Having lived in Quebec since July, we’ve been looking forward to Christmas. Quebec City is Canada’s most visited city at the end of the year. The authentic charm of the Quebec capital lends itself perfectly to the religious, family and festive traditions of Christmas.
For a month, Quebec City hosts a German Christmas market. Here’s what you need to know to visit, a few more tips from our life here, and our thoughts after discovering it.
What is the Québec City German Christmas Market?
Québec City’s Christmas market is called “German” because it’s inspired by German traditions. Exhibitors are housed in small wooden chalets set up temporarily in the city center.
But don’t expect to see only merchants from Germany. On the official Christmas market website, you’ll find craftspeople from Germany, Europe and Quebec.
However, while I saw a few pretzels and European products, the majority of the exhibitors we saw were from Quebec.
Where is Quebec City’s German Christmas market?
Exhibitors are divided into 5 locations:
- Le Bergdorf – Alpine Village (place d’Youville)
- Marktplatz (Town Hall Square)
- The Town Hall Gardens
- Rue Sainte-Anne
- Château de Noël (next to Château Frontenac).
Don’t worry. They’re all within easy reach. We saw them all in quick succession in less than two hours.
My favorite location is next to City Hall, while the one next to the Château Frontenac was tiny.
What kind of exhibitors can you find at the Québec City Christmas Market?
The German Christmas market welcomes almost a hundred exhibitors.
My stomach often speaks for my brain, so I immediately noticed the food stalls. The most famous Christmas market snack is the fondue hot dog. Instead of sausage, you get melted cheese. Unfortunately, the queue was fifteen meters long, so we passed…
Other snacks include sausages, churros, pretzels and sweets. To keep warm, you can eat around large barrels housing a fire or a brazier. The type of heating depends on where you are.
Several kiosks contained food to be eaten at home or given as gifts. My wife bought a few nougat bars and marshmallows. I loved the originality of a kiosk selling chocolate tools. Several others offered sausages, shortbread, wine, beer, maple, gingerbread, foie gras, macaroons…
The rest of the kiosks are handicrafts. Some of them are quite magnificent. We fell in love with the wooden Christmas decorations made entirely by hand. But there was also jewelry, santons from Provence, a sock stand, soap, games…
What activities take place at the Québec City Christmas Market?
The discovery of handcrafted products and a warm meal in the middle of winter are enough to attract tourists. But there’s more to the Quebec Christmas market than just that. Many activities are organized.
For the duration of the market, there’s an ice rink in Place d’Youville. Then there are occasional events such as carol singing, people in fancy dress (there’s even a day dedicated to Santa Claus) and activities for children.
Saturday is the busiest day. Many Quebecers and tourists choose this day for their visit, so there are more organized activities. I’ll refer you to the market’s official website in the next paragraph. You’ll find a list of activities and their timetables.
What are the dates of the Québec City Christmas Market?
The German Christmas market lasts about a month. It traditionally opens at the end of November and closes on December 24, a few hours before Christmas Eve.
The market is closed on Mondays, Tuesdays and early Wednesdays. Opening hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., except on Sundays when stalls close at 6 p.m.
Please check this information on the official website before you go, as it may change from year to year.
The official website address is https://www.mnaq.ca/fr/.
When is the best time to visit Quebec City’s German Christmas market?
The best time to visit the Christmas market and downtown Quebec City is in the early evening. When the sun gives way to the moon, the night brings out the Christmas lights.
The illuminations on the Château Frontenac are magnificent. Other light decorations can be seen throughout the city.
A good idea is to arrive at the Christmas market around 5 p.m., have a bite to eat and stroll around the various Christmas market sites. Then return around 8 p.m. This way, you can avoid the night and its colder temperatures, and even enjoy a warm evening in your hotel room or home.
Nevertheless, if you can’t see it in the evening, don’t worry: most people come during the day at weekends and love their visit.
