Things to do in Montréal December 8-14

The city streets glitter with holiday markets, Christmas trees, skating rinks and illuminated public art this week, while indoors more markets abound, along with art, theatre, dance, classical concerts and rock shows.

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Seasons greetings

Get into the holiday spirit in Montréal with all kinds of festive winter activities this week. Downtown's Place des Festivals glitters with interactive art event Luminothérapie, where you can ride illuminated see-saws while having a warm drink and a bite to eat. The Old Port of Montréal's Natrel Skating Rink opens for the season – ice skate to music next to the Saint-Lawrence River. Eat, drink hot chocolate or mulled wine and listen to music at Christmas in the Park at Jardins Gamelin downtown and in Parc des Compagnons and Parc Lahaie in the Plateau neighbourhood, Dec. 1-25. Mount-Royal Avenue’s annual Noël sur l’Avenue also celebrates the season outdoors with music, carriage rides and the La Marche de Noël lantern walk on Dec. 9. Le Village du Vilain Sapin stands out with its giant Christmas tree on Prince Arthur Street. And Santas Are Taking Over the Museum at the Stewart Museum's annual history exhibition of Santa figurines, while toys and fairytales take over in The Topsy-Turvy Storyland at the McCord Museum.


Holiday markets

Holiday shopping sparkles at Montréal's Christmas markets with Le Grand Marché de Noël de Montréal just around the corner from Luminothérapie, the biggest professional artisan market of the season Salon des métiers d'art de Montréal at Place Bonaventure Dec. 7-17, the festive Nutcracker Market Nov. 30 to Dec. 10 at Palais des congrès, group designer event Marché de Noël des Designers de la Grover Dec. 7-9, the Christmas Village at Place du Marché in Saint-Henri near the Lachine Canal Dec. 7-10 (also screening It's a Wonderful Life on Saturday), handiwork of local artisans in Little Italy's Marché Artisanal de Montréal Dec. 9-10, and the cuteness and artistry of Puces POP Winter Edition Dec. 8-10 and 15-17 at Eglise Saint-Denis (5075 Rivard) across from Laurier Metro. And, less holiday themed but still packed with gifts for certain people on your list, Montréal Mini Comic Con comes to Palais des congrès Dec. 9-10.


City sights

Take advantage of the many free things to do this winter in Montréal – not to mention the picks in our budget-friendly guide to Montréal – such as a self-guided history tour of the Saint-Lawrence River with Montréal, toute une histoire, or Projet EVA art collective's Cortège app tour along the Promenade Fleuve-Montagne, or a walk in the Plateau neighbourhood to see the comic artwork of Paul à Montréal. In Old Montréal, choirs sing Christmas carols and Québécois traditional songs on Saturday afternoon, while at night the historic tableaux projections of Cité Memoire come to life and multimedia wonder AURA fills Notre-Dame Basilica. At the Buckminster Fuller-designed Biosphère see the city anew in 3D interactive model Planète MTL and travel back 50 years with Écho 67. We've got all kinds of ways to face your fears in Montréal, including conquering heights to see amazing views from La Grande Roue de Montréal observation wheel, the Observatoire Place Ville Marie downtown and the Montréal Tower at Olympic Stadium. Relax with a view of the Saint Lawrence River at Bota Bota floating spa any time. Cheer for NHL greats the Montréal Canadiens as they face off against the Oilers on Dec. 9 and the Devils on Dec. 14 at the Bell Centre. Or go for the pro hockey of CWHL champions Les Canadiennes Dec. 9-10 – game tickets are only $15. And learn more about Montréal's hockey history at Passion: Hockey at Pointe-à-Callière museum.

Leonard Cohen's Montréal

As part of Montréal's 375th anniversary and in honour of his artistic impact on the city and the world, Montréal celebrates Leonard Cohen. International exhibition Leonard Cohen – A Crack in Everything at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal features work by 40 artists from 10 countries, inspired by Leonard Cohen's life, music and writing – as well as a (currently sold out) concert series covering Cohen's music album by album. Leonard Cohen also inspires BJM - Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal's newest production, Dance Me, weaving music, video and dance, presented by Danse Danse at Place des Arts, Dec. 5-9. And see building-sized murals of Leonard Cohen on Crescent Street downtown near the Sir Winston Churchill Pub and on Saint-Laurent Boulevard at Napoleon Street not far from Schwartz's.


Food and drink

If you're looking for tried-and-true Québécois classic dishes, we've got the goods on where to find the best poutine and the best famous Montréal bagels along with more musts for foodies visiting Montréal – plus where to go shopping for foodies too. Warm up with a meal or a drink next to a cozy fireplace. Or discover creative new cuisine from Québec at our Montréal restaurant picks. Enjoy creative seasonal three-course meals at Labo Culinaire – Foodlab at the SAT, Dec. 5-21. Explore the city's public markets and some of Montréal's liveliest neighbourhoods through their restaurants. Caffeinate in style at Montréal's indie coffee shops. Relax with weekend brunch or a creative cocktail. And there's even plenty of genuinely delicious health-conscious food to be found in Montréal.


