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A fairytale Christmas in Québec City

By Margo Pfeiff

Bells jingle on horse-drawn carriages carrying blanket-covered couples through Old World lanes. They’re also jingling on dogsleds whizzing through snowy forests and on skates gliding across rinks in the shadow of the 18th-century ramparts that make Québec City the only walled city in North America north of Mexico. At Christmastime, this winter town is the epi-center for real-deal jingle bells.

With a maze of centuries-old buildings, church steeples and even a turret-topped chateau dusted with snow and sparkling with lights, Old Québec looks like a frozen fairyland, a model for the perfect gingerbread village. Rug up and prowl shoulder-to-shoulder boutiques listening to carollers strolling along cobblestone streets where the fresh winter air mingles with the aroma of French cuisine. The holiday ambiance is fun and romantic: ski the slopes and trails of nearby Mont Sainte-Anne or sip Icewine from a glass made of ice at the ice bar of the Ice Hotel where you sleep on a bed of … ice.

There are violin concerts, gospel choirs and a colorful rendition of the Nutcracker ballet. “QuebecAdabra!” is a new happening that includes a unique light show playing out on the walls of historic city buildings. Shop for gifts from Dec. 8-18 at an arts and crafts exposition offering up all things local and handmade, and drop in on an exhibition of nativity scenes from around the world at the Bibliothèque Gabrielle-Roy. And while you’re immersed in the realm of Christmases past, head out on a walking tour with an authentic, costumed character from New France who relates entertaining tales of Old Québec.

The tour takes in a tasting of regional products at one of two Christmas markets. After all, what would Yuletide in a European-flavored province be without traditional markets? Every December the Marché du Vieux-Port in Old Québec hosts a food-lover’s event from Nov. 24 to Jan. 1 with more than 1,000 Québec artisanal products from wines, ports and ciders to seafood, game, ostrich and emu goodies to foie gras, fine charcuterie, Québec cheeses and a decadent assortment of baked goods.

There’s also a cross-cultural market held in front of City Hall from Dec. 2-4 and 9-11 – the fourth-annual German Christmas Market. Christmas markets have been a tradition in Germany since the Middle Ages and, as is customary, this one will be held outdoors in a small village of wooden booths where you can sip mulled wine and nosh on special pastries, gingerbread, grilled sausages and roasted chestnuts while listening to open air concerts. Then browse for adorable handicrafts. But before you take them home to decorate your Tannenbaum, spend a night at the castle-like Château Frontenac and tour the old city aboard a special horse-drawn street car all decked out for the season on Saturdays.

Photo© Québec City/JFBergeronEnvFoto, Québec City Tourism

A fairytale Christmas in Québec City