Fans of architecture, history and culture are in for a treat during your visit to Québec City. The capital of Canada’s predominantly French-speaking province of Québec, the city has stood on the banks of the Saint Lawrence River for more than 400 years; making it one of the oldest colonial cities in the whole continent. And that past is reflected in the stunning French colonial architecture of Old Québec - from the striking fort and museum of La Citadelle de Québec to the fairytale castle of Le Château Frontenac, which dominates the skyline of the historic core. Roughly 7.5 miles (12 kilometres) from the heart of Old Québec is the majestic charms of Montmorency Falls, which is almost 100 feet (30 metres) taller than the world-famous Niagara Falls. But what about the fleeting cultural charms which dot the city’s calendar of events? Québec is chock-full of great festivals for you to enjoy, should your travels coincide with them. From stunning ice spectacles at Carnaval De Québec to epic live music programmes at Festival d’été de Québec, there’s a rich array of events taking place. Read on for the 10 popular festivals in Québec City, QC, Canada.
1. Carnaval de Québec
Perfect for chasing away those winter blues, Carnaval de Québec is one of the largest winter festivals in the world and welcomes revellers every February. Its week-long programme is packed with a wide array of activities and attractions to delight all ages; from majestic ice sculptures, including Bonhomme Palace, to colourful night parades. The programme also includes numerous shows and a host of winter activities like skating and the classic ice canoe race, where teams compete to cross the frozen St. Lawrence River.
Carnaval de Québec
Address: 695 QC-175, Québec, QC G1R 2K4, Canada
Website: Carnaval de Québec
Takes place: February
2. Festival Celtique de Québec
Se retrouver entre amis #checkmespipesPosted by Festival celtique de Québec on Sunday, 9 September 2018
The Festival Celtique de Québec celebrates the region’s multitudinous Celtic links - be they Breton, Scottish, Welsh, Irish or Cornish. This is reflected in the fact the event, which is held in September, is the biggest Celtic festival on the entire continent. And it features a range of activities that celebrate the rich culture of those various communities - especially the French, Irish and Scottish ancestry of the area’s population. These range from classic Scottish Highland Games to the outdoor Celtic Feast at the Domaine de Maizerets, the latter of which will delight gourmands eager to indulge in Celtic cuisine. Romantics will also enjoy the idea of sitting out under the stars and tucking into their feast at one of the large tables.
Festival Celtique de Québec
Address: 2000 Boulevard Montmorency, Québec, QC G1J 5E7, Canada
Website: Festival Celtique de Québec
Takes place: September
3. Festival d’été de Québec
Music lovers will love the Festival d’été de Québec, or FEQ as it’s affectionately nicknamed. This huge July festival packs in the crowds - and it’s easy to see why. Lynyrd Skynyrd, Slipknot, Mariah Carey, Blink-182 and Imagine Dragons were just some of the famous acts to play the festival in 2019. And the festival’s 10-day length means it features an extensive programme that all but ensures there’s something to suit most musical tastes - with acts ranging from rock and pop to hip-hop and rap, and from indie to metal, and electro to folk. As befits the Quebéc setting, the festival also features a playlist of top French-speaking acts too. The festival also hosts a series of ‘Pop-Up FEQ’ events alongside the main programme, featuring free concerts and surprise artists in unusual locales.
Festival d’été de Québec
Address: Bell Stage at the Plains of Abraham.
Website: Festival d’été de Québec
Takes place: July
Price: From 105 CAD (79 USD)
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4. Québec City Film Festival
Film fans who visit Québec in September will almost certainly want to check out the Québec City Film Festival. Since its launch in 2011, it has grown in size and today welcomes more than 45,000 festival-goers, eager to watch the dozens of international feature films and more than 100 shorts at numerous city venues. It also welcomes big names in the filmmaking world, such as Jean-Marc Vallée - the talent behind the likes of Dallas Buyers Club and Wild. The 2019 festival featured almost 300 individual films and shorts covering all manner of genre - from animation to documentaries - and featuring a mix of languages. Many of the French films feature English subtitles, and vice versa too.
