Montreal is one of the best Canadian cities to visit in the winter. There are so many things to do in Montreal in winter, from snowy outdoor activities and fun festivals to cozy restaraunts and one-of-akind museums. I have been to Montreal in the winter several times, and there’s always something new and exciting going on along with the iconic classics.
The activities in this post primarily focus on things to do in Montreal in winter that you can’t really do anywhere else. And, it’s sort of the winter side-kick to my 3 Days in Montreal Itinerary and Travel Guide. Put the two together by substituting in some winter activities, and you will have the perfect montreal winter itinerary!
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- Things to do in Montreal in Winter
- Montreal Winter Activities
- Montreal Food and Drinks
- Montréal en Lumière
- Montreal History and Sights
Things to do in Montreal in Winter
Montreal Winter Activities
1. Natrel Skating Rink
The Natrel Skating Rink comes first because it is my favourite of all the things to do in Montreal in winter. This beautiful skating rink is located at the Old Port of Montreal, right beneath the ferris wheel. You can’t miss it! Natrel Skating rink is a combination rink. There’s a refrigerated rink, with music playing, and there’s a small natural skating trail that wraps around the ferris wheel.
Admission is $7, and skate rentals are available. I suggest going just before sunset. It’s beautiful to see the ferris wheel lights comes on as the sun goes down! This is the perfect way to end a day in Old Montreal. Day 1 of my Montreal itinerary is Old Montreal, and skating at Natrel Rink is the perfect addition to this day!
2. Mont Royal
Mont Royal is an enormous park in the heart of Montreal. There’s a stunning lookout where you can see the Montreal skyline, and it’s the perfect place for all winter activities. Snowshoe, toboggan, or cross country ski your way around the mountain. Make your way to Beaver Lake (right in the middle of Mont Royal) for more skating and winter activities!
The amazing thing about Mont Royal is that it will seem as though you’ve left the city of Montreal behind. This is a wonderful winter scene, especially after a fresh snowfall. Here’s the program for winter activities at Mont Royal.
3. La Fontaine Park
Yet another option for you if you love to skate, La Fontaine Park is located in the Plateau region neighbourhood of Montreal. The trees are decked out in sparkling lights during the winter, making it a beautiful setting for a nighttime skate. Can you tell yet that one of my favourite things to do in Montreal in winter is skate?
Skating is free, and there’s an on-site skate rental shop in you need to rent. Skate sharpening is also available! When you’re ready to warm up, Espace La Fontain restaurant is the perfect place for a hot chocolate.
4. Dog Sledding
There’s dog sledding right in the city during the Fêtes des neiges! This winter festival is fun for families, and includes a wide range of winter activities in Parc Jean-Drapeau.
Mont Tremblant is another option. This small ski village is only a 1.5 hour drive from Montreal. It’s lovely to walk around the village, and there are all kinds of winter activities including dog sledding! Cozy in to a sled and enjoy a thrilling hour dashing through the snow. It’s easy to spend an entire day at Mont Tremblant enjoying winter activities.
Dog sledding is a quintessential Canadian experience. And, in case you’re wondering, the dogs love it. Huskies love to run. The biggest struggle a husky dog owner faces is getting their dog to come inside during a blizzard.
Throughout December and January, Places des Arts transforms in to a winter playground. Luminotherapie is an interactive art installation, and contest that runs every year. In the past it’s included everything from light up domino sets to glow in the dark teeter-totters.
If you’re visiting Montreal in the winter but the festivals haven’t started yet, hopefully your visit will line up with Luminotherapie!
Montreal Food and Drinks
6. Montreal Food Tour
Montreal is famous for it’s food! I booked a food tour of Mile End, and there’s also one available of Old Montreal. Montreal is home to incredibly skilled chefs and bakers, some born and raised in the city and others that bring culinary inspiration from around the world. A food tour is a great chance to try out awesome local food, and to see Montreal in the winter from a different perceptive.
7. Local Cafés
Montreal winters are lovely, but they also get cold. That’s why I’ve included a few of my favourite cafés as things to do in Montreal in winter. These cafés are close to many Montreal attractions. Perfect places to warm up with a hot chocolate after you’ve been outside explore!
- Collective Crew: This stunning café is found on the first floor of the Royal Bank Tower. It’s a co-working space, but there’s also lots of cozy armchairs to settle in to. The high arched ceilings are something you would expect to find in a cathedral, not a café! 360 Saint-Jacques Street.
- Tommy Café: I’ll forewarn you, this beautiful café is an Instagram hotspot. Get a seat away from the door to enjoy it! Tommy Café is 3 stories, set inside the British Empire Building. There are plants hanging from the ceiling, and the whole place has a cozy warm feeling to it! 200 Notre-Dame St W.
- SAT Café: If you’ve been out enjoying activities in the Quartier des Spectacles, SAT café is only a couple blocks away. 6 Place du Marché.
