Things to do in Montréal this December 2021

Robyn Fadden

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.

Montréal sparkles this December, from Old Montréal’s illuminated streets to Luminothérapie interactive art in Place des Festivals to Christmas villages in every neighbourhood. Find the perfect gifts for everyone on your list at holiday markets. Enjoy seasonal meals and festive drinks from Montréal’s restaurants. Go ice skating in the Old Port of Montréal. Indoors, experience new exhibitions at Montréal’s museums and art galleries, immerse yourself in theatre, dance and live music, and even cheer on the Montréal Canadiens on home ice at the Bell Centre.

Holiday sparkle in the streets

Right downtown outside Place des Arts in the Quartiers des spectacles, the Great Montreal Christmas Market returns from November 20 to January 2, softly lighting Sainte-Catherine Street with the glow of 30 chalets featuring artisanal gifts, mulled wine, food and more – keep your eye out for theatrical performances and live music too! Throughout downtown, watch for larger-than-life decorations like nutcrackers in the streets along with pop-up performances, fun and games and more holiday activities from XP_MTL.

Play in this year’s Luminothérapie art playground at Place des Festivals, where illuminated interactive art makes us all feel like kids again. Look up on building facades in Place des Festivals and throughout the Quartiers des spectacle to see joyful new projection art too, like Adventures of the Night on the façade of the Grande Bibliothèque. Near the gates to McGill University, don’t miss Ogilvy's classic holiday window displays in the McCord Museum's Enchanted Worlds exhibition indoors and outside on Victoria Street.

Festive winter fun

All kinds of magical holiday events make Montréal shine throughout December. Old Montréal is always gorgeous at this time of year – you can even go ice skating to music at the Old Port of Montréal Skating Rink. It’s always bright and festive along Place Jacques-Cartier with Merry Montréal’s Place Nordique – Merry Montréal also brings its magic to Square Victoria and Dorchester Square all month, including outdoor New Year’s Eve parties! Visit the peacefully illuminated square outside Notre-Dame Basilica and inside see gorgeous multimedia show AURA. And on weekends every night from December 18 to January 2, search out the historical projections of Cité Mémoire on building facades. 

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 – watch for free concerts by local musicians, holiday-themed games and more all season. At Atwater Market in St. Henri, stroll through the Village de Noël from November 25 to December 19, while Marché de Noël de Jean-Talon in Little Italy makes Jean-Talon Market feel extra festive. And watch for announcements of New Year’s Eve parties to ring in 2022!

Family festivities and more

Explore Montréal's many parks this month to reconnect with nature in winter or go sledding and snowshoeing once the snow hits. Get a taste of the tropics in the Montréal Botanical Garden's greenhouse. See incredible city views from Mount Royal Park, the Observation Wheel in the the Old Port of Montréal and other vistas. Visit Parc Jean-Drapeau, where the famed geodesic Biosphère, Environment Museum recently reopened with new exhibitions. Head to the Ecomuseum Zoo to see local wildlife in their natural habitats.

Downtown, Complexe Desjardins transforms into a magical Holiday Kingdom, bringing back visits with Santa, a mini train, concerts, holiday fun, along with all kinds of holiday shopping. Virtual holiday music and shows. Family activities also abound at the Biodôme, where the antics of animals are always a hit with families. Next door, the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium's immersive films and interactive exhibitions offer a glimpse into the secrets of the universe (purchase fixed-time tickets online ahead of time).

Visit the newly reopened Montréal Science Centre for science activities, interactive experiments and 3D IMAX films. Climb aboard Exporail museum’s Railway Christmas event. Check out the pro-sports sights this season too: see the Montréal Canadiens on the ice at the Bell Centre throughout the month. Or simply relax at Bota Bota, spa sur leau and other world-class spas.

Seasonal food and drink

Along with all the festive food and drink at holiday markets and Christmas Villages in Montréal this season, Montréal’s incredible variety of restaurants pull out all the stops for the holiday season. Take a seat at the city’s newest restaurants or long-time classics like smoked meat, poutine and Montréal bagels. Warm up with hot food for cold days in Montréal, including big bowls of ramen and a variety of Indian food. Whether you’re dining in person or ordering take-out and delivery, seasonal food and classic dishes are all on the menu in Montréal.

