Things to do in Montréal – December 6 to 12, 2019

The holiday season glitters in Montréal this week across the city: explore Christmas markets and villages, the interactive outdoor art of Luminothérapie, the entertaining Christmas in the park events, ice skating rinks and more. Indoors, see illuminating art and museum exhibitions, new dance and theatre (including The Nutcracker!), film and VR. Eat, drink and be merry at restaurants and bars citywide. And scroll down to our music section for this week's Christmas concerts and to see Montréal in another light in musician Patrick Watson's latest music video.

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Seasonal festivities

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 at Place des Festivals. Enjoy live music, fires for roasting marshmallows, hot chocolate, mulled wine and even a visit with Santa Claus at Christmas in the park in Place Émilie-Gamelin downtown and in Parc des Compagnons and Parc Lahaie in the Plateau neighbourhood. Experience the magic of Santa's Kingdom, where kids can ride a mini train and carousel, visit Santa, see a multimedia fountain show and watch performances.

A holiday tradition by Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal, The Nutcracker is a magical must-see for all ages, from December 12 to 30 at Place des Arts. Also for families, Exporail / The Canadian Railway Museum hosts Railway Christmas until January 5, with train rides, Christmas trees, cookie decorating and Santa visits. For a more traditional take on the holiday, step back in time at Château Ramezay's Around the fireplace... Holiday Traditions, baking workshops and more, plus Champagne, Charlotte and Crinoline at the Sir George-Étienne Cartier National Historic Site.

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Holiday markets and Christmas villages

Get into the Christmas spirit and get your gift shopping done at holiday markets this week in Montréal! Explore the charming outdoor market and Santa's village at Le Village de Noël de Montréal at the Atwater Market every weekend until December 22. Explore the glittering Nutcracker Market (organized by Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal) from November 28 to December 8 at the Palais des congrès de Montréal. In Mile End, the Holiday Edition of the Puces POP Fair highlights local creators of housewares, jewelry, clothing and accessories, kids toys and more at Église Saint-Denis (next to Laurier metro) from December 6 to 8 and 13 to 15. And kicking off on December 6, the massive Salon des métiers d’art du Québec fills Place Bonaventure with artisanal Québec-made decorations, toys, jewelry, gourmet food and warm winter clothing.

Visit the XP_MTL Christmas tree and village at the corner of Sainte-Catherine Street and McGill College Avenue – XP_MTL also presents choir performances by Jazz Pop & Talons Hauts next to the McCord Museum on December 7 at 11 a.m., while Chœur Ciné-Jazz performs at 12:30 p.m. below the tree, also where you can hear Caroles de Noël on December 8 and Alkémia choir on December 12 at 4:30 p.m. Mont-Royal Avenue celebrates with Noël sur l’Avenue along the street and in Parc des Compagnons-de-Saint-Laurent – don't miss family-friendly La Marche de Noël aux flambeaux and fireworks on December 7.

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December 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 opens for the winter on December 7, 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. Slide, ride quadricycles, bounce, play games, have snowball battles and more at Voiles en Voiles winter park in the Old Port of Montréal, open on the afternoons of December 7 and 8. And catch the Montréal Canadiens at home this week against the Ottawa Senators on December 11 at the Bell Centre.

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, including Mini-Comiccon de Montréal from December 7 to 8 at Palais des congrès. Whether you're in Montréal for a long weekend or a week, plot your visit with My Official Montréal City Guide (and save with the MTL Sweet Deal!).

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Food and drink

Located right downtown in Eaton Centre on Sainte-Catherine Street, the new Time Out Market is officially open – try fantastic food by local culinary creators, including chef Paul Toussaint, Montréal Plaza Deli and many more. Not far from there, another great new Montréal food hall, LE CENTRAL - MANGER MONTRÉAL, serves up delicious local fare as well. 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 Montreal's best bring-your-own-wine restaurants and great casual restaurants. Have a locally sourced meal at chef Marcus Samuelson's Marcus restaurant in the four seasons hotel downtown – or drop in for its delectable afternoon tea service, every afternoon from 2 to 5 p.m. Also enjoy a classic afternoon tea service at the Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth's Rosélys Restaurant, from 2 to 4:30 p.m. from Thursday to Sunday.

