Quebec Winter Carnival — February 4th – 13th

When is Quebec Winter Carnival?

Quebec winter carnival is a winter vacation held in Quebec city that starts on February 4 and ends on February 13 every year.

Quebec Winter Carnival

The Québec winter carnival, also known as the ‘Carnaval de Québec,’ is the largest winter carnival that attracts thousands of families, couples, and individuals each year.

The event takes place at the start of the year in various places across Old Québec—all conveniently located within walking distance of one another—and pays tribute to long-standing traditions joyfully and festively.

Since 1955, the Quebec winter carnival has been warming hearts during the chilly season. Quebec city is transformed into the winter and snow capital during the celebrations. Because of the province’s chilly climate, snow and ice-related activities are a big part of this festival.

What to Know About Quebec City?

Quebec is the Quebec province’s capital and its largest city and port. Quebec city, one of Canada’s oldest cities (celebrated its 400th anniversary in 2008), has a unique atmosphere and charm. It was designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 1985. Its small cobblestone lanes, stone structures, fortifications, and rich French Canadian culture are its other defining features.

The city’s spectacular view of the surrounding countryside and distinct personality was observed by Charles Dickens on a visit in 1842 when he dubbed Quebec the “Gibraltar of North America.” Quebec is a prominent tourist attraction, regional administrative centre, and transatlantic trading port. Quebec is now known in the world for the Quebec winter carnival.

Every February, the Carnaval du Quebec takes place in Quebec city, the provincial capital, and the event’s popularity is testimony to Quebecers’ rejection of the fear of cold. Throughout the two weeks tourist-friendly event, there are several outdoor activities to participate in, but the gigantic ice palace and the ice sculpting contest are the main attractions. Bonhomme, the festival’s cheerful mascot, is supposed to live in the ice palace. However, the huge guy’s fame stretches far beyond carnival: he’s one of Quebec’s most well-known figures.

History of Quebec Winter Carnival

The Quebec winter carnival is a family-friendly winter celebration in the provincial capital, Québec city. It is, in reality, the largest winter carnival in the world. In both French and English, the locals refer to it as carnival.

A group of businessmen agreed to build a large-scale attraction to attract tourists during the off-season in 1893. The first Quebec winter carnival was staged in 1894 due to their efforts.

An ice palace was created in front of the Quebec parliament, and the streets were adorned with arches made of evergreen branches and ice sculptures. A massive masquerade ball on ice, a canoe race on the river, and a parade of adorned boats were among the events planned. The event was repeated in 1896, then several times over the following decades, but the winter celebrations were put on hold by two world wars and the great depression of the 1930s.

In the 1950s, the concept of a winter carnival was revived. While Bonhomme Carnaval and his duchesses were new things for the carnival, the organizers also worked on attractions such as the ice palace, the grand parade of decorated boats, and the ice canoe race between Quebec city and Lévis. All of which were part of the revived carnival’s new edition in 1955.

The event was steadily expanded from one winter to the next to include more winter activities and sports, many of which were inspired by Quebecers’ traditional way of life. Other newcomers, such as the international snow sculpting competition and the Bonhomme snow bath, appeared to provide the simple pleasure of enjoying winter.

After 40 years, the carnival accepted new directions in the 1990s to keep up with societal developments. It reoriented its activities, and practically all of the celebrations were held in a massive venue on the plains of Abraham. The organization then moved the celebrations back into the city streets starting in 2014 to meet carnival fans’ shifting expectations better. The duchesses’ competition, for example, was restored for the 60th anniversary of the carnival after being put on hold for several years. It was modernized to fit contemporary tastes.

What is Bonhomme and What Should You Know About Bonhomme?

Bonhomme is a seven foot tall, 400 pounds snowman with a red cap, black buttons, and a ceinture fléchée that acknowledges French-Canadian and Métis dress styles.

Wilfrid Hamel, the mayor of Quebec city, presented Bonhomme with his first set of keys to the city. This custom continues to this day, with the mayor of Quebec city handing over the keys to the city to Bonhomme at the beginning of each carnival.

