Things to do in Montréal – December 27, 2019 to January 2, 2020

Montréal still glitters this week as the holiday season continues into New Year's Eve. Celebrate with NYE parties, fireworks and more events all week, or relax with a great meal, a walk through snow-covered Mount Royal Park or a museum visit. Play with the outdoor art of Luminothérapie downtown, see Cirque du Soleil's on-ice show Axel and Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal's classic The Nutcracker, go ice skating and sledding and enjoy the holidays in Montréal!

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Seasonal festivities

Holiday festival Merry Montréal transforms Old Montréal's Place Jacques-Cartier into a joyful Nordic Square – roast marshmallows over outdoor fires, hear choirs and musicians, visit Santa, ask the Wish-A-Phone what you want for Christmas, and more until December 31. On Saturday, December 28, look to the skies above the Old Port of Montréal to watch the Fire on Ice fireworks at 8 p.m. Also among Montréal's many free things to do this winter, play with the bright, colourful and musical creatures of interactive artwork POP! by Montréal creative studio Gentilhomme, created for this year's Luminothérapie downtown in Place des Festivals.

At Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Archaeology and History Complex meet Santa Clauses from around the world in seasonal activity Who Is the Real Santa Claus? until December 31, plus holiday activities “under the Incan sun” as part of stunning exhibition The Incas, Treasures of Peru. At Exporail / The Canadian Railway Museum ride trains and more during Railway Christmas until January 5. For a traditional take on the holiday, step back in time at Château Ramezay's Around the fireplace... Holiday Traditions, baking workshops and more to January 5. And take part in a magical holiday tradition by seeing Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal's The Nutcracker, on until December 30 at Place des Arts.


New Year's Eve celebrations

Welcome 2020 in Montréal with New Year's Eve parties, gourmet meals, stellar entertainment and, of course, fireworks: see our New Year's Eve guide for all kinds of ideas. Join thousands of Montréal revelers at Merry Montréal’s free New Year’s Eve Party on the Old Port’s Quai Jacques-Cartier, where you'll be treated to live music by Bleu Jeans Bleu, Heartstreets, Bernard Adamus and more, a midnight countdown and fireworks. Le Balcon's New Year's Eve party is dedicated to soul, funk, Motown and R&B with a great live band. Spend the night dancing to electronic music with producers Cedric Gervais and Shaun Frank at New City Gas, party in the multimedia, surround-sound dome at the Society for Arts and Technology or on all three floors of the Sir Winston Churchill Pub Complex.

Several restaurants offers special New Year's Eve menus and parties to match: join the fun at the excellent JAMES Le Restaurant and Verses Bistro in Old Montréal, eat market-fresh Greek dishes at nearby Ikanos or fine French cuisine at Renoir downtown, enjoy classic Thai food at Siam Restaurant near the Bell Centre, signature Italian-French meals at Quindici 15 in Little Italy, and more NYE specials at numerous gourmet destinations in Montréal. Eat high above it all at Les Enfants Terribles at the Observatoire Place Ville Marie. Or celebrate New Year's Eve with dinner and a show at the Casino de Montréal, where entertainment abounds throughout the holidays.


Family-friendly fun

Let Cirque du Soleil’s colourful new show on ice Axel wow you with world-class ice skating, acrobatics, live music and moments of levity at the Bell Centre until December 29. Québec circus company FLIP Fabrique creates a snow-covered world full of acrobatic antics in Blizzard at La TOHU from December 17 to January 5. And catch an NHL game as the Montreal Canadiens play the Tampa Bay Lightning on December 2. Play games at the McCord Museum’s toy exhibition It’s Your Move! Board Games: Larger Than Life, enjoy the holiday magic of Enchanted Worlds, Ogilvy's department store window display, and create your own games at workshops until January 5. And see all kinds of Québec wildlife at the conservation-focused Ecomuseum Zoo, hosting holiday activities for families.


