If I were to conjure an imagine of a perfect winter wonderland in my mind, it would look exactly like Old Quebec City. I would imagine soft falling snow, old cobble stone streets, visitors happily wandering about. Add to this some charming shops and bistros, their windows festively decorated with tinsel and softly glowing twinkle lights. Sounds pretty perfect, right? Well, you’re in luck because this winter wonderland can be found in the historic part of Canada’s Quebec City.
My husband and I decided to visit Old Quebec City on a whim – we were both in need of a quick getaway to somewhere cozy and relatively small. While we love big cities, we tend to fill all our travel moments with action and adventure. I’m sure you’ve felt the “let’s see everything” attitude on your travels too. But this was different – our wish list included wintery, pretty, cozy. A slower getaway from which we can actually return feeling… rested. And yes, it is possible!
While the following is by no means a comprehensive guide to this lovely and unique destination, these are a few of my favourite experiences in Old Quebec.
HISTORIC CHATEAU FRONTENAC AND DUFFERIN TERRACE
A visit to Quebec City should definitely include the 125 year old Quebecois fairytale castle and hotel, Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac. This historic and imposing sight is one I was most looking forward to seeing with my very own eyes. It’s been called ‘the world’s most photographed hotel’ and now I can tell you why – Chateau Frontenac is so magnificent in real life that it is only natural we would want to immortalize it in photos. Don’t believe me? I challenge you to visit the chateau and NOT take a hundred photos. It’s impossible, I tell you.
Below the Chateau we found Dufferin Terrace, a sprawling 670m boardwalk offering views of St Lawrence River and beyond. We walked here in the morning, afternoon and evening just to see the stunning view in various stages of light.
Perhaps the most fun part of our visit to Old Quebec City is also in close vicinity of the Chateau – the toboggan run! We zoomed downhill at a speed of 70 kms/hour and the adrenaline was exhilarating! If you visit, and you should, promise me you’ll give the toboggan run a go? You will love it.
CHARMING QUARTIER PETIT CHAMPLAIN AND PLACE-ROYALE
We took a leisurely walk to the charming Petit Champlain neighborhood, which sits just below Chateau Frontenac. It is a vibrant and lively area full of interesting artisan shops, cute restaurants and a colourful array of pretty building facades. As I looked around at the low three-story buildings, with their tall chimneys and gabled roofs, I truly felt like I was back in France.
We slowly walked to Place-Royale, a small square that is also the very place where Quebec was founded in 1608. A tiny church sits proudly on one end, having been there since 1688, while the prettiest coffee shop – Café La Maison Smith – beckons with promise of hot coffee and fresh pastry.
Should you visit Old Quebec City I highly recommend taking the funicular at least once. The view of rooftops with the St Lawrence River frozen in the distance is well worth the $3 fee. Plus it will save you taking the stairs.
I should mention that, for the requisite Instagram photo, be sure to take Cote de la Montagne to the Breakneck Steps ((L’Escalier Casse-Cou). On top level of the stairs you will find the loveliest view of this quaint little Quebecois village.
DELICIOUS QUEBECOIS CUISINE
Seeing as my husband and I travel to eat, I would be committing a grave injustice if I failed to tell you that Old Quebec City is a foodie haven. It is. So much so that a quick cursory glance at restaurant offerings became overwhelming as I struggled to choose where to go. ‘Can we extend our trip?’ I asked my husband ‘there are so many things I’d like to eat!’
Traditional Quebecois cuisine includes pea soup, tourtière (meat and potato pie), poutine, pouding chômeur (poor man’s pudding) and tasty sugar pie. Whether you’re in the mood for simple or gourmet, restaurant choices are vast. Vegetarian or vegan? No problem. There really is something for everyone. Or a few ‘somethings’ if you’re anything like me.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, dress for Canadian winter. My saving grace were the very warm winter boots I purchased ahead of the trip as well as my heavy-duty winter parka.
I brought layers upon layers of sweaters plus warm leggings to wear under my skinny jeans. I doubled my socks and then added my winter boots on top. Mittens and scarves are a must, and not just cute thin mittens, but the thickly woven kind.
It may sound like I’m exaggerating but the last thing anyone wants while in a pretty winter wonderland is to find themselves too cold to stay outside, right? Right. Was the cold worth it? Absolutely.
So bundle up, grab your camera and enjoy the charming and historic Old Quebec City.
For more Quebec City loveliness, visit me on Instagram at @helloprettysunday
Until then, have fun exploring.
By Eva from @helloprettysunday