Things to do in Montréal December 15 to 21
Mid-December in Montréal brings festive events to the city streets and parks, fireworks in the Old Port, holiday shopping, spectacular shows from the Nutcracker to Cirque du Soleil on ice, Christmas concerts, dancing and more glittering activities to celebrate the season.
All kinds of festive winter activities this week get us into the holiday spirit in Montréal. Visit downtown's Place des Festivals to see outdoor event Luminothérapie, where you can ride illuminated see-saws while having a warm drink and a bite to eat – while there look up to see dreamlike architectural video projection Les Lointaines. Also downtown, eat, drink hot chocolate or mulled wine and listen to music at Christmas in the Park at Jardins Gamelin (and in Parc des Compagnons and Parc Lahaie in the Plateau neighbourhood) until Dec. 25. In Old Montréal, the Merry Montréal festivities bring hot chocolate, cozy fires, Christmas-themed films and a Christmas market to Place Jacques-Cartier starting Dec. 21, while the spectacular Natrel Fire on Ice fireworks light up the Old Port Dec. 16 – that's also where you can skate to music next to the Saint-Lawrence River day or night at the Natrel Skating Rink. Mount-Royal Avenue’s annual Noël sur l’Avenue also celebrates the season outdoors with music and carriage rides all month and Le Village du Vilain Sapin stands out with its tall Christmas tree on Prince Arthur Street.
Holiday markets and Santa Claus
Holiday shopping sparkles at Montréal's Christmas markets. Don't miss the magic of outdoor market Le Grand Marché de Noël de Montréal just around the corner from Luminothérapie. Spend some time shopping at the biggest professional artisan market of the season Salon des métiers d'art de Montréal at Place Bonaventure Dec. 7-17. Also drop by the Christmas Village at Place du Marché in Saint-Henri near the Lachine Canal Dec. 15-17, Etsy Montréal's Holiday Market Dec. 16-17 at Théâtre Denise-Pelletier, mini-market SMOL at Espace POP in Mile End Dec. 16-17, and the cuteness and artistry of Puces POP Winter Edition Dec. 15-17 at Eglise Saint-Denis (5075 Rivard) across from Laurier Metro. Bring the kids to see Santa at the Complex Desjardins Magic Kingdom – complete with a mini train and carousel, music, performances and more. Santa also shows up at the Stewart Museum in person and in Santa figurines and cartoons, while four versions of Santa visit from around the world in Pointe-à-Callière's Who Is the Real Santa Claus? exhibition, and toys and fairytales take over in The Topsy-Turvy Storyland at the McCord Museum. For an even more traditional take on the holidays, step back in history for a Victorian Christmas in Montréal.
Wintery city sights
Take advantage of the many free things to do this winter in Montréal – not to mention the picks in our budget-friendly guide to Montréal – such as a self-guided history tour of the Saint-Lawrence River with Montréal, toute une histoire or a walk in the Plateau neighbourhood to see the comic artwork of Paul à Montréal. In Old Montréal, choirs sing Christmas carols and Québécois traditional songs on Saturday afternoon. At night the historic tableaux projections of Cité Memoire come to life and multimedia wonder AURA shimmers at Notre-Dame Basilica. At the Buckminster Fuller-designed Biosphère see the city anew in Planète MTL and travel back 50 years with Écho 67, or step into a tropical, beachy climate at the Botanical Garden greenhouse. We've got all kinds of ways to face your fears in Montréal, including conquering heights to see amazing views from La Grande Roue de Montréal observation wheel, the Observatoire Place Ville Marie downtown and the Montréal Tower at Olympic Stadium. Or relax with a view of the Saint Lawrence River at Bota Bota floating spa any time. Cheer for CWHL champions Les Canadiennes as they play Markham Dec. 16-17 – game tickets are only $15. See Montréal hockey history in action at Passion: Hockey at Pointe-à-Callière museum. And if you're planning to see a Montréal Canadiens NHL game in 2018, snag your tickets now at the only Canadiens authorized and secure site Ticket Vault.
Leonard Cohen's Montréal
As part of Montréal's 375th anniversary and in honour of his artistic impact on the city and the world, Montréal celebrates Leonard Cohen. International exhibition Leonard Cohen – A Crack in Everything at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal features work by 40 artists from 10 countries, inspired by Leonard Cohen's life, music and writing, as well as a (currently sold out) concert series covering Cohen's music album by album – this week see the exhibition for free on Dec. 19 and 20! And see building-sized murals of Leonard Cohen on Crescent Street downtown near the Sir Winston Churchill Pub and on Saint-Laurent Boulevard at Napoleon Street not far from Schwartz's.
Food and drink
From traditional terroir to high tea, we've got the gourmet goods on where to eat in Montréal during the holidays and where to warm up with a meal or a drink next to a cozy fireplace. If you're looking for tried-and-true Québécois classic dishes, let us guide you towards the best poutine and the best Montréal bagels along with more musts for foodies visiting Montréal – plus where to go shopping for foodies too. Or discover creative new cuisine from Québec at our Montréal restaurant picks. Enjoy creative seasonal three-course meals at Labo Culinaire – Foodlab at the SAT, Dec. 5-21. Explore the city's public markets and some of Montréal's liveliest neighbourhoods through their restaurants. Caffeinate in style at Montréal's indie coffee shops. Relax with weekend brunch or a creative cocktail. And there's even plenty of genuinely delicious health-conscious food to be found in Montréal.
