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Quebec City: A winter wonderland

Head north for the ultimate holiday destination

Living in warm, sunny Anguilla year round, my husband and I try to plan a getaway where we can immerse ourselves in wintry weather and seasonal vibes during the holidays. This year, we chose to venture to Quebec City and Montreal with some of our best friends in tow.

What we experienced was beyond what we could have imagined. Quite simply, Quebec City is the ultimate holiday destination.

If you'd like to plan a similar vacation escape for next winter, as part of a river cruise or not, now is the time to start planning. Here's a Visual List of our experience there last month. 

Ground zero: The Chateau Frontenac

If you're staying for a night or more, consider staying (as we did) at the stunning Chateau Frontenac, an iconic property that holds the title of world’s most photographed hotel. The castle’s facade is a beauty and the interiors are all kinds of regal and holiday-inspired with an entire hall lined with Christmas trees. If you’re given the option, choose a room with a view. We originally booked a standard room but were happy with the choice of upgrading. We had two mornings in our room; one that brought sunny skies shining over glistening fresh powder, and one that brought a blizzard with thick snow swirling outside our window. 

Sightseeing Central: Quebec's Old Town

Quebec’s Old Town is essentially composed of two parts: the upper old town and the lower old town. If you’re on the hunt for the picture-perfect scenes of Old Quebec, head to Quartier Petit Champlain where you’ll fall straight into a scene from a Christmas movie. Dating back more than 400 years, this part of Quebec City oozes charm and the experience is only enhanced by the snowfall. Christmas trees line the streets, wreaths and large lit snowflakes hang from the rooftops, and Christmas lights take the fore in this part of town.

Petit Champlain is exactly what you’d expect: fudgeries, boutiques, quaint pubs and sweet shops adorning the streets and holiday music playing through the main thoroughfares. It takes the idea of holiday spirit and charm to the next level. When we were visiting in mid-December, the streets were empty but for us and a few other visitors meandering the snow-covered roads and snapping photos of main square. Generally speaking, the first two weeks of December are a great time to travel if you can swing it. Fewer people are jet-setting since many are saving their holiday getaways for Christmas and New Year’s weeks. For those who can get away, it’s ideal: Not only will you be able to enjoy a lesser-trafficked experience, you’ll also enjoy lower prices since tourism takes a bit of a dip.

If you’re staying at Chateau Frontenac or somewhere nearby, you have a couple of ways to access the Lower Old Town. You can either take the stairs – around 200 of them – to descend into the magical old quarter, or you can take the funicular (C$2.50 per person each way) which leaves from outside of Chateau Frontenac (Terrasse Dufferin) and drops you off right at the head of Petit Champlain.

Head to Place Royale for a dreamy tableau

For the ultimate romantic holiday scene, you must head down to Place Royale at night when the streets are lit up and the giant Christmas tree in the main square takes center stage. Backed by Notre-Dame-des-Victoires, the oldest stone church in North America (1688), it’s a dreamy tableau. You may recognize the church from "Catch Me If You Can," in a final scene that takes place with Leonardo DiCaprio in a church in a what’s alleged to be a ‘small town in France.’ As it turns out, that scene was actually filmed in this exact square, a pretty solid testament to the French influence and feel that exists in Old Quebec City.

The Lower Old Town is replete with quaint restaurants perfect for a cozy meal, and it’s worth having at least one night slated for this part of town to enjoy the nighttime enchantment. After dinner, head to L’Oncle Antoine’s, a centuries-old home-turned-pub that was recommended to us by friends. Escape the freezing temps and warm up with a seat by the fire or a cup of mulled wine.

Quebec City exceeded our expectations for a holiday getaway. Many of our friends were so enchanted with the pictures we posted that they wanted to know where exactly we were spending our winter holiday (could it really be Canada?!). People often say that they believe Quebec City is the closest thing to Europe that visitors can experience in North America. After our recent visit, I have no doubt that’s absolutely true.

Have you experienced Christmas in Quebec City? What was it like?

Shannon Kircher
Shannon Kircher is the Chief Curator at Cruiseable, hotel marketer and travel blogger based on the Caribbean island of Anguilla.

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