Quebec Christmas Markets
If you ever want the experience of a European vacation without flying across the Atlantic, head to the Quebec Christmas Markets instead. The Quebec Christmas Markets run each weekend starting in November. These traditional German Markets have a German appearance, but don’t expect to speak German in Quebec City. Although the language is firmly French in Quebec, you will find that most everyone speaks a bit of English too. Our 3 night stay for the Quebec Christmas Markets was magical with just the right mix of snow and sunshine.
Although our Quebec Christmas Markets tour was arranged by Gate1 Travel from the USA, we arrived from western Canada. Part of our journey to Quebec was a non-stop flight on Swoop Air between Victoria and Toronto. About 3 hours before it was time to head to the airport, Swoop Air cancelled our flight. Their offer was a refund or several options to fly on WestJet.
Sheraton Toronto Airport Hotel
We accepted the Westjet flights, which delayed our departure and added a short layover in Edmonton. The snowy runway in Toronto caused the plane to lurch as we landed, but the pilot kept us on the runway. It’s crazy how hard it was to find the Sheraton Toronto Airport Hotel when it’s actually joined to the airport terminal. Previously we planned to arrive in Toronto at midnight for our overnight stay. With the flight changes, we arrived at 6:30 am. Everyone else was checking out as we checked in. After a solid 5 hour sleep in a lovely room, we took the tram from the hotel directly to our Air Canada departure gate for Quebec.
Arrival at the Quebec Christmas Markets
Our flight from Toronto to Quebec was calm and sunny until the landing. Snow and low cloud obscured the runway, but the visibility was just good enough to land. Our cab ride from the airport to the old town ended up being magical. We passed the legislature and drove through the city wall at the St Louis Gate as large snowflakes drifted down over a carpet of snow lit by the street lights at dusk. Next we drove down along the famous Rue Saint-Louis to the Clarendon Hotel. The snow and the European ambiance already made the weekend feel like a success.
Quebec Christmas Markets – Clarendon Hotel
The Clarendon Hotel was a perfect home base for our Quebec Christmas Markets weekend. Although it’s one of the oldest hotels in the old town, it has been remodelled beautifully. Our windows looked out at the lights of the Christmas Markets right across the street. Behind the markets, City Hall also provided Christmas lighting. We immediately headed out in the snow, visiting the markets at City Hall, Rue St Anne and at the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac. All of these markets are just a few minutes apart on foot.
That evening we had seafood at the Clarendon Hotel followed by dessert at the Christmas Market. We enjoyed the Clarendon restaurant so much that we ate all our evening meals there. I especially enjoyed their seafood chowder and bread. We skipped out on the option for traditional Quebec fare at the nearby Restaurant La Buche, though we did hear great things about it.
Each morning our Gate1 Travel booking included breakfast. One option was bacon, sausage, eggs, hash browns and toast. The other option was yoghurt, fruit, hardboiled egg, a croissant and banana bread. Both were great options and both included orange juice and coffee.
Quebec Christmas Markets – Upper Town
After breakfast we set out on a full day self guided tour of Quebec Upper Town. The weather had turned cloudy and cold, so we bundled up and headed toward the Plains of Abraham. Along the way we walked past the Chapelle des Ursulines, through the Kent Gate, past the Parliament and through the Saint Louis Gate to the Martello Towers on the plains. Next we walked back through the snowy fields to the Citadelle. We decided not to enter the fort museum, but walked along the perimeter of the Citadelle walls to the Saint-Denis Terrace.
At the Terrace we enjoyed a great view of the Frontenac Hotel, the Dufferin Terrace and the Glissades toboggan run, which wasn’t open for the season yet. We finished our morning self guided tour of the upper old town by passing Chalmers-Wesley United Church and walking the full length of the picturesque Rue Saint-Louis.