Bonhomme’s undisputed standing as maestro of celebrations and king of the festivities is cemented by this significant act. This Bonhomme is distinct from the lifeless, straw or wooden European Bonhomme, which is sacrificed on Shrove Tuesday at the end of each carnival to represent rebirth and the return of spring.

This Bonhomme goes after each carnival to return fresh and relaxed the following winter, ready to share the same joy.

9 Best Activities for Quebec Winter Carnival

Watch ice and snow sculptures being carved

Amazing snow sculptures are on display at the Quebec winter carnival, and visitors have multiple opportunities to observe the sculptures being carved. Sculptors are hard at work on their sculptures during the carnival’s opening weekend.

Visitors witnessed over 100 distinct sculptures along a specified route around the city in 2021, including the Petit Champlain district and the Old Port.

Skating at Place D’Youville

The outdoor skating rink in the heart of Old Québec’s Place D’Youville is a favourite activity not just during the winter carnival but all year. Moving around on skates while covered up is a terrific way to remain warm, especially when followed with a cup of hot chocolate, tea, or a winter carnival caribou— a hot drink made with wine, brandy, and maple syrup.

Apart from the carnival, the ice rink at Place D’Youville remains open from November to March.

Travel the city and the region

As much fun as the carnival events are, you should also spend some time viewing the city’s sites. The historic quarter of Old Québec encircled by the only defensive city walls is a UNESCO world heritage site. It was built more than 400 years ago by Samuel de Champlain in 1608.

Plan to visit Quartier Petit Champlain and Place Royale in Basse Ville Quartier Petit Champlain is a lovely neighbourhood of stores and restaurants with a very European ambience, and the shimmering decorative lights paired with a fresh winter snowfall will make you feel like you’re walking through a picture scenario.

See Bonhomme and the opening night ceremonies

The carnival’s official ambassador is Bonhomme (full name: Bonhomme Carnaval). Every year, a new tiny figure of Bonhomme is manufactured, and all carnival guests are required to wear this “effigy” to obtain entry to the fairgrounds and other locations.

There is only one life-size Bonhomme figure, though, and families embrace him for photo opportunities whenever he appears.

In recent years, the first night of the carnival has included opening ceremonies, an outdoor concert, and fireworks.

Explore the Ice Palace

Since the first Québec carnival in 1955, Bonhomme has made the Ice Palace his official residence. Each year, it takes on a somewhat different appearance. The location is only a few feet from the carnival grounds and is across Québec’s majestic parliament building.

Bonhomme is frequently photographed at the Ice Palace during the day. During the weekends of the Québec carnival, the Ice Palace transforms into a nighttime entertainment venue. Visitors can tour the inside at any time of day or night.

The ice canoe races are a must-see

If you thought canoeing was just a summertime pastime, wait until you see how Québec city incorporates it into its winter activities. Teams from all over the world compete in the finals of ice canoe races during the Quebec winter carnival.

Five-person teams battle to push their canoes across the ice-cold St. Lawrence River. It’s difficult and severe, and you may even try it out for yourself if you think you’ve got what it takes.

Take a look at the night parades

The celebrations continue long into the evening, with night parades happening on the 2nd and 3rd weekends of the Quebec winter carnival. Dancers, marching bands, illuminated boats, and musical entertainers perform in front of thousands of spectators crammed into the streets for roughly an hour.

Enjoy a snow bath

The Bain de Neige (Snow Bath), which is one of the carnival’s most popular yearly activities, is without a doubt the wildest thing. Participants wear swimming suits and play in the snow with Bonhomme for a few minutes at a time, then come inside to warm up and repeat.

This event, believe it or not, needs pre-registration as all tickets sells out in advance, so book your tickets if you’ve always wanted to play in the snow in your bathing suit.

Go on an exciting toboggan ride

On the promenade near the famous Fairmont Château Frontenac, take a thrilling trip on the Dufferin Terrace Toboggan slope. Before the building of the Château Frontenac, a toboggan slope originally arose on this site in the late 1800s. It closed in 1981 but returned in 1992 and has been open every winter.