Discover local food creations at Jean-Talon Market and Atwater Market, while these inventive Montréal microbreweries craft seasonal beers to join their classic line-ups and Montréal's best bakeries and pastry shops create irresistible desserts and more. Cruise along the St. Lawrence River with Croisières AML – they're offering a Christmas Brunch from December 1 to 15. Explore more of Montréal and its culinary delights on Montréal's best food tours or discover some of Montréal's hidden gems, including excellent restaurants off the beaten track. And put on your sparkliest outfit and get ready to boogie under the giant disco ball at the Casino de Montréal's We've got the funk event from November 4 to December 21 – enjoy a special three-course meal, bubbly cocktails and an incredible show by a variety of singers, dancers and musicians performing 50 years of funk and disco hits – or get into the Christmas spirit at the Casino's Un Noël magique matinee concert of Christmas classics.

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On stage

Puppetry, live video and live music bring an animated graphic novel to life in The Storyville Mosquito by musician and artist Kid Koala, the story of a young jazz-musician mosquito who leaves his small town in the country to seek fame and fortune in the big city, from November 27 to December 8 at Place des Arts – and on December 7, Kid Koala hosts a free robot dance party at 1 p.m. at Place des Arts' Espace culturel Georges-Émile-Lapalme space. Choreographer Dana Gingras's Animals of Distinction return with Frontera, a dazzling and subversive contemporary performance work, with musical score by post-rock band Fly Pan Am and scenography by United Visual Artists, presented by Danse Danse at Place des Arts from December 4 to 7. Danse Danse also presents choreographer-dancer Caroline Laurin-Beaucage's Intérieurs at Place des Arts’ Cinquième Salle from December 10 to 14.

In theatre, see the world premiere of Tableau D'Hôte Theatre's Winter’s Daughter, inspired by the family history of Montréal barber Gino Chiarella, from November 27 to December 8 at the Segal Centre for Performing Arts. Also at the Segal, see award-winning play Late Company, a story of family, bullying and forgiveness by Jordan Tannahill, from December 10 to 15. 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 Centaur Children's Series presents Enchanted Lady Lost, an interactive adventure about a princess who must rescue Christmas from a grumpy spirit, on December 7 at 10:30 a.m. At MAI Montréal, arts interculturels, see MAD | Motions and Dynamics urban dance performances by Femmes Phénoménales, Sarah Bidaw and Ford Mckeown Larose on December 6, while Black Theatre Workshop presents a double-bill of two plays, Dark Red and Cry Baby, from December 10 to 15. And in the Gay Village, stages light up with world-class drag shows in Montréal.

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On screen

International film festival Sommets du cinéma d’animation screens the best in animation from around the world from December 3 to 8 at the Cinémathèque québécoise. 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. While at the Phi Centre, also experience BIBELOT, an audiovisual 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.

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Art for everyone

Untamed Colour: Celebrating Jean McEwen pays homage to the Montréal painter, the Stephan Crétier and Stéphany Maillery Wing for the Arts of One World opens,  families can take weekend tours and art workshops, and on December 11 new exhibition About Face: Photographs by Cindy Sherman, Laurie Simmons and Rachel Harrison from the Collection of Carol and David Appel opens at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. See the video works of Francis Alÿs: Children's Games, a survey of prominent Montréal painter Janet Werner and more at the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal – also where you can stay out late on Friday night for the Nocturne event, with tours, drinks, DJs and VJs.

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 and Franco Mattes redefine the boundaries of the Internet in video and sculptural works. Montréal's Arsenal Contemporary 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. Galerie de l’UQAM presents Le déploiement, an exhibition of works focused on the Canadian Far North by photographer and video artist Emmanuelle Léonard. The Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery presents ᓄᓇᙳᐊᓕᐅᕐᓂᖅ ᓄᓇᕐᔪᐊᙳᐊᓂᒃ Mapping of the World by Nunavut-based artist Shuvinai Ashoona. At La Guilde see Nunavut artist Jessie Oonark's Artworks - Still Very Much Alive and Love-Struck Souls by jeweler Aurelie Guillaume. At the Canadian Centre for Architecture, see Building a new New WorldAmerikanizm in Russian Architecture, as well as Rough Cuts and Outtakes, showcasing the work of Gordon Matta-Clark. The Museum of Jewish Montreal presents Return to The Fortress by Julie Gladstone. Mile-Ex gallery and cultural space Never Apart features new art in its fall exhibitions. Sculptor Glen LeMesurier shows his new metal creations in Gravity & Grace at Galerie Grace. Visit Art Mûr to see exhibitions by Bevan Ramsay, Jennifer Small, Hédy Gobaa and Brandon Vickerd. And there's more art to discover while gallery hopping and antiquing in the city.

