[Just letting you know that this post may contain affiliate links. It doesn't affect you or the pricing in any way, but if you purchase products through these links, you'll help support the blog! Cheers!]
See my complete guide to Montreal here.
Montreal is a mystical city, full of adventure, culture and food. But the festivities go up a notch during Christmas in Montreal.
The city turns into a magical winter wonderland full of activities for even the Grinchiest to enjoy.
There are a number of ways to take advantage of the seasonal displays around the city. Many of these choices won’t even cost you a dime. Perfect for those looking to spend Christmas in Montreal on a budget.
Free Christmas in Montreal Activities for 2018
Once the city kicks off the season with their annual Santa Claus Parade, you know Christmas in Montreal is in full swing.
From this time forward, it will be hard to ignore the festive decorations and activities around the city, whether you have the holiday spirit or not.
Take Part in Festive Fireworks at Marche de Noël
Montreal has a thing for fireworks. It seems like every chance we get, we’re firing colourful displays of light into the sky. And the child in me couldn’t be more thrilled!
On December 8, 2018, you can catch a special winter firework display at Parc LaFontaine for free!
A Montreal firework show wouldn’t be a firework show without a theme. Enter into the world of Tim Burton’s Christmas with the iconic style being featured in the night sky.
Festive images reminding viewers of the “Nightmare Before Christmas” will be accompanied by fitting music. Afterwards, melodies continue with a free outdoor concert.
Marche de Noël aux flambeaux
Before the fireworks, the annual illuminated Christmas March will lead the way to the park grounds.
This yearly tradition begins at 7 pm from the Parc des Compagnons (Mont-Royal / Cartier corner).
Participants are asked to bring a non-perishable food item or $2 in exchange for a torch to be carried along the way.
The torchlights aren’t the only thing that makes this holiday walk festive. The walk will be accompanied by choirs, musicians, and performers to keep you warm with holiday cheer.
Once you’ve reached the end of the line, you’ll be treated to a performance by the Urban Science Brass Band, combining smooth brass instruments with modern day pop hits.
See Illuminating Seasonal Decor at Place Des Arts
Place des Arts is always abuzz with activities, shows, and performances. While the summertime brings most festivals to this area, that doesn’t mean they gear down in the winter.
It will be hard not to be whisked away by the winter magic in this area with illuminating Aurora Borealis colours calling you towards each activity.
The artsy city puts these interactive pieces in place to combat the long, short days of winter, and bring some light (and fun) back into the area.
Placed across Complexe Desjardins, visitors can create their own art with installments like musical illuminated seesaws.
Note: do try the giant ice slide. The line is worth it.
Complexe Desjardins’ Christmas Kingdom
The festivities at Place des Arts continues inside the Christmas Kingdom at Complexe Desjardins until December 31st.
Inside the mall doors, you’ll find exciting additions like Santa Claus himself, dance performances, and choir recitals.
Relax in a Park
Yes, it’s colder but I really mean it when I say it doesn’t slow Montrealers down!
While other Canadian cities might be spending the holiday season curled up indoors, Montreal launches Christmas in the Park.
Until December 25th, you can relax to some music and hot cocoa at one of three participating Montreal outdoor spaces.
Festive parks include:
- Place Emelie Gamelin (Gay Village)
- Parc Lahai (Plateau)
- Parc des Compagnons-de-Saint-Laurent (East Plateau)
100 free musical performances will be held throughout these parks with Parc Lahai being the main festivity zone.
Music and hot chocolate won’t be the only things you find at these parks. Visitors can go Christmas tree hunting, sheep petting, or watch fire breathers. And when it gets cold, there will be bonfires all around to warm up to.
Go to Church
I don’t mean to sound like your mother making sure you attend mass each year but Montreal has some pretty beautiful churches.
Christmas in Montreal is the perfect time to get an introduction to Montreal’s famed churches like Notre Dame and St. Joseph.
A number of churches host mass on the holidays that are free to attend inside of their intricately decorated interiors.
My favourite churches are mentioned above. While they both schedule mass on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, each has something magical to offer.
St. Joseph Oratory has impressive views of the city and nativity scenes at one of the highest points in the city, while the Basilica Notre Dame has beautiful light shows under its illuminated dome.
Visiting one of these churches during the Christmas season is sure to add some free Christmas magic to your life.
Check out this video demo of the beautiful light show at Montreal’s Notre Dame.
Get Merry in the Old Port
Even without Christmas decorations, the Old Port during the winter season is magical on its own. Add some extra Montreal artistry and you’re in for quite a holiday blast.
There are an abundance of free activities throughout the month of December in Old Montreal, including a Christmas market taking place on weekends until December 23rd.
More cozy fireplaces will be scattered throughout festive areas to keep those seeking the holiday spirit a little warmer. There will also be a variety of family-friendly activities to enjoy with everyone.