For $3, riders may race down three toboggan courses at speeds of up to 70 kilometer per hour (43 miles per hour), with hot chocolate available to sip after their run. The slide is open from mid-December to mid-March and may be experienced by visitors to Québec at any time throughout the winter season.

Why is Quebec Winter Carnival Important?

Since 1954, the Carnaval de Quebec has been a feature of the winter tourism scene in Québec city. It is one of the largest winter carnivals on the globe. It holds significant importance for the people of Canada, especially Quebec.

Rather than fighting the cold, Quebec embraces it by generating as many opportunities as possible to enjoy the snow. The festival is jam-packed with events and activities, from parades and snow sculptures to snow tubing, ice slides, horse-drawn sleighs, ice skating, and outdoor and indoor food stalls.

The Quebec winter carnival is important because it is the opportunity for people to enjoy after a long and tiring winter. It was started to attract tourists during the off season, but it became the most entertaining carnival in the world. Many interesting competitions are held during this carnival, such as skating snow bath. If you don’t want to participate, it is fun to watch these activities.

Quebec winter carnival is to enjoy the activities in the snowy area and a good time for the families to rejoin. Many people hold family dinner, so it is a good time to spend with your family after a busy and tiring life for a year.

Quebec winter carnival is also the best time to visit Canada, and every year many tourists visit Quebec on Quebec winter carnival to have a different and entertaining experience.

What to Eat and Drink at Quebec Winter Carnival?

Here is a list of foods you can eat at the Quebec winter carnival:

Maple taffy 

Sticky maple taffy is a sticky, delicious lollipop made from hot maple syrup poured upon snow and lapped up with a popsicle stick. Even if you don’t like sweets, this is a must-do experience, so get in line at your nearest sugar shack as soon as possible.


This intoxicating mixture of red wine, maple syrup, and hard liquor like brandy, whiskey, or vodka is traditionally consumed during the Quebec winter carnival. However, it can also be enjoyed hot or cold throughout the year. It’s served in vibrant red and white plastic canes capped with a plastic Bonhomme.


BeaverTails are created from dough that has been stretched out to resemble a beaver’s tail and are served in a paper wrapper. The deep-fried dough is smeared with sweet toppings such as maple syrup, peanut butter, and chocolate. The flavour is similar to a doughnut, but it’s a lot messier.

Sugar Pie

Sugarpie is a traditional Canadian dessert that is very sweet, so just a mouthful or two can give you a sugar rush. It is, however, sinfully delicious and goes well with a cup of coffee. The basic dish is created with flour, butter, salt, vanilla, cream, and brown sugar or maple syrup, and each restaurant puts its unique spin on it.


It doesn’t have the most appealing appearance, but it tastes fantastic. Poutine is a dish of french fries with gravy and cheese curds on top. It’s available across Canada, but it’s a Quebec city delicacy and a must-try after a hard day at the winter carnival.


Tourtiere is a meat pie that is traditionally served during the winter months. Tourtiere is a traditional Christmas dish for French Canadian households in Quebec. Pork, veal, beef, wild game, or any mix of these can be used as the filler.

How to Dress for the Quebec Winter Carnival?


It is a well-known fact that the more layers of clothes you wear, the warmer you will remain. For the past five years, the layered look has been a significant trend, and all indications are that it will win a position in the pantheon of classic fashions. The trick, though, is to understand how to layer clothing since it is more than just throwing on whatever appears thick enough to keep you warm and crossing your fingers that you did your best.

Dressing for layering necessitates prudence. Layering works on three levels: first, cover your skin, then add insulation, and last, a protective layer that will keep you warm when the wind makes being outside difficult.

What you want to do while at the carnival is a consideration that influences how many layers you’ll need. Will you spend a lot of time in line for an outdoor event, or will you be active? Ensure you have both protection and insulating layers in the first situation, especially if it’s windy. However, if you become too hot, remove a layer.


