Recently we continued our travel as a family gift tradition by heading to Montréal for a few days after Christmas spending New Year’s Eve there. It was cold but we had a fabulous time exploring the city during the holidays. Whether you are visiting Montréal with kids, teens or on an adult getaway – Christmas in Montréal is a great choice!
Here’s our list of 20 fun and festive things to do in Montréal during the Christmas break including Christmas activities, indoor activities for when you need to get in out of the cold and fun outdoor activities that can be enjoyed throughout the winter months.
Updated for the 2023/24 holiday season.
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1. Visit Jacques-Cartier Square
Merry Montreal has been cancelled – holiday activities in Jacques-Cartier Square in 2023 to be confirmed.
Jacques-Cartier Square in Old Montréal is transformed into Nordic Square for the holiday season as part of the Merry Montréal (Montréal en Fêtes) celebration. There are public art installations to be enjoyed, live entertainment, festive characters that the kids will love and fireplace seating so you can keep warm while enjoying the festivities.
We visited during our Christmas break in Montréal and loved having an opportunity to make maple taffy on snow at the sugar shack located in the square – it was delicious!!
Free event located in Jacques-Cartier Square has been extended to Square Dorchester and Square Victoria in Old Montréal as well in order to reduce crowding in 2021. December 16-26, 2021 plus an outdoor New Year’s Eve party on December 31st.
2. Skating in Old Port Montréal
The Old Port Skating Rink is the place to head for outdoor skating for a unique experience in a magical setting and great views of the city.
Between Jacques Cartier Quay and Clock Tower Quay. Parking available at Clock Tower Quay. The skating rinks are generally open from early December – early March – scheduled to open on December 9, 2023. There is a fee for skating and skate rentals are also available for a fee.
3. Visit Notre-Dame Basilica of Montréal
The stunning Gothic Revival style Notre-Dame Basilica of Montréal, built between 1824-29, is a must no matter what time of the year you are visiting the city. The incredible beauty of the interior of the basilica will take your breath away when you enter.
Take a seat in one of the pews and appreciate the beauty that surrounds you and then spend some time walking around the church to admire the craftsmanship, paintings, sculptures and the exquisite stained glass windows which depict the religious and social life of the 17th century Ville-Marie settlement.
During the Christmas season, the exterior of Notre Dame is decorated with sparkling Christmas lights and there is a nativity set up inside the Basilica.
The Orchestre Métropolitain and its principal conductor, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, will perform a holiday concert of Handel’s Messiah featuring an all-Canadian cast of soloists on December 19th and December 20th, 2023 at 7:30 pm. Tickets may be purchased online in advance.
The 7 p.m. Christmas Mass on December 24th does not require a reservation or ticket. Admission is on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations are required for the 9:30 pm and the Midnight Mass and tickets may be purchased online or reserved by phone ($10 per person including tax).
Aura, a separately ticketed multimedia presentation, can also be enjoyed during the holiday season. The experience offers a four-act multimedia display of dynamic light, orchestral music, and expressive architecture. Tickets may be purchased online in advance. [2023 ticket rates: Adult: $32; Student: $21; Senior: $27; Child (6-16): $18; Child (5 and under): Free; Family (2 adults and 1 child): $70); Family (2 adults and 2 children): $80; Groups 10+ people: $27 per person.]
Located at 110 Notre-Dame Street West. Additional information on scheduled events on the Notre Dame website.
4. Celebrate at the Christmas in the Park Festival
The Christmas in the Park Festival celebrates its 30th anniversary this year at three separate locations in the heart of Montréal with a program of free outdoor concerts, dancing, bonfires, poetry, entertainment and more to entertain young and old alike. This year’s programming includes a big show on New Year’s Eve!
The free event runs from December 8 – 31, 2023 at Place Emilie Gamelin, Companion Park and Lahaie Park.
