We’ve compiled our top 14 holiday activities in Montreal… for locals and visitors alike! [2023 Guide]
The summer months might be behind us, but with the cool weather comes holiday cheer! Montreal is full of festivities year round, and Christmas season is no exception. From markets to hot chocolates, and Christmas parks to fireworks, we’ve picked 14 Christmas activities in Montreal that you won’t want to miss this year.
[Click here to stay up to date with the latest COVID-19 related restrictions in Montreal]
14. Taste Quebec’s Wilderness @ Projet Pilote
Is it a bar? Is it a distillery? Is it a microbrewery? Yes, Projet Pilote is this and more!
Quebec’s gin distillation has seen a surge in the recent years. Indeed there are many wild herbs and berries thriving in our northern forests that give our spirits and unique flavour profile. Projet Pilote aims to showcase the craftsmanship of its in-house distillers, winemakers, brewers and cooks. It’s a new establishment that’s been making local headlines lately.
Come here to enjoy their locally concocted fragrances: Organic beers, biodynamic wines, DIY Gins, aquavit and spirits from local ingredients. They’ve also got a fresh and colourful menu to pair some food with your drinks. A must try.
Projet Pilote is located in the heart of the popular Plateau Mont-Royal district, near Lafontaine Park,
Open 4pm until midnight. 980 rue Rachel E (no reservations)
The Mile End Montreal Food Tour is a great way to learn about the district’s rich cultural history. The three hour tour includes 6 unique tasting stops where participants can sample and savour the best food of the area. During the walk, the tour guide explains the fascinating history surrounding the many ethnicities that call the Mile End home and how some of the staple boutiques, shops and restaurants came to be. Discover the ins of the neighbourhood with your local tour guide, and experience the Mile End’s unique culinary heritage like never before.
12. See The Nutcracker at Place Des Arts
Nothing can get you into the Christmas spirit more than The Nutcracker’s famous tunes by Tchaikovsky. See the spectacular ballet at Place des Arts while a live orchestra serenades you with the iconic notes of the dreamy and wintery melodies. The show runs starting December 9th until the 28th. Act quickly, though, because the good tickets go fast! For more information or to buy tickets, visit their website here.
11. Immerse yourself in the spirit of the Holidays at one its 3 Christmas Markets
One of the absolute best things about the holidays are the Christmas markets. This German tradition has thankfully been grabbing hold of Montreal in the recent years. What better to bring on the Christmas cheer than some mulled wine, hot coco and a grilled sausage while meandering through rows of dimly lit wooden huts under the gentle snow?
As it turns out this year, Montreal has not one, not two, but three Christmas markets for you to choose from. Each has its own unique twist. We’ve listed them out for you:
Montreal Christmas Village
Sometimes overlooked by visitors but adored by locals, the Atwater Market has a lot to offer. During the holiday season, this farmer’s market located next to the Lachine canal boasts a traditional Christmas Village.
It’s a whimsical place to go enjoy festive food and cultural activities. Presented by Montreal’s innovative merchants and artisans, you’ll find a panoply of ecologically-responsible items on display; from cosmetics, clothing, Scandinavian decor, and sumptuous culinary creations. The programming includes a sleigh-cinema and guarantees Holiday cheer for the whole family.
Oh yeah, try the tartiflette! You’re welcome.
From November 25th to December 19th 2021
The Great Christmas Market
Montreal’s Great Christmas Market is back! With a new organization, new makeover and a 30ft tall Christmas tree it’s sure to impress. The city’s legendary Saint-Catherine street will be reserved for pedestrians to enjoy over 30 chalets offering all kinds of specialty crafts, sweets, jewellery and heart-warming delicacies; Mead, maple syrup drinks, fondue, raclette, and cuisines ranging from Alsatian to African, there’s something for everyone. You’ll be able to enjoy a varied program of musical and theatrical performances in the cultural hub of the city: The Quartier des Spectacles
From November 20th 2021 to January 2nd 2022
Jean Talon Christmas Market
The Jean Talon Christmas market is youngest addition to Montreal’s growing roster of Christmas markets is sure to please. It’s hosted at Jean Talon Market, one of North Americas largest farmer’s markets and the culinary heart of Montreal. During this 2nd edition of its Christmas market, you can be sure to find a vast array of the finest local products to enjoy on site, cook at home or give as a unique Christmas gift.
