Things to do this holiday season 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.

Montréal is back! The city is looking a lot like its former self as more and more bars, restaurants and entertainment venues open up. 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 a variety of concerts and shows at venues big and small. Here are some of our picks.

  • A revised version of Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal famed production of The Nutcracker for the 2021 holiday season, at Salle Wilfred-Pelletier from December 9 to 28. Click here for more info.
  • Iconic prog-rockers Genesis headlines two nights at the Bell Centre on November 22 and 23.
  • The fabled Orchestre symphonique de Montréal presents 61 in-person concerts this season, and welcomes 16 guest conductors, including legendary OSM Conductors Emeriti Kent Nagano (December 15, 16 and 18) and Zubin Mehta, in what will be a historic concert on February 5, six decades after Mehta led the OSM on its first international tour. Click here for more OSM concerts.
  • Some 100 concerts have been programmed over at Bourgie Concert Hall for their 10th anniversary season, including the long-awaited return of The Complete Cantatas of J.S. Bach (which begins on October 31) and the hugely popular annual A Charlie Brown Christmas concert by the Taurey Butler Trio, with guest vocalist Marie-Christine Depestre (December 15 and 16).

Click here for our fall 2021 cultural preview, and here for a round-up of 2021 holiday season concerts.

Arts and culture

From musicals to immersive multimedia experiences, Montréal theatres, museums and art galleries have exciting new plays and exhibitions scheduled.

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, which lights up the night with eye-popping interactive installations. Check out more holiday high-lights (pun intended) by clicking here.
  • On Victoria Street outside the McCord Museum, relive the magic of Ogilvy’s mechanical Christmas window displays in the Enchanted Worlds installation from December 3 to January 2.
  • Created by Montréal’s renowned multimedia entertainment studio Moment Factory, AURA literally reconstructs Notre-Dame Basilica’s interior with lights and sound.
  • The Merry Montreal flagship holiday season event in Place Nordique (a.k.a. Place Jacques-Cartier) is filled with light, sound and public art installations, expected to return in December.

Fabulous food and a festive mood

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

  • If you're looking for the merriest of holiday happy hours, head on over to wonderfully kitschy Miracle Montréal at Place d'Youville in Old Montréal.
  • 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 Kim Richardson, Freddie James and others. Le Balcon’s Celebration holiday party concert series runs from November 25 to December 30, while soul diva Michelle Sweeney headlines a Gospel Brunch on November 20.
  • All summer long, Riverside St-Henri is the perfect spot to meet pals and their pups on their bustling canal-side terrasse. But this winter, Riverside becomes Hiverside, an ice palace cocktail bar designed by Julien Doré out of the frozen stuff itself. Watch your Instagram blow up with shots of this frozen getaway, and bask in the Montréal winter. Reservation spots are open now!

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. Dates to be confirmed. 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 and Anfibio Boots.
  • 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 iconic 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.

Click here for our fall 2021 cultural preview, and here for a round-up of 2021 holiday season concerts.

 

KEEPING IT SAFE

Wearing a face mask indoors is mandatory at all venues. Numerous measures have been put in place at all venues to ensure the safety of visitors and employees, including government-mandated vaccine passports as of September 1. We recommend that you call or visit their websites to get the most up-to-date information. For more details on the current situation in Montréal, click here.

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.

Enjoy the best of Montréal

The Tourisme Montréal newsletter gives you the inside scoop on everything happening in the city.

Moments nearby