Not unlike Québec City, Montréal in winter evokes widely paradoxal feelings. It’s literally freezing cold, yet oddly calm and soothing. It’s guilt-free evenings watching the telly. Occasionally it’s wet and humid, and yet perfect for winter sports. The first few moments following snowfall (or better yet, right before it ends) are so picturesque and lovely and postcard-perfect that it almost makes up for the fact that my socks are wet after walking for an hour on this new, crisp blanket of immaculate snow.
So yeah–Montreal in winter isn’t as bad a you think. Really. Why not take advantage of discounted hotel rates and half-full restaurants to push yourself outside your (warm, dry) comfort zone and finally embrace your Nordic self?
Montreal winter festivals: Igloofest and Montréal en lumière
Why would anyone willingly spend time outdoors when temperatures are far below zero, you ask? Well, because it’s fun! Montreal is a festival city year-round and winter is no exception starting with Igloofest, an outdoor electronic music festival with some of the biggest and most trending DJs and where 80s one-piece snow suits are strongly encouraged. The more ridiculous (and warm!) you look, the better.
And then there’s Montréal en lumière, a massive two-week festival that’s all about culture, with a different theme each year: think special menus at restaurants, outdoor concerts, lights and sound experiences, evenings at the museum, that kind of thing. The Place des festivals is all decked-out in winter fun with fire pits, icy slides and even ziplines!
Stroll in Montreal Mile End
The Mile End neighbourhood of Montreal is famous for its mixed, eclectic atmosphere where hipsters, conceptual artists and young families line up with the local Jewish community for good bagels every Saturday morning. It’s also, according to me, one of the areas with the nicest Victorian and typical Montreal architecture with colourful facades and wrought-iron staircases.
It’s one of my favourite places to hang out and there is plenty to see and do, from vintage shopping to third-wave coffee hopping.
Admire the view from atop Mont-Royal
This is where you get the nicest view of Montreal and the South Shore, and where you are reminded that Montreal indeed is an oddly-shaped island with a small mountain right in the middle. On clear days you’ll see not only downtown Montreal, but also the St. Lawrence River, the Appalachian Mountains and some of the smaller summits such as Mont-Saint-Hilaire (where you can get some good hiking if you’re looking for an active day trip from Montreal).
And while most people simply walk to go up Mont-Royal (although there is a bus service for those who can’t), you could also book a winter fat e-bike tour of the mountain to add a bit of thrill to your sightseeing!
Ice-skate in Old Montreal
The Old Port skating rink is something every Montrealer does at least once a year. Yes, it’s cold, but it’s so much fun. The rink is refrigerated for optimal skating conditions and is open every day until 8:30 pm. It’s located right at the end of Old-Montreal in the waterfront area, right by the Montreal Ferris Wheel which you really can’t miss as it’s Canada’s tallest. There’s loud music, ambiant lighting, and plenty of laughs whenever a slightly-too-optimistic skater falls down on its ass.
Enjoy Plateau Mont-Royal
And then there’s this beauty. Plateau Mont-Royal is definitely a top attraction in Montreal and it’s not hard to see why. With charming Victorian buildings, inviting cafés, narrow tree-lined streets and bourgeois parks, the neighbourhood is my favourite for a leisurely Sunday afternoon stroll. There are tonnes of great restaurants and bars, too, should you need a pick me up.
Cross-country ski in Parc du Mont-Royal
If you’re looking for a scenic way to enjoy an active holiday in Montreal, look no further than cross-country skiing classes in Parc du Mont-Royal. You can rent equipment on-site for a small fee and a local guide will take you around various viewpoints and share a bit of history. There’s also snowshoeing, snow tubing, and family-friendly activities too!
Activities & day trips from Montreal in winter
- Sugar shacks and maple syrup experience (late winter-early spring)
- Snow tube in St-Sauveur
- Christmas in Montreal
- Québec City & Montmorency Falls
- Winter charms of Old Montreal walking tour
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