The holiday season in Montreal is filled with family-friendly activities—from special museum exhibits to carol performances, theatre productions, and even a few free events—which means the holiday season is a great time to visit.
Although the weather in Montreal this time of year may be slightly colder and wetter than some tourists experience at home, the festively decorated neighborhoods and the plethora of winter events and activities more than make up for the slight discomfort of visiting the city during winter. Plus, it's possible to have a white Christmas since snowfall usually starts in late November for much of the region.
Whether you're used to the cold or not, be sure to dress warmly if you plan to attend one of these festive events, parades, and activities happening in Montreal this November and December—many of which take place outdoors.
If there's an event that marks the beginning of holiday season in Montreal, it's the lighting of Place Ville-Marie's Christmas tree, a downtown tradition since 1962 when this shopping destination first opened its doors.
The metal tree is composed of 13,000 lights, measuring 19.20 meters tall (63 feet) and 7.92 meters in diameter (26 feet) and is located just outside Place Ville-Marie at the southern end of McGill College Avenue.
If you happen to miss the official tree lighting ceremony, you can see it lit up daily from St. Catherine Street through the first week of January.
Browse Christmas Gifts at Sales, Markets, and Fairs
Several of Montreal's best Christmas sales, bazaars, and annual craft fairs occur in November and December. While many of the city's favorite year-round stores and downtown Montreal malls will be open on Christmas Day, these special markets and sales are sure to make your wallet happy this holiday season.
The biggest craft fair in Quebec, the Salon des métiers d'Art, returns to Place Bonaventure and provides free access to hundreds of vendors, making it one of the best destinations in Montreal for Christmas shopping.
Alternatively, you can stock up on the best cheeses, homegrown veggies, and meats in town at Montreal's public markets, many of which will also feature special seasonal crafts and goods perfect for last-minute Christmas gifts. The Place Jacques-Cartier Christmas market and the Jean-Talon Market are both great destinations if you're looking for artisanal-quality gifts.
Montreal's most popular parade of the season is the Santa Claus Parade, which features hundreds of festively-adorned participants marching through downtown on November 23, 2019. Festivities start on Sainte-Catherine West and Du Fort streets and continue down Sainte-Catherine to Saint-Urbain Street.
The Santa Claus Parade features over 20 floats including Santa's and the Christmas Fairy's as well as several musical guests and performances along the route.
Some of the most gorgeous churches in North America can be found in Montreal, and Christmas Mass can get so packed at some of them that tickets are required to rein in the queues waiting outside churches across the city.
Fortunately, with so many gorgeous churches and cathedrals spread across Montreal to choose from, you shouldn't have much difficulty finding at least one Christmas Mass to attend this year.
Hang a Stocking and Make Bread at Château Ramezay
Located on Notre-Dame street across from Montreal City Hall, Château Ramezay proposes an assortment of holiday-inspired activities for the whole family from November 30, 2019 to January 5, 2020.
From free sweet bread baking workshops to offering little ones the chance to receive a stocking stuffer from Santa, the events at this historic site and museum are sure to entertain, especially if you're traveling with younger children.
Running on weekends December 14 to December 31, 2019, Pointe-à-Callière's annual event, "Who Is the Real Santa Claus" features holiday characters Befana, Saint Nicholas, Saint Lucy, and Santa Claus introducing children to how the holidays are celebrated in their respective homes.
Tours last about 45 minutes and will be available in both English and French.
Pick the Perfect Christmas Tree
If you're a resident of Montreal or plan on staying in the city for an extended amount of time over the holiday season, you might want to consider getting a fir tree to make your winter home more festive.
Fortunately, there are plenty of great farms within driving distance of Montreal where you can pick out your own Christmas tree this year, many of which include kid-friendly perks like one-on-ones with Santa, tractor rides, baked goods, and other fun holiday activities. You can also find trees around town at locations like Rona and the Jean Talon Market.
Celebrate Christmas in the Park
A Christmas tradition in Montreal's Plateau and Mile End neighborhood is Noël dans le Parc (Christmas in the Park), a December-long series of outdoor events, shows, and activities perfect for the whole family.
