3 things Quebec City can teach us about being a winter city

Many cities struggle throughout the winter.

These cities are in denial of their climate. They reject this part of their identity, and people here retreat for 4 months until spring is back again. And because they do winter poorly, they give winter a bad reputation.

That said, there are three things that winter cities need to get right to truly embrace their winter identity.

1. They need to be fun

In February 2020, my fiancé and I travelled to Quebec City to experience the magic of Carnaval, a true winter festival. Quebec City is one of the oldest cities in Canada, and the festival takes over parts of the city to stage shows, rides, sculptures, experiences, and activities for winter lovers. When we were there in 2020, these were some of the attractions:

  • a giant constructed snow slide with gorgeous views to the Chateau Frontenac
  • A giant ice castle that is the home of the festival’s mascot, Bonhomme. Also a stage for night-time concerts.
  • Outdoor bars built out of ice, serving hot drinks (some with alcohol too)

The streets were teeming with activity, from morning till late evening. It was family-friendly, with something for everyone.

2. They need to be functional

Snow can gum things up quickly.

Our flight going to Quebec City was delayed 12 hours because of a snow storm at the destination. When we finally arrived at 1 am in the morning, the first thing we saw were snow banks 3-4 meter in height, everywhere.

We were staying in the old city, which has narrow, winding roads. Surprisingly, our Uber got us safely to our destination because enough snow had vanished for us to get through. The secret? Special snow ploughs working 24/7 to clear as much snow as possible. They are equipped with a giant chute that shoots snow into empty dump trucks behind them. Once full, the dump trucks drive off and a new one replaces it. The lineup of empty dump trucks were half a dozen down the street.

It was marvellous to see how the Québécois take snow clearing very, very seriously.

3. They need to be indulgent

At the hotel we were staying at, we ordered breakfast delivered to the room every day.

Turns out this breakfast arrives in a little picnic basket, with freshly baked croissants, jams, juices, plates and cutlery, all neatly packed. The room door even has a special hook dedicated to the delivery of this basket. I love croissants, and everything about this experience made me feel bubbly with joy every time we’d wake up to the light knock of the picnic baskets arriving at our door.

A hot chocolate croissant to start a cold morning is indulgent indeed.

Without fun, function and indulgence, the winters can certainly be dreary.

Quebec City delivered an unforgettable winter experience, which taught us how joyful a place can be during the winter. 

Within the three points above lie a winter city’s secrets to success.

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