Things to do in Montréal - December 7 to 13

Montréal embraces the festive spirit this week in sparkling holiday markets full of local creations, music and visits with Santa at family-friendly Christmas in the park and Santa's Kingdom, illuminated interactive art event Domino Effect, seasonal classical concerts and annual traditions such as The Nutcracker ballet, and out-of-the-ordinary events, from contemporary new dance and theatre to the wildest burlesque and live music.

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December festivities

It's officially time to make merry in Montréal! Enjoy live music, theatrical performances, bonfires, weekend visits with Santa and more at Christmas in the park in Place Émilie-Gamelin downtown and in the Plateau's Parc des Compagnons (where kids can pet a herd of sheep!) and lovely Parc Lahaie in Mile End – some of the many free things to do this winter in Montréal. The festive and food-filled Village de Noël de Montréal bustles with the holiday spirit at Atwater Market. Over on Prince-Arthur Street East, see the Vilain sapin chatouilleux. On Mont-Royal Avenue, the Noël sur l’Avenue celebrations continue with music, carriage rides and candlelit parade La Marche de Noël aux flambeaux on Saturday night. Indoors, history museum Château Ramezay warms us up throughout the month with seasonal event Around the fireplace... Holiday Traditions, while you can step into Santa's Kingdom at Complexe Desjardins downtown, complete with a mini train ride, visits with Santa, an illuminated fountain and live musical performances all month.

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Seasonal city lights

Montréal is a city of lights all year 'round, but this week we outdo ourselves: public art exhibition Luminothérapie lights up Place des Festivals starting December 11 with Domino Effect, a massive game of illuminated, musical dominos; on building facades in the Quartier des spectacles see the colourful projection-art animation of 100% Chance of Snow; the high-tech wonders of Moment Factory multimedia creation AURA transform Notre-Dame Basilica (one of Montréal's most famous icons); and the projections of Cité Mémoire highlight history on building facades throughout Old Montréal. Bird's-eye views of the city astound in the climate-controlled comfort of La Grande Roue de Montréal observation wheel in the Old Port, the Observatoire Place Ville Marie downtown and the Montréal Tower at Olympic Park. Explore Mount Royal Park, and see the city from its spectacular lookout, one of the most Instagrammable views in Montréal. Stroll through city streets on the Promenade Fleuve-Montagne path or take the Christmas Secrets Old Montréal tour. Meanwhile NHL stars shine as the Montréal Canadiens play the Carolina Hurricanes on December 13 at the Bell Centre, while on December 7 the Bell Centre heats up with TKO45: JOURDAIN vs. MORGAN.  

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Holiday shopping

Shop for one-of-a-kind gifts, locally made creations and more at Montréal's holiday markets. Among the markets open this week: the massive Salon des métiers d’art features Québec-made creations, from wooly hats to jewelry to sparkling wine, at Place Bonaventure until December 16; Les Grand Ballets Canadiens de Montréal's Nutcracker Market sparkles on the ground floor of Palais des Congrès until December 9; the Marché de Lëon creates a heartwarming general store in the Complexe Desjardins Santa’s Village; at this weekend's Puces POP local designers and artists sell one-of-a-kind items for every cool kid on your list; the Museum of Jewish Montréal Hanukkah Market features local jewelry designers, candlemakers and more on December 9, one of the many places to discover Jewish culture and food in Montréal. If you're looking for a little something to remind you of your visit to Montréal, check out these genuinely cool souvenirs of Montréal. And our guide to how to pack for winter in Montréal includes suggestions on where you can pick up anything that didn't make it into your suitcase. Whether you're in Montréal for a long weekend or a week, by plane or train, solo or with family, plot your days and nights with My Official Montréal City Guide, a travel app that lets you experience the city like a Montrealer.

