From the enchanting glow coming from Old Montreal's cobblestone streets to the adrenaline of winter sports on Mount Royal, we've rounded up the best things to do in Montreal in the winter so you can make the most of those chilly days.
It might be tempting just to bundle up and wait for winter to be over, but there's so much to do in the City of Saints that you won't want to miss a second. From street art trails and cafés to skiing and ice skating your way through the city, visiting Montreal in winter is sure to be worth it.
The 12 Best Things to Do in Montreal in Winter
Join Ask Genie on a journey through the snowy streets, joyous festivals, and hidden gems that make Montreal a captivating destination when the temperature drops.
1. Ice Skating
Ice skating is a must-do winter activity in Montreal, whether you're a beginner or a seasoned veteran. During the colder months, the city transforms into a skating haven, and places like Esplanade Tranquille in the Quartier des Spectacles become lively rinks surrounded by festive lights and the city's vibrant energy.
You can also ice skate at Beaver Lake atop Mount Royal for a more serene and picturesque experience coming from the snow-covered landscape. So, if gliding through the heart of downtown or enjoying the natural beauty at Beaver Lake sounds like magic to you, ice skating in Montreal is a perfect way to spend the cold season.
2. Cross-Country Skiing
As the city is blanketed in snow, Montreal's extensive network of trails offers a serene escape for cross-country skiers. From the easygoing novice trails of Parc Jean-Drapeau to the advanced inclines at Mount Royal Park, there's something for every age and ability.
The crisp winter air, the sound of skis gliding over snowy paths, and the views of the twinkling city lights below create a truly memorable experience.
3. Fête des Neiges de Montréal (the Montreal Snow Festival)
The lively Montreal Snow Festival, known as 'Fête des Neiges,' transforms Parc Jean-Drapeau into a winter wonderland filled with activities for all ages. From thrilling snow tubing and ice slides to enchanting snow sculptures and live entertainment, the festival is nothing short of magical.
You can try dog sledding, zip-lining, and even try your hand at snowshoeing! When it's time to refuel, you won't have to go far. Find a warming treat at one of the many food trucks before an afternoon of karaoke and friendly competition.
4. La Grande Roue de Montréal (Montreal’s Ferris Wheel)
Add a touch of whimsy or romance to your Montreal trip with the La Grande Roue de Montréal. Located in the heart of Old Montreal, the Ferris wheel offers panoramic views of the historic district adorned in a glistening blanket of snow.
If you visit after dark, the Ferris wheel creates a completely different ambience, casting a warm glow over the cobblestone streets and centuries-old architecture. Don’t worry if you’re feeling the chill; each enclosed cabin has heating, creating a cozy, intimate space to enjoy the breathtaking scenery.
5. Montreal Food Tour
The colder months bring a unique charm to Montreal's diverse neighbourhoods, where quaint cafes, bustling markets, and charming bistros draw you in with delicious, comforting food.
From savouring iconic dishes like poutine and tourtière to indulging in rich, velvety hot chocolate, we know you won't be disappointed. Food tours provide a unique journey through Montreal’s cultural tapestry, offering a closer look at its traditions and innovative food scene.
If your ideal foodie tour involves only the finest eateries, check out our guide to the most expensive restaurants in Montreal.
6. Montréal En Lumiere (Montreal Lights Festival)
The Montréal En Lumiere, or Montreal Lights Festival, stands out as one of the best winter experiences in the city, illuminating the season with a dazzling display of lights and festivities. It's officially one of the largest winter festivals in the world, drawing over 500,000 visitors, and it's easy to see why.
Landmarks, historic streets, and public spaces become a canvas for vibrant light installations, turning the city into an awe-inspiring spectacle. The festival's displays range from twinkling fairy lights to intricate projections that you're unlikely to find anywhere else.
7. Alpine Aprés Ski Experience in Downtown Montreal
An outdoor rooftop experience might not be what you have in mind when it comes to cozy winter activities in Montreal but trust us. Le Belvu Hors Piste perfectly combines urban sophistication with mountain retreat snugness, offering a unique way to celebrate winter in the heart of the city.
After a day of exploring the city's winter wonders, the Alpine Aprés Ski Experience provides a luxurious retreat, complete with alpine-themed decor and warming fireplaces.
8. Notre Dame Basilica
Stepping foot in the Notre Dame Basilica feels like entering a winter sanctuary, where the stunning Gothic Revival architecture is enhanced by the soft glow of candles and natural light shining through the stained glass windows.
