Yay! The first snow has fallen upon the streets of Québec City, and while we do not know if it will melt before the next snowfall, we are beyond excited for the start of winter. Cue the wintery holiday music – Boney M’s Feliz Navidad is playing now, it is like a warm childhood bear hug – and warm up the chocolat chaud (hot chocolate).
Winter in Québec City is magical; with the snow clinging to the historic buildings like frosting on a mouthwatering cake. In winter Québec City looks like a real-life fairy tale destination, and while we are not fans of the crisp chilly wind that sometimes whips through the city, we cannot resist putting on all of our winter gear and exploring the city.
Believe it or not, most Québec City locals can tell if you’re a tourist based on how you dress for winter.
Here is what you NEED to pack for winter in Québec City, along with the ONE thing everyone forgets to pack!
Yes, we are pulling out the ‘P’ word! Standing guard along the shores of the Saint-Lawrence River, Québec City is in the perfect position to embrace winter’s full blast; and unlike Western Canada, there is definitely some moisture in the air in Québec! Bring a parka, not some flimsy winter jacket. Trust us, nobody wants to go back to their hotel early because their body feels like a frozen corpse due to a lame winter jacket. Helly Hansen and Columbia are two of our favourite brands of winter jackets. Tip: Down-filled jackets are best, especially in January and February.
You are visiting the oldest Canadian city, in winter, it is time you use the local vernacular! We lose 7-10% of our body heat through our head (the 40% is a myth, you can read more about that here), you need to keep it covered! We suggest wearing a toque that is warm and whimsical. Québécers enjoy warm whimsical winter hats. Winter is all about finding fun when and where you can!
This should be obvious. Your fingers can get cold enough that it becomes difficult to move them — especially if you’re not wearing warm gloves or mittens! If you don’t live in a cold winter climate, you can buy warm glove inserts to put into a pair of gloves you already own. Or you can buy a pair of ski gloves or woolly mittens! Trust us, your hands will thank you.
A good parka, as well as gloves or mittens, are essential, but there are days when HotHands come in very handy (yeah, we know, that was super cheesy). While these delights were created to help keep your hands warm on extremely chilly days, we like using them on other parts of the body – like inside a bra or taped to our butt cheeks (nobody likes an icy bum). It is probably best to stick to hands or feet.
Winter boots are essential in Québec City, and Sorel boots are our top choice. Why? It is quite simple, they have good tread, they are warm, and perfect for all types of winter weather: snow, ice, rain, and sleet ( a mixture of snow and rain). Winter is an unpredictable time of year in Québec, and whether there is snow on the ground or not, you will feel out of place if you’re not wearing winter boots between the months of November and March.
The is the ONE things everyone forgets to pack for winter in Québec City. Ice crampons are essential, especially from December to the end of February when the streets are a mixture of snow and ice. It sounds extreme, but the streets and sidewalks in Old Québec get very slippery in winter – and if you glide when you walk, your butt will spend more time on the ground than your feet!
We understand your desire to travel with your favourite pair of jeans, but in winter, jeans are generally not the best pants to wear if you want to stay warm and dry unless you’re wearing snow pants as well. Packing lightweight pants made for autumn and winter conditions not only saves room in your suitcase, but they are easier to move around in and layer well. Consider Columbia’s Silver Ridge Stretch Pant or something similar.
Québecers love their snow pants in winter, a lot. Once the snow starts to fall, almost everyone can be found walking around outside in a parka AND snow pants – especially in January and February when Old Man Winter seems to have a death grip on the city. Plus, like most Québecers love outdoor winter activities, snow pants are mandatory for keeping you warm and dry.
Long sleeve thermal shirts are common sense in winter as they help to keep your upper body warm. We like the waffle style thermal shirts that fit a little snug, and then we top it off with a t-shirt (or another long sleeve shirt). Winter is all about layers, and let’s be honest, sometimes you will need to peel off the layers and relax before layering back up and venturing outside again.
Remember when we talked about layers? Well, sweaters are another essential winter packing list item. Whether you prefer fleece-lined hoodies or cardigans or pullovers, sweaters can either be worn under your jacket or at the end of the day when you’re walking around your hotel or room. Basically, they are a warm hug on a chilly day. We like sweaters.
A winter outfit is not complete without warm socks to wear. We like wearing snowboarding socks; they are fun and whimsical and super warm as well. Pack a couple pairs, and consider using a pair to hold your camera and SD cards. We like to stuff ours in a pair of warm socks to keep our camera gear from freezing!
A scarf is an ideal choice for keeping your neck warm, as well as the lower portion of your face. Big woolly cowls are always a good idea for this but based on your winter activities they can get a little too hot. Another option is the secret pocket infinity scarf from Speakeasy Travel Supply. Created by round the world traveller, these scarves are fashionable, and come with a secret pocket which is great for hiding your passport, credit cards etc.
Travelling with a tripod is ideal any time of year, but especially in winter when there is plenty of low-light situations and night photography opportunities. The Manfrotto Compact Tripod is a favourite at Urban Guides, as it is well made, easy to use and packs well.
In winter Québec City is a stunning magical winter wonderland, and if you show up without a camera, you will instantly regret it. We love that the Nikon 1 V3 is mirrorless, lightweight, and very easy to use. It also takes superb photos! A favourite at Urban Guide Québec when we don’t want to lug around our Fuji X-T1.
Lip balm and hand salve are just as important as winter clothing and a camera, and while there are plenty of options where you live, we think you should try out some of the fabulous body care products made right here in the province of Québec. Brands like Savonnerie des Diligences and BKIND can be purchased online before you travel to Québec City, or you can wait until you arrive and shop for Québec-made products at some of our favourite boutiques. We highly recommend Article 721 in Limoilou!
QUÉBEC CITY TRAVEL RESOURCES
A Beginners Guide to Québec City: Visiting Québec City for the first time? Start with this post which gives an overview of neighbourhoods to visit, food, top things to do and more.
Québec City Travel Planner: Search through our handy travel planner for information on everything from driving routes, taking the train, when to visit, how to get around and more!
Urban Guide Québec City guidebook: Discover the local food and culture of Québec City in this guidebook focused on promoting local artisans, producers and businesses. Explore popular neighbourhoods, or embrace the local side, both are represented in this guidebook on Québec City.
Champlain’s Dream by David Hackett Fischer: Written by a Pulitzer Prize-winner, Champlain’s Dream is a captivating read about the man who established the colony of New France, and considered to be the father of Québec. A tome worthy of any book collection.
Québec: The Story of Three Sieges by Stephen Manning: Understanding some of the key battles in Québec’s history is one of the best ways to begin to understand the mentality of Québec, and the relationship between French and English. This book is one of the best in terms of the major battles that helped to shape Québec’s future.
Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny: A local favourite, Louise Penny crafts a captivating murder mystery set in Québec City. Book six in her Chief Inspector Gamache series, you don’t need to read the first five to enjoy this story which will take you through some of our favourite places in Old Québec.
An Essential Winter Packing List: Planning to visit Québec City during the winter months? Make sure you pack these items for a warm and fun trip!
Winter Bucket List: 40+ Things to See & Do: The air may be crisp, and the ground may be covered in fluffy white snow, but there is still plenty to see and do in Québec City in winter!
Google Translate – you don’t need to speak French, but knowing a couple words can be helpful. Download the app before your trip to help communicate with locals.
DuoLingo – learn some French words and phrases before your trip! DuoLingo is a great app for learning French a little bit at a time.
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