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Food and drink

Warm up with hot food for cold days in Montréal, from fondue to vindaloo. Get cozy and eat well at Montréal restaurants with fireplaces – and try these top Montréal restaurants for the gourmet traveller, cheerful bring-your-own-wine eateries (including some in Little Italy) and lovely casual restaurants. Any time of day grab a pick-me-up at Montréal's indie coffee shops. And later on, relax with a perfect cocktail or have a drink away from it all and in style in a hidden bar or speakeasy. If you're looking for local food and Québécois classics follow our guides to the best poutine, the best Montréal bagels and the best smoked meat, Montréal's top chocolatières, excellent Montréal meals worth writing home about and more musts for foodies visiting Montréal. If you've got a craving for dumplings, follow our guide to where to eat some of the best Chinese food in Montréal. For something light, seek out these health-conscious restaurants and great sushi restaurants and peruse our ultimate guide to vegan eating in Montréal. Or indulge your sweet tooth at Montréal's best bakeries and pastry shops. Explore more of Montréal and its culinary delights on Montréal's best food tours. And if you're traveling with kids, check out our ideas for great places to eat with kids in Montréal

On stage

Another annual tradition returns this week: Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal's The Nutcracker, bringing family-friendly seasonal magic to the stage at Place des Arts from December 13 to 30. See the circus this week in Les 7 doigts's Passagers, an emotional tale of train travel and relocation told through acrobatic and dramatic acts, at La TOHU. Montréal's English theatre season continues to shine with A Doll’s House, Part 2, a witty sequel to Ibsen's classic, up to December 9 at the Segal Centre for Performing Arts, while Old Stock - A Refugee Love Story, the humorous tale of two Jewish Romanian refugees coming to Canada in 1908, runs in the Segal Studio until December 16. The winter holiday season gets a tongue-in-cheek twist in Urban Tales #12 – FEATHERS: 12 days of Xmas stories spun from a silly song, at Centaur Theatre on December 7, 8, 11, 14 and 15, while the Centaur Theatre's family theatre series features The 12 Tasks of Lady Lost on the morning of December 8. Québec playwright Marcel Dubé's Les beaux dimanches recreates a trenchant microcosm of suburban Montréal society in the mid-1960s, running from December 6 to 15 (in English on December 7) at Théâtre La Chapelle, while Geordie Theatre keeps things light, heartwarming and family-friendly in their holiday gala fundraiser show The Trials of Robin Hood on December 7 and 8 at D. B. Clarke Theatre. In Montréal contemporary dance, see Groupe RUBBERBANDance's Vraiment doucement, choreographed by Victor Quijada and inspired by hip hop, contemporary dance and ballet, presented by Danse Danse at Place des Arts from December 5 to 8, while Agora de la danse presents la 2e porte à gauche's Attabler project from December 5 to 8 and Compagnie Marie Chouinard returns with 24 Preludes by Chopin from December 4 to 8 at Usine C. And hearkening back to 1940s Montréal, complete with live orchestra, the Scarlett James Grande Burlesque Revue celebrates the season on December 8 at Corona Theatre.

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On screen

Virtual reality storytelling wows us at tech and culture hub the Phi Centre in Echo: The Sound of Space, an immersive creative exploration of the universe's timeless vibrations, and in the centre's new VR Cinema, offering two programs of visionary VR experiences every day. Roam the cosmos in science-meets-multimedia double bills Planet Nine and Secrets of Gravity, Continuum and Aurōrae and more at the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium. The Montréal Science Centre features IMAX films Oceans 3D and Pandas 3D along with hands-on science activities and a 3.8-billion-year-old moon rock! And among Montréal's great indie cinemas, Mile End's Cinéma Moderne screens art-house and cult films every day plus daytime family programming on weekends, while Cinéma du Musée and Cinéma du Parc screen Canadian and international gems, including new Québec documentary Ensemble, a look behind the scenes of the Orchestre Métropolitain.

