Google+ From water to ice art, Hôtel de Glace is a masterpiece | Travel & Happiness I by Jenn Smith Nelson

From water to ice art, Hôtel de Glace is a masterpiece

Have you ever wanted to try sleeping outside in the winter? Maybe you have considered a tent or even a quinzhee if you are more the adventurous type. Quebec City’s well-known Hôtel de Glace is a common choice for those thinking of trying a different type of winter accommodation. And for good reason.

Located at the base of the Laurentian Mountains, the Hôtel de Glace is the only ice hotel of its kind in North America. And, it’s built from scratch every December! Visitors come from all around the world to not only see the hotel, but to experience it – with a good night’s rest in one of their 44 rooms and uniquely designed suites.


A close up of lit up ice blocks.

Yeah but how cold is it exactly?

You can hack it. Really. The hotel’s ice walls act as a bit of a barrier to the cold — I know this sounds a bit crazy cause it’s snow and ice — BUT it really does help to keep the Hôtel de Glace well insulated. Interior temperatures vary slightly, between -3°C and -5°C, no matter what the outside temperature is.


I arrived late at night so I spent most of my time at the hotel visiting in the dark but I was able to snap this shot just before leaving in the morning. What an incredible structure that blends so beautifully into the landscape!

Where water becomes art

Not only does the Hôtel de Glace offer a truly unique experience and an adventure, it is incredibly beautiful – a work of art really. There are public rooms to tour including the Great Hall, the chapel, a very kid friendly themed room (this year’s theme is based on the movie Frozen) and of course the guest rooms and suites.

The attention to detail was found throughout every space, nook and cranny from icy chandeliers to wall murals to hallway decor and pillars.


The impressive entrance to the Great Hall.


Fur lined skins sit atop icy chairs – fit for a conversation nook if you fancy.


The ever changing glow of the lights made the wall murals pop and come to life in hues of yellow, green, blue and red.

Honey this isn’t quite the Holiday Inn is it?

When you walk through the ice hotel you will find it has such a quiet beauty to it. This simplicity – in building material that is, or the overwhelming amount of white space. Each room is unique and offers the eye something to adore.

It’s safe to assume your stay will be unlike any other hotel stay you have had in the past.


True artistic vision goes into each piece in every room.


A cute play on detail. “Brrrrrr”ing!


One of the hallway’s leading to the guest rooms and suites.

I do – do you do? Getting married happens here – often!

One of the most common activities or reasons to visit the Hôtel de Glace is to tie the knot! During a typical season the hotel hosts 20-30 weddings. Each of the seats are fur-lined so guests can keep warm during the ceremony. What a unique way to get hitched – I envision that a ceremony would feel very ‘fairytale-esque’. Yep, I am making up words but that makes some sense doesn’t it?

Here is a 6 second virtual chapel tour:


Upon entering the space the focal point is the light coming from the alter, followed by the seamed ceiling and the benches. It’s pretty magical.


A closer look at the carved benches.


Chapel wall detail. All this white is quite fitting isn’t it?

What to do and where to explore during your visit

Visitors can take advantage of daily activities including snowshoeing, warming up in the nordic relaxation area which features an outdoor sauna and spas (open from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m.), visiting the bar and perhaps joining in on a dance party, or for kids, trying out the super neat Grand Slide.

I am not sure what this says about me but the bar was my first stop after the chapel.


Welcome to Canada’s largest ice bar!


Care for a drink in an ice cup? I chose to have the Hôtel de Glace’s house cocktail: Nordique. It was blue. And delicious. And for the record I wanted more .


I loved the ability to drink from the ice cups. They are so cool. In fact I purchased the moulds from the hotel’s gift shop so that I could make these at home. Great gift idea!

These little nooks in the bar area were very inviting. Too bad I was a bit early for the party.

And that kids area I mentioned. So COOL.



Entrance to La Reine de Neige themed room.


The Grand Slide is indeed grand and long. If my boys were along I would have spent a lot more time in this room.


I think kids would even be impressed with the artistry of the Frozen creatures.

Sleeping at the Hôtel de Glace

Spending the night is something I highly recommend you do if you visit to the Hôtel de Glace. You have the choice between a regular room with 1-3 beds or a themed room or suite. Themed rooms such as the one I stayed in can include detailed carvings and sculptures. Suites include (non-heated) fireplaces.


The room I shared with a fellow journalist was called Les Nornes – Mythologic Nordique – which made perfect sense given this year’s hotel theme was ‘Myths and Legends from Around the World.’ Each year a new theme is chosen and the hotel design is based on that theme.


Me trying to cleverly capture me ‘using’ the bed. As you can see I was almost still enough for my self-timer action.


To the front of the room were two lovely swan chairs, an ice table and wall carvings wrapped the entire room.

A closer look at the carving and ice sculpture behind the beds.

Some things you should know about staying overnight:

Room temperature – hovers around the -5°C mark.

The beds – Beds have a solid ice base and a mattress on top. The mattresses are covered in a soft minky fabric and guests are provided with nordic sleeping bags designed to keep people warm to -30°C.

What to wear – Thermal underwear is recommended as a layer to keep humidity to a minimum but I found that I also liked wearing my toque. If you chill easy, you could bring along some hotshots and keep extra warm.

Considerations – I wouldn’t drink a lot before going to bed. Once you get up and leave your sleeping bag, humidity starts to seep in and it feels a bit cooler.

If you are claustrophobic you could have an issue. The sleeping bags are designed to cinch around your shoulders and neck, plus there’s a head cover that can also be tightened up so you are completely as snug as a bug. I have to admit that this freaked me out so much more than I thought and because the sleeping bags are quite slim I felt really closed in. It took me a couple of hours to realize I was OK. Now, this is just my experience of course but I am uncomfortable in closed in spaces.

Add this to your list in 2015!

For more information on the Hôtel de Glace and to get ready to plan your stay next winter (or this winter if you are quick) visit their website. They have a great variety of packages and prices vary depending on your getaway preference and type of room. Basic rooms start around $200. Just visiting for the day which will cost you $18 (adult rate).

Lastly I just want to add that if you don’t already know this, Quebec City is a place which simply excels in embracing winter in all its glory. If you are considering a stay at the Hôtel de Glace I recommend that you also double up your adventure and tie in the Carnaval Festival. Although it has recently passed, it’s never too early to start planning for next year. Carnaval runs from the end of January to mid February. Watch my blog for more information on Carnaval.

Question of the day:

Have you ever slept outside in the winter?

0 thoughts on “From water to ice art, Hôtel de Glace is a masterpiece
    • Thank you and fair enough! I think I need to start writing about warmer travel spots – I sure got a lot more winter travel experience this year between this and winter camping. Heading back to your blog to do some planning! 🙂

  1. Many moons ago I saw a Groupon for this exact ice hotel and said yes, I will go here one day. Now (like much of my to-do list) this place is still unchecked. After reading your post and seeing your photos I feel enchanted by this place. Yes – 2015 will be the year I go to this hotel. I must. It looks like this place is straight out of Narnia!

    • It is pretty cool I have to admit. There is so much to do in Quebec City so make sure you leave a good amount of time to explore!

      I can’t wait to read your post about it. Where to next Amanda?

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