The best time to visit Quebec City is in the summer where the balmy weather is ideal for strolling around the historic city center and taking advantage of the myriad restaurants’ plentiful outdoor terraces. If you love winter sports and attractions, Quebec City is also one of the country’s top spots for frosty fun, but be warned: snow is plentiful and freezing temperatures are a certainty.
Quebec City has four distinct seasons, each with its own charm and challenges. Winter is an incredibly cold, snowy season with temperatures dipping as low as 0 degrees F (-18 degrees C) and snow cover regularly lasts throughout much of the spring, as do the chilly temperatures. It’s not really until mid-April when average temperatures finally get—and reliably stay—above 20 degrees F (-7 degrees C). That’s usually when Quebecers will finally put away their winter boots. Summer tends to come in with a bang in June, with temperatures finally soaring into the 60s Fahrenheit (15.5 degrees C) and staying up around 75 degrees F (24 degrees C) in July and August. While the summers can be humid, cooler nights tend to ensure summer heat never gets oppressive. In fall, September is the most pleasant month with warm days still outnumbering cooler periods. In October and November temperatures begin to drop significantly and jackets—and sometimes mittens and toques (a common Canadian word for a winter hat)—are the norm. The arrival of cooler days in Quebec City comes with one major benefit: some of the best of fall foliage in North America.
Peak Season in Quebec City
Summer sees the most crowds in Quebec, with July, August, and early September being the busiest time of year to visit. During those months, historic Old Quebec (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) is especially full of visitors wandering the narrow, cobblestoned laneways soaking in Quebec City’s ancient charm. Despite the crowds, popular attractions like Place Royale and museums are still enjoyable and rarely require much of a wait to visit. That said, if you want to eat outside on a patio, you’ll likely have to wait for a spot, as eating outdoors in summer almost seems to be a national sport in Quebec City. Your best bet to avoid the crowds is in early June when the weather is reliably nice but the city’s festival season hasn’t yet started in earnest. Expect to see some crowds again in winter around the Carnaval de Québec, where tourists and locals brave the freezing temperatures and snow to celebrate one of Canada’s most beloved winter festivals.
Key Holidays, Festivals, and Events
Summer is Quebec City’s main festival season, with the 11-day, outdoor live music extravaganza, Festival d’été de Québec in July drawing the most crowds. In February, Carnaval de Québec is one of Canada’s most iconic winter events, famous for its ice hotel, fantastical ice sculptures, and friendly mascot, Bonhomme. Among Quebecers, the province’s birthday on June 24 is a key holiday (one that’s observed only in the province of Quebec). Quebec City throws the biggest birthday bash with music concerts, the singing of folk songs, and bonfires.
Spring is a slow time in Quebec, with most locals not making regular appearances outdoors until May when temperatures average between 50 and 60 degrees F (10 and 15.5 degrees C). While there aren’t many crowds, snowfall can still be heavy in March and April, and ice storms are still a risk, which can make travel difficult and render walking around Old Quebec a frosty experience.
Events to check out:
- Though there are no set dates, spring is when Quebec’s sugar shacks re-open for the season. A quintessential Quebec tradition, sugar shacks are run by regional maple syrup producers who, from March to April open to the public to give maple syrup tastings. There are numerous shacks around Quebec City, just be sure to phone ahead to confirm hours.
- Athletes show off their best freestyle ski and snowboard moves at the Snowjamboree.
- One of Quebec’s biggest spring event is the St. Patrick’s Day Parade complete with bagpipes and kilts
- To promote Quebec City gastronomy, local restaurants team up with regional producers for most of April to offer special 3-course tasting menus for Québec Exquis.
- In May, Québec City Magic Festival features professional magicians and buskers providing free shows throughout the city.
Summer is when Quebec comes alive. After months of cold weather and being primarily house-bound, Quebec City residents welcome summer and its stable 70-degree F (21-degree C) temps like few other Canadian cities. Restaurants enthusiastically set out their outdoor terraces, homeowners stuff window boxes with flowers and the streets begin to fill with smiling people. The city squeezes every drop out of summer and makes the most of coveted outdoor time by jam-packing the days with festivals. In fact, it’s one of the most festival-friendly cities in Canada.
Events to check out:
- Annually, on June 24, the province of Quebec celebrates its birthday, La Fête nationale du Québec. Celebrations are especially raucous in the capital city.
- Festival d’été de Québec is the largest music festival in Canada.
- Throughout the month of August on every Wednesday and Saturday Quebec puts on an amazing firework show, Les Grands Feux Loto-Québec.
- In early August, see Quebec’s (a.k.a Nouvelle France as it was originally called) 17th- and 18th-century history come alive during Fêtes de la Nouvelle-France.
- When you live through ferocious winters, you have to have a sense of humor, which Quebec City puts on display in mid-August at ComediHa! Fest Québec.
Temperatures take a steady nose dive come autumn. While September can still be very pleasant with sunny 60-degree F (15.5-degree C) days, in October and November temperatures typically hover around the 30s and 40s Fahrenheit (-1 and 4 degrees C). That’s not to say the city is not worth a visit during autumn. The province has the most maple trees in Canada and as such, the most magnificent displays of autumn foliage. Quebec City’s parks and surrounding forests are alight with crimson, ochre, and blinding yellows that will take your breath away.
Events to check out:
- In September, sporting enthusiasts won’t want to miss the international cycling competitions Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec.
- Great Colour Adventure: From mid-September to mid-October numerous events celebrating autumn are held at nearby ski resort (and fall-foliage hotspot) Mont Sainte Anne.
- Cinephiles who enjoy French and Quebecois film will want to check out the Festival de cinéma de la ville de Québec.
- From late November until before Christmas, Old Quebec is transformed into a German Christmas market for the Le Marché de Noël allemand de Québec.
December is when Quebec City starts to experience regular snowfall and snow cover. Temperatures average around 15 degrees F (-9 degrees C), with January and February oscillating between 10 and 0 degrees F (-12 and -18 degrees C). During these three months, the city gets an average snowfall of 118 inches (300 centimeters). Despite the chilly climate, there’s still lots of reasons to visit Quebec City, especially if you’re looking for one-of-a-kind events and enjoy taking part in winter activities like skiing, snowshoeing, ice fishing, and snowmobiling.
Events to check out:
- From December to February, family friendly Festilumières comes to the Aquarium du Québec and features an outdoor display of over 500,000 lights.
- Without a doubt, the not-to-be-missed winter event is the Carnaval de Québec, one of the biggest winter festivals in the world. Stay at North America’s only ice hotel, see ice carving contests, enjoy outdoor music concerts and more over nine days in February.