8. Maple Taffy and Poutine
The must-try foods when you’re in Montreal in winter are maple taffy and poutine. Maple taffy is a winter tradition. Maple syrup is poured on snow, and then wound up around a popsicle stick for you to eat. During the winter you can find it at pop-up maple shacks in Old Montreal, and at most festival sites.
The other thing you have to try is poutine. Quebec is the inventor of this Canadian favourite, so it’s not at all hard to find. Check out this post for the best poutine in the city.
9. Craft Beer Tour
Love beer? Montreal is considered to be home to Canada’s best craft beers. The Craft Beer Tour is your chance to taste 6 different beers, along with food pairings. This tour includes 3 brewpubs, poutine, nachos, and chocolate. And of course, there’s lots of beer!
Montreal is home to dozens of brewpubs and lots of microbreweries. This post has lots of great suggestions for brewpubs that you can visit on your own while you’re in Montreal.
Montréal en Lumière
I was invited to Montreal courtesy of L’Équipe Spectra for Montreal en Lumière! It turns out that Montréal en Lumière (Montreal in Light) is not a winter festival. It’s a festival that takes places during winter, and that puts a spotlight on the things that Montreal does best. It just so happens to take place during the winter. Montréal en Lumière offers all kinds of fun things to do in Montreal in winter that defy winter.
Montréal en Lumière runs for two weeks, from the end of February to beginning of March. If you have the opportunity to visit during this time, here are some of the special events you can enjoy!
10. Quartier des Spectacles
Throughout winter, Quartier des Spectacles is the main site for all festivals. There’s always something going on here, from concerts to interactive art instalments and giant slides! The events calendar is kept up to date, so be sure to take a look.
The outdoor site at Quartier des Spectacles is also the main outdoor site for Montréal en Lumière. There was a zipline over the site, a giant slide (which I absolutely loved) and a ferris wheel on site! If you prefer to keep your feet on the ground, you will have fun with the photo booth, a miniature hockey rink, giant board games, and more.
11. Nuit Blanche
Nuit Blanche is an all-night festival that takes place annually. It’s not just in Montreal! Many cities celebrate a Nuit Blanche around the world. Montreal has Nuit Blanche on the last night of Montréal en Lumière. This event is huge and it goes all night long!
Dozens of Montreal restaurants take part in Montréal en Lumière, with specials, tasting events, and gastronomy experiences created just for the festival. Visit Quartier Gourmand in the Quartier des Spectacles and sample unique foods from local businesses, and learn about food in Montreal. Book lunch, or a night out at one the many restaurants offering an exclusive tasking menu during the festival.
There are countless culinary experiences available, no matter what your taste is.
Restaurant: Alexandre et Fils
Montreal History and Sights
13. Old Montreal
Old Montreal is iconic, and I’m sure it’s already at the top of your list. It’s especially beautiful at night during the Christmas season, when the streets are decorated with garlands and lights. Visit Notre Dame Basilica, Montreal City Hall, take a look inside the local shops, or go on a historical walking tour to learn more about this beautiful city.
Take Day 1 – Old Montreal of my 3 Days in Montreal Itinerary and swap out Cité Memoire for Natrel Rink, and you will have the perfect winter’s day in Old Montreal! Enjoy more time in Old Montreal with this guide for sightseeing, museums, and food.
14. Montreal Museums
Montreal is home to some incredible museums – the perfect places to warm up after a day playing in the snow!
The Museum of Fine Arts: this museum features both contemporary and past works. Works include pieces from artists local to Quebec, or elsewhere in Canada, and from international artists around the world. You’ll have a chance to see all different styles of paintings, sculptures, and photography. Check out the events calendar for workshops and concerts going on while you’re in Montreal.
The McCord Museum: the McCord Museum will take you back in time through Montreal’s history. The collections focus primarily on Montreal’s development, starting in the 1700’s. Clothing, objects, and tools belonging to past Canadian men and women, and to First Nation’s people, can all be found here.
Pointe-a-Calliere Museum: this museum is one of a kind, because it includes archeological sites that are of historical significance to Montreal. The archeology sites uncovered during construction have been left as part of the museum’s display. The museum includes collections of artefacts from First Nationals and documents the arrival of the British and French to Montreal.
15. Montreal from Above
One of the best things to do in Montreal in winter is take in a view of the snowy skyline! Here are a few places you can go for an amazing view.
- The Montréal Tower at Olympic Park was built for the Olympics, and it’s still operating today with a great view of the city from above. If you’re going here, stop by the botanical gardens to visit the greenhouse too.
- La Grande Roue de Montréal is a great way to see Old Montreal in particular, and the ferris wheel itself is becoming an iconic Montreal photograph.
- The Observatoire Place Ville Marie will give you a great view from 46 stories up.
16. Bota Bota Spa
Bota Bota is a ferry turned upscale “floating spa.” It’s set on the waterfront at the Old Port, and offers a range of spa treatments, thermal bathes, yoga, and a restaurant. Relaxing in a hot tub surrounded by snow and winter scenery is a unique experience. You have a great view of the port and the river.