Get your caffeine fix at Montréal's indie coffee shops – and get a pastry to go with it at Montréal's best bakeries and pastry shops or even fresh-baked doughnuts! Sample chocolate creations at the best chocolate shops and the best places to get hot chocolate, indulge your sweet tooth at local candy shops or pick up other musts for foodies in Montréal. By night, these bars give us a taste of the tropics – or mix cocktails at home with gin, vodka, rum and more specialty spirits from these Montréal specialty alcohol and spirit makers. For the beer lovers, discover the downtown’s beer culture with a new initiative by Montréal centre-ville brassicole culturel gourmand – and pick up a six pack from inventive Montréal microbreweries

Holiday markets and shopping

Find something for everyone on your list – and a little something for you too – at Montréal’s holiday markets, including artisanal art and craft sales, pop-up boutiques and Christmas villages. Don’t miss the massive Salon des métiers d’art du Québec from December 9 to 19 at Palais des Congrès, the modern local design offerings at SOUK 18 from December 1 to 5, POP Montréal’s annual holiday Puces Pop from December 10 to 12 and 17 to 19, Le Grand Marché de Noël de Montréal downtown, Marché de Noël de Jean-Talon and more. At the start of December, pick up a uniquely Montréal advent calendar to mark the days until Christmas!

Whether you’re shopping along Sainte-Catherine Street, checking out Plateau boutiques or roaming the underground city malls, you’re sure to find something for everyone on your list, including unique items made by Montréal designers, relaxing self-care staples and plenty of home decor. Add sparkle to your loved ones’ lives with gifts from the coolest Montréal jewelry stores. Shop local and eco-friendly at the most fabulous vintage boutiques in the city. Pick out the perfect new books for friends and family from Montréal’s bookstores and a wide world of music from Montréal's excellent vinyl stores.

December exhibitions and experiences

This month's exhibitions excite and inspire at Montréal’s museums and art galleries. Visit the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts to see themed exhibition How long does it take for one voice to reach another?, highlighting major works in the Museum's permanent collection that touch on subjects that have affected us all over the past year, as well as Ecologies: A Song for Our Planet and work by legendary photographer Yousuf Karsh and Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson.

The Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal reopens with Terror Contagion: Forensic Architecture with Laura Poitras, a temporary exhibition at Place Ville Marie featuring narration by Edward Snowden and a sonification by Brian Eno. At home, explore immersive online exhibition Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything, a recreation of the MAC’s monumental show.

At the Phi Foundation for Contemporary Art, explore large-scale, multidisciplinary exhibition Larry Achiampong’s Relic Traveller: Where You and I Come From, We Know That We Are Not Here Forever, and see group exhibition … and room in the bag of stars and work that explores kinships with nonhuman life-worlds by artists Abbas Akhavan and Jamilah Sabur. The Phi Centre illuminates the invisible in immersive multi-sensory installation We Live in an Ocean of Air alongside other immersive experiences.

A massive immersive experience in surround sound and laser light, Oasis Immersion’s RECHARGER/Unwind and other sensory installations take over the ground floor of Palais des congrès – buy individual tickets or add it to your Passeport MTL. Surround yourself in the wonderful world of Imagine Monet at Arsenal Contemporary, featuring over 200 immersive projections of Monet’s paintings.

Among many free things to do this season, see new exhibitions at Never Apart in Little Italy, Bradley Ertaskiran in St. Henri, Hugues Charbonneau, Galerie B-312 and Elephant downtown, at Oboro and MAI in the Plateau, Centre Clark in Mile End and many other amazing art galleries in every neighbourhood – find out more in our Montréal guide to gallery hopping and these affordable places to buy contemporary art. Go on a Portrait Sonore sound walk downtown and on the Mountain. And hunt for more public art everywhere in the city.

History past and present

History buffs of all ages will love Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Archaeology and History Complex whether in person or online: see fantastical and fun new exhibition It’s Circus time! and join workshops for all ages, don’t miss Italian Montréal, tracing the journey of Italo-Montrealers from the early 20th century, kid-friendly interactive display Come Aboard! Pirates or Privateers?, and more. lace Royale, in Old Montréal, where you can enjoy a relaxation zone decked out with Adirondack chairs and illuminated trees in a magical setting resembling a royal forest (free admission under January 2)!

Surprise activities will take place on Saturdays and Sundays, December 11, 12, 18, and 19, from 11 am to 4 pm

At the McCord Museum don’t miss the Enchanted Worlds holiday window displays, Exquisite Score by Caroline Monnet and Laura Ortman, works by cartoonist Chapleau, fashion exhibition Parachute: Subversive Fashion of the ‘80s, and new permanent exhibition Indigenous Voices of Today: Knowledge, Trauma, Resilience – in celebration of the museum’s 100th anniversary, visitors can enjoy free admission to the Museum until January 19, 2022!

