Unique property made entirely of ice and snow, with annually changing themes, sculptures, and carvings
Overnight guests stay in rooms or themed suites, some with colorful LED lighting and gas fireplaces
Outdoor spa area with hot tubs and saunas for guest use
Property includes three different bars for beer and cocktails, with drinks served in glasses made of ice
Tours of the property, including Ice Workshop, available during the day
Heated pavilion with breakfast restaurant, bathrooms, lobby, and lockers steps from hotel
Free breakfast buffet with bacon and eggs
Friendly, energetic staff
Activities include nighttime snowshoeing
Hotel ice chapel for weddings; business/group gatherings can be accommodated
Small shop on-site with warm clothing and souvenirs
Guests may only retire to rooms at 9 p.m. and must be out by 9 a.m. the next day
Cafe is for breakfast and lunch only; guests may bring their own snacks
Rooms may feel clausterphobic to some guests
The Hotel de Glace is an upper-middle-range property made entirely of ice and snow -- one of only two such properties in the world. Situated 15 minutes north of Quebec City, the property changes annually, with unique snow carvings and ice sculptures, and is typically open from January through March. There were 44 rooms and themed suites available during our 2015 visit, including some with decorative gas fireplaces -- the property remains between 23 and 27 degrees Fahrenheit at all times, and overnight guests are given thermal sleeping bags for extra warmth. Guests may only retire to their rooms starting at 9 p.m. and must be out by 9 a.m. the next day, when free breakfast is served. Public tours are offered all day throughout the property, including guest rooms and the Ice Workshop. There are lockers and public bathrooms with stall showers, as well as a small cafe, three bars serving beer and cocktails in glasses made of ice, and an outdoor spa with hot tubs and saunas, which guests can use throughout the night. There's nothing quite like Hotel de Glace, and it may not be suited to every traveler -- packages are available that also include a room at nearby Four Points by Sheraton Quebec, so that guests can head out mid-stay if needed. There is no Wi-Fi on the property.
Hotel made of ice and snow, with intricate carvings, snowy passageways, and igloo-type bars and rooms
Hotel de Glace almost feels more like a tourist attraction than a hotel -- it's actually both, as couples, groups, friends, and families flock here throughout the day from January through March to tour the incredible grounds, and nightly occupancy hovers around 96 percent. More than one million visitors have have stopped by since the hotel opened in 2001, and for the hotel's 15th Anniversary in 2015, the hotel's ice artisans created an ice slide beside one of the bars, with an ice staircase and beautiful ice sculptures all around.
The vibe is fun and educational, with couples snapping photos, kids running around in the snow, and groups listening intently to tour guides describing the construction process. The property is something of an architectural wonder, a series of igloo-style buildings with icy facades, and snowy passageways leading to cave-like guest rooms. There's even an outdoor spa area with wooden hot tubs and barrel-shaped saunas, delicately lit by white lights amidst snowy hills and snowcapped pine trees.
The hotel is completely bulldozed and rebuilt every year with dozens of tons of snow and 500 tons of ice, all of which is crystal-clear, thanks to the hotel's meticulous process of removing oxygen and air bubbles by stirring water before freezing it. The entire, four-phase construction process lasts 24 hours per day until the themed concept is fully realized -- the 2015 theme is Time and Space, with carvings and decorations in guest rooms and public areas depicting historical and future scenes. The Grand Hall, for instance, has the feel of an igloo and is spruced up with a unique chandelier made of frozen milk, cave paintings colored with frozen coffee, purple LED lighting, and carvings that include giant Roman numeral clocks, dinosaur-like creatures, and nature scenes with trees and leaves.
The three bars, each devoted to a different brand of liquor or beer, are similarly cave-like and decorated with LED lighting -- green and red for the Heineken bar, multicolored spotlights in the Quartz bar -- and cocktail tables carved from ice. There are some modern accents, such as touch-screens atop the Quartz bar, but the overall setting evokes a fantastical, snowy fairytale rather than something of this world. Fur blankets adorn the seating in two of the bars and throughout much of the hotel.
