Things to do in Montréal December 1- 7

Robyn Fadden

It truly 'tis the season this week in Montréal as the holiday spirit lights up the city streets. Do your shopping at Christmas markets, try seasonal food and drink, see Leonard Cohen's legacy in art, and experience excellent live theatre, dance and all kinds of music.

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Seasons greetings

With the first week of December comes the kick-off of winter holiday activities in Montréal. Downtown's Place des Festivals glitters with interactive art event Luminothérapie, where you can ride illuminated see-saws while having a warm drink and a bite to eat. In Old Montréal, the Merry Montréal festivities bring cozy fires, free entertainment, hot chocolate, a market and more to Place Jacques-Cartier. See Santa and join the fun of Plaza St-Hubert’s Christmas Parade this Friday evening. Enjoy food, hot chocolate and entertainment at Christmas in the Park at Jardins Gamelin downtown and in Parc des Compagnons and Parc Lahaie in the Plateau neighbourhood, Dec. 1-25, with a grand opening event at Jardins Gamelin on Friday. Le Village du Vilain Sapin stands out with its giant Christmas tree on Prince Arthur Street. And Santas Are Taking Over the Museum at the Stewart Museum's annual history exhibition of Santa figurines, while toys and fairytales take over in The Topsy-Turvy Storyland at the McCord Museum.

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Holiday markets

Holiday shopping sparkles at Montréal's Christmas markets with Le Grand Marché de Noël de Montréal just around the corner from Luminothérapie, the festive Nutcracker Market Nov. 30 to Dec. 10 at Palais des congres, local-designer market Souk@SAT to Dec. 3, designer furniture market Marché de l’école nationale de meuble et de l’ébénisterie Nov. 25 to Dec. 4, a festive studio sale at L.E.S. near Mile End Dec. 1-2, Marché de Noël des Designers de la Grover Dec. 7-9, the Christmas Village at Place du Marché in Saint-Henri near the Lachine Canal, Dec. 7-10, and the biggest professional artisan market of the season, Salon des métiers d'art de Montréal at Place Bonaventure Dec. 7-17.

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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 Projet EVA art collective's Cortège app tour along the Promenade Fleuve-Montagne. Explore the Plateau neighbourhood through the comic artwork of Paul à Montréal. In Old Montréal, choirs sing Christmas carols and Québécois traditional songs on Saturday afternoon on the Place d’Armes and the square of the Marché Bonsecours, while at night the historic tableaux projections of Cité Memoire come to live and multimedia wonder AURA fills Notre-Dame Basilica. At the Buckminster Fuller-designed Biosphère see the city anew in 3D interactive model Planète MTL and travel back 50 years with Écho 67. We've got all kinds of ways to face your fears in Montréal, including conquering heights in the name of amazing views from La Grande Roue de Montréal, the tallest observation wheel in the country, the Observatoire Place Ville Marie downtown and the Montréal Tower at Olympic Stadium. Relax with a view of the Saint Lawrence River at Bota Bota floating spa any time (you can even bring the kids, 8 or older, on the morning of Dec. 1.) Cheer for NHL greats the Montréal Canadiens as they face off against the Red Wings on Dec. 2, Blues on Dec. 5 and Flames on Dec. 7 at the Bell Centre – and learn more about Montréal's hockey history at Passion: Hockey at Pointe-à-Callière museum in Old Montréal.

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, and the Dec. 1 Nocturne event with music, art workshops, exhibition tours, a dance performance by Clara Furey and even karaoke to Cohen classics, from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Leonard Cohen also inspires BJM - Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal's newest production, Dance Me, weaving music, video and dance, presented by Danse Danse at Place des Arts, Dec. 5-9. 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.

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Food and drink

If you're looking for tried-and-true Québécois classic dishes, we've got the goods on where to find the best poutine and the best famous Montréal bagels along with more musts for foodies visiting Montréal – plus where to go shopping for foodies too. Warm up with a meal or a drink next to a cozy fireplace. 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 inspires

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 Atikamekw artists Eruoma Awashish and Meky Ottawa and Innu artist 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 as well as the pioneering video art and installation work of Bill Viola: Naissance à rebours. The Phi Centre also pays homage to American artist, designer and illustrator Barbara Nessim in exhibition Conditions de fluidité, featuring over 50 works. Don't miss Montréal painter Melanie Authier's solo show Contrarieties & Counterpoints and new photography work by Carolyne Scenna at Galerie de l’UQAM. 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 featuring 30 Indigenous portraits. Explore the golden age of magicians in the McCord Museum's Illusions: The Art of Magic. Hannah Claus and Peter Morin address the fluidity of culture, body and land in there are so many stars at OBORO. Galerie D'Este presents Japanese photographer Masako Miyazaki's dreamlike show 木 - A tree. 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.