The Basilica is not only a place of worship but a cultural and historical gem that hosts special events and concerts throughout the year. Whether you're admiring the intricate details of the interior, marvelling at the majestic organ, or simply seeking a moment of quiet introspection, a winter visit to the Notre Dame Basilica provides a spiritual and cultural experience you're unlikely to forget.
9. Old Montreal
The streets of the historic Old Montreal are transformed into a winter wonderland every year, adorned with twinkling lights and draped in a blanket of snow. There, you'll find the architectural treasures of Notre Dame Basilica and Place Jacques-Cartier, with their timeless beauty acting as the perfect backdrop to your activities.
Take the time to explore the boutiques, art galleries, and cafes that line the narrow streets. The historic squares come alive with seasonal festivities, and horse-drawn carriage rides add a nostalgic, romantic touch to your day out.
10. Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
If you're an art and history buff, be sure to add the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts to your itinerary. This world-class institution is a haven of artistic wonders, with rich and diverse collections housed in warm galleries that provide respite from the cold.
You can see masterpieces firsthand, from contemporary art to those dating as far back as the Roman Empire. The museum's rich and varied exhibitions, ranging from paintings and sculptures to decorative arts, take you on a journey across different eras and styles.
If you’re a seasoned art lover or a casual visitor, there’s something for everyone, so a trip to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is one of the best things to do in Montreal.
11. Montreal's Christmas Markets
Visiting Montreal's Christmas markets during winter is the best way to get into the holiday spirit as the city transforms into a joyous celebration of lights, crafts, and seasonal treats.
These markets, such as the iconic Marché de Noël du Vieux-Port, offer a magical escape filled with the warm glow of twinkling lights and the enticing aroma of comfort food. Strolling through the market stalls, you'll discover unique handcrafted gifts, festive decorations, and a wide range of enticing food that's sure to pull you in!
Montreal's Christmas Markets are more than just shopping experiences - they're also vibrant hubs of cultural festivities, including live music and performances.
Montreal Christmas Village is on our list of the best Christmas markets in Canada. Why not take a look to find your next Christmas trip? Or if you have a trip to Ontario planned, we’ve created an extensive list of the best Christmas markets in Ontario to help you find the perfect spot for a Winter break.
If you want to keep dancing all winter long, you'll want to book tickets for Igloofest, the world's coldest music festival. This outdoor electronic music festival takes place in the Old Port of Montreal, where iconic industrial structures provide a dramatic backdrop to the beats and colourful lights. Despite the chilly temperatures, Igloofest draws thousands of music lovers every year.
Festival-goers don their most creative and warmest winter clothing, creating a vibrant display of colourful outfits amid the snow-covered surroundings. The best outfits even win prizes. The festival's lineup features top-tier DJs and electronic artists, turning the chilly outdoors into a heated dance floor!
Book Your Dream Trip to Montreal in Winter with Help from Spin Genie
From the historic charm of Old Montreal and the artistic allure of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts to the festive delights of Christmas markets and the electronic beats of Igloofest, the city embraces winter with open arms.
Whether you're gliding across the ice at local rinks, savouring the warmth of après-ski experiences, or immersing yourself in the cultural richness of the Notre Dame Basilica, you're sure to have an incredible time.
Looking for more? Check out our blog, The Best Christmas Markets in Canada, for a truly snowy excursion.
For more inspiration on wintery trips, check out our other lifestyle blogs:
- 10 of the Best Christmas Market Cruises
- 11 Best Places to Spend Christmas in Canada
- 8 Best Ski Resorts in Canada Worth a Visit
- The 7 Best Places to Celebrate New Year in Canada
Is Montreal Worth Visiting in Winter?
Montreal is absolutely worth visiting in winter! The city transforms into a beautiful winter wonderland with snow-dusted streets, twinkling lights, and a wide range of seasonal activities.
From exploring the enchanting Old Montreal to participating in winter festivals like Igloofest, enjoying outdoor sports on Mount Royal, and indulging in sweet treats at the Sugar Shack, Montreal offers a unique and vibrant winter trip.
What to Do in Montreal in the Snow?
Visit Montreal over the holiday season or winter months and find an array of magical things to do! Explore the historic charm of Old Montreal with its cobblestone streets adorned in snow. Head to Mount Royal for outdoor adventures like snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, or take a spin at the iconic Beaver Lake ice rink.
Experience the magic of winter festivals and Christmas markets, indulge in seasonal culinary delights at cozy cafes, and don't miss the vibrant atmosphere of Igloofest, an electrifying outdoor music event.
Discover Spin Genie