Montreal, the largest city in Canada's Québec province, may be chilly in November, but there are world-class events—plenty of which are held indoors—to draw you to this interesting and beautiful city full of culture. Before all the holiday festivities begin, you can keep busy in Montreal with the finest in French and international films, restaurant week events, live concerts, hot tubs with amazing views of Old Montreal, and Christmas shopping. Montreal also offers a number of free things to enjoy such as museums, casinos, and libraries.
Montreal's Restaurant Week—actually lasting 13 days—features 150 participating restaurants offering prix-fixe menus from Nov. 1-13, 2019. In this fall mega-event called Taste MTL or (MTLàTABLE), participating restaurants offer three courses at three prices. You can select anything from chic five-star restaurants to cozy bistros and little restaurants tucked away in neighborhoods. Some eateries also allow you to bring your own wine, and some serve brunch as part of the event.
Expect only the best in French film at Montreal's Cinemania, held at various venues and running for 11 days in November. The films, from a variety of French-speaking countries, have English subtitles.
The film festival expanded to show films at more venues across Montreal, including the Cinema of Montreal’s Musée des Beaux-Arts as well as the Outremont Theatre, while still maintaining screenings at the Cinémathèque québécoise, Cinéma du Parc and its central screening flagship, the Imperial Cinema. You can purchase early-bird tickets online.
The air is crisp, the leaves are falling, and many attractions are available, from concerts to museums that don't charge a dime or are inexpensive.
On rainy days, visit the Grand Library (Grande Bibliothèque) where there are often no-cost cultural activities and exhibits. The Redpath Museum at McGill University downtown is full of fascinating exhibits, including huge dinosaurs and Egyptian mummies—the site asks for donations, while students and children pay no admission fees. The contemporary art museum Fondation Phi in Old Montreal offers free admission.
Montreal has a plethora of concerts every month. In November of 2019, visitors can enjoy the sounds of a diversity of bands like Kansas, Marc Anthony, Gordon Lightfoot, and Boogie Wonder Band at venues around the city.
For something different, take in the McGill Jam Session on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, when Upstairs Jazz Bar & Grillade showcases McGill University’s Schulich School of Music jazz performance students.
Old Montreal was made for walking, especially on a crisp autumn day. For the full experience, stay in the area's top hotels, a great starting point for people who like to explore the city on foot, taking in the sights of the historic district, passing through Chinatown and the entertainment district to get to downtown.
If you are concerned that it might get too cold while you're in town, try hotels connected to Montreal's underground city to stay sheltered from the elements. These convention centre hotels are also connected to the underground and are all a quick walk away from Old Montreal, Chinatown, and the downtown core.
At La Grande Dégustation de Montréal (The Grand Tasting of Montreal) from the end of October until early November, visitors can dig into this tasting event at Place Bonaventure. Over 200 wine producers, distillers, and brewers will bring their wines, beers, and spirits to the thousands who attend and are involved with the gathering. Each year the event features a different wine region.
As part of the event's sustainable development and social responsibility plan, some exhibitors will feature eco-friendly products for tasting and sale. Tickets are available onsite or online.
For several days starting in mid-November, the Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montreal (Montreal International Documentary Festival) showcases creative documentary films. Known as one of North America’s best documentary film festivals, the event features over 150 Canadian and international documentaries. Visitors can expect programming with political, social, and environmental themes, as well as some family-focused films. The opening night typically includes a party with live musicians. Buy tickets in person or online for this festival which takes place at venues around Montreal.
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 tradition since 1962 when the downtown shopping destination first opened its doors. The "tree" is made up of 13,000 lights, measuring 19.20 meters high (63 feet) and 7.92 meters in diameter (26 feet). You can't miss this beautiful sight if you're passing by on Ste Catherine Street anytime after early November through the first week of January.
An annual weeklong event, the Image & Nation 32nd Montreal International LGBT Queer Film Festival is Canada's oldest such film festival, having started in 1987. The event takes place for more than a week starting Nov. 21 and continues through early December 2019 with a focus on revolutionary storytelling. The festival offers a variety of films, from shorts to international to Canadian-made films and more. Tickets are available individually or in passes.
This annual exhibition put on by the Montreal Gem and Mineral Club features over 100 sellers from around North America who vend their merchandise of precious gems, tools, fossils, stones, beads, jewelry and jewelry supplies, sculptures, books, and various types of crystals and minerals from Canada and abroad. The event takes place the last weekend of November at Place Bonaventure. Door prizes are an added fun element.
If you can't wait to get into the holiday spirit, the action starts early in Montreal, like in many major cities. Head to some of these Christmas activities like the Santa Claus Parade full of festively-dressed participants. Try Christmas events like shopping at the outdoor Nutcracker Market hosted by Le Palais des Congres which opens the end of November. Local vendors bring wonderful gift ideas to this nonprofit market; the event benefits The Nutcracker for Children fund.
Luminothérapie starts in late November at the Quartier des Spectacles, bringing back its interactive light installation in 2019. Original public art pieces arrive each year, charming the crowds.
The Pastel Society of Eastern Canada will bring the 24th year of Les Pastellistes International Exhibition to Montreal for several November days in 2019. The exhibition will be held at the Galerie Le HangArt Saint Denis. More than 100 works of art will be selected by the jury, and the prize winners will be disclosed during the opening. Each day will feature guided tours and artists giving pastel demonstrations.
Head to Quartier des spectacles—a lovely part of the city and its major cultural hub—to watch hundreds of talented singers, conductors, and other performers from Quebec and Europe pay tribute to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach and additional composers. At the Festival Bach Montreal which was established in 2005, you and your family can enjoy more than 20 concerts in over 10 concert halls, including churches. This event taking place from Nov. 22 through Dec. 7, 2019, also has educational programs.
Montreal is a popular place to drink craft beer in Canada, and one fun way to spend a fall day is to take a tour of three Montreal brewpubs. Over a three-hour period, you'll be able to taste more than six craft beers accompanied by poutine, local charcuterie, nachos, cheese, and chocolate. The guide will also show you some historical areas of Montreal. The tours are offered several times a day on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
Warm up in a Hot Tub on a Boat
One way to get rid of the chill in the air is to step into a hot tub or sauna at the Bota Bota on the St-Lawrence River, with services offered on a boat with a great view of Old Montreal. The spa also offers massages and body treatments, a hammock room in the gardens, a sauna, a steam room, and the floating La Traversee restaurant with a seasonal menu and amazing views of the Old Port of Montreal.