Montréal en Lumière 2018: Montreal's Festival of Lights

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    Every February and March, Montreal Lights Up With Food, Art, Music and More

    Montréal en Lumière 2017 is Montreal's festival of lights, one of the city's higher profile annual events.
    ••• Montréal en Lumière 2017 is Montreal's festival of lights, one of the city's higher profile annual events. Courtesy of Montréal en Lumière © Frédérique Ménard-Aubin

    Montréal en Lumière 2018: Montreal's Festival of Lights

    You may have heard of the Festival of Lights held in Berlin every October. Or maybe Diwali, the ancient Hindu festival of lights springs to mind. Hawaii has its own variation on the theme too. But in Montreal, it's called Montréal en Lumière* and it's a totally different beast.

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    For one, we don't put menorahs on display like during Hannukah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, nor don windowsills with candles like in Lyon, Montreal's sister city. Instead, organizers coordinate the display of light installations in key downtown locations and on select building façades.

    In 2018, Montréal en Lumière runs from February 22 to March 4, 2018.

    The focal point of Montréal en Lumière is Place des Festivals' 6,141 square meters (66,101 square feet) of public space adjacent the city's performing arts complex Place des Arts and Montreal's chief contemporary arts museum.

    Visiting...MORE Montreal? Stay Near Montreal en Lumière's Outdoor Hub


    Montréal en Lumière Isn't Just Lights Though

    Innovative and unexpected light installations are part and parcel of the experience, no doubt there. But there's more than lights to the festival of lights in Montreal. Think fine dining events, live performances, free all-night activities, and more. Click through the slideshow for a walk-through of the festival's annual highlights.

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    *That's French for "Montreal in Lights."

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  • 02 of 08

    Inside Montréal en Lumière's Outdoor Site

    ••• Courtesy of Montréal en Lumière © Frédérique Ménard-Aubin

    An integral part of Montréal en Lumière's programming lies in and around the festival of lights' outdoor site located in Place des Festivals' public space. The outdoor site also spills out onto Ste. Catherine Street and Place des Arts' adjacent plaza.

    Local DJs, live concerts featuring local French music artists, an ice slide 110 metres (361 feet) long and a zipline spanning two city blocks allowing festival-goers to zoom over the outdoor site are the leading attractions.

    In 2018, the outdoor site is open February 22 through March 4, 2018 with the bulk of the fest's free entertainment and activities scheduled on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Complete programming available here.

    Free curling, free zip lining, and more, there's also a Ferris wheel on location but if I were you, I'd only go on it if properly dressed up. It gets really cold on that thing if you're not wearing the right threads.

    At ground level, you can even roast your own sausages...MORE and marshmallows on an open fire because... why not? Stranger things have happened downtown. There are also gourmet food stations selling everything from soup to maple products to cheese fondue, depending on the year.

    On the topic of edibles, I have some fabulous news of the cheesy variety.

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    Illuminart: Over 3 Kilometres of Light Art

    Last year, as part of Montreal's 375th year anniversary celebrations, a 3.6 kilometre outdoor route covering Montreal entertainment district Quartier des Spectacles featuring 25 innovative light installations was open for public perusal from February 22 to March 4, 2018. Here's the route. Part of it landed right in the middle of Montréal en Lumière central hub. Whether the route will be revived for 2018 remains to be seen.

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    Festival of Quebec Cheeses: A Montréal en Lumière Tradition

    Festival of Quebec Cheeses
    ••• Courtesy of Montréal en Lumière © Benoit Rousseau​

    Montréal en Lumière might be about lights, but it's also about food. Lots of food. The Festival of Quebec Cheeses is just one of the festival's gastronomic attractions. My favorite gastronomic attraction. A free one. It's held across the street from the Montréal en Lumière outdoor site, at Complexe Desjardins.

    See Also: Montreal Cider Festival Mondial des Cidres

    In 2018, the Fête des fromages d'ici runs February 22 through February 24. Details here.

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    Free Tastings and Cooking Demos at Montréal en Lumière

    ••• David Madison / Getty Images

    In addition to the free cheese fest, food tastings and cooking demos at Marché Jean-Talon are an annual Montréal en Lumière tradition.

    In 2018, the Marché Jean-Talon tastings and demos run the first weekend of the festival, February 24 and February 25, 2018 from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free.

    Next: While We're on the Topic of Montréal en Lumière Freebies...

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  • 05 of 08

    Nuit Blanche at Montréal en Lumière

    Montreal en Lumiere 2017 festival events, concerts and free activities.
    ••• Courtesy of Montréal en Lumière © Frédérique Ménard-Aubin

    Nuit Blanche is easily the biggest attraction linked to Montréal en Lumière, one held the last Saturday of the festival that involves more or less 200 free activities that stretch out until dawn.

    In 2018, Nuit Blanche runs March 3, 2018.

    As someone who's a Nuit Blanche veteran, I've had awesome experiences. And I've also had dreadful ones. So I put together a list of Nuit Blanche tips to help you plan for a great one.

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  • 06 of 08

    Underground Art at Montréal en Lumière

    Montreal en lumiere
    ••• © Evelyn Reid

    Usually debuting the same night as Nuit Blanche, Art Souterrain is an annual event devoted to underground art. And when I say underground, I mean it. The entire event is set in Montreal's Underground City, one that features anywhere from 75 to over 100 art installations throughout the city's subterranean corridors.

    In 2018, Art Souterrain runs from February 21 to March 3, 2018. This map gives a basic idea of where the installations are located. By the way, the best day to walk the circuit is during Nuit Blanche itself since there are volunteers stationed at every installation to help folks navigate and to explain the ​back story of each installation.

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    Montréal en Lumière Concerts

    Montréal en Lumière 2017 events include free outdoor concerts.
    ••• Courtesy of Montréal en Lumière © Frédérique Ménard-Aubin

    So Montréal en Lumière does lights. It does food too, notably cheese. But it also delves into music, proposing free concerts most if not every evening at Montréal en Lumière's outdoor site. Artists tend to be local French language musicians.

    As for bigger international names, they're far more likely to be scheduled on the paid concert roster. In 2017, that included Lee Fields & The Expressions, Chantal Kreviazuk, and Alex Cuba. Check Montréal en Lumière's website to see the full lineup of who's performing at this year's edition.

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    Montréal en Lumière Fine Dining Events

    Montréal en Lumière 2017 events and gastronomy.
    ••• © Marie-Claire Denis

    Last but not least, Montréal en Lumière proposes themed fine dining evenings with dishes prepared by guest chefs flown in from the Festival of Lights' theme country and theme city of the year.

    Montréal en Lumière's theme country for the 2018 edition will be announced as we close on Montréal en Lumière February and March 2018 run. As for its theme city, stay tuned. Each edition also spotlights a Quebec region, which will be announced in due time. 

    Check Montréal en Lumière's website to make reservations at one of this year's fine dining events.

    Next: Doing Nuit Blanche... The RIGHT Way