Quebec Christmas Markets – Lower Old Town
Our self guided tour continued with a walk down to the Lower Old Town. We passed Notre Dame and the Saint François de Laval Monument in front of the post office building. Next we crossed to the Cartier Statue in Montmorency Park and then descended through the Prescott Gate into the lower old town. The sun came out as we walked the full length of the Rue du Petit Champlain. Icicles were falling off the roof tops and making the tourists scramble.
In the Lower Old Town we also visited Place Royale, the Royal Battery and the Quebec City Mural. We still had enough energy left to take the Old Town Funicular back up to Dufferin Terrace beside the Monument of Samuel de Champlain and the Hotel Frontenac. The sunshine enticed me to return to Saint Denis Terrace for some great pics of the Frontenac hotel, also known as the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac. We also made our way up Rue Saint John to the St John Gate, where we watched people at the outdoor skating rink and small Christmas market.
Lower Old Town in the Evening
After dinner, we made one more descent through the Prescott Gate to the lower old town. The Rue du Petit Champlain was very busy and not as pretty at night as the Christmas Markets in the Upper old town. We visited the lovely Christmas tree at Place Royale and then climbed the Frontenac Stairs to the Upper Old Town. The Quebec Christmas Markets beside the Frontenac was very popular. On the way back to the Hotel Clarendon, we crossed Place des Armes to walk through the Christmas Market by Holy Trinity Cathedral on Rue St Anne. Our last stop was the Christmas Market at City Hall.
Gate1 Travel – Bus Tour
On our second full day of our Quebec Christmas Markets vacation we took an afternoon bus tour with Gate1 Travel to four destinations outside of Quebec. Our first stop was a small chocolate shop in the village of Sainte-Pétronille on the l’Ile d’Orleans. The delicious chocolate made the time pass quickly on the way to our second stop at Montmorency Falls.
The Montmorency Falls are even higher than Niagara Falls and make for a very popular tourist destination when visiting Quebec City. Even so, these falls didn’t impress me much. Below the falls there are large expanses of concrete barriers. Above the falls, a pedestrian suspension bridge detracts from the view. The two walking routes out to the Montmorency Falls from Manoir Montmorency were both very pleasant. The view down from the suspension bridge to the water pouring over the edge from underneath the solid ice river was intriguing.
After Montmorency Falls we stopped at a family run copper art museum called Cuivres d’Art Albert Gilles Boutique et Musée. This was a rather bizarre experience that I would have preferred to skip. The stop was a nice lead in to the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré though, as the family had crafted the huge copper doors at the entrance to the church.
The Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré made the whole Gate1 Travel Bus Tour unforgettable. The church is set in a small village of about 3,000 people. Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré is a huge church with an immaculate interior. You feel like you are attending one of the most beautiful churches in all of Europe, but you are in the agricultural fields along the St Lawrence instead. Even the Vatican recognizes the importance of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, because in 2022 Pope Francis led mass here. Don’t miss the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré if you ever visit Quebec.
On the taxi ride to the airport the next morning, I got to try my skills at speaking the dialect of French called Quebecois. For the tip, I told the driver to add 8 dollars by saying “ploosa witt” instead of a French pronunciation of “ploo wheat”. He told me I had a very good French accent, which really made me smile.
Swoop Air Again
When we reached Toronto it was time for our return flight on Swoop Air. We were very nervous about whether the flight would actually happen, given the last minute cancellation on the way out. We were relieved to finally be on board. As we waited for the plane to push back, someone in the row behind joked, “Ladies and gentlemen, this flight has been cancelled. Please exit the aircraft in an orderly fashion.” Then the plane pushed back and we were on our way.
Swoop Air is like Easy Jet in Europe with low prices and seat upgrades that are reasonably priced too. You can’t get hot meals, internet or movies. Drinks are not complimentary. A single mom was struggling to care for her 8 month old daughter on the 5 hour flight. Eventually I convinced her to let us take the child. She sat on my lap for 40 minutes and I even got to feed her a bottle. Best inflight entertainment I’ve ever experienced. Our Quebec Christmas Markets weekend ended on a perfect note.
Leave A Comment