Noël dans le Parc debuts November 30 and will wrap up programming by December 24, 2019. The event has two central hubs—Parc Lahaie and Parc des Compagnons-de-Saint-Laurent—both of which will also have convenient spots to pick up a cut Christmas tree this year. Additionally, as with years prior, organizers for Christmas in the Park have tacked on family activities at Place Émilie-Gamelin, just west of the Gay Village.
Saint-Joseph's Oratory, located at the highest point in Montreal, showcases the story of the birth of Jesus with a variety of nativity scene displays each year. This year, the Oratory will also feature special concerts from December 8, 2019 to January 7, 2020.
The Oratory is open year-round, including on Christmas and New Year's Day, and access to the Oratory is free. However, there is a modest admission fee to enter the museum.
There are many reasons to love winter in Montreal. From massive ice skating rinks on frozen lakes to warm mountain resorts full of winter fun, you're sure to find an adventure on your trip to Canada this November or December—oftentimes without ever leaving the city.
Some popular Montreal outdoor skating rinks, like the Old Port's Bonsecours Basin and Mount Royal's Beaver Lake, open early in the season, by late November or early December. Usually, ice skaters have to wait until mid-December to lace up and glide unless they visit Atrium le 1000, a year-round indoor rink that Santa is known to frequent throughout the holiday season.
Visit the McCord Museum
Every year since 2010, the McCord Museum has been putting together exhibits tailor-made for children, and each December, the museum presents a special exhibit on holiday displays. This December, the McCord Museum will host "Enchanted Worlds," a made-for-kids exhibit exploring the mechanical displays of Ogilvy's department store.
Explore Santa's Kingdom at Complexe Desjardins
Downtown Montreal's premier shopping and office complex, Complexe Desjardins, will come alive this holiday season with plenty of festive events and attractions, starting with Santa's arrival to La Grande-Place on November 23, 2019.
In addition to a slew of free shows and activities, kids can sit down with Santa, catch a live orchestra performance, and enjoy fountain lights and water jet shows. Santa is very busy on Saturdays and Sundays, so you must make an appointment with his secretary as soon as you arrive.
Listen to Les Choralies de la Chapelle
An annual tradition in Montreal's oldest chapel, Les Choralies de la Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours is a series of concert events held at Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours in Old Montreal each holiday December.
Each of these concerts lasts about 45 minutes and admission is donation-based. You can catch a different choir every Saturday and Sunday from December 7 to 22, 2019, at 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. as well as several special concerts throughout the month. This year, the Choralies conclude with a concert finale on December 23 featuring Ensemble Da Capo.
Rejoice at ONE18: A Christmas Celebration
On Saturday, December 7, 2019, you can catch two performances of the Jireh Gospel Choir and Montreal Gospel Choir's annual Gospel Christmas Celebration at Saint-Jean-Baptiste Church. Featuring over 100 singers performing together for one huge concert of soulful worship, this annual celebration is sure to put your entire family in the holiday spirit. It's two choirs for the price of one!
Join Along for the CBC Christmas Sing-In
If you've ever wanted to sing in a choir, you can make your dreams come true at the CBC Christmas Sing-in event, which will take place on Sunday, December 8, 2019. Featuring seasonal music for choir, organ, brass, and percussion and hosted by CBC personalities and special guest artists, this musical event welcomes over 1,500 participants each year.
The CBC Christmas Sing-in will be held free of charge at the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul, although you will need to show up when doors open at 2 p.m.
Explore the Place de Festivals Esplanade
Illuminating Place des Festivals every December and January with a series of light installations, Luminothérapie is an antidote to Montreal's shortest and darkest days on the year, a sort-of light therapy that coincides with the holiday season.
Luminothérapie is a great pit-stop on your travels around the city this holiday season, providing a much-needed reprieve from the bustling crowds at Montreal's museums and shopping malls. Plus, Place des Festival is close to Montreal's chief contemporary art museum as well as Complexe Desjardins.
When it comes to celebrating the holidays with a bang, there's nothing quite like watching fireworks burst overhead. In Montreal, you'll have four chances to catch a brilliant fireworks display this holiday season at the "Fire on Ice" event. Every Saturday night starting at 8 p.m. from December 14, 2019 to January 4, 2020, fireworks will light up the sky over the skating rink at Natrel Basin in Old Port.