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History near and far

One of this fall'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. Montréal is also a must for history buffs. At Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Archaeology and History Complex discover the origins and legacy of the Inca Empire in stunning exhibition The Incas, Treasures of Peru, and experience multimedia exhibition Generations MTL and cabinet of curiosities Into the Wonder Room. At the McCord Museum see retrospective exhibition Jean-Claude Poitras: Fashion and Inspiration, Celia Perrin Sidarous: The Archivist and the holiday magic of Enchanted Worlds, recreating the Ogilvy's department store window displays. 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.

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Classical and Christmas music

The Montréal Bach Festival concludes on December 7 with a concert by Brooklyn-based 20-person chamber orchestra The Knights at St-Pierre-Apôtre Church. The Quartom vocal ensemble, organist Jean-Willy Kunz and a brass quintet of Orchestre symphonique de Montréal musicians perform concert Orgue et pain d'épices at Maison symphonique de Montréal on December 7. Famed pianist Yefim Bronfman and Orchestre symphonique de Montréal perform Mozart's Piano Concerto no. 24 and more at Maison symphonique from December 11 to 15. Nicholas Carter conducts the Orchestre Métropolitain with soprano Karina Gauvin in Britten's Les Illuminations and more at Maison symphonique on December 12.

Also among Montréal's many Christmas concerts: hear the beloved Lyric Theatre Singers perform seasonal songs from around the world in Candlelight Christmas from December 5 to 8; the annual ONE19 - Gospel Christmas Concert with 100 singers backed by a live band at Église Saint-Jean-Baptiste on December 7; the Orchestre Classique de Montréal conducted by maestro Boris Brott performs Handel’s Messiah on December 8 at 3 p.m. at Saint Joseph's Oratory of Mount Royal; the Ensemble Da Capo presents Johann Sebastian Bach’s Magnificat and more in the Mount Royal Chalet on December 8 at 3 p.m.; sing along with the 40th CBC Christmas Sing-in live broadcast at Bourgie Concert Hall on December 8 at 3 p.m.; and Christmas by the Fireplace with the Julie Lamontagne Trio on December 12 at Bourgie Hall.

More live music

On Friday, December 6, dance into the night with genre-crossing electronic producer Andrew Bayer at the Society for Arts and Technology, check out Vancouver indie-rock band Said The Whale and Dave Monks at l'Escogriffe Bar Spectacle or '90s alt-rock band Rusty with Mad Ones and Jon Cohen Ex at Ritz P.D.B. Saturday night features electronic experimenters Plaid and CMD at Théâtre Fairmount, Halifax singer-songwriter Ria Mae at Le Ministère and heavy indie-pop punks Solids at La Sala Rossa. Sunday brings French electronic pop rock band Hyphen Hyphen to Le Ministère and Brooklyn singer-songwriter Madison Mcferrin to l'Escogriffe Bar Spectacle.

Tuesday marks the first of three nights that Montréal hometown favourite Patrick Watson performs at MTELUS – sure to be musical magic. On Wednesday, December 11, see eclectic French band Odezenne with opener Hua Li at L’Astral, NYC instrumental trio Consider the Source at Ritz P.D.B. and singer-songwriters Jesse Mac Cormack and Rosie Valland at Théâtre La Chapelle's Les Salons Acoustiques. And Thursday features English electronic music producer Gammer at L’Astral, and the Thursday night start of Le Balcon's weekends of The biggest Soul, Motown, Disco and Funk hits for the holiday season, featuring incredible singers Meredith Marshall, Shaharah and Kim Richardson.

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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