It’s the last month of 2016, so why not make the best of it?
From skating in the park and holiday festivals to classical music concerts and Christmas parades, check out 28 free things to do in December.
In honour of Montreal’s 375th anniversary, the city is launching a variety show this December. The must-watch television program, airing December 11th at 8pm, will discuss the city’s planned birthday festivities. In addition, there will be an array of performers on hand to dazzle viewers and pay tribute to Montreal through music, comedy, and dance.
When: December 11, 8pm
This string quartet will play an annual holiday-themed performance on December 19th. As usual, the event is free so if you feel like listening to classical music right before Christmas, head on over to Place des Arts.
When: December 19
Where: Espace Culturel Georges-Emile Lapalme, Place des Arts.
Titled, “Harry Potter’s World: Renaissance Science, Magic, and Medicine,” the exhibit explores the fantastical series through the lens of Renaissance period, claiming that much of the series’ magic was rooted in Renaissance traditions. Touching on scientific concepts like alchemy, astrology, and natural philosophy, this unique exhibit is sure to provide insight and background information J.K. Rowling’s beloved wizarding world. The exhibition is free to attend.
When: November 21 – January 7, 2017
Where: Westmount Public Library, 4574 Rue Sherbrooke O
To celebrate the city’s upcoming birthday, the Maison de la Culture de NDG, Maison de la Culture de CDN, and the Nouveau Centre Culturel de NDG are hosting a unique art exhibition titled “the Thousand and One Faces.” The project will be divided into three areas: mediation and exchange, collective photographic creation, and exhibition. Taking place in the three cultural centres, as well as selected public space, don’t miss the opportunity to learn about the history and culture of these two Montreal boroughs.
When: December 1, 2016-December 2017
Where: Maison de la Culture de NDG, Maison de la Culture de CDN, and the Nouveau Centre Culturel de NDG
Make your way down Mont-Royal Ave for this traditional torchlit walk. Following a Christmas sleigh, this event attracts nearly 10,000 people each year. Better yet, it culminates in Christmas in the Park, which features an enchanting holiday village filled with activities and treats for the whole family.
When: December 1-24
Where: Avenue du Mont-Royal Est
The Montreal Public Library has just announced their new borrow a musical instrument program, meaning you can now play an instrument at no cost! Available at select branches of the Montreal Public Library, the public is now able to sign out musical instruments from the library, and thanks to the Sun Life Financial Musical Instruments loan program, it’s completely free! Instruments include guitars, basses, violins, keyboards, ukuleles, drums, and xylophones.
Where: Click here for a full list of participating branches
This winter festival right in the heart of the Olympic Village is one of the biggest Christmas attractions in the city. Featuring ice skating, snow tubing, an outdoor bar, and plenty of restaurants, there is tons of fun to be had at this snow-filled paradise. Last year’s village was open from mid-December until mid-January, though the dates aren’t confirmed yet for the 2016-2017 year, it will most likely open before Christmas. Check the website for updates.
Where: Olympic Park
Boasting perhaps the most picturesque rink in all of Montreal, the Bonsecours Basin outdoor skating rink will be up and running this December. Though the exact date is TBA, you can expect it to open in early December and to remain open all winter long. Bring a hot date or your closest friends and enjoy a magical night of skating under the stars to holiday tunes.
When: Early December 2016-March 2017
Where: Old Port
The biggest holiday craft fair in the city, Le Salon des metiers d’art de Montreal takes place annually at Place Bonaventure. Everything on display has been handcrafted by Quebec artisans, and even if you can’t shop, it’s a great place to do some browsing.
When: December 8-18
Where: Place Bonaventure
Montreal has been called Hollywood Northeast, and this year has truly lived up to the name. From chart-topping artists to Academy Award-winning actors, Montreal has and is currently hosting a slew of the world’s most beloved celebrities. Keep your eyes peeled for Ben Stiller, Luke Wilson, Keanu Reeves, Bruce Willis, and more who are all filming in Montreal.
