters and an octopus main course. Although the food was good, unfortunately there wasn’t an English version of the ever-changing menu, which made it a little harder to deduce what each dish was. The server also offered to explain each dish to us but let’s just say we made great use of Google Translate!
Day 2: Ice Hotel
For brunch, we drove into Upper Town for crepes at Le Billig. I got the seafood crepe, which was unique and had a healthy amount of shrimp on it. Unfortunately I started to get tired of the flavour towards the end of my meal. My boyfriend got the chorizo one and loved it. Make sure to get here early (ie. when it opens) to secure a seat! We thought we were early by getting there a few minutes before opening, but there was already a long line, and people who came after opening had to wait or sit at the bar. The restaurant was pretty big but we felt the service was a little slow, especially because we were in a rush to visit the Ice Hotel and then drive back to Ottawa.
The Ice Hotel is a half hour drive from Quebec City. It is located on a huge lot with a normal hotel, spa, and the largest tube park in Canada. It was much more grand and stunning than I had expected! There was an ice bar, which served drinks in ice cups, multiple ice statues, an ice church, an ice slide… seeing all of that was well worth the $25 admission fee. There were nearly 50 rooms, of which half had special themed carvings adorning the walls. Some of them had fireplaces, but it was still very cold inside. I can’t imagine spending a night there, even though it would be pretty cool (pun intended, haha!). Next time I’m looking forward to visiting the tube park nearby – it looked like a lot of fun and I could definitely spend an entire day there!).
And if you’re wondering, “wait — isn’t Quebec City super French? Don’t I need to know French to find my way around?” Rest assured that you don’t! It’s become more and more touristy over the years, and most people have a great grasp on English. If you don’t know French, visiting Quebec City could also be a great way to pick up a few words to add to your vocabulary.
I hope this guide helped, and wishing you the best travels to Quebec City! I’m looking to go again in the summer, so watch out for a post detailing summer activities later on (it’s going to be totally different!).