Montreal is a festival city through and through. From Just For Laughs to the Montreal International Jazz Festival to the Formula 1 Grand Prix (and dozens more), the city is host to an endless stream of fun and festivities during the summer months.
But what happens when the days get shorter and the snow begins to fall? Well, luckily for us, little things like icy sidewalks and sub-zero temperatures aren’t enough to send Montrealers back into their homes when there’s fun to be had. Montreal is home to a growing number of winter festivals, all of which give locals and visitors alike cause to celebrate the long, cold months between October and… well, May. Wrap up, grab a hot beverage and get ready to have more fun than you probably thought possible in -10° weather!
November 1 to January 5
There’s an abundance of holiday markets and activities to be found at this time of the year, and Illumi is possibly our new favourite. Located just north of Montreal in Laval (and accessible by a shuttle from Montmorency station), Illumi is a dazzling “world of lights,” featuring eight illuminated sections inspired by various themes and places. Walk through a giant, brightly-lit Christmas tree, sample some mulled wine, hot chocolate or hearty nibbles as you take in the lights and cross off your holiday shopping list in the Christmas Market, which features artisans and local merchants.
January 18 to February 9
This family-friendly festival features all sorts of winter fun, including snowshoeing, skating, obstacle courses, ice sculpture shows, boot hockey, a human-scale foosball table and a massive, multi-lane tube slide; the perfect day out for both the young and the young at heart. Make sure to get yourself a beavertail while you’re there—you’ll need the sustenance!
January 16 to February 8
Who says outdoor music festivals must be confined to the summer months? Igloofest, which bills itself as “the coldest music festival in the world,” brings the party to Montreal’s Old Port over four weekends in January and February, with electronic music artists taking the stage until after midnight. You’ll want to pile on the layers for this one, but bundle up in style and you might even have a shot at winning Igloofest’s annual snowsuit contest.
February 20 to March 1
One of the biggest winter festivals in the province, this isn’t, as the name suggests, merely a festival of lights (although the lights that illuminate the Quartier des spectacles during the event are indeed great). Montreal en lumiere has increasingly turned its focus to food, bringing chefs from around to world to the city to delight Montrealers’ taste buds in the form of guided food tours, food kiosks and special events like Nuit Gourmande. Another highlight of the festival is Nuit Blanche, an all-night art showcase which takes place at various spots around the city.
Once you’ve exhausted the best that Montreal has to offer, there are plenty of other nearby winter festivals to check out, like Quebec City’s Winter Carnival or Ottawa’s Winterlude. Just don’t blame us if you feel a pang of sadness when the days warm up and the snow begins to melt!