Montreal is the largest city in the Canadian province of Quebec. It is set on an island in the St. Lawrence River and named after the triple peaked hill that sits in its center. Its surrounding neighborhoods feature French colonial architecture, cobblestoned streets and Gothic cathedrals.
There’s no doubt that the city makes a charming backdrop for a holiday vacation and there are tons of things to see and do. Read on to find out what you’ll want to check out during your visit.
The Santa Claus Parade
The Santa Claus Parade has been a Montreal tradition since 1925. The kids gather round to welcome Santa as he makes his way down the street on his sleigh. There are also 15-20 other floats included in the procession. It makes for a great way to kick off the downtown Montreal holiday season.
Check out the Display at Luminotherapie
Luminotherapie is an interactive light installation that takes place at the Quartier des Spectacles. Artists submit large scale projects that guests can view, observe and interact with. The event takes place from late November to the end of January and doubles as a competition where the best work is chosen by a group of experts.
Enjoy La Marche de Noel aux Flambeaux
This is a magical procession where over 10,000 people join together in a candlelight parade. It takes place on the Avenue du Mont Royal which is elaborately decorated for the occasion. The Torchlight Parade kicks off the festivities which include musical performances, carolers and fireworks.
Attend a Christmas Mass
Even if you are not religious, attending a Christmas mass in Montreal is an experience to behold. This is largely due to the many ornate churches located throughout the city. Some churches charge admission to guests while others are free and open to the public.
While there are several churches in Montreal that offer special Christmas mass activities, ones worth checking out include St. Joseph’s Oratory, the largest church in Canada.
Another popular venue is the Notre Dame Basilica in Old Montreal. The Basilica charges admission to guests and it is recommended to get a ticket in advance as the event tends to sell out.
See the Fireworks in Old Montreal
Old Montreal is a sight to see. Dating back to the 17th century, it is full of lively plazas, charming shops and cafes and cobblestone streets.
The Old Port of Old Montreal is a historic port and the sight of a firework celebration during the holiday season. Fireworks are set off along to the music of movie scores by well known composers. The display is free and open to the public and takes place on Saturday nights in December and the first Saturday in January.
For an extra dose of fun, you can also go ice skating on the rink located under the port.
Take in the Nativity Scene and Music at St. Joseph’s Oratory
St. Joseph’s is a center for Christmas celebrations throughout the season. The church hosts a monthly concert series every Sunday at 3:30 from mid-December to early January called Noel at the Oratory. Performances feature vocalists and instrumentalists from throughout the country.
Admission is typically free but sometimes a high demand concert will require a paid ticket.
While there, be sure to check out the museum located on level five of the church in the heart of the Basilica. It is dedicated to sacred art and renowned for its collection of creches from all over the world. It provides insight to Canada’s historic, artistic and religious heritage.
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Montreal is a great destination for finding unique items that make terrific souvenirs and holiday gifts.
One gift show worth checking out is the Tibetan Bazaar and Cultural Festival. This typically takes place in mid-November and offers an array of cultural jewelry and knitwear as well as traditional foods. It takes place at the Eglise Santa Cruz and an admission fee of $5 in Canadian money is required.
Another great place to find unusual handmade items is the Etsy Makers Market which is held at the Theatre Denise Pelletier in mid-December. It features over 100 Montreal Etsy dealers and it’s the perfect location for purchasing unique goods.
There are also plenty of Christmas markets open in Quebec throughout the holiday season including the following:
The Nutcracker Market is open from late November to early December. It’s located on the ground floor of the Palais de Congres mall and features over 100 local vendors selling items including home décor, toys, crafts, jewelry and more. A portion of all proceeds is donated to the Grand Ballet’s Nutcracker Fund helping underserved children in the Montreal area.
The German Christmas Market of Old Quebec is another shopping destination worth checking out. It has a terrific European vibe and it’s an ideal destination for traditional German gift items. Enjoy a cup of hot mulled wine while shopping.
The Atwater Market is located in an Art Deco building that dates back to the 1930’s. It features a Christmas village, 40 holiday stalls, concerts, choirs, Christmas shows and visits with Santa.
The Puces POP Fair is also worth checking out. This flea market style fair is located in the Eglise Saint-Denis and it’s a terrific place to find art, jewelry, food items, soap, jewelry, clothing and other unique items.
Cut Down Your Own Christmas Tree
You may not have room for a Christmas tree in your hotel room, but the Montreal spirit will want you to make some available!
Montreal has several Christmas tree farms that allow you to not only pick your own tree but cut it down as well. This makes for an experience the entire family will remember.
There are several farms that offer this service located 30 to 90 minutes outside of Montreal including La Ferme Quinn on Perrot Island and Hadley Christmas Tree which is about an hour north of the Montreal city center.
Montreal is a beautiful city to visit and it makes an ideal destination when it’s decked out in its Christmas finest. Which of these activities will you be adding to your itinerary?