The Hôtel de Glace in Québec is the first and only ice hotel in North America—the entire structure of the hotel is built from ice and snow. The Ice Hotel isn’t in Québec City, but is 40 minutes away, making it a perfect day trip. You’ll find the hotel in Saint-Gabriel-de-Valcartier, a more remote and winter wonderland-y part of the Québec Region.
The Ice Hotel is open annually from January through March, and the design and theme vary each year as the hotel obviously melts and needs to be rebuilt. While you can absolutely spend the night at the Hôtel de Glace, those on a smaller budget (and with a bigger sensitivity to the cold) can visit during the day.
I had the chance to visit the Hôtel de Glace in February 2020, and it was a really ethereal experience (trying to restrain myself from saying “the coolest experience” lol). If you’re planning a trip there, or just want to learn more about the hotel, here’s everything you need to know.
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Video Tour of the Québec Ice Hotel
Here’s a little video I made of my visit last year. It’s very similar to this post, but has extra footage.
Overview of the Hôtel de Glace
The Hôtel de Glace is part of the Valcartier Vacation Village, which is exactly what it sounds like—it’s a holiday resort where you can do wintery outdoor things like tubing and skating, and also indoor activities like go to the spa or indoor waterpark.
To get to the Ice Hotel, you’ll need to first walk through the resort. You’ll be taken back outside to a plateau of snow with a scenic backdrop of mountains—this is where you’ll find the Ice Hotel.
After passing through the main entrance of the Hôtel de Glace, you’ll be brought to the bar area, where you can order cocktails in glasses made of ice. There are also ice tables and benches, an ice throne for those Instagram pics, and a fireplace to warm your frozen hands.
From there, you can walk through some more common areas with sculptures for more photo ops, and there’s even an ice slide.
You’ll eventually reach the rooms after wandering the manicured tunnels of ice and snow. In 2020, there were 42 rooms, with 20 of them having a special theme and design (the other 22 weren’t decorated and were pretty plain inside, but also way cheaper to stay in than the themed rooms). 2020 was actually the 20th anniversary of the hotel, and each of the themed rooms was based on one of the themes of the previous 20 years.
Outside of the themed rooms, you’ll see a little plaque with the name of the room and the names of its sculptors. My favorite room was the circus-themed one, but all of them were really intricately designed and fun to walk through.
The Hôtel de Glace also has a Nordic spa area, which is included if you stay in the Ice Hotel, or if you buy a special Ice Hotel Day pass and spa package. You can even get married in the Ice Hotel, as there’s a chapel just for that.
How Does Sleeping in the Ice Hotel Work? Bathrooms, Security, etc.
At this point, you might be wondering a few things about what it’s like to stay in the Ice Hotel. Some of the commonly-asked questions are: How do you go to the bathroom or shower? And: Why are there no locks or even doors to the rooms? If I stay there, am I not only going to freeze to death, but also get all my belongings stolen, have to pee in a hole, and possibly get murdered?
Fear not! When you reserve a room in the Hôtel de Glace, you actually also get a room in the Hotel Valcartier, within the vacation resort. So, you’re able to shower, use the bathroom, and store your luggage securely inside. This also means that if you decide you can’t handle the cold, you can just go sleep in a regular old hotel room inside, though apparently large 95% of the guests last the whole night.
If you do sleep in the Ice Hotel, guests have an orientation on what to wear and how to stay warm in the cold temperatures of around 25 degrees Fahrenheit or -5 degrees Celsius. You get an insulated sleeping bag and basically leave no part of your body exposed, except for your eyes and nose.
How Much Does the Québec Ice Hotel Cost?
Tickets to visit the Ice Hotel are based on your height, but basically the pre-tax price is 24 CAD (~18 USD) for adults and 19 CAD (~14 USD) for kids and seniors. Keep in mind that these are current exchange rates as of October 2020. With this ticket, you get access to visit the Hôtel de Glace all day. After 8pm, however, the rooms and suites are limited to guests who are spending the night (makes sense—I wouldn’t want tourists wandering into my hotel room haha).
