15 Things to do in Montréal in Winter
Montréal is a vibrant city with much to offer in the winter time. It’s the largest city in Québec and Canada’s Cultural Capital. World-class museums, renowned restaurants, cutting edge architecture, outdoor activities, Montréal has it all. The secret to visit Montréal during winter time is to balance outdoor and indoor activities.
1. Montréal en Lumière
Montréal en Lumière is one of the largest winter festivals in the world. It attracts over a million visitors in the dead of winter to enjoy hundreds of attractions. The festival showcases music, arts, gastronomy, theater, films, dance and a fun free outdoor site. It’s the best way to experience Montréal’s dynamic arts and culture scene.
Place des Festivals
2. Notre-Dame Basilica
The Notre-Dame Basilica is a masterpiece of Gothic Revival architecture built between 1824 and 1829. The ceiling is eye-catching with its deep blue color decorated with golden stars. While most of the stained glass in other churches depict biblical passages, here it shows scenes of the religious and social life of the Ville-Marie settlement, which later became Montreal. To know more about the history of the Basilica join one of the 20 min guided tours that are held regularly during visiting hours.
3. Underground City
When it’s just too cold to walk outside you might want to adventure yourself in this huge underground maze. Known to locals as RÉSO, it’s a network of tunnels and stairs connecting shopping malls, metro stations, offices, schools, hotels, concert halls and other important buildings in the downtown area. The underground city is not an attraction per say but a convenient way to circulate indoors without ever having to step outside, especially during the harsh winter season.
4. Old Montréal
Old Montréal is the oldest and most charming area of the city of Montréal. This historic neighborhood has been preserved in its original state, with old cobblestoned streets lined with buildings dating from the 17th through 19th centuries. Walking around you will see restaurants, shops, art galleries, museums, the old port and horse-drawn carriages taking tourists for a ride.
5. Bonsecours Market
While you stroll through Old Montréal take a peek at the Bonsecours Market. Inside there are souvenirs shops featuring high-quality products made in Québec. There are crafts, clothes, accessories, jewelry, design items, maple syrup products and more. Afterwards, drink a craft beer at the Pub BreWskey.
6. Mont Royal Park
The Mont Royal Park is a unmissable attraction no matter the time of the year you’re visiting. During winter time the park is a peaceful place covered in snow blanket. The walking paths are well signalized. Follow the signs to go to the lookout, and you will be rewarded with a beautiful view of the city. After admiring downtown Montreal from Kondiaronk Belvedere go to the Chalet du Mont-Royal to grab a coffee before heading down. In winter time the park is where the Montrealers go to practice cross-country ski or for ice skating in the frozen Beaver Lake.
7. Complexe Desjardins
The Complexe Desjardins is a mix of shopping mall, hotel, and office building. The towers that serve as office building, government building and hotel are connected by an atrium shopping mall. Most people use it as a shortcut circulate downtown as it’s accessible by the underground city. There aren’t many interesting stores but it’s a nice place to grab something to eat. Treat yourself with an A&W Papa burger and root beer.
8. Museum of Fine Arts
The Montréal Museum of Fine Arts is the largest Museum in Montréal with more than 41,000 works. Besides admiring the beautiful works of art the museum draws visitors for its amazing architecture. During my visit, the museum was featuring an incredible exhibition about Pompeii and the catastrophic eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.
9. Pointe-à-Callière Museum
To discover more about the history of Montréal visit the Pointe-à-Callière Museum. The visit starts with a short film telling the history of this territory over the years, from the time the first nations dominated the Montréal region, passing through the French and British regimes until the present day. After the film, visitors are invited to go downstairs to see the archaeological remains. When I visited there was an interesting exhibition about Agatha Christie’s life and work as an archaeologist.
10. Street Art in Plateau Mont-Royal
When the weather is nice to indulge yourself with a pleasant walk in the Plateau Mont-Royal, the hippest neighborhood in Montréal. The plateau has an eclectic mix of shops, restaurants, bars and coffee shops. Grab a coffee and admire the street art along the way.
11. Eaton Center
The best place to do some shopping in Montréal is the Eaton Center. Located in the heart of downtown, the shopping mall is accessible through the underground city. You don’t even have to set foot outdoors to get here. On the top floor is located the wax museum, Musée Grévin. After shopping your brains out, zip up your coat and take a stroll in the vibrant Rue Sainte-Catherine.
The Montreal Biodome is an indoor zoo, an aquarium and a botanical garden wrapped into one. The Montreal Biodome recreates five different ecosystems of the Americas: the Tropical Rainforest of the Americas, the Laurentian Maple Forest, the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the Sub-Arctic Labrador Coast, and the Sub-Antarctic Islands. Walking through the series of ecosystems visitors can experience all four seasons indoors.
13. Olympic Park
The Olympic Park was inaugurated in 1976 to host the Summer Olympic Games. There are guided tours of the stadium that includes a visit to the new exhibition celebrating 40 years of the Olympic games. But what draws most tourists here is the Montréal Tower Observatory. Visitors can rise 165 meters at a 45-degree with the funicular. From the summit, the panoramic view allows visitors to see 80 km in every direction, including the stunning Laurentian Mountains.
14.Biosphere and Parc Jean-Drapeau
Constructed for the 1967 World Exposition, The Biosphere is now a museum dedicated to the environment. The museum is not as impressive inside as it is on the outside. The highlight is the 360° cinema that provides a multi-sensory experience. Located in the Parc Jean-Drapeau, the Biosphere is worth to visit for its unique architecture and the beautiful surroundings.
15. Centre Bell
Centre Bell is the home of the Montreal Canadiens ice hockey team. It’s also the main venue for concerts and sports events. There’s always something going on. Check their website to go to a National Hockey League game while you are in the city. During my stay, I was lucky to watch a Black Sabbath concert of their farewell tour, “The End”.