Things to do in Montréal – January 17 to 23, 2020

Explore the best of winter activities in Montréal this week in snowy Mount Royal Park and at family festival Fête des neiges de Montréal, while in the Old Port of Montréal go ice skating or dance into the night at outdoor electronic music fest Igloofest. Play with colourful art exhibition Luminothérapie downtown, see Egyptian Mummies at the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts or check out new theatre (like the Annual Wildside Theatre Festival), contemporary dance and live music. And throughout it all, enjoy great seasonal meals, excellent coffee and hot chocolate, and warming wintertime cocktails.

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Winter activities and sports

Play outdoors this weekend at family-friendly festival Fête des neiges de Montréal at Parc Jean-Drapeau, this year featuring a new tube-sliding hill in the park's new Espace 67 area, plus ice slides, an ice skating path, entertainment and more activities for all ages. Among Montréal's many other wonderful winter activities, go ice skating at the Old Port of Montréal ice skating rink, where you can rent skates and sip on hot chocolate too, or on Mount Royal Park's refrigerated rink next to the Beaver Lake Pavilion, also where you can take a snowshoeing and cross-country skiing tour or go sledding and tube-sliding on the snow-covered hills.

Learn to snowboard and ski at Pente à neige snow park, also featuring a snow-tubing hill. Or visit Montréal's large nature parks, like Parc-nature du Cap-Saint-Jacques and Parc-nature de l’Île-de-la-Visitation, for more winter activities. Play games of petanque, listen to music, roast marshmallows and drink mulled wine and hot chocolate at the Olympic Park's Jardineries d'hiver site, opening on January 18. Or watch the pros on ice as the Montréal Canadiens play the Vegas Golden Knights on January 18 at the Bell Centre.

Bright lights, big sound

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, one of Montréal's free things to do this winter. One-of-a-kind winter electronic music festival Igloofest brightens the Old Port of Montréal's Jacques-Cartier Pier this month: on the nights of January 17 and 18, dance with hundreds of people under the light of high-tech visuals – on Friday, move to the sounds of Anjunabeats label artists Alpha 9, Gabriel & Dresden and Ilan Bluestone, while Saturday night is epically techno with British producer ANNA, the Netherlands' Reinier Zonneveld and the Honey Soundsystem crew, plus local producers, games in the snow, specialty cocktails and more.

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City sights

A highlight of Old Montréal, Notre-Dame Basilica (one of many Montréal churches featuring cultural activities) stands out night and day – inside, don't miss beautiful multimedia show AURA. 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. If the temperature drops, set your sights on warming up at Montréal's best spas.

No matter what the weather, kids will be busy (and not bored!) with these entertaining indoor family activities or a visit with Québec wildlife at the conservation-focused Ecomuseum Zoo. And the Montréal International Auto Show wows car enthusiasts with the sight of hundreds of new electric, hybrid and traditional vehicles and related products at the Montréal Convention Centre (Palais des congrès de Montréal) from January 17 to 26. Plot your visit with My Official Montréal City Guide (and save with the MTL Sweet Deal!).

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Winter food and drink

Old Montréal's wintertime food festival Happening Gourmand returns for its 13th edition from January 16 to February 9, with delectable and affordable table d’hôte dinner, brunch and happy hour menus at 10 great 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). If you're shopping downtown and looking for a quick yet impressive meal, head to the new Time Out Market in Centre Eaton de Montréal 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.

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. Have a locally sourced meal at Marcus restaurant in the Four Seasons hotel downtown – or drop in for its delectable afternoon tea service, every day. Also enjoy a classic afternoon tea service at the Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth's Rosélys Restaurant from Thursday to Sunday. Explore more of Montréal and its culinary delights on Montréal's best food tours or discover some of Montréal's hidden gems. 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.

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On stage

Centaur Theatre presents the Annual Wildside Theatre Festival from January 7 to 18, featuring audacious, wild and hilarious works of indie theatre, from soul icon Michelle Sweeney's Her Songs, My Story to surrealist comedy Multiple Organism, Cabal Theatre's reckoning within a post-conflict landscape Chattermarks and more! Also at Centaur Theatre, see incredible Stratford Festival production Paradise Lost, a theatrical adaptation of John Milton’s epic poem, from January 14 to February 2. The 2020 edition of the Chinese New Year Gala celebrates with classical and folk dances, song, acrobatics, folk music and more by Hua Xing (Phoenix) artistic troupe on January 18 at Place des Arts.