Winter activities

Among Montréal's many wonderful winter activities, ice skating season begins this week! With historic Old Montréal and the St. Lawrence River as its backdrop, the softly lit Old Port of Montréal ice skating rink is an ideal place to stretch your legs on skates – the refrigerated rink is now open for the winter, with skate rentals on site. Mount Royal Park's refrigerated rink next to the Beaver Lake Pavilion is also open now too – rent skates and glide through nature in one of the biggest parks in the city, also where you can go tobogganing and tube-sliding on the snow-covered hills, and take part in activities inside the Chalet du Mont-Royal. Slide, ride quadricycles, bounce, play games, have snowball battles and more at Voiles en Voiles winter park in the Old Port of Montréal, open every afternoon from December 21 to January 5. And learn to snowboard and ski at the Pente à neige snow park, also featuring a snow-tubing hill.

Visit Notre-Dame Basilica (one of many Montréal churches featuring cultural activities) to see multimedia show AURA and by night in Old Montréal search out the projections of Cité Mémoire on building facades. Take a scenic walk and look out on the snowy city from Mount Royal Park or the Observatoire Place Ville Marie downtown, La Grande Roue de Montréal in the Old Port or the observatory at the top of the Montréal Tower at Olympic Park. And if you're feeling cold, warm up at Montréal's best spas. No matter what the weather, kids will be busy (and not bored!) with these entertaining indoor family activities. Plot your visit with My Official Montréal City Guide (and save with the MTL Sweet Deal!).


Festive food and drink

Along with New Year's Eve dinners, enjoy incredible holiday meals and seasonal cocktails at restaurants throughout the city. Check out our picks of where to eat during the holidays in Montréal, including some award-winning restaurants. Sit down at these 5 restaurants with amazing chefs for their unique local dishes, from classic French menus to ground-breaking Asian cuisine. Explore Montréal's new restaurants too, from twists on Italian classics to warming Moroccan dishes to Japanese ramen bowls. And try Montréal's best bring-your-own-wine restaurants and great casual restaurants.

Warm up with excellent winter cocktails and more at Montréal's coziest bars and inventive Montréal microbreweries, sip perfectly brewed hot tea at Montréal tea houses, get your caffeine fix in style at Montréal's indie coffee shops, and savour the sweet stuff with the best hot chocolate in the city (and get a pastry to go with it at Montréal's best bakeries and pastry shops). Drop in for afternoon tea service at Marcus restaurant in the Four Seasons hotel and at the Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth's Rosélys Restaurant. If you're shopping downtown and looking for a quick yet impressive meal, head to the new Time Out Market in Eaton Centre on Sainte-Catherine Street. Another excellent new Montréal food hall, LE CENTRAL - MANGER MONTRÉAL, serves up delicious local fare at the corner of Sainte-Catherine Street and Saint-Laurent Boulevard. Also check out these other foodie hotspots downtown.


On stage and screen

Outrageous puppet master Ronnie Burkett returns to Montréal with Little Dickens, a naughty remix of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol at Centaur Theatre until December 21. The Salute to Vienna New Year’s Concert rings in 2020 with Blue Danube Waltz and more of Johann Strauss's music, along with ballroom dancers and ballet on January 1 at Place des Arts. Experience the contemporary VR artistry of the Cadavre exquis exhibition, featuring work by Marina Abramovi, Olafur Eliasson, Laurie Anderson, Antony Gormley, Paul McCarthy and other artists, at the Phi Centre – also visit the VR Cinema to see InnerFlood, creations by artists Anish Kapoor, Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg, Jakob Kudsk Steensen and Mali Arun. The Phi Centre also presents BIBELOT, an audio visual kinetic installation piece by composer Jay Crocker.