Website: Québec City Film Festival
Takes place: September
5. Québec City St. Patrick's Day Parade [Last event in 2019]
The celebration of St. Patrick’s Day has a long history in Quebec, thanks to the region’s Celtic influences. Indeed, Quebec’s celebrations of Ireland’s patron saint date back as far as the 1830s, with the traditional parade growing to become a huge annual event. World War I saw the suspension of the festivities, and although it resumed in 1921, the parade was unable to recapture its past popularity and it ceased in 1926. That was until its phoenix-like resurrection in 2010 when the revival welcomed some 40,000 onlookers. Today it features more than 1000 participants and is enjoyed by more than 50,000 people - eager to watch performances by famous pipers and drummers from Boston, New York and Chicago’s police departments, and the fire service of Toronto. The 2020 event marks the 10th anniversary of its revival and is expected to acknowledge that achievement come March 23rd.
Québec City St. Patrick's Day Parade
Address: Downtown Québec City
Website: Québec City St. Patrick’s Day Parade
Takes place: March
6. Les Grands Feux Loto-Québec
Not to be confused with the world-famous L'International des Feux Loto-Québec fireworks festival in nearby Montreal, Les Grands Feux Loto-Québec follows almost immediately after that event and brings colourful and explosive displays to Québec City every late July to late August. The 2019 event featured some six different fireworks and dance spectaculars, each with their own theme to enchant revellers. And, if your trip doesn’t happen to coincide with Québec City’s festival, you could always take the short trip to Montreal’s La Ronde and join the 3 million spectators who enjoy the L'International des Feux Loto-Québec every June to August.
Website: Les Grands Feux Loto-Québec
Takes place: July to August
7. Festival De Magie De Québec
Sure to delight all ages, the annual Festival de magie de Québec (or Québec City Magic Festival) features a range of magic shows and street magicians every May - all eager to leave you speechless and wondering ‘how’d they do that?’ The festival is split between numerous venues. These include the Magic Festival in the Petit Champlain District and the Place-Royal - which host the likes of magic workshops, family shows and a museum of illusions. There are even magic schools, for those eager to turn their hand to the skill. One of the highlights of the festival is the International Gala of Magic in the Québec City Convention Centre, which will see eight of the world’s greatest magicians delight the appreciative audience. Not only that, but the 2020 festival will also play host to two major magic competitions - North American Magic Championship and Canadian Magic Championship.
Website: Festival de magie de Québec
Takes place: September to October
8. Parade Des Jouets
The Parade des Jouets, or Toy Parade, delight generations of visitors in the city every November. The two days of activities include the traditional Christmas-themed parade, which sees a host of floats and entertainers wind their way through the downtown area. It’s a fine sight, with 2019’s parade featuring more than 650 participants, all working to entertain the crowds with music, surprises and “enhanced animation”. The second of the two days also promises plenty of fun - with Place Jean-Béliveau playing host to inflatable games, small train tours, a float exhibition and even an appearance by Santa himself. Head indoors and there are also a number of shows - including an animation by Cirque du Soleil’s costume team, a baby zone and more. Plenty to thrill the little ones.
La Parade des Jouets
Address: Parade departs from the corner of Simon Napoléon-Parent and Chênevert streets
Website: Parade des jouets/Santa’s Parade
Price: Free entry
Takes place: November
9. ComédiHa! Fest-Québec
Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account
You’ll likely be rolling in the aisles if your visit coincides with this 12-day festival, which brings the laughs every August. Its packed programme of indoor and outdoor shows features everything from top local talent to international acts. The festival, which also takes in Montreal as well as Quebéc City, features no fewer than 500 artists, split between some 350 shows at 15 different venues. So you’ll have every opportunity to slot a show or two during your travels. Chuckle-tastic.
Website: ComédiHa! Fest-Québec
Takes place: July to August
10. Festival d’Opera De Québec
Everyone enjoys a good chuckle now and then, but those who prefer slightly more high-brow cultural charms won’t miss out during their Québec visit. The city plays host to the Festival d’Opera de Québec every July to August - a fortnight of concerts and musical performances featuring some big-name artists and shows. Since its launch in 2011, it has marked some major milestones, including a 2018 performance of The Magic Flute directed by Robert Lapage, and a recital by soprano Véronique Gens. And, don’t worry if you don’t speak the various foreign languages - French and English translations are projected onto screens above the stage, so you’ll be able to follow everything you’re watching.
Website: Festival d’opera de Québec
Takes place: July to August
Québec City's cultural charms await
There’s something for everyone at Québec City. Be it the huge musical stars of FEQ, the childlike wonders of Toy Parade or the majestic ice sculptures of The Carnaval De Québec, there’s plenty of one-off delights and activities for you to enjoy. All you need to do now is decide which festival you want your trip to coincide with.
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