With its mixed colonial history and distinct contemporary language and culture, the province of Quebec is uniquely situated in North America. From beautiful landscapes to unforgettable experiences, here are some reasons why you should make a visit to Quebec—even during the winter.
Rich with history, Quebec City is one of the oldest cities in North America. Quebec was founded in 1608 by Samuel de Champlain, and it remains the only walled city north of Mexico. Historic cobblestone streets are lined with canons overlooking the Saint Lawrence River, and the city is characterized by architectural landmarks like the Chateau Frontenac and the La Citadelle fortress.
During the winter months, Quebec City is home to the world’s biggest outdoor winter festival: the Carnaval de Québec. Running from the last week of January into mid-February, this historic festival has existed on-and-off since the late 1800s and became an official annual event in 1955. The winter fun includes fireworks, skating, sleigh rides, dog sled races, night parades, outdoor dance parties (yes, despite the cold!), and other revelry. The cheery Bonhomme Carnaval oversees the family-friendly activities and the festival attracts international visitors who want to experience a true Canadian winter.
Montreal is a dynamic and much-loved city, attracting tourists, students, businesses, and creative people from around the world. With its mix of European and North American architectural styles, the rhythm of the city is distinct—even within Quebec—and for many people it’s the first stop on their way into the province.
Legend has it that the province of Quebec holds well over 500 festivals per year. From the International Jazz Festival to the Just for Laughs comedy fest in Montreal, and the Québec City Summer Festival and the city’s infamous Winter Carnival, plenty of the entertainment provided by these festivals is free of charge and takes over the city streets.
Although Montreal is the second-largest mainly French-speaking city in the world, after Paris. it is also actively bilingual. Most of the rest of the province, however, speaks steadfast Québécois. This makes the province a great place to visit if you want to practice French, with numerous language schools located in both Montreal and Quebec City, among others.
Microbreweries abound across Quebec, and the province is known for its production of strong and often creative brews—from beer to cider, and more. There are over 150 active breweries in the province, and together they make well over 3,000 different beers.
For a glimpse into some of the most striking landscapes in the province, the Gaspé Peninsula incorporates beautiful towns with pine forests and steep cliffs that overlook the Gulf of the St Lawrence. A popular destination in the region is Percé, with its famous pierced rock, and the breathtaking Parc de la Gaspésie is always worth a visit for its natural beauty and outdoor activities—including kayaking and whale watching.
Quebec produces between 75-77% of the world’s supply of maple syrup, an industry with more than $400 million in annual sales. It’s worth visiting some of the over 400 sugar shacks that are scattered across the province, in order to experience the process of syrup production and to taste the maple-themed delicacies that have come to characterize Canadian cuisine.
Outdoor experiences are vital for any visit to Quebec, and Mont Mégantic National Park is another conservation area that cannot be missed. Situated in the northern part of the Appalachian Mountains, the park has over 50km of hiking trails and is also home to the most important astronomical observatory in eastern Canada: the Mont Mégantic Observatory. In any season, enjoying the surrounding wildlife and taking some time to learn about astronomy in the park is a magical and unique experience.
The Hotel de Glace (Ice Hotel) is reimagined and re-built every year, located around 10 minutes from downtown Quebec City. There are daily tours through the complex with its individually themed suites, which gives visitors a sense of what it’s like to spend the night in a bed made of ice, in a room made of ice. There’s a Nordic Area, where you can enjoy spas and saunas under the night skies, while there is also an ice slide on the grounds. The bar offers ice cider, maple cider, or apple cream from glasses carved from, yes, more ice.
Some of the major attractions in Quebec are its numerous opportunities for skiing. One of the most popular ski resorts in the province is Mont-Tremblant, a quaint village located at the base of a ski hill with lots of amenities that cater to winter sport aficionados. It’s a great spot for families, too, with a range of outdoor activities, shops, restaurants, and more. The surrounding countryside is beautiful, and can be explored at any time of the year.
From the Pointe-à-Callière Archeology and History complex in Montreal to the Museum of Civilization in Quebec City, Quebec is the living hub for post pre- and post-contact history in Canada. The province is home to numerous incredible museums, which offer insight into both Canadian and global representations of the past.
Along with the province’s extensive network of museums and historical sites, Quebec also boasts a number of world-class art galleries that are important focal points for cultural expression. The Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec (Fine Art Museum of Quebec) and the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (Contemporary Art Museum of Montreal) are unforgettable galleries to visit.
Coastal Quebec is one of the few places in the world where you can see a wide array of large sea mammals, which are attracted to the rich supply of shellfish in the St Lawrence River. You can take whale-watching cruises from late May to early October in the St Lawrence River and see how many whales can be spotted in Québec.
The Îles-de-la-Madeleine archipelago is a series of islands located at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River. The islands are a popular destination for cycling, kayaking, camping, as well as windsurfing and kitesurfing. The largest island, Île du Havre-Aubert, is home to indigenous archeological sites and the historic La Grave quarter, which includes historical fishing buildings, an aquarium, a museum, and cafés and boutiques.