In terms of days, Saturday is the most dynamic. If you like the madness of Christmas, it’s the right day. If, like us, you prefer peace and quiet, you’ll want to visit during the week.
For the best photos, a visit after a snowfall is ideal. With the carpet of snow still in place, the white ground contrasts with the lights of the kiosks.
You can visit the Quebec City Christmas Market with your dog on a leash. During the week, we came across several. However, the city doesn’t recommend doing so on Saturdays, as the sheer volume of visitors means it can quickly become a living hell for both you and your dog.
Our additional tips for making the most of the Quebec Christmas market!
Bundle up warm!
Don’t underestimate the cold, even if the forecasted temperatures are “only” around zero. Some areas are clear, and when the wind blows, you quickly feel cold. The same sensation occurs when you wait thirty minutes for your fondue hot dog…
Parking and public transport
There’s no shortage of paid parking on the streets of Old Quebec. If it’s snowing, I recommend parking in an underground garage. These include the underground parking lots at Hôtel de Ville and Place d’Youville.
On Saturdays, don’t hesitate to park before Old Quebec. Indeed, it resembles European streets more than North American ones. There’s only one lane, the parking spaces aren’t always easy to use, and traffic jams form quickly when the crowds pour in. If you park before the Porte Saint-Louis and make your way on foot, you’ll avoid the traffic jams.
As we don’t have a car, we came by bus. Metrobuses are frequent, running every 5 to 15 minutes throughout the day, with a few stops close to the market.
Of course, cabs or services like Uber are possible solutions.
Continue your visit after the Christmas market
The whole city center is decked out in Christmas colors. Enjoy the moment. Located next to a Christmas market site, the Basilique de Québec is a must-see. On the side, you’ll find a magnificent human-sized nativity scene.
Just across the street, you’ll find the famous Christmas Shop “Boutique de Noel”. As its name suggests, it’s dedicated to Christmas. What makes it special is that it’s open all year round. We bought a few Christmas decorations… when we arrived in July! It’s never too early to start thinking about Christmas.
Weather permitting, I invite you to do the Dufferin Terrace Slide. It’s legendary. It’s open when temperatures are cold enough to ensure a good slide.
From here, you also have a beautiful view of the river and the city of Lévis.
If you want to walk further, I recommend two options:
- Descend into the old town (you can take the Old Quebec funicular) and discover Quebec City’s prettiest street: Petit Champlain.
- Branch off towards the river to reach the Plains of Abraham. This large green space is a great place for skiing and snowshoeing in winter. You’ll also find the Citadelle of Quebec.
Our opinion of the Quebec City Christmas market: a pleasant moment that complements the rest of the city.
We really enjoyed our visit to Quebec City’s Christmas market. While we hardly celebrate New Year’s Eve, Christmas is our favorite time of year.
We visited the market twice. The first time was on a weekday evening. That’s when we took the time to see each and every stall. The second was on a Sunday late morning after mass. The atmosphere was very (too?) quiet and less friendly than in the evening.
As our photos show, we were unlucky not to experience a “white Christmas.” After heavy snowfalls in early November, temperatures had risen and by the time we visited the market, there was no snow on the ground.
One big location would be better than five small ones, but the geography of the area doesn’t allow for that. Some locations quickly become crowded, but the excited crowds are now another sign that Christmas is approaching.
The activities are a great idea. We were delighted to listen to a group of four singers (two women and two men as handsome as the characters in Christmas TV movies!) sing Christmas carols in French and English.
I think an hour’s drive just to see the stalls would be too much. Indeed, many stalls have good or original products, but you need to do more than just wander around the Christmas market.
Visit the market and the rest of Old Quebec for a few hours. Don’t hesitate to complement it with another activity, such as a concert or show at the Grand Théâtre or Capitole, a warm meal in a restaurant or a spin on the skating rink.
In any case, we’ll definitely be back next year and probably every year we spend here.