See exhibitions Middleground: Siting Dispossession and The Design of Carpets That Design Us at the Canadian Centre for Architecture. Or go back in time in Old Montréal as you tour the rooms of Château Ramezay and classic seasonal exhibition Around the Fireplace. Take a historic walking tour, like Beyond the Bagel Food Tour and Making their Mark, a tour of Jewish Montréal, with the Museum of Jewish Montreal. And discover the vivid history and present of Québec ceramics at the Musée des métiers d'arts du Québec.

On stage

The fall season of theatre, dance and other creative performance continues throughout December! In theatre, the Segal Centre presents family-friendly, larger-than-life stunt-dog show and musical in one Superdogs: The Musical from November 28 to December 19! At Centaur Theatre, the holiday season is in the air already with All I Want For Christmas, from November 16 to December 5. Festive and enchanting, Cirque Éloize’s new cabaret-circus show Celeste captivates at Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth starting December 16.

In dance, Danse Danse presents a Ballet BC triple bill with works by choreographers Sharon Eyal, Crystal Pite and Medhi Walerski, from December 1 to 4 at Place des Arts – cuddle up with dance at home with Danse Danse’s online shows. At Montréal, arts interculturels see choreographer Heather Mah’s Pomegranate from December 2 to 4. La Chapelle's season of multidisciplinary performances features Mélanie Demer’s autobiographical Confession Publique from November 29 to December 4 and Mykalle Bielinski’s musical performance Warm Up from December 13 to 17. And see a new season of contemporary dance in person at Agora de la danse and Tangente.

On screen

See independent features, family films, documentaries and more at Cinéma Moderne in person and online. Check out Fantasia International Film Festival’s 25th-anniversary free screenings from December 10 to 15 at Concordia’s J.A. de Sève cinema. See the art world in a whole new light thanks to the International Festival of Films on Art year-round ART FILM program.

Discover new art house films and more from Montréal indie cinemas' programming, including in-person and virtual screenings from Cinéma du ParcCinéma du Musée and Cinémathèque québécoise. Watch cinematic nature documentaries for the whole family thanks to the Montréal Science Centre’s IMAX in-person and online programming. Explore the city through cinema in these Hollywood movies made in Montréal. And travel through cinematic Virtual Reality with the Phi Centre’s VR to Go.

Classical and holiday concerts

Holiday concerts and theatrical events return in abundance this year! Among the many festive shows is the always glorious The Nutcracker presented by Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal from December 9 to 28 at Place des Arts. The Orchestre symphonique de Montréal celebrates the holidays with concert series Hervé Niquet and Berlioz’s L’Enfance du Christ (The Childhood of Christ), Handel's Messiah, Symphonic Brilliance: From Ravel to Barber from December 2 to 3, Passion Unleashed: Tchaikovsky and Sibelius from December 8 to 11 with Maestro Rafael Payare, and more throughout the winter at Maison symphonique. And the Montréal Bach Festival celebrates the composer’s work from November 20 to December 12.

Relaxed and acoustically refined, the Salle Bourgie concert hall at the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts is also a source of beautiful concerts this holiday season, including A Charlie Brown Christmas concert by the Taurey Butler Trio, and more. Gather the kids for the rollicking Le grand bal de Noël. Sing along with the CBC Christmas Sing-In on CBC Music and at noon on CBC Radio One. Or go for a festive dinner and a show at Le Balcon this month with soul and jazz divas like Kim Richardson, Michelle Sweeney and Dawn Tyler Watson, Christmas gospel brunches on the weekend, and more.

More music in Montréal

Along with music festivals and a several concerts of French song at Place des Arts, hear live music at city venues throughout the month. Montréal show promotors Greenland and Evenko help bring live music back to the city. See Ice Nine Kills on December 3 at Corona Theatre, Ilan Bluestone at the SAT on December 2 and 3, Bahamas on December 10 and 11 at Corona Theatre, Manila Grey on December 11 at Corona Theatre, Lagwagon at Club Soda on December 14 and 15, Les Cowboys Fringants on December 27 at the Bell Centre and more!

One of the biggest and most famed venues in the city, MTELUS hosts amazing shows this month too, including Milky Chance on December 2, City and Colour on December 4 and 5, Thundercat on December 9 and more. From music legends to the next big thing, Blue Skies Turn Black presents a variety of shows at Bar le Ritz, L’Esco and other venues this month, including Alice Phoebe Lou on December 2 and Metz on December 6 at Le Fairmount Theatre, Korine on December 15 at Bar le Ritz and more. Happy holidays!

Robyn Fadden

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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