Toques are quite useful in cold weather and can enhance your appearance. Even if the weather isn’t particularly cold, you might still be cold, so having a toque in your arsenal is a good idea. And, with such a diverse range of designs, colours, and patterns (e.g., jägermeister pieces), you’ll be spoiled for choice.

Use a balaclava that covers your ears and face when the temperature drops below zero and the wind picks up. Felted wool hats (handcrafted or not) brilliantly blend utility and fashion for the fashion-forward females out there.

Gloves to keep your hands dry and warm

If you want to show off your outdoor skating abilities, you can keep your hands warm and dry with a nice pair of gloves. You may choose from knitted mittens with exotic fur accents on the wrists, and cuffed gloves to cartoon-themed gloves and elbow-length wool knitted pieces. Reusable hand warmers can take the edge off when your fingers get numb from the cold and for people with extra-cold hands who need something more than a pair of gloves to keep them warm.

Put on the proper pants

Many individuals wear loose jeans to the Quebec carnival, covered with wool or knitted garments. Even though they may appear to be straight out of a fashion magazine, the majority of people complain about cold knees, especially when it’s windy. As a result, we recommend replacing your jeans with insulated pants.

If you’re comfortable using long underwear as a base layer, putting your jeans over warm, long underwear will provide the most protection against the cold and falling temperatures.

Appropriate cozy and warm jacket 

The jacket is the first item on the list of fashionable outerwear. Pieces lined with geese feathers are preferred. Parkas and lighter wool jackets are acceptable as long as they are layered with something more wind and water-resistant (i.e. a boarding jacket). Remember that your jacket will not keep you warm in the cold Canadian weather; it is simply one of several layers you’ll need to stay comfortable in sub-zero temps.


Boots that are waterproof and lined are required. Depending on the location you’re travelling to, you might also want to bring a pair of neoprene boots to keep your feet dry and toasty if you’ll be walking through a lot of slushy snow. When wearing boots, try to move your toes to keep them from getting chilly. You won’t be warm enough throughout the day if they are packed with your thick, wool socks and cannot move.

Also, make room in your suitcase for a spare pair of hiking boots. During the carnival in Quebec, the nightlife is not to be missed. Wear lighter clothing and have a good time at night. If you are cold, there is always an interior area to warm yourself with hot cocoa, coffee, or a Beaver Tail.

Stop sliding and slipping with ice cleats

Unless you are an expert, walking on ice or snow has several dangers. The good news is that cleats provide more traction while walking, allowing you to navigate the sidewalk without slipping on ice or snow. Put them on the bottoms of your boots (they fold up to fit in your handbag, so they don’t take up much room) and enjoy the snow without worrying about sliding.

Whether you’re sipping hot chocolate by the canal, seeing one of the million events put on during the carnival or other winter festivals around the country, exploring the nightly bar scene, or playing in the snow, one thing is certain: you’ll have a great time. And now that you know how to dress, then let’s get out there and enjoy.

Where to Stay During Quebec Winter Carnival?

In Quebec city, there are several wonderful hotels. However, choosing one close to the activities and events makes sense. The Hotel Chateau Laurier Québec, Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac, and Hilton Quebec are all excellent accommodations conveniently located near the festivities. However, they can be costly.

Before you book a stay further away from the carnival, look into packages that may make the higher-priced accommodations worthwhile. There are many nice offers to consider at this time of year, and practically every hotel offers something.

Facts About Quebec Winter Carnival

Auditorium of Chateau Frontenac

The enormous auditorium of the Chateau Frontenac hosts a masked event with up to 400 attendees.

Opening and closing ceremony

The opening and closing ceremony are held at the Ice Palace in front of thousands of spectators, including Bonhomme and Quebec’s mayor.

Different snow activities

Snowboarding, ice canoeing, snowshoeing, hockey, dog sledging, and other outdoor sports (some of which are part of World Championship competitions) occur both inside and outside the city.

