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Travel Center
Quebec
Bonjour Quebec

In winter, Québec City turns a different shade of splendor, robed in a sparkling mantle of snow. Its magical 400-year-old charm turns up a notch with twinkling lights and holiday tradition. Awash with history, culture and a relaxed, French-speaking populace, this former French fur-trading post revels in its robust, rustic roots, accompanied by sleigh-loads of European flair. Read the Inside Tracks below to find out why it’s one of our favorite cities in the world.

Old Town Winter Wonderland

Old Town Winter Wonderland

Placed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list in 1985, Québec City’s Old Town is the only walled city north of Mexico. Wander through the cobbled streets and you may think you’ve landed in Europe. Lower Town offers history, boutiques and bistros along the charming Petit-Champlain and in Place-Royal, the first permanent settlement of New France. Upper Town houses the fabled Cheateau Frontenac, military fortifications and Battlefields Park, where the English defeated the French in 1759.

Old Town ramps up its 400-year-old charm and magic during Québec Fête Noël (Québec’s Christmas Celebration). Evergreens dressed in twinkling lights, ice sculptures, holiday feasting, live nativity scenes, street theater, concerts, choirs and caroling create the festive merriment. The homey Christmas market at Old Port Market features locally made products and gifts, while Aux Anciens Canadiens serves traditional meals and meat pie with holiday cheer in its 17th-century house.

If you tire of the cold, a museum pass will give you access to the excellent Museum of Civilization, Musee du Fort, Notre-Dame Cathedral and more. To relax, try a Nordic spa like Siberia Station, which features wooded paths connecting Finnish and steam saunas, outdoor whirlpools and hot rest areas with fireplaces and wood stoves. Shoppers can take shelter in the giant Les Galeries de la Capitale or frolic in its massive indoor amusement park, the second largest in North America.

Winter Ice & Traditional Delights

Winter Ice & Traditional Delights

Canada’s answer to Mardi Gras comes with a clean, fresh joie de vivre. Dating back to 1894, Québec’s Winter Carnival is the largest in the world, featuring every kind of imaginable fun: skating, slide runs, sleigh rides, ice sculptures, ice fishing, dancing, outdoor cinema and night parades, along with snow baths, ice-canoe and dog races, snow rafting and carnival booths. Festivities occur throughout Old Town over a 17-day span in January and February.

For a quieter stroll through tradition, find J.A. Moisan on rue Saint-Jean. Said to be the oldest grocery store in North America, it was founded in 1871 to meet the tastes of the affluent Upper Town clientele. The vast emporium of fine imports still purveys the spirit of the past with quality food, music and décor from the 1920s and ’30s, accompanied by good old-fashioned service. Stop by for a latte and pastries or fine cheeses and preserves made in Québec.

To celebrate the end of winter, the Québecois turn to maple syrup. The First Nations’ people used it to cook venison. French pioneers added it to their own wood-fired dishes. Today, maple syrup is a multimillion-dollar industry. Québec’s “sugaring off” season begins when the weather warms and the trees are tapped for sap. The syrup is produced in cabane à sucre (sugar shacks), which become popular gathering places for traditional foods and joyful ambience. Sugar shacks come in all stripes and sizes, some offering year-round tours and tastes.

Zany, Crazy & Cool

Zany, Crazy & Cool

Québec City has the cool market cornered with wild and eclectic offerings. Entirely engineered of snow and ice, Québec’s Hôtel de Glace (Ice Hotel) is reconstructed every year and only stays open from January to March—or until it melts. But consider the cold, hard facts before you book a room: Nordic sleeping bags instead of sheets, shared changing rooms, 9 p.m. check-in and 8 a.m. check-out, and an indoor chill factor between 23° and 26° Fahrenheit) (-3° and -5°C). If you’re not interested in lodging, you can always opt to visit the glittering Ice Bar and enjoy the hotel tour by day.

Just outside the city, raging waters plunge over cliffs taller than Niagara Falls. In the winter, portions of the massive falls at Parc de la Chute-Montmorency turn into ice and a climber’s dream. If you don’t want to sign up for an ice-climbing course, take the cable car to the top, cross the footbridge over the Falls, walk or snowshoe the surrounding trails, dine at Le Manoir Montmorency or toboggan with the kids on the frozen base of the Falls.

In March 2011, a unique urban winter event revisits the city. Mix Red Bull, hockey and downhill skiing, and you get a super high-energy sport known as Ice Cross Downhill. Last winter, over 100,000 people turned out to watch athletes careening down a specially constructed winding and dipping urban ice track that snaked its way through Québec’s cobbled Old Town. Banked corners, steps, jumps and breakneck vertical drops—one measuring 184 feet—give meaning to the Red Bull Crashed Ice name.

Savor the Flavors

Savor the Flavors

Québec has the most distinctive regional cuisine in all of Canada, blending the traditions of its founding nations and first people. To best sample the local specialties, join the Walking Food Tour. A professional guide will lead you to select restaurants, bakeries, alcohol outlets and grocers to sample everything from chocolate to cheeses, meats, pastries and crepes. C’est magnifique!

Le Cochon Dinge (the Crazy Pig) has delighted customers for over 30 years with its Old Town location, colorful bistro ambiance and creative French-Québécois treats. Drop in for one of their signature breakfasts to savor soft French toast dripping with pure Canadian maple syrup, berried waffles or crepes, along with Belgian hot chocolate or a café au lait. Top off lunch or dinner with traditional sugar pie, and you’ll understand the joyful mood of the Crazy Pig.

In the evenings when the snow falls and the air turns icy, locals head inside for warm comforts. Try the chic, new XO Lounge for live jazz, cigars and a large selection of cognac, scotch, Armagnac and wine. In the Upper City, drop in at the art-deco Hotel Clarendon where jazz musicians like Diana Krall have graced the bar’s stage. For Old-World respite, find a seat at the St-Laurent Bar & Lounge at Le Chateau Frontenac and order one of their famous martinis.

Studio of Many Faces

Studio of Many Faces

Travelers who appreciate unique art pieces should pay a visit to the studio of Québec artist Guy Levesque. His eclectic masks, sculptures and furniture crafted of leather and metal have found their way into local film and theatrical productions and have traveled to art shows and homes around the world. The workshop-gallery in Québec’s Vieux-Port (Old Port) district lets visitors observe the steps involved in his unique molding technique. Chairs fashioned after animals, masks that mold to the wearer’s face and sculptures of modern and primitive design all speak to the artist’s intriguing vision of form and function. His work may also speak to your own vision for an unusual and specially crafted keepsake by which to remember your trip.

Artists of the Table

Artists of the Table

Cozy eating locales tucked into cobblestone streets beckon with delicious Québecois cuisine dripping with rich French-Canadian flavors. Artistes de la Table takes the mouth-watering dreams a step further by welcoming guests into a beautifully restored neo-classical house with a state-of-the-art kitchen. Under the tutelage of an acclaimed culinary expert, you and a group of friends can prepare a menu of your choosing while learning the techniques of five-star cooking. Soak up the atmosphere of Québec’s Vieux Port (Old Port) district and enjoy an evening cooking and dining together, with wines specially paired to complement your creations.

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