5. Admire Holiday Displays
Everywhere that you go in Montréal during the Christmas season you will find beautiful holiday displays to admire – on the streets, in the shop windows, and in hotel lobbies.
6. Learn About Christmas in Another Era at Historic Sites
One of the things that I have always enjoyed doing during the holidays is visiting historic sites to learn more about how Christmas was celebrated in the past.
In Montréal, Château Ramezay, built by the Governor of Montréal early in the 18th century, is a historic site and museum with numerous exhibits and multimedia portrayals of historic figures. During the holiday season (December 2, 2023 – January 7, 2024), Château Ramezay presents Around the Fireplace – Holiday Traditions with entertaining exhibits and activities that highlight old-fashioned holiday traditions.
There were also bread baking workshops held during the holiday season when we visited which were included in the price of admission (and which we thoroughly enjoyed even though we were quite inept at it!) but it looks like those won’t be taking place in 2023.
Another option is the Sir George-Étienne Cartier National Historic Site which celebrates A Victorian Christmas at the Cartier’s during the holiday season (December 2 – 17, 2023). You can explore on your own, however, there is also a guided tour of the main living room, dining room, blue salon and Mrs. Cartier’s bedroom through various themes such as the Christmas tree and ornaments, etiquette and traditional cooking, Santa Claus, games, Christmas cards and gifts. The tour which lasts about 50 minutes ends with the serving of old-fashioned hot drinks, such as wassail and spiced hot chocolate.
Château Ramezay is located at 280 Notre-Dame Street East, Old Montréal. The Sir George-Étienne Cartier National Historic Site is located at 458 Notre-Dame Street East.
7. Have a Drink at a Christmas Bar
If you’re visiting the city without kids then plan to have a drink at the Miracle Montreal pop-up Christmas cocktail bar at 132 Bar Vintage to enjoy a holiday-themed drink in a festive setting. With kitschy holiday décor, professionally-developed cocktails and the nostalgic energy of the best office party you’ve ever been to, Miracle is sure to get even the grouchiest grinch in the holiday spirit.
132 Bar Vintage is located at 132 Fleury Ouest in Montréal. Open November 15 to December 26, 2023, 4 pm – 2 am.
8. Luminothérapie at Place des Festivals
The 14th edition of Luminothérapie, at the Place des Festivals this year from November 30, 2023 to March 10, 2024, coincides perfectly with the Christmas holiday season. This entertaining, interactive light festival is a fun way to beat the winter blahs and is completely free!
The Place des Festivals is bordered by Sainte-Catherine, Jeanne-Mance, Balmoral and De Maisonneuve Streets.
9. Holidays at the McCord Stewart Museum
The McCord Stewart Museum offers special holiday programming centred around the return of the iconic Ogilvy’s Christmas mechanical windows that have enchanted Montrealers for over 75 years. Additional programming includes guided tours specially designed for families, a new exhibition about Indigenous cultures, creative workshops, a collaborative holiday window display and more. The museum invites visitors to bring a gently used toy to be donated to a family that is new to Montréal.
Located at 690 Sherbrooke Street West. Closed Mondays, closed December 25 and January 1. Adult admission $20; children are free. There is a discount for purchasing tickets online in advance.
10. Enjoy a Show
We love to see shows while we’re travelling and there are many choices from theatre to ballet to concerts in Montréal during the holiday season. During our most recent visit we attended an exhilarating performance of Corteo by Cirque de Soleil at the Bell Centre.
Unfortunately, there are no Cirque de Soleil performances in Montréal during the 2023/24 holiday season. Other options include:
- The Nutcracker performed by Les Grands Ballet, Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, Place des Arts, December 14-30, 2023.
- Mariah Carey – Merry Christmas One and All! concert at Bell Centre, Wednesday November 29, 2023.
- Handel’s Messiah concert – performed by Orchestre Metropolitain at the Notre Dame Basilica on December 19 and 20, 2023.
