Things to do in Montréal – November 29 to December 5, 2019

December arrives in Montréal this week with Christmas markets, the interactive outdoor art of Luminothérapie, live music at Christmas in the park and more seasonal activities. Indoors, don't miss illuminating art and museum exhibitions, new dance and theatre, film festival image+nation, hockey games and more. Indulge in incredible food at restaurants citywide. And scroll down for details on the Montréal Bach Festival and more live music.

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Seasonal festivities

It's late November and the season for holiday gift shopping and visits with Santa has officially arrived in Montréal! 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. 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.

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 Sympholies Vocales on November 30 at 11 a.m. in front of the McCord Museum and 12:30 p.m. at the Christmas tree, and Ensemble Alkémia on December 1 at 12:30 p.m. Mont-Royal Avenue celebrates with Noël sur l’Avenue along the street and in Parc des Compagnons-de-Saint-Laurent. 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.


Holiday markets

Also getting us into the holiday spirit are holiday markets, packed with great gift ideas and unique souvenirs. Visit 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. Find designer home goods and fashion at souk from November 27 to December 1 at the RCA Building in Saint-Henri. Explore the outdoor market and elves' kingdom of Le Village de Noël de Montréal at the Atwater Market from November 29 to December 22. Shop hundreds of new titles for all ages, meet acclaimed authors and join in literary activities, including story time for kids, at the 2019 Holiday Pop-Up Book Fair at Concordia University on November 30 and December 1.


December activities

Catch the Montréal Canadiens at home this week against the Philadelphia Flyers on November 30, the New York Islanders on December 3 and the Colorado Avalanche on December 5 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. 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!).


Food and drink

Located right downtown in Eaton Centre on Sainte-Catherine Street, the brand new Time Out Market is officially open – try fantastic food by local culinary creators, including chef Paul Toussaint, Montréal Plaza Deli and many more. Get a taste of Montréal at these five restaurants with amazing chefs crafting unique 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. 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.


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. Choreographer Dana Gingras's Animals of Distinction returns 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. Using theatrical illusions, puppets and ghostly architecture Out Innerspace Dance Theatre's Bygones creates an otherworldly zone, at Agora de la danse from November 27 to 30.

In theatre, Come From Away tells the remarkable true story of 7,000 stranded passengers and the small town in Newfoundland that welcomed them, from November 26 to December 1 at Place des Arts. 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. Outrageous puppet master Ronnie Burkett returns to Montréal with Little Dickens, a naughty remix of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol at Centaur Theatre. Known for immersive performances, The Other Theatre combines theatre, dance and polyphonic singing in All Flesh is Grass, a meditation on randomness on Earth and in the ever-expanding universe, from November 13 to 30 at Espace Knox. And in the Gay Village, stages light up with world-class drag shows in Montréal.


On screen

The 32nd Montréal International LGBT Film Festival, image+nation, screens the best of queer cinema from around the world, from November 21 to December 1, including Un rubio by Marco Berger, Carmen y Lola by Arantxa Echeverria and the festival's closing film British-Irish co-production Vita & Virginia by Chanya Button. 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. And the No Man's Land Film Festival screens short films about women in adventure sport, on December 5 at McGill University.

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 films by artists Anish Kapoor, Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg, Jakob Kudsk Steensen and Mali Arun. In the Society for Arts and Technology's 360° dome, see immersive audiovisual performance Mutations by artists Maxime Corbeil-Perron and Myriam Boucher. 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.


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, and families can take weekend tours and art workshops 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 shop for high-end art books on Friday. 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.

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 jeweller 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. In Mile End, Centre CLARK showcases new work by Jeanne Marsh, Ingrid Tremblay and Karina Pawlikowski. Mile-Ex gallery and cultural space Never Apart features new art in its fall exhibitions. And there's more art to discover while gallery hopping and antiquing in the city.


History near and far

Montréal is also a must for history buffs. 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. 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.

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.


Classical music

The Montréal Bach Festival continues this week with Andrea Marcon conducting Arion & SMAM in Bach's B minor Mass at Église St-Jean Baptiste on November 29, pianist Aaron Pilsan on November 30, a free afternoon organ performance on December 1 at Saint Joseph's Oratory of Mount Royal and musicians Maurice Steger, Hille Perl and Diego Ares at Bourgie Concert Hall, cellist Christian-Pierre La Marca on December 2 at Bourgie Hall, the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal performing Bach’s Luminous Christmas Oratorio on December 3 and 4 at Maison symphonique de Montréal, and more. 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.

More live music

On Friday night, hear Canadian country favourite Blue Rodeo's Jim Cuddy with opening act Skydiggers at Place des Arts, while singer-songwriter Allan Rayman plays MTELUS, French rapper Gringe comes to L’Astral, electronic artist TroyBoi and opener Yultron shake up Club Soda, and British pop-rock artist Banners and The Man Who perform at Théâtre Fairmount. Saturday night features French producer Madeon at MTELUS, alt-rockers The Dirty Nil and Dear-God at Petit Campus, experimental Brigitte Bardon't at La Vitrola, inventive British electronic producer Or:la at Newspeak, and electronic dance producer Ryan Shepherd at New City Gas.

On Sunday, catch indie-rock outfit Current Swell and Carmanah at Ritz P.D.B., esoteric singer-songwriter Devendra Banhart and Black Belt Eagle Scout on Tuesday, December 3 at L'Olympia, and Canadian pop singer-songwriter Jonathan Roy at Le Ministère. On Wednesday, December 4, see Swedish metal band In Flames and Red at Corona Theatre and Australian hip hop group Hilltop Hoods and Adrian Eagle at Le Belmont. And on Thursday, it's folk band Caamp and opener Savannah Conley at Théâtre Fairmount, Canadian rock legend Gowan at Corona Theatre, the heavy sounds of amazing locals Lungbutter, Yoo Doo Right and Gladys Lazer at l'Escogriffe Bar Spectacle, and the 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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