The main entrance to the property is the only traditional space, with a ski lodge-type look complete with wood ceilings, brick and stone tile floors, an ATM, tour brochures, and vending machines selling snacks, coffee, and soda. The breakfast dining room at Cafe Celsius is also in the main building, and is plain and simple, with a tented ceiling, tables with blue plastic coverings, and beige chairs -- the bright white chandeliers offer some indication of what's to come throughout the rest of the property.
A 15-minute drive from Quebec City, but there's not much else around
The point of staying at the Hotel de Glace is to be fully immersed in the unique, snowy and icy surrounds. As such, the property is somewhat remote, with a residential area nearby but not much else. It's set off of tree-lined Rue de la Faune, with Quebec City a 15-minute drive away. The Four Points by Sheraton Quebec Resort, which has a restaurant, is a 10-minute walk or two-minute drive. Cross-country skiing, hiking, and snowshoeing are available at Ski De Fond Charlesbourg, just over five minutes away by car. Guests can warm up at La Faune Spa et détente, a thermal health center one minute down the road. The Quebec City airport is a 15- to 20-minute drive.
Simple igloo-like rooms, and themed suites with unique carvings and colorful lighting
There are basic, igloo-like rooms, each with bedside tables made of ice, and one, two, or three queen-size beds topped with black, thermal blankets. Rooms have curtains rather than doors, and each room has a small hole in the roof to let out any humidity. The beds' bases are made from blocks of ice and solid wood, and topped with comfy mattresses. At night, super-warm sleeping bags -- suited to temperatures as low as -22 degrees Fahrenheit -- along with bed sheets and pillows are delivered to rooms.
The hotel also has Theme Suites with unique carvings and colorful LED lighting: Premium Theme Suites with decorative gas fireplaces, which don't actually offer heat; and a Premium Deluxe Theme Suite with a fireplace and private spa. Every year the hotel holds a contest in which local architecture students compete to design a suite. Among the 2015 themed suites are disco- and Great Gatsby-themed designs, as well as a suite inspired by the industrial revolution, with giant wheels carved into the snowy walls.
The Espace en Distorsion (Distortion Space) suite is particularly interesting, with carved globes and curved walls for a hall-of-mirrors effect, along with a furry brown bedspread and a reddish glow from LED lights. The Chez le Gardien de la Foret (Guardian of the Forest) suite depicts a whimsical forest scene, with carved evergreens and bare trees appearing to bend in the wind, and an ice carving of a creepy, elvish figure.
Guests remark that the sleeping bags are quite toasty, and that sleeping in sweats or thermal underwear offers plenty of insulation against the cold. The hotel also recommends using the hot tubs and saunas to fully dry off before retiring to bed. There are a few couches in the reception area for guests who find the igloos unbearable, for whatever reason.
Free buffet breakfast, three unique bars, and an outdoor spa area with hot tubs and saunas
Overnight guests are woken by 8:30 and offered a free breakfast buffet with hot and cold items, including warm drinks, fruit, toast, bacon, and omelets made-to-order. Cafe Celsius also has a counter selling sandwiches, soups, and soft drinks during the day. There are three bars, each uniquely decorated and offering a different brand of liquor (gin or vodka) or beer, served in glasses carved from bacteria-free, edible ice. There's a gift shop selling warm clothes and accessories, glassware, books, and trinkets. The adorable candy shop is housed inside a little cabin and sells maple treats. Overnight guests have access to a heated locker area, where they're to leave belongings overnight; the space also has stall toilets, and private shower stalls with wall-mounted shampoo and soap. The outdoor Arctic Spas area has wooden hot tubs and freestanding saunas, and guests tend to socialize here before heading to bed. Midnight snowshoe sessions are available within the property. There's an icy chapel for weddings, with ice benches covered in plush, black blankets. Businesses can hold events in the bars, as well.