- A Charlie Brown Christmas concert at the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts – Jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi’s famous soundtrack is performed by exceptional musicians, joined by a surprise guest in the 9th edition of this Bourgie Hall holiday classic. Wednesday December 20, 2023 at 6 pm and 8:30 pm.
If you need ideas then check out the Montréal Tourism blog for a list of Montreal Christmas shows.
11. Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
If the weather outside is frightful then you will need some indoor activities on your itinerary. My favourite refuge from the cold is the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts which is one of the finest art museums in North America and includes an outstanding collection of historical and contemporary Québec and Canadian art.
The world class museum, founded in 1860, is the most-visited art museum in Canada and one of the largest in North America as it now encompasses five separate pavilions and includes a concert hall, auditorium and areas for educational, community and art therapy activities as well as a sculpture garden adjoining the museum.
Not yet confirmed if access to the collections will be free in 2023 as part of the Museum’s Gift of the Holidays as it was in 2021 and 2022.
Located at 1380 Sherbrooke Street West. Closed on Mondays and also closed Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Free to anyone under the age of 21. Reduced rate for ages 21-30.
12. Montréal Science Centre
Another indoor activity that’s both fun and educational, particularly if you are visiting Montréal with kids, is the Montréal Science Centre. The centre has both permanent and temporary hands-on interactive science and technology exhibits as well as an IMAX theatre screening 3D films.
Our group consisted of two adults and a teenager and we spent a fun couple of hours exploring the centre and watching an IMAX film so if you enjoy learning about STEM then you might want to visit even without kids!
Located in the Old Port at 2 rue de la Commune Ouest (at the foot of St. Laurent Blvd).
13. Visit the Space for Life Museum Complex
Space for Life Montréal is a unique museum complex in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve neighbourhood that brings together the city’s four family-friendly natural science museums (Biodôme, the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium, the Botanical Garden and the Insectarium). The overall mission of the four institutions is to increase awareness of our planet’s biodiversity and encourage people to better protect it.
We didn’t have a chance to visit these during our Christmas vacation, however, we did visit when we spent spring break in Montréal and they are great fun particularly if you are in Montréal with kids. Check the Space for Life website for fun holiday programming at the museums.
14. Visit the Pointe-à-Callière Museum
The Pointe-à-Callière museum near the port of Old Montreal is one of the most interesting museums that I have ever visited. The museum is located on a national historical and archaeological site which has been recognized by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada as “the site where Montréal was born”. The museum has several permanent exhibitions which showcase the city’s history and archaeology and also hosts a variety of temporary exhibits.
For the holiday season, Pointe-à-Callière is transformed into a magical place where children can come and have fun, create and be amazed. From November 17, 2023 to January 8, 2024, the Museum has scheduled an array of activities, both indoors and out, for fun times with family or friends!
During the holiday season, Place Royale outside the museum is decked out for the holidays with sparkling fir trees, brightened wooden cabins and welcoming benches to put visitors in the holiday spirit. From December 26-30, children will have an opportunity to meet Christmas characters from around the world and hear them tell their stories in this free event. Check the museum’s website for additional holiday programming.
Located at 350 Place Royale, Old Montreal. Closed on Mondays. Closed December 25 and January 1. Children 4 and under are free.
15. Enjoy a Delicious Cup of Hot Chocolate
When it’s cold outside there’s nothing like a cup of hot chocolate to warm you up before hitting the streets to explore some more. Our favourite spot in Montréal is Juliette et Chocolat where the hot chocolate and desserts are to die for! I had a cup of Marshmallow Madness (white chocolate, milk chocolate, and dark chocolate topped with homemade fluffy vanilla marshmallows) as a birthday treat and it was so incredibly decadent and worth every calorie!!
Juliette et Chocolat had to close all of their locations due to post-pandemic financial difficulties but have now reopened one location at 196 Rue Jean-Talon Est and a second will be opening soon at 1980, rue Sauvé W.
