Going to Canada, aka the Great White North, in the winter is an unforgettable experience. There are so many things you can do : dog sledding, snowshoeing, relax in a spa, even skiing… It is an opportunity to discover a great nature and dynamic cities despite very low temperatures (even extremely low as far as I was concerned…) 🙂
Toronto, the cosmopolitan city
Toronto is the largest city in Canada and ranks #4 in North America. If you decide to stroll through the different neighborhoods of the city wrapped in your warm parka you will feel like you are travelling the around the world: from Chinatown to Greektown, Little Italy or Little India… You will want to the skating rink of Nathan Philips Square or the one at the Harbourfont Center . The latter is located on the shores of Lake Ontario and offers free access. Every Saturday, the ice turns into a dance floor with a DJ. You can rent skates for as little as 8 Canadian dollars.
If you want to stay warm, you may want to head to the Art Gallery of Ontario. You can visit the collection for free on Wednesdays from 6 to 8.30pm. It is close to Chinatown. This museum has an impressive collection, with over 80,000 works of art. It houses the famous painting, the Rubens Massacre of Innocents and many magnificent temporary exhibitions.
If you like thrills, I can only advise you to climb the CN Tower, the emblem of the city. This tower is more than 550 meters high (much higher than the Eiffel Tower). You can walk on a glass floor… well, that is if you have the courage. The price of entry for the CN Tower is 33 Canadian dollars. It goes up to $45 if you opt for the aerial platform, an observation platform with breathtaking views of Niagara Falls and Lake Ontario. And if you are brave enough, you can take a walk on the outer edge of the tower equipped with a harness ($195). Tickets should be bought 24 hours before your visit. But as far as I’m concerned this will NEVER HAPPEN !
Where to sleep:
SHANGRI-LA TORONTO, the definition of luxury
With an exceptional setting and style, it is perfectly located in the heart of the city within a huge tower.
It offers High Tech amenities, refined Asian style and some rooms offer a fantastic white marble bathtub with stunning city views.
You will also discover a large fitness center, a private yoga studio, a 20m swimming pool, a jacuzzi, infrared sauna, steam room and more…
Where to eat:
– The Drake hotel : nice diner in a boutique hotel
– Colette Grand Café : nice address for a good brunch
– Té : Asian / Canadian fusion food, a must try
– The One eighty : located on the 51st floor of a building you will enjoy amazing views of the city
– Fika coffee: for a coffee break
– Nota Bene : Great italian cuisine
Niagara Falls in the winter
A day trip to Niagara Falls from Toronto is easy to plan. Straddled between Canada and the United States, Niagara Falls is a must-see during a trip to Eastern Canada. But why go see the famous falls in winter? The contrast between the dark blue of the water flowing at high speed and the white of the snow is breathtakingly beautiful. In addition, ice sculptures are formed at the foot of the Niagara Falls. It’s time to take out the camera! And when the night is falling, the mood becomes surreal with a sophisticated light system.
You will also find many restaurants where you will be able to admire the fireworks and the games of light on the falls!! If you want to sleep on the spot, I suggest you book a bed and breakfast in the village of Niagara-on-the-lake. This is a historic village located 20 km from the falls, but you totally can choose to stay in town, there are many cheap options.
Montreal, the city of celebration any time of the year
Montreal is a mix of French and English speaking neighborhoods. The Ville-Marie district, for example, the cradle of Montreal since 1642, is a good mix of old and new buildings. The Mercier-Hochelaga district, for its part, is home to the famous Olympic stadium built for the 1976 Olympics. Since public transportation is very efficient in Montreal, it is easy to go from one atmosphere to another. And do not forget to take a tour of the University district, a guaranteed change of scenery with students from all over the world.
Cold temperatures and snow do not discourage the people of Montreal from partying. Indeed, many animations take place during the winter. Among them, there is the snow festival that is held for 4 weekends, spread roughly from mid-January to mid-February. It is held at Parc Jean-Drapeau, a park accessible by metro (Jean Drapeau station). The activities are very numerous: carving on ice shows, sled dogs initiation, dance party….
