Holiday season cultural activities in Montréal

Richard Burnett

Richard “Bugs” Burnett is a Canadian freelance writer, editor, journalist, blogger and columnist for alt-weeklies, mainstream and LGBTQ publications. Bugs also knows Montréal like a drag queen knows a cosmetics counter.

This article was updated on December 12, 2022.

Montréal lights up this holiday season with a wide variety of unique cultural and winter activities and events, concerts, exhibitions and a festive restaurant scene to please every palate. Here are some choice shopping, fine dining, and arts and culture options in Montréal as the holidays approach.

Concerts and shows

Montréal’s entertainment scene sparkles with concerts and shows at venues big and small. Here are some of our picks.

Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal’s timeless adaptation of Casse-Noisette (a.k.a. The Nutcracker) by Quebec choreographer Fernand Nault returns to Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier for its 59th year. This two-act ballet based on E.T.A. Hoffmann’s classic tale is set to the music of Tchaikovsky and brings together more than 60 dancers and 100 extras, plus the Orchestre des Grands ballets Canadiens de Montréal. If you have never seen it, this famed production is a must. The Nutcracker runs from December 9 to 30.

The Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal celebrates the holiday season with its three-concert series Christmas Songs with Rafael Payare (December 14-15) featuring the OSM and their maestro performing symphonic works composed for the festive period. They are joined by the OSM Chorus and Les Petits Chanteurs du Mont-Royal at the Maison Symphonique.

Over at Bourgie Concert Hall the highly-anticipated holiday classic A Charlie Brown Christmas featuring the Taurey Butler Trio is a Montreal favourite. This three-concert series (December 15-16) will sell out, so get your tickets early.

The annual Andy Kim Christmas concert returns to the Corona Theatre on December 10 with a collection of iconic performers with all proceeds donated to Starlight Children’s Foundation Canada. 

Rufus Wainwright and Martha Wainwright’s family Christmas show has been a Montréal tradition since 2005. Their Étoiles et Toi avec Rufus et Martha Wainwright: Ensemble en Famille concert at the Église Saint-Jean-Baptiste (December 3) will benefit the Kate McGarrigle Fund.

Euro-disco group BONEY M featuring original lead singer Liz Mitchell headlines their Holiday Favourites and Classic Hits Tour at the Olympia de Montréal on December 14. In addition to their disco anthems Daddy CoolRivers of Babylon and Rasputin, the band’s 1981 Christmas Album featured such timeless holiday fare as Feliz NavidadMary’s Boy Child/Oh My Lord and Little Drummer Boy.

Belgian superstar Stromae headlines the Bell Centre for four nights (November 25-26-27, December 14).

Jazz legend Ranee Lee remounts her critically-hailed Dark Divas show, a musical journey about the lives and times of Black pop icons Josephine Baker, Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, Pearl Baily, Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald, for two nights only (December 16 and 17) at the Centaur Theatre.

Click here for a round-up of 2022 holiday season concerts.

Arts and culture

Blockbuster shows fill Montréal theatres, museums and art galleries this season.

The Broadway musical The Sound of Music (La mélodie du Bonheur) runs at Théâtre St-Denis from December 3 to 23. Directed by Gregory Charles, it is performed in separate French and English presentations.

The contemporary presentor Danse Danse presents Fables by the Compagnie Virginie Brunelle at Théatre Maisonneuve (November 30 to December 3).

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts presents the world premiere of Seeing Loud: Basquiat and Music, an innovative exploration of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s life, work and meteoric career. This is the first large-scale multimedia exhibition devoted to the role of music in the work of one of the most innovative artists of the second half of the 20th century. Runs to 19 February 2023.

The PHI Foundation for Contemporary Art presents the exhibition Yayoi Kusama: DANCING LIGHTS THAT FLEW UP TO THE UNIVERSE by one of the most popular living contemporary artists in the world today. Free admission but reservations are required. Due to the high volume of visitors, the PHI Foundation is unable to accept walk-ins. Runs to 15 January 2023.

Masterpieces by Van Gogh get a dazzling digital treatment in the immersive exhibition VAN GOGH - Distorsion at Canada’s largest indoor immersive attraction, OASIS immersion at the Palais des congrès de Montréal until 8 January 2023.

The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains displays 350 artefacts from the band’s extraordinary career. This audio-visual, sensorial journey chronicles five decades of the iconic rock band, at the massive Arsenal Contemporary Art gallery until February 5.

Over at the McCord Stewart Museum, relive the magic of Ogilvy’s mechanical Christmas window displays in the Enchanted Worlds installation which runs to 8 January 2023. Visitors will see The Mill in the Forest outdoors on Victoria Street and The Enchanted Village inside the museum.

