Guide to Christmas in Montreal: Events, Parades, and Shopping

Montreal City Hall and Christmas decorations, Place Jacques-Cartier at dusk, Montreal, Quebec
Perry Mastrovito / Getty Images

Montreal Christmas—or Noël in French—has many events, activities, and shopping options. No matter how you celebrate the holidays it can be a really fun time of the year in Montreal, whether you're with friends, family, or visiting solo.

Christmas is a big holiday in all of Quebec, and many places are closed on December 25 just as they are in the U.S. But leading up to Christmas day there are winter-themed events happening across the city, and a few places are open for business to enjoy or eat at on Christmas as well.

01 of 11

Come Out for the Santa Claus Parade

Montreal Santa Claus Parade
Luis Medina / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

A Montreal Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without the city's annual Santa Claus Parade, a tradition since 1925. This year's parade is on November 23, 2019, beginning at 11 a.m.

Better known as the Défilé du Père Noël, the Montreal Santa Claus Parade typically features thousands of delighted kids waiting to catch a glimpse of Santa Claus, with about 15 to 20 floats proceeding along​ the downtown Boulevard René-Lévesque, from Guy Street to St. Urbain Street.

02 of 11

Interact with Light at Luminothérapie

Montreal Christmas events include these must-see free festivals and events.

Matias Garabedian / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Drop by Luminothérapie for the 10th annual winter light display, where each year local artists submit large-scale projects that viewers can visit, observe, and interact with. These luminous art exhibitions can be visited in the Quartier des Spectacles from November 28, 2019, through January 26, 2020.

The event serves as Montreal's largest competition for public art and there will be new installations juried in each year. It's as much a social experience as it is an art show, and visitors are encouraged to participate with the art and their fellow spectators.

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Take a Candlelit Walk

At the Montreal Christmas Torchlight Parade (Marche de Noël aux Flambeaux) you can join in the candlelight procession with over 10,000 other people to celebrate the season. The Avenue du Mont Royal where the procession takes place is adorned every December with elaborate decorations for the holidays. The celebration begins with the Torchlight Parade, which also includes musical performances, carolers, and fireworks.

Walk the parade on December 7, 2019.

04 of 11

Attend a Christmas Mass

Interior of the Notre Dame Basilica of Vieux Montreal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Felipe Mulè / Getty Images

It's no secret Montreal has beautiful ornate churches. They are remnants of a time when the Catholic Church was very powerful in Quebec. Some churches charge admission and require tickets while others fit in all-comers.

Attending Christmas Mass in Montreal is a lovely experience no matter what your belief system. Christmas Mass at St. Joesph's Oratory, the largest church in Canada, is about as special as it gets. 

Another very popular place to attend Mass is at The Notre-Dame Basilica located in Old Montreal. The Basilica charges admission for Christmas Mass and buying advance tickets is recommended.

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05 of 11

Enjoy Fireworks in Old Montreal

Christmas fireworks are an annual tradition at the Old Port. During December on selected Saturday nights, the sky comes alive with lights accompanied by music from Academy Award-winning film composer John Williams, famous for scoring "E.T.," "Jurrasic Park," "Jaws," and, most famously, "Star Wars."

The fireworks, or feux d'artifice in French, take place on December 14, December 21, December 28, 2019, and January 4, 2020. Watching the firework show is free, but there is also an ice rink right underneath in case you decide to rent some skates and make it a true winter outing.

06 of 11

Take in a Nativity and Music

Saint-Joseph's Oratory is located at the highest point in Montreal. The church celebrates the birth of Jesus with a variety of nativities and Christmas music.

The Oratory also puts on monthly concert series every Sunday at 3:30 p.m., and from mid-December to early January, the seasonal theme is "Noël at the Oratory." These are—generally—free concerts that feature renowned guest organists, singers, and instrumentalists from around the world. Occasionally a high-demand show will require a paid ticket.

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, which is open every day from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

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Shop for the Unusual

Montreal Christmas 2015-2016 shopping destinations.

Salon des Métiers d'art

If you want something unique for a Christmas gift, Montreal offers all types of unique stores and one-of-a-kind presents that you can pick up for friends, family, or yourself.

International gift shows include the colorful Tibetan Bazaar (and cultural festival). This year's bazaar takes place on November 16, 2019, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Eglise Santa Cruz, 60 Rachel Ouest. There is an entrance fee of 5 Canadian dollars. Shop for jewelry and knitwear and enjoy traditional foods.

If you are looking for unusual hand-made treasures, check out the Etsy Makers' Market. On December 13-15, 2019, enjoy the holiday market featuring over 100 Montreal makers. This market is held at the Théâtre Denise Pelletier in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve neighborhood, in the east end of town.

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Shop 'til You Drop at the Christmas Markets

Annual Markets feature local and international hand-made goods, foods and fun gifts. These are the markets everyone looks forward to annually. 

The Nutcracker Market is open from November 28 through December 8, 2019, and located on the ground floor of the Palais des Congrès mall. Shop for home décor, toys, crafts, jewelry, and more from over 100 local vendors. In addition, a percentage of your purchase is donated to the Grand Ballet's Nutcracker Fund to help underserved children in Montreal.

For a little European flavor, you can enjoy the German Christmas Market of Old Québec where you'll find traditional German gift items, and sip on a cup of hot mulled wine. This market runs from November 22 to December 23, 2019, every Thursday through Sunday.

The year-round Atwater Market, located in a stunning Art Deco building from the 1930s, sets up a special Christmas village each year as well. There are 40 holiday stalls, plus concerts, choirs, Christmas shows, and a special place for the kids to visit Santa. The Christmas Village is set up from November 29 until December 22, 2019.

From December 6-15, 2019, you can shop the popular Puces POP Fair for interesting indie goods, including art, jewelry, food items, soaps, jewelry, and clothing. Located at the Église Saint-Denis, this Montreal flea market offers all types of one-of-a-kind gifts.

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09 of 11

Pick Your Own Christmas Tree

Sapinière St-Jean

Sapinière St-Jean

When was the last time you went to the country, spotted the ultimate Tannenbaum, and chopped it down yourself? Head out to the Canadian wilderness and cut down your own holiday tree for rustic Christmas experience. There are Christma tree farms located just 30 to 90 minutes away from Montreal, and it's a fun experience for the whole family.

La Ferme Quinn is located on Perrot Island, and beginning November 16, 2019, you can stop by on weekends to pick and cut your own tree.

Hadley Christmas Trees is located about an hour north of the Montreal city center, and opens for the season on November 30, 2019.

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Get Out on Christmas Day

Montreal pretty much shuts itself down on December 25, but there are a few exceptions to the rule for those who want to get out and about on Christmas. 

You can take in a movie on Christmas Day, visit a park or a scenic city street to take a stroll, and pick up some last-minute items at a convenience store. 

You can go gambling and grab a bite to eat at Montreal's Casino. While most park skating rinks and trails have no services available on Christmas Day, Bonsecours Basin's Old Port skating rink is open for business.

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Dine Out on Christmas Day

Montreal Schwartz's
Finn O'Hara / Getty Images

A few Montreal restaurants are open on Christmas Day. Ideal places to find open restaurants are at major hotels. And Chinatown restaurants often are open.

Schwartz's Sandwiches, Hambar Restaurant, and many other delicious locations are open on Christmas day for you to dine out.