On stage

On the English-language theatre scene this fall, let Alfred Hitchcock murder-mystery spy story The 39 Steps intrigue you at Centaur Theatre to Dec. 12 while romance goes rocky for two women in genre-bending romance-horror Vic and Flo Saw a Bear, at Centaur Theatre to Dec. 2; and Geordie Productions presents Anita Majumdar's excellent and thought-provoking Boys With Cars Nov. 24 to Dec. 3 at Monument National. Montréal's fall dance scene continues to push boundaries this week: Danse Danse presents choreographer Clara Furey's Cosmic Love, animating the philosophical concept of darkness, at Place des Arts' Cinquième Salle Dec. 6-16; Tangente offers Ingrid Vallus's Féral and Gabrielle Bertrand-Lehouillier's La paix dans le monde Nov. 30 to Dec. 3 at the Wilder; and at La Chapelle Brice Noeser's Ruminant Ruminant merges words, dance, music and cinema, Nov. 30 to Dec. 5, while Thomas Duret and Théâtre Du Baobab's An Awesome Trilogy About Life questions our human relationship to time, Dec. 2 and 7-8.

On screen

LGBTQ international film festival image+nation celebrates its 30th edition Nov. 23 to Dec. 3 with award-winning, trendsetting new feature films, powerful documentaries and shorts. Two new immersive films open this week at the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium: EXO takes us on an emotional search for extraterrestrial life and Space Next dives 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. 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 and watch the shorts in the Not Short on Talent showcase.

Classical music

The Montréal Bach Festival continues with the Musical Offering, Clavecin en Concert at Notre-Dame de Bon-Secours Chapel on Dec. 1, Sonatas and Partitas for Violin Solo at Bourgie Hall on Dec. 2, Christmas with Bach on the afternoon of Dec. 3 at Saint Joseph's Oratory of Mount Royal and the festival's closing concert on Sunday night with Ensemble Caprice and Studio de Musique Ancienne de Montréal at Saint-Jean-Baptiste Church. In other classical music this season, Kent Nagano conducts the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal and violinist Leonidas Kavakos in a concert of Mendelssohn's violin concerto and more Dec. 5-7 at Maison symphonique, violinist Angèle Dubeau and her orchestra La Pietà perform Dec. 1-2 at Maison symphonique, The Four Seasons of André Gagnon honours the prolific Québécois composer, Nov. 30 to Dec. 2 at Place des Arts, La résurrection de Monsieur Händel at Église St-Jean-Baptiste de Montréal, and soprano Dawn Upshaw and Brentano String Quartet perform sacred works of Bach at Place des Arts on Dec. 4 at Place des Arts. And Christmas concerts start up this week, beginning with Noël, Une Tradion en Chanson featuring Québécois star-power singers at Théâtre Desjardins, holiday favorites and inspiring gospel hymns in Trevor's Farewell Gospel Celebration featuring the Montreal Jubilation Gospel Choir at Place des Arts and  a Christmas Dreams concert at Bourgie Hall, all on Dec. 3.

More live music

On Friday night, hear Iranian star singer and actress Googoosh at Place des Arts, the soulful voice and compelling doom-soul songs of Somali-Canadian songwriter Cold Specks at the Phi Centre, the heavy sounds of Children of Bodom on their 20 Years Down & Dirty Tour at Théâtre Corona, and for real, Wannabe: A Spice Girls Tribute at L'Astral. On Saturday, step into the wild universe of The Best of Pink Floyd presented by The Wall Live Extravaganza at Place des Arts, dance or nod your head to LCD Soundsystem at Place Bell, take a trip back to the 70s in Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience at MTelus, The Funk Hunters funk the halls at Le Belmont, North London alt-rockers Wolf Alice play L'Astral and trance rules the dancefloor with Marlo, Emma Hewitt and Ben Gold at New City Gas. Spend Sunday night feeling fine with Jake Bugg and Kandle at Théâtre Corona or The Interrupters and SWMRS at Club Soda.

Tuesday brings the excellent Ted Leo and the Pharmacists to La Sala Rossa and incredible Angel Olsen to the Rialto Theatre, while the wonderful Krista Muir plays songs from her new album The Tides at La Vitrola. Scottish post-rock noisemakers Mogwai play Théâtre Corona on Wednesday Dec. 6 while it's nothing but a good time with Parisian electronic duo Ofenbach and L.A. Foster at Théâtre Fairmount and alt-folk band The Weather Station plays Divan Orange. Thursday rounds out this week with Natalie MacMaster & Donnell Leahy playing A Celtic Family Christmas at Place des Arts, beloved rockers The National at MTelus, singer-songwriter Allan Rayman at Théâtre Corona, experiments in depth with Jessica Moss, Ben Shemie and Radwan GM at Bar le Ritz PDB, and a night of forward-thinking electronic dance music as Never Apart teams up with avant-garde label Halcyon Veil at Datcha.

Robyn Fadden

Robyn Fadden, blogueuse

Découvrir des groupes de musique, s’émouvoir d’une œuvre d’art, et occuper son énergique bambin sont autant de choses auxquelles se consacre l’auteure et rédactrice montréalaise Robyn Fadden. MUTEK, l’hebdo culturel Hour, ARTINFO et CKUT 90,3 FM sont au nombre des événements qu’elle a couverts.

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