The crowd-pleasing exhibition Dinosaurs Around the World at the Montréal Science Centre features 20 life-sized dinosaurs that move and make sounds. Kids can also climb on the back of a T-Rex, Apatosaurus and a Mojoceratops, as well as touch a real 67-million-year-old fossil! Runs to 12 March 2023.


City of lights

As the nights grow longer, Montréal lights up with tons of activities to get you glowing with holiday spirit.

The Luminothérapie playground in the Quartier des Spectacles lights up the night with eye-popping interactive installations from December 1 to March 2023.

Created by Montréal’s renowned multimedia entertainment studio Moment Factory, AURA literally reconstructs Notre-Dame Basilica’s interior with lights and sound.


Fabulous food and a festive mood

Montréal is known as a city that celebrates food year round, so you’ll find lots of palate-pleasing options, plus a festive menu of holiday-themed dinner shows.

Stay up to date with the city’s dynamic culinary scene by clicking here to read food critic Mayssam Samaha’s latest picks.

Food critic Jason Lee’s choice picks where to eat during the holidays.

For those looking for dinner and a show under one roof, Le Balcon music hall and restaurant offers themed live-music shows year-round, starring such well-known entertainers as Freddie James and Michelle Sweeney. Le Balcon’s Celebration holiday party concert series runs from December 1 to 30, while soul diva Michelle Sweeney also headlines a Gospel Evening on December 29.


Get a breath of fresh air

Stretch your legs and work off some of those delicious meals with outdoor fun all around the city, from hiking on Mount Royal to ice-skating in the Old Port.

The 75-hectare Montréal Botanical Garden is home to some 20 thematic gardens, including the Alpine Garden and the First Nations Garden, as well as 10 greenhouses. It is an ideal getaway for families looking for a calm and spacious oasis in the city. Along with the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium, Biodôme, Biosphere and Insectarium, the Botanical Garden is part of Space for Life, the largest natural sciences museum complex in Canada. Click here for more info about Space for Life.

The Old Port of Montréal outdoor skating rink returns in December. Great music and twinkling lights add to the ambiance. Click here for updates.

Enjoy music, festive lights, hot chocolate and more at Noël dans le Parc at Place Émilie-Gamelin downtown and in Parc des Compagnons and Parc Lahaie in the Plateau neighbourhood from December 3 to 31. Click here for updates.

Les amis de la montagne operates a sports equipment rental service for ice skating, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snow tubing and more in Mount Royal Park each winter. Enjoy the refrigerated skating rink at Beaver Lake or explore the marked trails for cross-country skiing (22 km), snowshoeing (3 km) and hiking (10 km in winter). Click here for their updated programming.

If you have your own equipment, go hiking, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing on the trails of Parc Maisonneuve and Parc Jean-Drapeau.


Discover neighbourhoods

Every neighbourhood in Montréal exhibits a unique character of its own, embodied by its historical sights, restaurants, hotels and art galleries, nightlife, parks and people. Click here for an introduction to Montréal’s most popular neighbourhoods, plus here are other choice picks:

Chosen by Time Out magazine as one of the coolest neighbourhoods in the world, Villeray’s charms lie in its people and independent businesses, from its picturesque parks to its curved apartment staircases. Be sure to check out the legendary Ferlucci Coffee Shop.

Verdun has been shaped by the borough’s proximity to the St. Lawrence – in fact, the beautiful green parks that line the entirety of the waterfront were originally built to protect the area from flooding. A little snow doesn’t keep anyone inside either, with a cross-country ski track along the river’s edge starting at Parc Arthur-Therrien and traversing all the way to Lachine nearly 20 km away. Click here for more info about Verdun and its attractions.

Les Quartiers du Canal district is comprised of three Montréal neighbourhoods: Griffintown, Little Burgundy, and Saint-Henri, bound together by the historic Lachine Canal. The pathways and greenspaces along the Lachine Canal are a perfect area for dining and daydreaming, for promenading and pedaling. Highlights include famed Joe Beef restaurant and historic Atwater Market. Click here for more info about Les Quartiers du Canal.


Holiday markets and shopping

Montréal is a shopper’s paradise year-round, but the experience becomes even more festive during the spirited holiday season. Here are some ideas to get you started.

The Le Village de Noël de Montréal at Atwater Market (November 24 to December 18), the Marché de Noël de Jean Talon (November 26 to December 18), and The Great Christmas Market (November 19 to December 31) located in Place des Festivals in the Quartier des Spectacles and Sainte-Catherine street are all back this holiday season.

Montréal’s Underground Pedestrian Network, often nicknamed “the underground city” by visitors, connects all the major downtown shopping centres without setting foot outside. Look for “RESO” signs and start exploring.



Richard Burnett

Richard “Bugs” Burnett is a Canadian freelance writer, editor, journalist, blogger and columnist for alt-weeklies, mainstream and LGBTQ publications. Bugs also knows Montréal like a drag queen knows a cosmetics counter.

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