As soon as you step foot in Quebec City, you’ll swear you’ve arrived in the wrong country. That’s the beauty of this Canadian city: The historic landmarks of Old Quebec, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is just like France—but luckily, you don’t have to leave North America to feel like you’re in Europe. From the language to the last names, Quebec City is as French as it comes, with one exception: the food. Though there’s still a heavy French influence here, you’ll find a surprising amount of vegan eats. If you learn a few French phrases before you go (this is recommended as many people don’t speak English), the most important one is, “Je suis végétalien”—which translates to “I am a vegan.” As magical as the city is any time of year, it truly shines in winter. Here’s your 48-hour guide to Quebec City.
Learn the history
Make your holiday home Hotel Pur—a chic, modern hotel that offers a cruelty-free, vegan line of toiletries called Pharmacopia. The hotel overlooks Saint-Roch Church, a magnificent building that features a gold statue of Saint Roch (patron saint of ailments, illness, and dangers) with his dog by his side at the top of the roof’s peak. Start your journey with a visit to Le Monastère des Augustines, a holistic resort committed to continuing the work of the Augustinian Sisters who essentially laid the foundation for modern-day healthcare. It’s located in the historic wings of the Hôtel-Dieu de Québec monastery, which became one of the sisters’ 12 monastery hospitals. Make time for a self-guided tour of the curated museum where you can learn about how the sisters lived, practiced medicine, and cared—and still care—for the sick. If you have time, the hotel also offers daily yoga classes at Noon, and guests are welcome for a minimal drop-in fee.
Slip on those skis
Enjoy a meal at Le Restaurant, the resort’s zen-like eatery, where its mantra, “Wellness is always on the menu,” is perhaps an understatement. There are three daily dishes (one of them is always vegan), a soup of the day (usually vegan), and an impressive bar with creatively healthy salads. Next, make your way to the Plains of Abraham, a national historic park where the English and British once battled—that is now used for sports, relaxation, outdoor concerts, and festivals. With the regular snowfall the city gets (it is one of the world’s top 10 snowiest cities), you should find more than enough white powder to cross-country ski or snowshoe. The park features seven miles of cross-country ski trails, most of which are groomed, and a two-mile trail for snowshoers.
Sip cat-themed beer
Every good day on the trails deserves a beer, and, luckily, less than a two-minute walk from Hotel Pur is Noctem Artisans Brasseurs where cats factor heavily into the theme. You’ll find cat references in the names of its beers, such as the Catnip IPA and the Catkenny cream ale, and streamers in the brewpub decorated with photos of cats. All beer on the menu is vegan (with the exception of the Moloko+ milkshake IPA). For dinner, treat yourself to Bistro L’Orygine, which specializes in uber-healthy, organic dishes that place vegetables center stage. The menu changes seasonally but you’ll always find vegan options, each one a work of art. L’Orygine does tasting menus, too, so ask if there’s a vegan option for the night.
Visit the ice hotel
Enjoy breakfast at Hotel Pur’s connected restaurant, Table, where the best seat in the house overlooks the church and, undoubtedly, mounds of snow. Here, the staff is well-versed in guiding you through the vegan options (ask them to veganize the Guacoco with toast, guacamole, smoked paprika, sunflower seeds, and fruit salad). After breakfast, take a taxi or walk to Château Frontenac, the city’s fairytale castle, which was once a hotel for the Canadian Pacific Railway—where you’ll catch a bus to the Ice Hotel, officially known as Hôtel de Glace. Dress warmly, as you’ll be touring what might be called the coolest hotel (it’s generally between 17 and 23 degrees Fahrenheit). About 40 minutes from Quebec City, it is located on the grounds of the Village Vacances Valcatier. Arguably North America’s largest winter playground, the resort features over 35 snow slides. Take time to play at the indoor waterpark, or go straight to the hotel (open until March 24). A whopping 500 tons of ice and 35,000 tons of snow were used to create 40,000 square feet of magic. The site consists of 42 rooms and suites (you can stay at the hotel for the ultimate adventure), a chapel where you can get married, a grand hall slide that you can ride down on your derriere, and an ice bar that serves fun cocktails in handmade glasses of ice. A fireplace in the lounge section will help warm you up.
Feast on vegan poutine
You can’t visit Canada without trying poutine, a Canadian classic that consists of French fries topped with cheese curds and gravy. The dish can be made vegan at Poutineville, which is within walking distance of your hotel. The build-your-own menu offers vegan cheese and several vegan gravies. Once you’re satiated, make your way into Old Quebec. Go straight to Dufferin Terrace and line up for tobogganing, a tradition that dates back over 100 years. You’ll have to walk your sled up a designated path, but the views of the Château Frontenac, Lower Town, and St. Lawrence River are worth the work. From there, ride down the funicular for more stunning views.
Climb the city’s oldest stairs
You’ll land in Quartier Petit Champlain, a picturesque neighborhood where you can stroll the narrow cobblestone streets, especially the pedestrian-only Rue de Petit Champlain. Here, you’ll pass by historic buildings and numerous galleries, shops, and restaurants. To get back up, climb the Breakneck Stairs which were built in 1660 and claim the title as the city’s oldest and undoubtedly steepest stairs. Just steps away is Bistro Le Sam in Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, where a window seat will give you views of the St. Lawrence River and Dufferin Terrace. There is a vegetarian menu with three options, all of which can be made vegan. Try the ginger and cashew roasted tempeh served with grilled sunflower puree and sautéed seasonal veggies. It’s possible that you might love Quebec City’s winter so much that you return next year for the city’s 10-day Winter Carnival, where you can meet the legendary Bonhomme mascot and roll maple taffy in snow.
Karen Asp is the author of Anti-Aging Hacks and award-winning journalist, as well as a fitness pro certified in plant-based nutrition, world record-holding athlete (in Nordic walking), and a vegan mentor with PETA.