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Art for all

Among this season's must-see museum exhibitions, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts presents Alexander Calder: Radical Inventor, the first Canadian retrospective of the American modern art giant, with over 150 works on display. The MMFA also features Resplendent Illuminations: Books of Hours from the 13th to the 16th Century in Quebec Collections, video installation Liminals: A Para-fiction of Transcendence by Jeremy Shaw, a powerful Inuit art collection, weekend family workshops and more. At the Musée d'art contemporain, don't miss the thirteen-screen immersive video work Manifesto by German artist Julian Rosefeldt, with actor Cate Blanchett taking on various roles, as well as a retrospective of influential multidisciplinary Québec artist Françoise Sullivan, historical artist manifesto exhibition Scores and Dana Michel's Jams Do Jams dance performances. In the Place des Arts exhibition hall, see Karine Giboulo's Arnait, an artistic tribute to Inuit women. At DHC/ART Foundation for Contemporary Art in Old Montréal, Jasmina Cibic's Everything That You Desire and Nothing That You Fear immerses us in issues of cultural production and political aims, anchored in the planning stages of Expo 67. In Ke'tapekiaq Ma’qimikew: The Land Sings / La terre chante, multidisciplinary Mi’kmaq artist Ursula Johnson reflects on human-made trauma on the land and waterways, at SBC Gallery of Contemporary Art. Visit The Darling Foundry for its unique factory-turned-gallery environment and current exhibition The Silver Cord, featuring abstract, dynamic and sculptural painted works by John Heward and Jean-François Lauda until December 9. See Frances Adair Mckenzie's spellbinding sculptural works and bright paintings by Veronika Pausova at Parisian Laundry until December 15. Galerie Laroche/Joncas presents a double exhibition of works by Fabrizio Perozzi. Head to Mile Ex to see Never Apart's multi-artist exhibitions too. And there's more art to discover while gallery hopping and antiquing in the city.

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History near and far

Among the city's kid-friendly museums, the McCord Museum renews a Montréal holiday tradition with Enchanted Worlds, the handcrafted mechanical Ogilvy department store window display – the museum also leads visitors on a flashlight-led journey through a local history of exile in Shadows Without Borders and shows us Indigenous art through clothing in Wearing our Identity – The First Peoples Collection. The Canadian Railway Museum Exporail hosts a Railway Christmas, with themed activities for families and rides on the Exporail Christmas Train. Archaeology and history complex Pointe-à-Callière also brings the past to life in family-friendly multimedia exhibitions, including one dedicated to Québec sketch comedy TV series La Petite Vie, opening December 5. Learn more about Jewish culture in Montréal in Zei Gezunt // Porte-Toi Bien // Keep Well (2018 - 2019), a grandson’s exploration of his grandfather’s inventions, transformed into works of art and history-rich storytelling, at the Museum of Jewish Montreal. The Stewart Museum's Paris on Display: 18th-Century Boutiques exhibition highlights the City of Light circa the 18th century. At the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Scripts for a new world: Film storyboards by Alessandro Poli explores elements of film that helped Poli form his language for architecture, while Architecture Itself and Other Postmodernist Myths proposes a counter-reading of postmodern procedures. The Écomusée du fier monde's InterReconnaissance – Une mémoire citoyenne se raconte gathers voices and traces from 50 years of mobilizing for the rights of minority groups in Québec. The Musée de Lachine presents history and archeology from the times of fur trade and New France alongside contemporary art. Take more recent history home with you with our ultimate guide to vintage shopping in Montréal. And read all about jazz in Montréal, from the Roaring Twenties to today, featuring not only local history but jazz clubs still hopping.

