Quebec City, Canada, thrives on tourism. So, even though temperatures in winter can dip well below zero, the historic city is still open for business with plenty to offer. Unlike Old Montreal, Quebec City's downtown is teeming with worldwide travelers between the months of December and March. They flock in droves to enjoy the province's skiing at world-class resorts, and then they stop off to experience the picturesque city in all its winter glory.
Making an effort to get to Quebec City, and packing the bulky winter clothing it takes to endure it, sure pays off when you behold the beauty of the historic district all lit up for the holidays. Additionally, special winter events, including the world-famous Quebec Carnival, ensures there is plenty to do to keep visitors busy in this city blanketed in snow.
Quebec City Weather in Winter
If you visit Quebec City between the end of November and the beginning of March, you will encounter plenty of snow and freezing cold weather. The annual snowfall here is 119 inches, most of which falls within this six-month window. Don't expect more than eight hours of daylight in December and January, but things get slightly better in February, with about nine hours of sunlight.
The coldest months of December, January, and February stay well below freezing, making November and March seem balmy in comparison, with highs of 41 and 33 degrees Fahrenheit (5 and 0.5 degrees Celsius), respectively. Still, don't be surprised if temperatures during your vacation dip down below the sub-zero mark, and it may feel even colder with wind-chill.
- Average December temperatures: 25 F (minus 4 C) / 9 F (minus 13 C)
- Average January temperatures: 18 F (minus 8 C) / 0 F (minus 18 C)
- Average February temperatures: 21 F (minus 6 C) / 3 F (minus 16 C)
What to Pack
No matter how prepared you might be, Quebec City tends to evoke a stunned look on tourists as they tremble across cobblestone streets wearing painfully inadequate clothing. A hoodie, jeans, and running shoes won't cut it here mid-winter. Packing essentials include insulated, waterproof boots that are comfortable enough to walk in, an insulated parka or down coat that hits well below the waist, a warm hat, gloves or mittens, long underwear (merino wool works best), sweaters, and winter socks.
If your trip to Quebec City includes skiing, don't forget your ski and snowboard gear, including warm and waterproof pants and a jacket, goggles, a helmet, and even sunglasses and sunscreen (the sun's reflection off the snow can result in a bad sunburn).
Winter Events in Quebec City
The Quebec Winter Carnival is the city's biggest draw and takes place over three weeks in February. However, smaller events, like the German Christmas Market and the Aquarium's Festilumières, are not to be missed if you have kids, as kid-centric activities, games, and even a visit from Santa could be the highlight of your little one's vacation.
- Visit Old Quebec a few weeks before Christmas for Quebec City's German Christmas Market. This traditional European market features vendors selling artisan gifts and German treats like bratwurst, mulled wine, and gingerbread. Kindermarkt, a dedicated area for kids, provides child-centric performances and activities, as well as an opportunity to visit Santa.
- Head to the Aquarium du Québec for Festilumières, an outdoor display of 500,000 LED lights synchronized to music. This kid-friendly exhibit features marine animals, a slide, and an enchanted forest. Snow tubing and games also provide fun at this multiweek celebration that typically takes place in December and January.
- The Quebec Winter Carnival is the biggest winter carnival in the world. Thousands of people head to Quebec to partake in the sub-zero merriment that takes place at various locations across the city. The carnival's authenticity is reflected in its programming that celebrates the city's rich history. Highlights include ice slides and mazes, dog sledding, a night parade, snow sculptures, gourmet treats, and carnival grog. An admission fee is paid once for access to weeks worth of February activities at several locations throughout the city.
Winter Travel Tips
- Thousands of people arrange their travels around the Quebec Winter Carnival, making the month of February one of the busiest months to travel to Quebec City. That said, hotel and transportation rates can be high and reservations are suggested.
- Quebec's fascinating and rich history is best discovered on foot and by an expert. Join a guided sightseeing tour to appreciate this extraordinary city.
- Try ice skating at any one of the outdoor rinks or winding skating trails located in several parks throughout the city. Skates are often available to rent at reasonable rates.
- Make a point of venturing outside of the Old Quebec district for an authentic local feel. Foodies can find excellent, affordable restaurants throughout the city, as well. Just ask a local for their favorite suggestions.
- Each year an ice slide opens at the back of the Chateau Frontenac along the Dufferin Terrace. For $2, you can grab a wooden toboggan to lug to the top. Then, climb on in and ride down the hill at speeds that will take your breath away.
- Several downhill ski resorts are within an hour of Quebec City, with Mont-Saint Ann and Le Massif being the closest. Shuttles are available to and from the ski hills.
Learn more about what to see and do by reading our guide to Quebec City's Top Attractions.