From November 27th 2021 to December 23rd 2021
10. Strap on your skates and hit the ice
With all that eating and getting cozy you find yourself doing this time of year, winter sports are a great way to get active and have some fun while you’re at it. Skating rinks in Montreal are surprisingly easy to find:
- Atrium Le 1000
Located indoors and accessible via Montreal’s underground city. This means that provided you’re staying downtown, you can get there without ever stepping foot outside. It’s warm enough to skate without a jacket!
- Lafontaine Park
If you’re staying in the Plateau area and want more space to learn new tricks or to simply glide around in the fresh air, the pond at Parc La Fontaine is the place to go. It provides skate, locker and helmet rentals, so all you have to bring are some warm clothes and a good attitude!
- Parc du Mont-Royal refrigerated rink
Another great 2500 m2 (27,000 ft2) ice rink beloved by locals is hidden atop the Mount-Royal. It’s situated right next to Beaver lake and not so far from the lookout where you can get a breathtaking panoramic view of the city. Skate rentals & washroom on site as well as a café selling warm drinks to-go.
- Old Port Skating Rink
When it comes to setting and atmosphere, the Old Port Skating Rink takes the cake. You’ll be skating with a view on Montreal’s historical architecture and the monumental Saint-Lawrence river in all its frozen glory. At night is when this skating rink really comes alive, with beautiful lighting installations and a fun programming of all kind of events such as DJs, Skate Dating and Karaoke on Ice.
It does attract crowds though, so booking tickets in advance may be a good idea!
9. Indulge in some French Onion Soup @ Modavie
The word restaurant comes from its purpose to restore its weary and cold patrons. We can’t think of a more adequate dish to warm up during a cold Montreal winter day than a hearty French Onion Soup. The one served at Modavie is legend. Served with a generous amount of 1608 cheese from Charlevoix, it’ll have you feeling snug in no time. With its century old stone walls and live music, this French Bistrot in the heart of Old Port offers the cosy charm one would expect out of a visit to Montréal.
1 Saint-Paul Street West
The Montreal Craft Beer Tour is the perfect holiday afternoon activity! Whether it’s as a gift to a loved one, a way to show an out-of-towner Montreal’s best brewpubs, or even a way to spend some quality time with the beer lovers you love so dearly, it’s Latin Quarter brewpub itinerary will let you savour beer, observe the cheer, and learn more about Montreal. Gift certificates are now available, so you can surprise the beer-lover in your family with a special treat. For more information and to buy tickets, click here!
7. Capture the moment @ Maison Pepin
Tucked away in a magical little side alley in Old Montreal, Pepin Shop offers Christmas photo shoots in a beautiful and truly unique setting. It’s a charming way to capture a precious memory. The shop itself also has an alluring and diversified collection of items that are sure to make singular Christmas gifts for your loved ones… or yourself.
6. Make the most of Canada’s cultural capital
It’s no secret that when it comes to amount of cultural activities per capita in Canada, Montreal is ahead of the list. Indeed, the city has so much concert venues, cinemas, art galleries and museums that it can sometimes get difficult to keep up with everything that’s happening. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the best events to enjoy during the holidays in Montreal:
Charlie Brown Christmas
Enjoy a jazz performance of this holiday classic interpreted by the Taurey Butler Trio.
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts’ Bourgie Concert Hall
1339 Sherbrooke Street West
Dec 15 to 16, 2021: Wed, Thu, 6 p.m.
Asteria @ Mac
Experience a colourful 50-minute Virtual Reality Immersion into the colourful universe of famous Quebec artists. This event is a collaboration between Montreal’s Place des Arts and the Phi centre and is offered completely free of charge. Tickets are limited.
