Montreal's Easter weekend isn't only for kids. Or Christians, for that matter. From listening to classical concerts in a beautiful, historic setting to gorging on a sugar shack meal, there are a few secular Easter customs and traditions unique to Montreal that happen this time of year.
In 2020, Easter falls on Sunday, April 12. Though many local establishments will be closed in observation of the holiday, some restaurants, events, and shops will remain up and running. So, whether it's a traditional Easter brunch or a day at the spa, there's plenty to do on your spring trip to Montreal. Visit each location's website to check for holiday hours of operation, admission prices, and travel details.
Easter Sunday brunch is a multinational tradition. For a high-end meal in Montreal, Rosélys is where you'll find contemporary fare (artful plates of oxtail foie gras) in a sleek art-deco dining room (the kind to make your inner interior decorator swoon). This grand eatery is housed in the lavish Queen Elizabeth Hotel. Easter brunch costs $95 per person and will be served at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
Renoir, an eclectic French eatery in the Sofitel hotel, will serve a special Easter menu (eggs Benedict, pancakes, salmon, duck parmentier, the whole works) on Saturday (11 a.m., $65 per person) and Sunday (11 a.m., noon, and 1:30 p.m., $85 per person).
Other local-favorite brunch spots include Maison Boulud, a French restaurant in the Ritz-Carlton of Montreal's Golden Square Mile neighborhood, and Le Restaurant Sinclair in charming Old Montreal, which has in the past offered a more budget-friendly, all-day Easter buffet.
For those who don't want a traditional (or expensive) Easter brunch, Montreal's sugar shack season comes to a close just after the holiday, so it might be your last chance to enjoy a cabane à sucre meal. Sugar shacks are where maple sap is processed into syrup, one of Quebec's biggest exports, and the traditional meals served here are Canada's version of comfort food. While you can stay in Montreal and visit some urban recreation sugar shacks, the real deal can only be found a little bit outside the city: Sucrerie de la Montagne, Érablière Charbonneau, and L'Hermine Cabane à Sucre.
An Easter vacation to Montreal can get rather expensive, but there are a few things you can do in the city for free. On Easter weekend, you can wander around historic buildings like Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel or check out the sculptures and street art throughout the city.
You can go ice skating year-round at Atrium le 1000, and the rink is also open throughout the long Easter weekend. While there are also a number of outdoor rinks that might still be open in April, going to the Atrium le 1000 is a safe bet no matter when (and in what kind of weather) you visit. Also, as a fun Easter treat for guests every year, the employees at the rink hide eggs with chocolates, toys, and stickers in the lockers.
Although most Quebec malls close for Easter Sunday, some Montreal shopping centers will have extended hours during the holiday weekend in light of sales season. Lots of businesses and commercial storefronts close Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and Easter Monday, but there are exceptions to the rule. Public markets such as Atwater Market, Marché Jean-Talon, and Marché Maisonneuve will remain open during the holidays so you can strike a deal on last season's clothes.
An annual tradition, catch Le Grand concert du Vendredi Saint at the Église Saint-Jean-Baptiste on Friday, April 10, 2020, from 8–9:30 p.m. In past years, the Société Philharmonique de Montréal interpreted Rossini's "Stabat Mater" symphony. A total of 400 performers took the stage, including soprano Eilana Lappalainen of New York, mezzo-soprano Chantal Parent, tenor Steeve Michaud, bass Marcel Beaulieu, the UQAM choir, the École Joseph-François-Perrault choir, and the orchestra itself.
Montreal residents sure know how to conquer the last bit of cold weather—from indoor sports to pampering at one of the city's many day spas. Luxury treatments await at the Place d'Armes Hôtel, home to the Rainspa, one of highest-rated in Old Montreal. For more of an authentic Nordic spa, head to Strøm Spa Nordique on Nuns' Island on the edge of Lac des Battures.