But you don’t need all these animations to practice multiple sports in the city of Montreal. You can go to Mount Royal Park for sledding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, hockey or ice skating.
Montreal in the winter is also a good occasion to take care of yourself. I found the perfect place for that: the Bota Bota Spa. The setting is beautiful and unique. It is a relaxation area floating on the water of the St. Lawrence River. The space is equipped with several saunas and very large hottubs with views of the river or of old Montreal. To enjoy this magic place at the lowest cost, I advise you to go after 6pm. The entry is then $39 instead of $49 for 3 hours or $59 unlimited time.
Where to sleep:
THE MOUNT STEPHEN HOTEL, ARCHITECTURE AND LUXURY BEYOND TIME
A group of architects have made a bold move to transform an 1880 building, formerly owned by Baron George Stephen into a sumptuous five-star hotel, earning the distinction of the CANADIAN ARCHITECT AWARD OF EXCELLENCE.
The Mount Stephen Hotel counts 69 rooms including 16 suites, all decorated in a modern and unique way.
The bar and restaurant are a must try. The atmosphere is warm with a historical and amazing lobby made of dark wood.
Where to eat:
– Les enfants terribles : The highest restaurant in Montreal, located right next to the observatory. You will enjoy the best views of the city
– Schwartz’s : The world famous place offers delicious smoked meat and has seen Celine Dion many times 🙂
– Hambar : Located in Old Montreal, it offers all types of food fresh from the Market!
– Maison Boulud : Located within the Ritz Carlton hotel, one of the best tables in town
The Omega Park, meet the locals 🙂
The Omega Animal Park is located in Montebello, halfway between Ottawa and Montreal. A 12 km path runs through this park. You will see (very close) all these animals you’ve always dreamt of meeting in the wild… wolves, raccoons, buffalos, deers, ibex, mosses, elks … You can even feed some of them 🙂 Winter is the ideal season to follow in the footsteps of animals. This is also the season when the animals’ fur is the most beautiful. Halfway through, it is possible to stop and go for a walk, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing in an area where harmless animals live. You will be able to feed carrots to some deers and reindeers, which are easy to approach. The park is open every day from 10 am to 5pm. The entrance fee per person is 20$ (reduced fee for children).
QUEBEC CITY, THE NATURE CITY
Quebec City is the capital of the Canadian province of the same name. It is a city steeped in history but also a city with many parks and gardens.
A 15 minute drive from the city center you can go see the Montmorency falls. This 83-meter drop is higher than the Niagara Falls. In winter, a « sugar loaf » forms at the foot of the falls.
Unfortunately I did not have time to go there but I’ve saved the idea for next time!
Not too far from the City either is a place that you could only imagine finding in the Frozen movie! I’m talking about the Ice Hotel! This piece of Art is part of the Valcartier Park. It is a real hotel that anyone can visit in the winter with an entrance fee. At night the hotel is reserved to the guests. The bedrooms are enchanting and believe me it is colder inside the hotel than outside.
Looking for a closer kind of adventure? I recommend tobogganing in 1884 in front of Château Frontenac, the famous hotel in Quebec City. The slide is over 100 years old, and all you have to do is sit on a wooden sledge called « wild sledge », and you may be able to reach the speed of 70 km/hour. The ride will only cost you $3. But, you can save some with the $10/ 4 rides deal.
FAIRMONT le CHâTEAU FRONTENAC, THE LEGEND
In 2018 the famous Castle will celebrate its 125th anniversary! Pride among the jewels of Quebec City, the Château Frontenac is located in the upper town of the historic district of Old Quebec, on the Dufferin Terrace, offering a panoramic view of the St. Lawrence River.
Steeped in history, this is the most photographed hotel in the world! And I understand why… It’s just beautiful, like straight out of a fairy tale!
If you get the chance ask for a corner room on a high floor, the view is stunning!
Where to eat:
– Le continental: If you want your dinner to be a show and love meat… This is the perfect address for you
– 1640 : Facing the Chateau Frontenac, you’ll have a good choice of local dishes to choose from
– Bistro le Sam : if you’re looking to have lunch or dinner within le Chateau de Frontenac, give Bistro le Sam a try