When: Any time!
Where: Various locations
The second edition of Le Grand Marche de Noel is coming to Montreal this December. Taking over Place des Arts for the entire month, this German-style Christmas market will feature food trucks, a Santa’s Cabin, Elves Workshop, and Santa’s Sleigh. There will also be carol singers, karaoke, storytime, and an all-night party on New Year’s Eve. Finally, the market part will feature a range of locally produced gifts available for purchase including arts, crafts, jewelry, artisanal cheese, alcohol, clothing, chocolates, baked goods, and toys.
When: December 12, 2016 until January 2, 2017, for more scheduling info click here
Where: Place des Arts
Titled “Focus: Perfection,” this temporary exhibit focuses on Robert Mapplethorpe, one of the most influential photographers of the 21st century. The exhibit hails all the way from Los Angeles and was curated by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the J. Paul Getty Museum in collaboration with the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. “Focus: Perfection” will track Mapplethorpe’s work from the beginning of his career in the 1960s to his tragic death in 1989. See this exhibition for free on the last Sunday in December!
When: Tuesday 10 am-5 pm, Wednesday 10 am-9 pm, Thursday to Sunday 10 am-5 pm
Where: Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 1380 Rue Sherbrooke Ouest
The Stewart Museum’s magical Christmas exhibit opens on November 16th. The exhibition will showcase 30 Santa figurines and a Szalasi doll castle that comes to life when music plays. Admission to the museum and the special holiday exhibit are free.
When: November 16, 2016-January 8, 2017
Where: 20 Chemin du Tour de l’isle
The Puces Pop Fair is coming to Montreal this December for their annual Winter Edition. The 2016 Winter Edition will take place over the course of two weekends, December 9-11 and December 16-18. This arts & crafts fair arrives just in time for the holidays so you can get your Christmas shopping on. All of the vendors will be local and they will be selling everything from soap and teacups to clothing and maps.
When: December 9-11 and 16-18, Fridays 3 pm-9 pm, Saturdays 11 am-7 pm, Sundays 11 am-5 pm
Where: Eglise Saint-Denis (5075 Rivard, corner Laurier – Laurier Metro)
Montreal is pretty damn Instagram-worthy. Whether you’re at a hipster coffee shop or shopping on Sainte Catherine, it’s hard to resist pulling out your smartphone, snapping a pic, and publishing it on the famed picture-sharing app. From a Habs game at the Bell Centre to the Notre Dame Basilica or Palais du Congres, there are plenty of places to nab that picture-perfect Insta photo.
Where: For a list of the 15 most Instagrammed spots in Montreal, click here
Head to Old Port this holiday season and enjoy a slew of free activities, ranging from a New Year’s Eve party to outdoor yoga. Stroll through the market, set up in Place Jacques Cartier, and you’ll find gourmet food, warm drinks, artisanal crafts, and local art. If you’re a movie buff, be sure to attend the Outdoor Holiday Cinema in which festive family films will be screened.
When: December 1-24
Where: Old Port of Montreal
TOHU Cite des Arts du Cirque is once against hosting their Christmas Village. The theatrical venue will be transformed to a mecca for all things Christmas. Last year’s event featured an outdoor skating rink, Santa’s workshop, authentic Christmas market, illuminated Christmas tree, and a village tavern. Check the website for updates on the schedule for the 2016-2017 year.
Where: 2345 Rue Jarry E
Before it gets too cold, go out and explore Montreal’s famous street art scene. Take a self-guided tour and stare in awe at all of the incredible urban art on the streets of Montreal’s Plateau neighbourhood.
When: Any day of the week
Where: The Plateau
Three Montreal parks will be turned into a holiday paradise this December thanks to Festival Noels Dans Le Parc. Taking place from December 1st until Christmas Day, each of the three participating parks will be filled with holiday activities like marshmallow roasting, bonfires, gift stands, Christmas tree stands, and of course, Santa-sightings.