For an extra 3-9 CAD, you can also get a cocktail package, where a drink served in an ice glass is included. This is generally cheaper than buying a normal day pass and getting a cocktail separately, as all drinks served in an ice glass cost at least 12.50 CAD. I’d definitely go for the cocktail package if you’re planning to get an ice drink. Just don’t expect to get a generous amount of drink, as the glasses don’t hold much.
If you want to stay in the Ice Hotel, rooms start at 400 CAD (about 303 USD) before taxes and go all the way up to 800 CAD (606 USD), depending on the type of room and package. The prices listed online for rooms and day passes always show pre-tax prices until checkout, so just remember that the Québec region in Canada has a big sales tax of 15%.
With every room package, you get a welcome cocktail, access to the Nordic spa area, and a room inside the Hotel Valcartier.
How to Get to the Québec Ice Hotel
To get to the Hôtel de Glace, you’ll either need to drive 40 minutes from Old Québec or take a shuttle bus. I didn’t have a car, so I opted for the 3-hour shuttle bus tour offered by Old Québec Tours (currently not available, but here’s the Get Your Guide link). Tickets are 54 CAD after taxes for adults and 42 CAD for kids. In USD, that’s 40 dollars for adults and 32 for kids.
It’s a pretty hefty price, but tickets to the Ice Hotel (which cost around 20 USD after taxes for adults) are included in the shuttle price. The shuttle bus is really just transportation even though it’s called a tour, so it’s basically just a 20 USD bus ride. You only end up with about an hour at the Ice Hotel after factoring in transport time, but I thought that was just the right amount of time to see everything in hotel, take tons of pictures and videos, and then have the cold temperatures start to get to you, so you actually want to leave and go somewhere warm.
Is the Hôtel de Glace Worth Visiting?
I’m a pretty cheap person, but I’d say that the Hôtel de Glace is absolutely worth a visit, even if you have to pay $20 for transport on top of the $20 ticket. It might seem like one of those touristy/rich people gimmicks, and is probably that, but the interior of the ice hotel is really stunning and is an actual work of art (because there are actually artists who work on the design).
There also aren’t a ton of ice hotels in the world, and the ones that exist are most commonly in Scandinavian countries; there’s also one in Harbin, China. If you don’t think you’ll make it out to those countries anytime soon, but want to see AN ice hotel, then Québec’s Hôtel de Glace is the only one in North America and it’s pretty cool.
I can’t say whether or not staying in the Ice Hotel is worth it, but it does seem like a pretty unique experience. If I had hundreds of dollars to spend on a novelty travel experience, this might be something I’d treat myself to. Of course, whether or not it actually is a “treat” is another story. It seems kind of masochistic as you’re basically paying hundreds of dollars to freeze to death. (But I am a runner, and I pay hundreds of dollars for marathons, where I subject myself to hours of pain and suffering for the runner’s high, so I guess paying lots of money to freeze in an Ice Hotel isn’t too far off.)
In all seriousness though, people who have stayed at the Hôtel de Glace do say that they sleep really well, as the Ice Hotel is super quiet and dark at night, and I think the cold also helps you sleep. If you were to split a room with a friend or partner, it could be a pretty fun and adventurous thing to do together, and the price per person would be more manageable.
If you’ve visited the Ice Hotel before (or another one), I’d love to hear about your experience! It’s currently unclear if the Hotel de Glace will be operating for the 2021 season, but there’s no news that it’s canceled yet. It seems like something that can operate relatively safely, so I hope it’s a tradition that won’t be broken if the situation is stable. As always, be sure to take proper precautions, wear a mask, and double-check any travel restrictions. Of course, I don’t recommend international travel at this time, unless absolutely necessary (my fellow Americans may have to wait until 2022 to visit).
If you’re also planning to stop by Montreal, you may like my review of Aura Montreal, a light show in the famous Notre-Dame Basilica.