Winter in Montreal: Weather, What to Pack, and What to See

Mont-Royal public park covered in snow with downtown Montréal on the background
Eduardo Fonseca Arraes / Getty Images

Montreal winter weather gets a well-deserved bad rap, as the season can be brutal if you're not prepared. Yet, if you dress the part and know how to move around the city, there is no reason not to love winter in Montreal. The city is well-prepared for the freezing temperatures that are a daily occurrence, and there's plenty of happenings going on to distract you from the cold. Plus, since this is considered the off-season, you can often find deals on flights and accommodations to sweeten the deal.

Montreal Weather in Winter

Montreal's winters are very, very cold. At the warmest part of the day, the temperature is often below freezing and at night it drops even more. On a breezy day, the windchill can make it feel even colder than it actually is by several degrees, so be sure to bundle up thoroughly from head to toe. It isn't so cold that frostbite is a major concern, but you should still be careful about how much time you spend outdoors, especially during a snowstorm.

Average High Temp. Average Low Temp.
December 29 F (minus 2 C) 15 F (minus 9 C) 
January 23 F (minus 5 C)  9 F (minus 13 C) 
February  27 F (minus 3 C) 12 F (minus 11 C) 

Even though snow and storms are common throughout the season, so are sunny winter days. Just because you don't see clouds doesn't mean it's warm outside and you should still dress appropriately, but it makes for a pleasant winter day to walk around with snow on the ground and the sun shining.

For days or evenings when it is too cold to walk around, don't fret. Montrealers just use the Underground City, which is the best way to not let frigid winter temperatures affect your trip. It's a massive subterranean network that connects most of the city's major parts, so you can still get around without walking in the snow or waiting for a cab in the cold.

What to Pack

Dressing for the cold in Montreal requires bringing your heaviest winter attire. Pack a heavy parka, thick sweaters, and cold weather underwear. You should also have thermals you can slip on under your clothing as a warm base layer, plus a scarf and a beanie or wool hat. Be sure to protect your extremities by wearing heavy socks and lined gloves—maybe even two pairs at a time—that can resist getting wet. It's also a good idea to swap out your typical city shoes with some insulated boots that will keep your feet dry and warm.

A good pair of sunglasses and sunscreen may not seem like winter essentials in Montreal, but don't forget them. The sun often comes out and the reflection of the sun on the snow can damage your skin and eyes. Bringing some hand moisturizer and lip balm are also good to prevent the cold from drying out your skin.

Winter Events in Montreal

It could be easy to let the cold weather bring you down, but the locals keep busy with holiday festivities and cultural celebrations throughout the season. Travelers have options regardless of which month they visit for winter fun in Montreal.

  • Santa Clause Parade: The holiday season officially kicks off in downtown Montreal when Santa Claus parades down René-Lévesque Boulevard in his sleigh during this annual parade. The 2020 Santa Claus Parade was canceled.
  • Igloofest: Cold weather doesn't stop Montrealers from coming out to party, so bundle up and head to this outdoor music festival for one of the coolest festivals—literally—in North America. Igloofest for 2021 is scheduled to take place from January 14 to February 6.
  • Fêtes des Neiges: The Fêtes des Neiges, or Snow Festival, is an event for the whole family that takes place on weekends throughout January and February at Parc Jean-Drapeau. The festival makes the most of the snow with a focus on outdoor fun. Organizers canceled the 2021 Snow Festival.
  • Montréal en Lumière: This winter lights festival is an annual February tradition in Montreal. Artistic light installations are put up around the city and accompanied by a packed schedule of cultural and musical events. The most popular night of the event is Nuit Blanche, held on the last Saturday when all-night events take place until dawn. Montréal en Lumière takes place February 18–28, 2021.

Travel Tips

  • Be sure to dress in layers so you can easily remove heavy items when you walk inside a building.
  • Warm up with Quebecois cuisine, such as a hot plate of poutine, or with a glass of Caribou, a hot drink that's a mix of red wine, whisky, and maple syrup.
  • Many of the downtown stations on the Montreal metro are connected via the Underground City, so you can travel between them without having to head up to the cold up above.

To learn more about visiting Montreal outside of winter, check out the guide on the Best Time to Visit Montreal.

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