Sculpture competitions

Snow sculpture competitions are held for international and student artists on the Plains of Abraham, the carnival’s major setting. The Plains, a public city park, is available for leisure activities like snowshoeing and cross-country skiing routes during carnival season. The Plains around the Citadel are converted into an outdoor winter entertainment park with various family-friendly activities.

Commercial activities 

Most major commercial thoroughfares are decked out, and some pubs and restaurants set up a winter terrace in front of their facilities.

Official Representative 

The official representative of the celebrations, the castle ruler of the Ice Palace, is Bonhomme, short for Bonhomme de Neige (“snowman”). Bonhomme is a seven foot tall, 400 pounds snowman with a red cap, black buttons, and a ceinture fléchée that acknowledges French-Canadian and Métis dress styles.

Drinking Caribou 

It is customary to consume Caribou, a hot alcoholic beverage to keep warm.

Public auction 

The public auction serves as a fundraiser for the carnival. Many items and services have been donated for the silent and live auctions at this event.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the location of the winter carnival in Québec?

The Québec winter carnival is the oldest winter celebration held in Canada every year. The custom of having a party in the middle of winter may be traced back to New France.

How long does the winter carnival in Québec last?

The winter carnival in Québec lasts 17 days in late January and early February, with major activities like parades and outdoor concerts taking place on three weekends. Families visiting from out of town may enjoy the carnival while enjoying seeing ancient Old Québec, which seems like a mini-trip to Europe.

How much does it cost to attend the Quebec carnival?

Typically, to get access to the festival grounds, you must purchase an effigy ($20), a little (but necessary) souvenir that you wear as proof that you paid the entry cost.

What is the world’s largest winter carnival?

The Carnaval de Quebec is the world’s largest winter carnival. The Carnaval de Quebec tradition began in 1894, and by 1954, it had become an annual event throughout the city. It is now the world’s largest winter carnival, lasting 10 to 17 days and attracting over 500,000 visitors.

When did the Quebec carnival begin?

In 1893, a group of business people led by former Premier of Québec Joly de Lotbinière organized a massive carnival to lighten the bleak winter days and attract tourists. The inaugural winter carnival in Québec took place from January 29 to February 3, 1894. In front of the parliament building, an ice palace stood magnificently.

Who is Le Bonhomme, exactly? 

Bonhomme is the renowned Canadian relative of Frosty the Snowman and the official representative of the Québec winter carnival. Bonhomme (French meaning snowman) may be spotted during the carnival events, proudly wearing his favoured red tuque (cap) and characteristic québécois arrow sash.

Is Quebec’s Ice Palace always composed of ice?

The majestic Palace of Ice, which may be seen by the “carnival,” has been created since 1955 to “home” the feast’s monarch, Bonhomme.

From 1979 to 1992, the carved blocks of ice were usually constructed with about 9000 tonnes of compacted snow before being replaced by back ice in 1993.

What is the revenue of the Quebec winter carnival?

The total revenue of the Quebec winter carnival is 4.7M dollars. The fact that is quite interesting is that the winter off-season in Quebec became one of the anticipated carnivals for Canadian residents and worldwide tourists. People worldwide visit Quebec city to enjoy the festivities of the biggest winter carnival in the world.

Is Quebec a decent place to visit in the winter?

Quebec city is a great spot to visit if you appreciate cold weather. Even if you aren’t a lover of the cold, you will like it. Winters in Quebec city are bitterly cold, but you’ll be so fascinated by the city that you won’t even notice if you dress correctly.


Since 1955, the Quebec winter carnival has warmed hearts during the cold season. Quebec city is transformed into the winter and snow capital during the celebrations. Hundreds of thousands of people participate in competitions, outdoor activities, and winter sports from late January to mid-February, many of which are based on Quebec traditions: ice canoe races, snowshoeing, dog sledging, snow sculptures, and big parades of colorful floats.

Every year, the carnival offers inhabitants and tourists of Quebec city an unforgettable winter experience in a city whose beauty complements the event.

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