You can find a majority of the activities at Place Jacques Cartier.
Cheap Activities During Christmas in Montreal
While Christmas and the holidays aren’t exactly easy on your wallet, there are ways to save some cash even when you aren’t at a free event.
These activities will full of festive Christmas fun, while being lighter on your pocketbook.
All the Christmas Markets
This may not be Germany, but Montreal is home to a number of Christmas markets during the holiday season.
Christmas markets can be a mix between a free and budget Christmas in Montreal activity. You won’t need to pay to see these markets in action, but you’ll probably be tempted by the festive treasures within.
Atwater Market’s Village de Noël de Montréal
The Atwater Market is a Montreal staple but visiting during the Christmas season makes this hot spot all the more attractive.
Upon approaching you’ll find Christmas trees and stringed lights which are not usual in the popular summer months.
Quebec artisans roll out their seasonal favourites for the holidays, and you’ll be able to get your tastebuds on some unique treats.
This market in particular always inspires me when I’m looking for interesting local gifts to impress the family with.
The Nutcracker Market
Is the song playing in your head? It sure is in mine! The Nutcracker Market is indeed inspired by the Christmas classic.
Fittingly organized by Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montreal, this themed Christmas market features home decor, gifts, and toys,
While a little more glitzy than your usual Chrismas market, also offering up beautiful pieces of jewelry and art, the Nutcracker market is sure to inspire some gift ideas.
You’ll be able to find unique gems until December 10th at Palais de Congress.
Merry Montreal Old Port Christmas Market
As mentioned, Old Montreal adds a bit more winter magic to the neighbourhood come December.
Their Christmas market takes place at Place Jacques Cartier during the weekends leading up to Christmas.
Old Port’s Christmas market takes a more traditional route, with German-style stalls and stands with a classic European backdrop.
There will be free activities on site for the whole family, including music, games, and other festive activities.
Food, drinks, and treats will be available to satiate sweet tooths, and outdoor firepits will keep you warm while you set your eyes on winter wonders.
And of course, the market itself has a variety of art, crafts, accessories, treats and gifts so you can stock up for your loved ones (or yourself).
These are a just a few of the popular markets to take a visit to during Christmas in Montreal.
If you’re willing to hunt down the others, you’ll be sure to find the perfect market for you.
Embrace Winter Sports with a Charming Atmosphere
It wouldn’t be Canada if we didn’t have skating risks. Where would the hockey be played?
Christmas in Montreal is an exciting time for winter sport enthusiasts. The city has a number of outdoor skating risks, festively decorated for your seasonal enjoyment.
Montreal has over 100 skating rinks, but the most popular and enchanting rinks can be found at the following parks.
- Parc Lafontaine: Freeskating rink with ice paths, equipment rentals in an enchanting, woodsy atmosphere. This rink is large and is usually open to for casual hockey.
- Old Montreal: One of the most popular rinks is in Old Port’s Marche Bonsecours. If you’re looking to take a date on a cute winter adventure, the atmosphere at this rink will not disappoint. You’ll have city views, illuminations, and historical surroundings around this refrigerated rink, and there are tons to explore in the area when you’re tuckered out.
- Olympic Park: Channel your inner Olympian and head to Parc Massenoueve near Montreal’s Olympic Park. There’s a ton of space at this rink, so if you want to practice your speed, you’ll be fine. Keep in mind there are no equipment rentals at this park.
- Mont-Royal: Mont-Royal has two rinks available near the picturesque mountain overlooking the city. While it would be sweet if there was a rink at the lookout, you’ll have to settle for the scenic Beaver Lake or the Jeanne Mance rink. Beaver Lake is great for all sorts of winter acitivities like sledding and tubing, while Jeanne Mance is a perfect spot for a winter hockey game. Remember to bring your equipment!
Take in a Christmas Show
Christmas seems to be a popular time for the cinema. Why not kick it up a notch and add some live action magic to your holidays?
Montreal puts a huge emphasis on theatre and performance art, especially around Christmas.
Get in the mood for sugar plums as Les Grands Ballet puts on the annual Nutcracker from December 13 to 30th at Places des Arts. Or if you’re feeling more like a peanut, check out Charlie Brown Christmas on Decmeber 20th.
Montreal is also known for its circus arts, home to Cirque du Soleil and a number of highly rated circus art schools. The Circus Festival may be in the summer months, but that doesn’t mean these magical performances slow down in the winter.
Cirque du Soleil’s Corteo will be in full swing at the Bell Centre while popular circus performance troupe TOHU will be putting on the emotional tale of ‘Passengers’ near Metro Jarry.
To Wrap This Up
This list is just some of my favourite things to see and do during Christmas in Montreal.
Montreal is a city full of surprises, so while you’re sure to find something up your alley with the options above, keep an eye out for other festive treasures during the Christmas season.
What are you most excited for during Christmas in Montreal?