Art inspires

Once Upon A Time… The Western gives the Western film genre new artistic life at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts – while there also see installation Kushapetshekan / Kosapitcikan by Eruoma Awashish, Meky Ottawa and Jani Bellefleur-Kaltush, Nadia Myre's Tout ce qui reste – Scattered Remains and WOOL WAR ONE, composed of 780 small knitted soldiers. Inspiring art foundation DHC/ART in Old Montréal celebrates its 10th anniversary with dynamic group exhibition The Gift/L'Offre as well as the pioneering video art and installation work of Bill Viola: Naissance à rebours. Don't miss Montréal painter Melanie Authier's solo show Contrarieties & Counterpoints and new photography work by Carolyne Scenna at Galerie de l’UQAM. The Montréal Science Centre presents Indigenous Ingenuity: Timeless Inventions, from the essentials of First Peoples’ scientific principles to how to build an igloo, alongside photo exhibition Regalia: Native Pride. Explore the golden age of magicians in the McCord Museum's Illusions: The Art of Magic and see a new exhibition of photography by Gabor Szilasi: Le monde de l’art à Montréal, 1960-1980. Hannah Claus and Peter Morin address the fluidity of culture, body and land in there are so many stars at OBORO. The illustrations of exposition Le Montréaler emulate classic New Yorker covers, at the Maison de la culture Plateau Mont-Royal. And if you're driving to or from the airport along Highway 20, keep an eye out for Alain Paiement's art work Bleu de Bleu.

On stage

Place des Arts sparkles with the return of Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal’s The Nutcracker, by Quebec choreographer Fernand Nault based on E.T.A. Hoffmann’s classic tale and set to the music of Tchaikovsky, Dec. 14-30. On the English-language theatre scene, let Alfred Hitchcock murder-mystery spy story The 39 Steps intrigue you at Centaur Theatre to Dec. 12, or go off the beaten path with Urban Tales, stories of first Christmases spent in Montréal, Dec. 7-16, while classic His Girl Friday comes to the Mainline Theatre stage Dec. 7-10. Montréal's fall dance scene continues to push boundaries this week: Danse Danse presents Leonard Cohen-inspired Dance Me as well as choreographer Clara Furey's Cosmic Love, animating the philosophical concept of darkness, at Place des Arts Dec. 6-16; Tangente offers a series of second-year student shows at the Wilder this week; and at La Chapelle, Thomas Duret and Théâtre Du Baobab's An Awesome Trilogy About Life questions our relationship to time, Dec. 7-8, and choreographer Mélanie Demers presents utopic meditation Would, Dec. 11-15.

On screen

Explore the cosmos in two new immersive films at the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium: EXO, taking us on an emotional search for extraterrestrial life, and Space Next, diving into the history and present of space exploration. Immerse yourself in IMAX with Amazon 3D and Incredible Predators 3D at the Montréal Science Centre or in the high-tech audiovisual spectacle, existential quest and dreamlike landscapes of tim directed by Nicolas Noël Jodoin, at the 360-degree SAT dome Dec. 5-21. And at the Phi Centre, try on a VR headset to see a roster of short films and immersive VR work in Lucid Realities and the Virtual Reality Garden and watch the shorts in the Not Short on Talent showcase.


Classical and Christmas concerts

Among the classical music concerts this season, see The Legend of Zelda – Symphony of the Goddesses at Place des Arts on Dec. 8, star pianist Lucas Debargue at Maison symphonique on Dec. 9, Kent Nagano conducts the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal in concert 150 Years of Canadian Confederation on Dec. 10. Christmas concerts continue this week too: the Orchestre Metropolitain and guest conductor Christoph Campestrini and pianist Serhiy Salov deliver concert Winter Tales at the Maison symphonique on Dec. 14; Kent Nagano conducts the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal and choirs in concert Bach’s Magnificat at Maison symphonique Dec. 12-13; hear sounds of a Mediterannean Christmas on Dec. 12, A Charlie Brown Christmas with the Taurey Butler Trio and The Nutcracker concert on Dec. 14 at Bourgie Hall; Montréal’s Lyric Theatre Singers return to Concordia University’s Loyola Chapel for Candlelight Christmas 2017 Dec. 7-10; the ONE17 concert features JIREH and the Montreal Gospel Choir at Saint-Jean-Baptiste Church on Dec. 9; the Nos plus belles chansons de Noël concert at the Cabaret du Casino de Montréal keeps us hopping in our seats to Christmas tunes; and the annual CBC Christmas Sing-in packs the house with singers at the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul on Dec. 10.

More live music

On Friday night, the New Constellations tour stops in Montréal, featuring incredible Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists, including Sam Roberts, Stars, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Lido Pimienta and Elisapie at L'Astral. That same evening, beloved rockers The National play MTelus, while metal bands Belphegor and Cryptopsy descend on Théâtre Corona, dancehall meets soul with Bonjay at Le Ministère, and Chad VanGaalen brings his jangly guitar riffs and moody hooks to Théâtre Fairmount with openers Un Blond. On Saturday, rock with trash-folk singer-songwriter Lisa LeBlanc at Théâtre Corona or with punk-ska makers The Flatliners, A Wilhelm Scream and Single Mothers at Club Soda, groove to Paris-based multi-instrumentalist FKJ at the SAT, hear experimental pop-electronics with Black Marble and Xarah Dion at La Sala Rossa, go on a sonic folk-rock journey with Leif Vollebekk and Little Scream at Le National, return to the 80s with pop legends Glass Tiger at L'Astral, and dance to electronic beats with Com Truise at Newspeak. Don't miss soulful-pop singer-songwriter Shamir at Le Belmont on Sunday night. Monday brings psych-rockers Bitchin Bajas to L'Escogriffe and none other than saxophonist Kenny G to Theatre St-Denis. On Tuesday, feel some serious seasonal vibes at the Passovah Holiday Lovedown with DJs and special treats at Bar le Ritz PDB or sing your favourite carols with friends and strangers alike at the Montréal Christmas Crowd Caroloke Singalong at Mainline Theatre. On Dec. 13 hear the summery power-pop of Matt Pond PA at Bar le Ritz PDB. And on Dec. 14, it's Québécois singer-songwriter star Pierre Lapointe with opener Felix Dyotte at Théâtre Corona and a Christmas party with Québécois experimental hip hop group Dead Obies at the Phi Centre.

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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