Blast off into Outerspace with PHI VR TO GO
Ever wanted to go aboard the International Space Station? Now’s your chance. The PHI centre offers VR-Masks for rent that will embark you on a fully immersive trip to NASA’s ISS through a series of short films you can enjoy with your family in the comfort of your own home. Highly recommended!
Get Classical @ Maison Symphonique
The Maison Symphonique is a state of the art concert venue and home to Montreal’s Symphonic Orchestra. Offering exceptional natural acoustics, it hosts a variety of classical and jazz concerts throughout the winter months.
Dive into Claude Monet’s Universe @ L’Arsenal
The world premiere of IMAGINE MONET THE IMMERSIVE EXHIBITION recreates the French painter’s impressionistic universe using Image Totale© projection technology.
From December 15th to February 27th
5. Get in touch with the true meaning of Christmas
While for many of us Christmas has become simply a time for celebrating our loved ones, it also has deeper religious roots, of course. If you want to celebrate Christmas in a more traditional way Montreal is the perfect place to do it. The city is home to some of North America’s most beautiful churches, many of which you can visit for Christmas Mass. Or, check out the Nativity scene at Saint Joseph’s Oratory.
4. Hit the Town on New Years Eve
Ah, New Years Eve. The drunkest night of the year! Montreal’s party scene never sleeps, so you can be sure a NYE in town will be one to remember. If you want to go all out, check out Club Zone’s long list of events. If you’re not into clubbing, head to Place Jacques Cartier for some wholesome outdoor fun.
3. Enjoy a Mind Blowing Hot Chocolate
What better time than the holidays to grab a loved one and enjoy winter’s most comforting beverage? Montreal spoils us with scrumptious hot chocolate options, so you may want to try this one out a few times. Our top picks are:
Located right next to the Atwater Market and the Montreal Christmas Village, Patrice Patissier has established himself not only as a master French Pastry chef, but also a champion when it comes to French Hot Chocolate. This can in part be attributed his use of highest quality Valrhona Chocolate and a light touch of chilli to stay true to the Aztec origins of this drink.
La Brume dans mes lunettes
If you’re in Little Italy close to Jean Talon Market, La Brume Dans mes Lunette is a worthwhile destination to warm up over a cup of their famous hot chocolate. Cardamon pods, pepper, pimento or espresso; Ample are the ingredients they fuse together with their exquisite ganache chocolate to create a truly soothing and fragrant winter drink to fog up your spectacles.
Au festin de Babette
Cosy, rustic and beloved by locals, Au Festin de Babette is coveted for both its hot chocolates and French brunch specialties on the beautiful Saint-Denis street in the Plateau district. A visit here will have you savouring sweet and savoury delicacies from both the old country (France) and New-France (Quebec).
Le Petit Dep
The term Depanneur is more than just a general store in Quebec folklore. It’s a place where generations of Québécois go to pick up a bag of milk (yes, it comes in plastic bags here), a pack of smokes and a good dose of neighbourhood gossip. True to the origins of this cultural institution, Le Petit Dep in Old Montreal is a charming café and shop selling all kinds of everyday products from Québec. A great place to slurp some hot coco and discover some quirky local goods.
2. Get Rowdy at the Good Ol’ Hockey Game
It’s no secret that Ice Hockey is the national sport/religion here. The NHL’s oldest team and fanbase may have its ups and downs, but the atmosphere during a home game at the Bell Centre remains a riveting truly Montreal experience.
Find the schedule here.
Alternatively we also recommend checking out an amateur hockey game. The atmosphere at these can get quite heated and you’ll surely meet some passionate locals!
1. Start your singing career with some Christmas carolling
This favourite holiday pastime can be quite hilarious. Gather some good-humoured friends like yourself, rehearse a song, and pick a random house where people are home. Ring that doorbell, and get singing! Your Montreal neighbours will love favourite Christmas songs, and if not…. they’ll ask you to leave. It’s a little prank, but the results can be very entertaining, and its an easy way to make your own Christmas activities in Montreal.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you!
Cover photo by Pamela Lajeunesse / Nightlife.ca