Art for all
Once Upon A Time… The Western gives the Western film genre new artistic life at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts – while there also see installation Kushapetshekan / Kosapitcikan by Eruoma Awashish, Meky Ottawa and Jani Bellefleur-Kaltush, Nadia Myre's Tout ce qui reste – Scattered Remains and WOOL WAR ONE, composed of 780 small knitted soldiers. Inspiring art foundation DHC/ART in Old Montréal celebrates its 10th anniversary with dynamic group exhibition The Gift/L'Offre as well as the pioneering video art and installation work of Bill Viola: Naissance à rebours. The Montréal Science Centre presents Indigenous Ingenuity: Timeless Inventions, from the essentials of First Peoples’ scientific principles to how to build an igloo, alongside photo exhibition Regalia: Native Pride. Explore the golden age of magicians in the McCord Museum's Illusions: The Art of Magic and see a new exhibition of photography by Gabor Szilasi: Le monde de l’art à Montréal, 1960-1980. The illustrations of exposition Le Montréaler emulate classic New Yorker covers, at the Maison de la culture Plateau Mont-Royal. And if you're driving to or from the airport along Highway 20, keep an eye out for Alain Paiement's art work Bleu de Bleu.
Place des Arts sparkles with the return of Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal’s The Nutcracker, by Quebec choreographer Fernand Nault based on E.T.A. Hoffmann’s classic tale and set to the music of Tchaikovsky, Dec. 14-30. The colourful, magical world of insects comes to awe-inspiring life in Cirque du Soleil’s Crystal, the first Cirque du Soleil show on ice, Dec. 20-31 at the Bell Centre – get a family package for the full experience. Meanwhile, experience a different kind of circus in Patinoire, a stunning and funny solo show by tightrope walker and high-energy performer Patrick Léonard at La Tohu circus centre, Dec. 19 to Jan. 6. On the English-language theatre scene, go off the beaten path with Urban Tales, stories of first Christmases spent in Montréal, Dec. 7-16, and watch feminist trailblazer Aphra Behn's Restoration comedy The Rover at Monument-National, Dec. 11-16. In Montréal's fall dance scene this week: Danse Danse presents Leonard Cohen-inspired Dance Me as well as choreographer Clara Furey's Cosmic Love, animating the philosophical concept of darkness, at Place des Arts Dec. 6-16; and at La Chapelle choreographer Mélanie Demers presents utopic meditation Would, Dec. 11-15.
Explore the cosmos in two new immersive films at the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium: EXO, taking us on an emotional search for extraterrestrial life, and Space Next, diving into the history and present of space exploration. Immerse yourself in IMAX with Amazon 3D and Incredible Predators 3D at the Montréal Science Centre or in the high-tech audiovisual spectacle, existential quest and dreamlike landscapes of tim directed by Nicolas Noël Jodoin, at the 360-degree SAT dome Dec. 5-21. And at the Phi Centre, try on a VR headset to see a roster of short films and immersive VR work in Lucid Realities and the Virtual Reality Garden until Dec. 16 and watch The Best Short Films of the Berlinale on Dec. 21. On Dec. 19, horror film fans will love An Evening of Yuletide Terror presented by Kier-La Janisse, and Dec. 20 Drunken Cinema MTL presents the heartwarming Christmas magic of Batman Returns, both at Bar le Ritz PDB.
Christmas and classical concerts
On Friday, the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal presents From classical to Jazz, pairing saxophonist Branford Marsalis with the OSM's Organist-in-Residence Jean-Willy Kunz at Place des Arts. This week's classical Christmas concerts set the seasonal mood with music, starting on Dec. 16 with Noël symphonique, featuring Québécois pop and classical vocalists with a symphony orchestra at Place des Arts. Kent Nagano conducts the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal in Le Diable en canot d’écorce: A Christmas Story by Michel Tremblay at Place des Arts Dec. 19-21. Les Violons du Roy play Cantates de Bach pour Noël at Place des Arts Dec. 17. Meanwhile at the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts' Bourgie Hall, hear a morning concert of Noël en Nouvelle-France on Dec. 17, Natale a Napoli on Dec. 20 and Baroque Christmas on Dec. 21. And the seasonal good times roll at the annual Andy Kim Christmas Concert on Dec. 16 at Théâtre Corona with Sam Roberts Band, Ron Sexsmith, Hawksley Workman, Platinum Blonde, Michel Pagliaro and Danny Michel.
More live music
On Friday, Québecois singer-songwriters Pierre Lapointe and Felix Dyotte enchant at Théâtre Corona, Icelandic electronic artist Bjarki brings techno beats to the Phi Centre with openers Omar Hamdi and Stereo_IMG, singer-songwriters Craig Stickland, Justin Nozuka and Emma June Friday play with pop-soul at L'Astral and electronic-pop meets trippy hip hop as Honors and The 25th Hr play Le Belmont. On Saturday night, psych rock locals-done-good Elephant Stone let loose at Théâtre Fairmount with openers Julie & The Wrong Guys, dozens of Montréal musicians pay homage to Lhasa de Sela in La Route Chante - Les 20 Ans De La Llorona at MTelus, and electronic producers Hotel Garuda, Kidswaste and Ryan Playground shake the dancefloor at Newspeak while American Freakshow EDM tour stops at New City Gas with Bear Grillz, Phase One and more. On Sunday, go for the heavy sounds of NYC noise rockers Unsane and Montréal talents Big Brave at L'Escogriffe. To find more live music throughout the week, check out our guides to where to hear live music in Montréal and Montréal's best jazz and blues clubs.
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.