Things to do in Montréal November 30 to December 6

December in Montréal brings holiday markets full of local creations, the light and music of Christmas in the park, the magic of Santa's Kingdom, pro-hockey games, beautiful sounds at the Montréal Bach Festival and holiday-season classical concerts, innovative art, lively theatre, new dance, family-friendly circus and live music (including Kodaline and Esperanza Spalding) across the city.

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December festivities

With the beginning of December comes all kinds of merry-making events and activities. Among them, many free things to do in winter in Montréal, including live music, bonfires and more at Christmas in the park in Place Émilie-Gamelin downtown and in Parc des Compagnons and Parc Lahaie. Also explore the festive and food-filled Le Village de Noël de Montréal at Atwater Market and see the Vilain Sapin Chatouilleux on Prince-Arthur Street East. On Mont-Royal Avenue, the Noël sur l’Avenue celebrations begin with music, carriage rides and more. Indoors, step into Santa's Kingdom at Complexe Desjardins downtown, complete with a mini train, carousel, visits with Santa and musical performances all month. Nature awaits in snowy Mount Royal Park, where you can 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 walking tour. At night see why Montréal is a city of lights: the colourful projection-art animation of 100% Chance of Snow lights up Place des Festivals; 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 Stadium. Meanwhile in winter NHL action, the Montréal Canadiens take on the Rangers on December 1, the Sharks on December 2 and the Senators on December 4 at the Bell Centre.

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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: designer craft fair Souk@Sat fills the main floor of the Society for Arts and Technology with gorgeous goods from November 28 to December 2; Les Grand Ballets Canadiens de Montréal's Nutcracker Market sparkles on the ground floor of Palais des Congrès; the Marché de Lëon creates a general-store concept in the Complexe Desjardins Santa’s Village; the Museum of Jewish Montréal Hanukkah Market features local jewelry designers, candlemakers and more; and the massive Salon des métiers d’art features Québec-made creations, from wooly hats to jewelry to sparkling wine, at Place Bonaventure starting December 6. And if you're looking for a little something to remind you of your visit to Montréal, check out these genuinely cool souvenirs of Montréal. Whether you're in Montréal for a long weekend or a week, 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 in a hidden bar. 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

Experience the magic of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire on the big screen again, but this time accompanied by a live orchestra on November 30 and December 1 at Place des Arts. Go 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, from November 18 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 from December 4 to 16. In Hyper-Allergenic Productions's Gratitude, an innocent young crush turns into a passionate sexual awakening not without its foibles, at MainLine Theatre from November 21 to December 2. And in Lévriers, director Sophie Gee investigates inter-cultural definitions of success through the eyes of those who have remade their lives in Montréal, from November 29 to December 2 at MAI Montréal, arts interculturels. For families, check out the interactive antics of Puppet Karaoke on December 1 at 10:30 a.m. at Centaur 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 Karine Ledoyen's De la glorieuse fragilité from November 28 to December 1 and la 2e porte à gauche's Attabler project from December 5 to 8, and Emile Pineault's circus performance Normal Desires entertains from November 22 to December 1 at Théâtre La Chapelle. And Montréal drag star Rita Baga hosts Les Reines de Noël à Montréal holiday-themed show at the Théatre National on December 5 and 6.

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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. Montréal's international LGBTQ film festival image+nation screens new features and shorts from November 22 to December 2 – this weekend features Ondi Timoner's Mapplethorpe, Marcelo Martinessi's Las Herederas, Rupert Everett's The Happy Prince, critically acclaimed festival closer Yann Gonzalez’s Un couteau dans le cœur (Knife + Heart) and more. 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 new Québec documentary Ensemble (with English subtitles), 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 13-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. 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. 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 leads visitors on a flashlight-led journey through a local history of exile in Shadows without Borders, shows us Indigenous art through clothing in Wearing our Identity – The First Peoples Collection and renews a Montréal holiday tradition with Enchanted Worlds, the handcrafted mechanical Ogilvy department store window display. The Canadian Railway Museum Exporail hosts a Railway Christmas, with themed activities for families and rides on the Exporail Christmas Train. Archaeology and history museum 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. Beautiful multi-sensorial exhibition WAR Flowers explores human nature in the landscape of war through floriography, sculpture and scent, at Château Ramezay, also where seasonal event Around the fireplace... Holiday Traditions begins December 1. 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 today.

Classical and seasonal music

The international Montréal Bach Festival continues until December 7 – this week's concerts include Valérie Milot and Ensemble Caprice at Bourgie Concert Hall and Mino Cinelu Trio at L'Astral on November 30, Gilles Cantagrel and Vincent Boucher at Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal in Côte-des-Neiges on December 2, Nils Mönkemeyer and William Youn at Bourgie Concert Hall on December 3, Orchestre symphonique de Montréal on December 4 and 5 at the Maison symphonique, Sergei Babayan performing Chopin and Bach at Bourgie Concert Hall on December 5, and the Mélodînes emerging artists concert series at Place des Arts from December 3 to 6 – Yo Yo Ma closes the festival on December 7. Among other excellent fall-winter season classical concerts, Kent Nagano conducts the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal in concert Dvořák, Schubert and Schumann at the Maison symphonique on November 29 and 30, and guest conductor Alexander Shelley takes the OSM reigns for concert A Shakespearian Night’s Dream on December 6. Maestro Michel Brousseau directs the Société philharmonique du Nouveau Monde's orchestra and choirs in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, on December 2 at the Maison symphonique. Classical singing quartet Il Divo performs at Théâtre St-Denis on December 1. Montréal's Christmas concert season begins this week with the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal's celebratory Noël symphonique on December 1 at Place des Arts, 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. 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, kick back with singer-songwriter Royal Wood and opener Elise LeGrow at Petit Campus, inventive Brooklyn synth duo Xeno & Oaklander and openers at La Vitrola, magical singer-songwriter Marissa Nadler with Thus Owls at Ritz P.D.B., an early live set with English producer Lapalux and Softcoresoft at Newspeak followed by a late night with funky crate diggers Voyage Funktastique and Orell & Scasso. Saturday night brings rapper-producer Playboi Carti to MTELUS, Kodaline and Ocean Park Standoff to Corona Theatre, electronic musician-producer K?D and opener Devault to Le Belmont, while pop-punk locals Story Untold, Selfish Things and Hometown Lights play Le Ministère, electro producers Cold Blue and Tomac play Newspeak and Swedish DJ and producer Alesso cranks up the EDM beats at New City Gas. On Sunday, Kodaline and Ocean Park Standoff play their second night at Corona Theatre, British electronic musician Actress and opener T.Gowdy wow at Newspeak, indie folk-rock band Valley and opener Wyland play Le Ministère, and NVA celebrates the 7th anniversary of daring Montréal-Mexico City club label Infinite Machine with live sets by Tomás Urquieta, Keru Not Ever and Nat Navi at Bar Datcha.

Monday night looks lovely with award-winning singer-songwriter Esperanza Spalding at Place des Arts and John Grant (formerly of alt-rock band The Czars) with opener Two Medicine at Théâtre Fairmount, and musician-poet-artist Daniel Romano at Ritz P.D.B. On Wednesday, see singer Tyler Shaw and R&B singer-songwriter Sara Diamond at Le Ministère and hot alt-rock duo cleopatrick and opener Ready The Prince at l'Escogriffe Bar Spectacle. Thursday welcomes the awesome Parquet Courts and opener Pottery to rock Corona Theatre and singer-songwriters Jennifer Castle and Isla Craig to stun at Ritz P.D.B. 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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