16. Discover Holiday Magic at Railway Christmas
If you have train lovers in your family then a visit to Exporail – the Canadian Railway Museum should be on your itinerary while visiting Montréal during the Christmas season.
During Railway Christmas, the Grand Gallery and vehicles will be decorated for Christmas, there will be Christmas activities available for families including crafts and cookie decorating, rides on a miniature railway and more. There will also be visits with Santa if you are visiting prior to Christmas and the French version of the Tom Hanks movie Polar Express (Boréal Express) will be screened December 27-30th.
Located at 110, Saint-Pierre Street, Saint-Constant about a 30 minute drive from downtown Montréal. Railway Christmas takes place November 24, 2023 – January 3, 2024.
17. Visit a Christmas Market
Experience the magic of the holidays at the Great Montreal Christmas Market located in the Quartier des Spectacles on Sainte-Catherine Street between Balmoral and Clark from November 25 – December 30, 2023. The market will include 30 chalets of local and regional artisans, musical and theatrical programming, and festive food and drink.
Additional Christmas markets include Montreal Christmas Village at Atwater Market (November 30 – December 24, 2023) and the Jean-Talon Christmas Market (2023 dates to be confirmed).
18. See the City Sparkle From On High
The views of the city are never better than when it’s sparkling with decorations during the holiday season. Options for the best views include the Montréal Tower at Olympic Park (closed for an indefinite period for renovation) which provides a 360 degree view from the top of the highest inclined tower in the world and La Grande Roue de Montréal, a climate-controlled gondola in the Old Port which is the largest observation wheel in Canada.
Entrance to the Olympic Stadium is located at 4545 Pierre-De Coubertin Avenue. La Grande Roue is located at 362 de la Commune Street East on the shores of the St. Lawrence. Check websites for the holiday schedule.
19. Take a Christmas Walking Tour in Old Montréal
Experience the beauty of Montréal in the festive holiday season on a 1.5-hour Christmas walking tour of Old Montréal available to be booked on Viator. Wander through the historic streets with a guide who will show you top attractions such as the World Trade Center’s Santa Claus exhibit, the Bonsecours Market, the city’s holiday decorations and the twinkling lights of Old Montréal.
20. Ring in the New Year Outdoors
For a memorable night, bundle up and celebrate New Year’s Eve outside in the Old Port of Montréal. Traditionally the free event includes a concert, a New Year’s countdown, and fireworks at midnight followed by a dance party until 2 am.
Merry Montréal has been cancelled for 2023. To be confirmed if there will be a New Year’s Eve event taking place in the Old Port.
Where to Stay in Montréal
Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth
During our holiday season visit, we stayed at Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth – a luxury hotel conveniently located in the heart of downtown Montréal. The hotel first opened its doors in 1958 and has hosted royalty, world leaders and celebrities including John Lennon and Yoko Ono who stayed here in 1969 holding their famous “bed-in for peace” and composing “Give Peace a Chance“.
The hotel is connected to the Underground City which is very convenient during inclement weather. If you are arriving and departing by train you will appreciate that The Queen Elizabeth is located above Central Station and is just a few minutes walk indoors to the hotel.
All of the hotel’s rooms have been recently renovated and are bright, modern and reasonably spacious. There is an elegant restaurant on site, a cafe and Marché Artisans – a lovely gourmet shop which showcases artisanal products. The holiday decorations in the lobby were fabulous during our stay and included a stunning gingerbread house!Find the best deal, compare prices, and read what other travelers have to say at TripAdvisor
Le Westin Montréal
We have also stayed at the Westin, a luxury hotel with a convenient location on Rue St. Antoine Ouest (at the corner of Rue St. Pierre) at the edge of downtown (across from Le Palais de Congrès) and Old Montréal. The hotel is located in the building that formerly housed the Montréal Gazette newspaper and one of the unique features is a main entrance which allows cars to drive into a grand hall that once housed the printing presses of the newspaper. The hotel is lovely and the location can’t be beat!
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