Classical and seasonal music

The international Montréal Bach Festival wraps up on December 7 with Yo Yo Ma performing concert J.S. Bach, the six cello suites at Place des Arts. Among other excellent fall-winter season classical concerts, Jean-François Rivest and Walter Boudreau direct l’Orchestre de l’Université de Montréal in a concert featuring Prokofiev’s Cendrillon and Boudreau’s Berliner Momente at the Maison symphonique on December 8. Pink Floyd’s musical legacy gets the symphonic treatment in SPACE #2 Symphonique, featuring members of band SPACE, l’Orchestre symphonique de Trois-Rivières and lead vocalists, on December 8 at Place des Arts. Montréal's Christmas concert season continues this week with several concerts. Gospel fans won't want to miss annual concert Gospel Celebration with the Montréal Jubilation Gospel Choir at Place des Arts on December 9 or ONE18 - Gospel Christmas Celebration with the Jireh Gospel Choir and Montréal Gospel Choir at Église Saint-Jean-Baptiste on December 8. The Orchestre symphonique de Montréal and Maestro Kent Nagano celebrate the holiday season with Les jours de la Semelle concerts from December 12 to 15 at Place des Arts. Family-friendly musical Décembre stars Québec’s Prince of Tenors, Marc Hervieux, and tells the story of a small town whose characters come alive beneath a Christmas tree, at Théatre Maisonneuve from December 13 to 30. The ever-popular Lyric Theatre Singers return to Concordia University’s Loyola Chapel for four festive performances of Candlelight Christmas from December 6 to 9 and free Christmas concerts Les Choralies begin December 1 at la Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel. Bourgie Concert Hall at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts hosts seasonal shows as well, including New York Polyphony's Winter Serenade on December 12, a Christmas Matinée with soprano Andréanne Brisson-Paquin and Pallade Musica on December 13 and It’s Christmas! with singer David Myles on December 13, as well as a live-to-air broadcast of the CBC Christmas Sing-in (held to capacity at the Church of St. Andrew & St. Paul) on December 9 at 3 p.m. Saint Joseph's Oratory of Mount Royal invites us all to their Christmas Concert Series every Sunday afternoon. Meanwhile, jingle bells ring out at the Casino de Montréal's Noël avec les Crooners matinée concerts, while funk and disco make a technicolor comeback at the Cabaret du Casino de Montréal for the holidays.

More live music

On Friday night, listen to the soulful tunes of singer-songwriter Harry Hudson and opener JP Saxe at Le Ministère, while Polish electronic producer Magda plays Newspeak and it's K-pop night at Foufounes Électriques. On Saturday night, sing along with the Dave Matthews Band at the Bell Centre, go deep with the R&B stylings of The Internet and Moonchild at MTELUS, ramble along with singer-songwriter-guitarist Ryley Walker at l'Escogriffe Bar Spectacle, pogo to Montréal power-pop band The Sick Things with Mardi Noir at Turbo Haus, while Brooklyn-based electro anthem maker X-Coast raves it up at Newspeak, high-energy live bands play the best of soul, Motown, disco, R&B and funk every weekend at Balcon Cabaret Music-Hall, and Dutch electronic producer and DJ Brooks brings his beats to New City Gas, coinciding with the venue's annual holiday food-drive campaign for Moisson Montreal. Electronically inclined German singer-songwriter-producer Roosevelt wows with his sound at Le Belmont on Sunday night. And closing out the week on Thursday night, singer-songwriter Ria Mae and opener Ralph stir up emotions at Petit Campus and L.A. metal band The Faceless with Rings of Saturn get loud at L’Astral, while internationally acclaimed Montréal singer-songwriters Matt Holubowski and Jason Bajada play the first of two nights at Corona Theatre. For even more music throughout the week, check out our picks on how to get your nightlife on in Montréal, where to hear live music in Montréal, 10 great places to see indie bands, Montréal's best jazz and blues clubs and our guide to electronic music in Montréal. And if you want to bring the music home with you, go record shopping at Montréal's excellent vinyl stores.

Robyn Fadden

Robyn Fadden, blogger

Robyn Fadden is a Montréal-based writer and editor who searches out city secrets, new bands, life-changing art and things to do with her perpetually active kid. Robyn has covered major events for HOUR, MUTEK, ARTINFO, CKUT 90.3FM and more.

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