When: December 1-25
Where: Place Emilie Gamelin, Parc Lahaie, Parc Parc Des Compagnons De Saint-Laurent
Montreal’s very own Macy’s, La Maison Ogilvy always has an incredible CHristmas window display. Opened on November 11th, be sure to stop by the historic department store on Sainte Catherine the next time you’re walking downtown. This year’s display features bunnies and other adorable furry friends.
Where: 1307 Sainte-Catherine Street West
In case you hadn’t heard, Montreal is currently home to the Barbie Expo, the largest permanent collection of Barbie dolls in the world. Montrealers have the chance to see and Instagram over 1,000 one-of-a-kind Barbie dolls. The Barbie dolls on display are not your average Barbie dolls, however. Rather, Barbie Expo is an exhibition of haute couture with Barbie as the model. As the website states, “This is Barbie seen at her fashionable best, a stunningly beautiful collection chicly modeled by the 11½-inch fashion icon.”
When: Open Monday to Wednesday from 10 am to 6 pm, Thursdays and Fridays from 10 pm to 9 pm, Saturday from 10 am to 6 pm, Sundays from noon to 5 pm.
Where: 1455 Rue Peel
Hosted by the Church of St Andrew and St Paul in Montreal, Carols by Candlelight is an annual Christmas tradition in which the church’s choir sings Christmas carols all night long. Accompanied by a candle-lit procession, choral music, readings, and meditation, this event welcomes Montrealers everywhere.
When: December 18, 7 pm
Where: 3415 Rue Redpath
It’s never too late for a little holiday shopping. On December 10th and 11th, the Etsy community in Montreal will be hosting a special holiday market at the Maison de la Culture Maisonneuve. In addition to a plethora of goodies from local Etsy craft-makers, there will be a craft shows running throughout the day. Support local talent and get your shopping done all in one go!
When: December 10-11
Where: 4200 Rue Ontario Est
Think of Luminotherapie as the 21 Balancoires of the winter months. Set up in Place des Festivals every year, Luminotherapie is an interactive art installation with featuring bright and twinkly holiday lights. Comprised of thirty seesaws that light up and play music, the event invites Montrealers to take part in their very own winter playground.
When: December 8, 2016 – January 29, 2017
Where: Place des Festivals
Back for its second year, the Fontaine Boreale show will take place at Complexe Desjardins. This immersive and multi-sensorial experience combines water and light to bring you regularly scheduled shows that are sure to mesmerize.
When: November 19-December 31 at 4:30 pm, 5 pm, 6 pm, 7 pm, 8 pm, 9 pm, and 10 pm
Where: Complexe Desjardins
Before the fall foliage completely disappears, head over to Saint Joseph’s Oratory, a Roman Catholic Basilica that was completed in 1967. While it might not be Canada’s oldest church, it is Canada’s largest and most impressive church. Set on Westmount Summit, the views from the top are breathtaking.
When: Open everyday from 7:45 am to 9 pm
Where: 3800, chemin Queen Mary
Ice skating on top of Mount Royal is simply magical. Each year, Beaver Lake freezes over and Montrealers are invited to skate on this iconic pond. If you have your own skates, this activity is totally free. If not, you can rent skates from the chalet for $9
When: December 3-March 12, 2017
Where: Beaver Lake, Mount Royal
The McCord Museum just opened a new exhibition this month. Titled, “Notman, A Visionary Photographer, the photo exhibit offers “ a new perspective on the career of William Notman (1826–1891), who became the first Canadian photographer with an international reputation during the nineteenth-century.” Though the vintage photographs are the biggest draw to this exhibit, they are complemented by interactive multimedia installations and contextual information about life in the nineteenth century. Admission to the McCord Museum is free every Wednesday after 5pm!
When: November 4, 2016-March 26, 2017
Where: 690 Rue Sherbrooke O