Choreographer-dancer George Stamos and collaborators Karla Etienne and Radwan Ghazi Moumneh explore kindness and grace in an increasingly brutal world in ONE KIND FAVOR, at MAI Montréal, arts interculturels from January 21 to 25. Discover an enticing encounter of diverse sounds and influences in ensemble piece D’os et d’écorce (Out of Bark and Bone) by Sinha Danse at Agora de la danse from January 22 to 25. See intriguing new works by choreographer-dancers Alexandre Morin & Jonathan Goulet and Bettina Szabo at Tangente from January 16 to 19. And in the Gay Village, stages light up with world-class drag shows in Montréal.

On screen

Step into the virtual world of the Cadavre exquis exhibition, featuring immersive artistic work by Marina Abramovi, Olafur Eliasson, Laurie Anderson, Antony Gormley, Paul McCarthy and other artists until January 19 at the Phi Centre – also visit the VR Cinema until January 17 to see InnerFlood, VR creations by artists Anish Kapoor, Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg, Jakob Kudsk Steensen and Mali Arun. And the immersive screen-and-sound creations of SAT Fest wow in the Society for Arts and Technology's 360° dome from January 7 to February 28 with seven creations by artists from around the world.

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 for kids such as Health from Head to Toe. Among Montréal's great indie cinemas, see art-house, documentaries, Québécois and 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

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 as well as About Face: Photographs by Cindy Sherman, Laurie Simmons and Rachel Harrison From the Collection of of Carol and David Appel and more. At the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, see Painting Nature With A Mirror – Pictures For An Exhibition, a portrait of 1980s painting in Canada, and Arthur Jafa's Love is the Message, the Message is Death, a cinematic montage exploring the complexity of Afro-American music experimentation. 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.

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 to January 18. 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 until February 20 and launches Jonathan Rotsztain’s comic series Patterns on January 23 – the museum also hosts a Klezmer brunch on January 19 and Beyond the Bagel walking tours. Mile-Ex gallery and cultural space Never Apart features fascinating art in its fall exhibitions. And there's more art to discover while gallery hopping and antiquing in the city.

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History near and far

Montréal is also a must for history buffs. One of this season's major exhibitions, the British Museum's Egyptian Mummies: Exploring Ancient Lives makes its North American premiere at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, with ancient artifacts and multimedia reconstructing the lives of six Egyptians who lived along the Nile from about 900 BC to AD 180. 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 family-friendly activities. At the McCord Museum see retrospective exhibition Jean-Claude Poitras: Fashion and Inspiration, Celia Perrin Sidarous: The Archivist, toy exhibition It’s Your Move! Board Games: Larger Than Life and more. The Stewart Museum's 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, play history-illuminating escape game Phantoms of the Island on January 18 or join a snowshoeing tour on January 19.

Among the city's other family-friendly museums, Exporail / The Canadian Railway Museum invites train enthusiasts of all ages to Iron and Ice: Snow Trains until February 23, 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

On Friday, January 17, conductor Kent Nagano and the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal perform Schubert’s Late Masterpieces with tenor Ian Bostridge and pianist Angela Hewittat at Maison symphonique de Montréal. On Friday night, rock out with Angels and Airwaves and Social Animals at L'Olympia and later head to the Igloofest afterparty at Newspeak with Kora, Gab Rhome, Madota and Night Bird. On Saturday, January 18, melodic Minneapolis hip hop duo Atmosphere and opener The Lioness play Corona Theatre, while high-energy electronic duo MSTRKRFT keep everyone dancing at New City Gas, the Society for Arts and Technology throws its second Dômesicle dance party of winter in the 360° dome, with music by DJs Ryan Playground, Robert Robert and The Holy accompanied by wild visuals, and Newspeak hosts Igloofest afterparty with Volvox and Softcoresoft. Go out for dinner and dancing to live music this weekend at Le Balcon's Habana Nights and Sound of Soul. Meanwhile, at the Casino de Montréal it's all pop all the time with Pop casino music weekends and a pop tribute show to The Police on January 23.

Sunday brings French pianist Lucas Debargue to Maison symphonique. On January 21, the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal hosts four renowned organists of Notre-Dame de Paris at Maison symphonique de Montréal. Proceeds from the January 21 concert will benefit the fund of Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral. And the LUX MAGNA Festival showcases a multitude of local music, with Sydanie, Mini Massive (Nomadic Massive) and Sarahmée at La Sala Rossa on January 22 and Big Brave and Second Sight at La Sala Rossa on January 23. Also on January 23, keep on dancing after Igloofest at Newspeak with Sam Lamar, Bawdy and Bakune.

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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