Explore the universe at the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium, featuring science-meets-multimedia shows Planet Nine, Secrets of Gravity, EXO, POLARIS, Continuum and Aurōrae as well as Mice and the Moon for younger kids. The Montréal Science Centre presents IMAX film Great Bear Rainforest 3D and hands-on science exhibitions such as Health from Head to Toe. Among Montréal's great indie cinemas, see art-house, documentaries, Québécois, cult films and more at Mile End's Cinéma Moderne, the Cinémathèque québécoise, Cinéma du Musée at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, and at long-running Cinéma du Parc. And in the Gay Village, stages light up with world-class drag shows in Montréal.


Art for everyone

At the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts, don't miss “For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you”: Selections From The Bailey Collection, About Face: Photographs by Cindy Sherman, Laurie Simmons and Rachel Harrison From the Collection of Carol and David Appel and more, and check out the museum's weekend tours and art workshops.

At the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, experience the video works of Francis Alÿs: Children's Games, a survey of prominent Montréal painter Janet Werner and more. The Fondation Phi pour l’art contemporain presents music-oriented installations and video work by British artist Phil Collins exploring how we participate in popular culture, while Eva & Franco Mattes redefine the boundaries of the Internet in video and sculptural works. Montréal's Arsenal Contemporary Art gallery in Griffintown hosts Imagine Van Gogh, an immersive, technologically-enhanced experience of over 200 of the artist's paintings, including Sunflowers and The Starry Night.


History near and far

Montréal is also a must for history buffs. One of this winter's major exhibitions, the British Museum's Egyptian Mummies: Exploring Ancient Lives makes its North American premiere at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, reconstructing the lives of six Egyptians who lived along the Nile from about 900 BC to AD 180. At the McCord Museum see retrospective exhibition Jean-Claude Poitras: Fashion and Inspiration, Celia Perrin Sidarous: The Archivist and more. The Stewart Museum's new Nights exhibition lets visitors explore the fiction-meets-reality of four worlds created by Québec writers Heather O’Neill, Simon Boulerice, Dominique Demers and Éric Dupont – while at the museum, peek into day-to-day life in New France in History and Memory and enjoy family-focused holiday activities all month or try your hand at escape game Phantoms of the Island every Saturday.

Among the city's other family-friendly museums, the Musée de Lachine illuminates 350 years of history, wax museum Grévin MONTRÉAL features Québécois and international celebrities past and present, and the free Barbie Expo shows off Barbie's fashion transformations through the decades. At the Biosphère, Environment Museum see several exhibitions on marine environments, weather and current environmental issues. Discover Irish Montréal and Montréal's Scottish history through historic landmarks and more. Read all about jazz in Montréal, from the Roaring Twenties to today. And pick up some historic and present-day facts about Montréal that even some locals might not know.

Live music

Celebrate the season this week at Montréal Christmas and holiday concerts, including Québec Issime troupe's French-language family-friendly musical Décembre, the story of a small town whose characters come alive beneath a Christmas tree, at Place des Arts from December 12 to 29. Vocal ensemble The Red Army Choir performs Christmas concerts with Isabelle Boulay from December 26 to 30 at Maison symphonique de Montréal.

Electronic music is the name of the live music game this week in Montréal, with the Lumen Festival 2019 at New City Gas, featuring Deadmau5 on Friday, December 27, followed by Above and Beyond with Maor Levi on Saturday December 28. Also on Saturday, check out melodic-pop electronic producer Kidnap at Newspeak. Meanwhile on December 27 and 28, beloved Québécois band Les Cowboys Fringants put on their annual end of the year show at MTELUS. Have a meal and listen to live Cuban music at Le Balcon on December 27, while Gospel Brunch entertains with the Imani Gospel Singers on December 28 followed by a night of Soul, Motown and disco with live band Meredith & the Soul Marshalls.

On December 29, join the crowds at Olympic Stadium for Bass ship with EDM producers Slander, Kayzo, 12th Planet, Virtual Riot, Barely Alive and more special guests late into the night. On December 30, dance all night to Cristoph at downtown's Newspeak. For 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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