Quebec City’s charming cobblestone streets and 400 years of historic buildings are pretty at any time of year, but whether you want to avoid the crowds, or stay warm, you’ll want to pick a time to visit that suits your tastes.
While the summer is gorgeous, Québec City’s streets can get packed with tourists, especially in the upper and lower towns. Visiting in the winter will be less busy but colder — temperatures in the French-Canadian capital can drop below -40 degrees Celsius (0 Fahrenheit) — but seeing the city under a blanket of fluffy snow is a magical experience.
Here are the best times to visit and what to expect every month.
Party with the crowds during high season (June to August)
Surviving cold, long winters like what’s experienced in Québec is reason to celebrate — and the capital city absolutely explodes with elation during the summer months. The temperature averages in the mid-20s Celsius (70s Fahrenheit) and there’s so much to do. On any given day you’ll find festivals and people flooding restaurants and bar terrasses (patios) in the city. Summer is also a perfect time to enjoy the raw nature in and outside of Québec by cycling, swimming at the beach, canoeing or cruising on the river.
Yet you can guarantee that high season in Québec will be busy. Accommodation will be the priciest during the summer and Vieux Québec gets jam-packed with visitors snapping photos of Fairmont Le Château Frontenac.
Walk in a winter wonderland (December to March)
Yes, Québec City gets cold, but if you can brave it, winter is a majestic time to visit. Québec City gets blanketed with fluffy snow, providing a gorgeous visual and auditory experience — silent night walks when snow is on the ground really are special. And the city knows how to embrace sub-zero temperatures by staying active — try a 150-year-old toboggan slide, Les Glissades de la Terrasse, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing.
But if you go in winter, don’t think you’ll be cold all the time. Denmark might have invented the idea of hygge, but Quebeckers certainly know how to get cozy. Warm up in a chalet with a Caribou, a drink with red wine, maple syrup and usually whisky, or have stomach-coating poutine — cheese curds and gravy over fries.
Sugar shack season (March and April)
While spring has arrived in the states, winter continues its last gasps in Québec City through March and April, with occasional snow storms and frost. This can make the roads treacherous and the brown snow on the side of the road less than charming. So depart the city and flock to a cabane à sucre, or sugar shack, to eat, drink and be merry. Traditional dishes include oreilles de crisse (literally Christ’s ears, but it’s deep-fried pork jowls), cretons (a spread made with pork and spices) and tarte au sirop d’érable (maple sugar pie).
See magical multi-colored trees (September and October)
In the fall, Québec City gets enveloped in gorgeous multi-colored leaves. You’ll see rusty oranges, neon yellows, and the reddest of reds as you wander the city parks, and the weather doesn’t get too cold either.
But the best way to experience Québec City in the fall is to do a day trip to a park like Parc national de la Jacques Cartier or L’Île-d’Orléans where the fall colors are on full display.
Québec's coldest month is the perfect time for a romantic lune de miel (honeymoon) as the streets are covered in fluffy snow. But enjoying winter in Québec is also great in the countryside where you can go skiing or snowboarding at a resort like Stoneham or Le Massif, which now hosts Canada’s first all-inclusive winter resort. While out of town, stay in a chalet, eat cheese fondue and drink wine. Or fully embrace winter by staying at Québec’s famous ice hotel, Hôtel de la Glace.
Québec City celebrates rather than hides from winter by hosting Carnaval de Québec, which has plenty of fun — usually free — activities for all ages. For the bravest among us, February is also time for Canada’s largest outdoor winter event: Pentathalon des Neiges.
No, it’s not spring just yet in Québec City and you’ll still find very cold temperatures throughout March. So, warm up at a sugar shack or shimmy through the streets at the St. Patrick’s Day parade.
Nope, it’s still not warm in Québec City. Go get some peace of mind at a Nordic spa such as Siberia, where you cycle between cold and warm pools for relaxation and better blood circulation.
Spring has finally arrived in Québec City, so go explore one of the many wonderful parks like Parc Chaveau or Domaine de Maizerets and take in the blossoming trees. May is a great time to visit the 272-foot-tall Chute Montmorency as the waterfall’s water pressure is at its strongest in the spring.
In the city, check out Carrefour international de théâtre and its walk-through experience, Où tu vas quand tu dors en marchant…?
This is the best month of the year to visit temperature-wise with mild not-too-hot weather in Québec City. It’s also festival season, so check out the Indigenous fest, Kwe! and Québec’s national holiday Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day.
Long, warm days are blissful in Québec City at this time of year. Yes, there are crowds, but there’s plenty to enjoy outside of the old town where most cluster.
Go on a boat tour along the Saint Lawrence River, or check out the new Onhwa’ Lumina light walk in Wendake. The 12-day Festival D’Été also happens in July and hosts some of the world’s biggest acts for an affordable price.
August gets reasonably hot in Québec City with an average temperature of 24 degrees Celsius, so cool off at the beach on the Baie de Beauport or dip your feet in the shallow pool at Festibière. August is also time for Pride in Québec City and free fireworks shows, Les Grand Feux Loto-Québec.
As the crowds dissipate after Labour Day and the leaves start to change, check out the city’s farmer’s markets and reap the rewards of the fall harvest. You can also cheer on the cyclists at the Grand Prix Cycliste and go leaf-peeping, of course.
Something about walking through streets with centuries of history makes Halloween in Québec City extra spooky. So dress up and take in the festivities while enjoying a craft brew on a bar terrasse.
Admittedly not the best month to be anywhere in Québec as the skies turn grey and the days shorten, but you can get started on the Christmas season early with the city’s German market, Le Marché de Noël Allemand de Québec.
It begins to look a lot like Christmas early in Québec City, so plan to go shopping under twinkly lights. Chilly? Warm up with a hot drink in one of the city’s many cozy cafes or bakeries.