What do you do when life gives you snow? Make a snowman. Or if you’re in Montréal, celebrate it!
Montreal is a city that prides itself on its diversity. Diversity in languages and cultures? Oui! But there’s another kind of diversity that is much less touted, less celebrated, less talked about: The climatic diversity.
Montréal is a city with four distinct seasons. Each of them are so unmistakably true to what they are supposed to be, that you could easily visit once per season over the course of the same year and you’d think you’d have seen four different cities. The drastic change in the city’s vibe and look, from one season to an other are nature’s best example of diversity. The seasons effect on this island city goes way beyond weather.
“The seasons here actually impact social codes, personalities, fashion and so much more.”
Winter is the longest season, lasting up to five months. In a city that loves to have a good time, do as the locals do and embrace it. Make it live up to its potential. If it’s going to take up such a huge chunk of the year, you’d better make it awesome.
Here are my top five activities to best experience winter à la Montréal.
1. Visit Mount Royal Park
Quite possibly the heart and soul of the city, this mountain park which gave Montréal its name was designed by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead, who also designed New York’s Central Park. Take a quiet reflective walk through the forests and feel like you’ve escaped the city. Or head to Beaver Lake and rent a pair of skates and practice your triple axel. You could also rent cross country skis or tubes to go sliding down the hills. There’s no better place in the city to experience the magic of winter.
2. Experience an outdoor winter festival
No visit to Montréal would be complete without checking out a festival. This is festival city. With well over a hundred different festivals every year, there are practically no days without at least one festival happening. Even when mother nature sends her harshest winter storms our way, locals cannot help but gather to celebrate everything from music to food, to lights and of course, arts and culture.
- Igloofest (Jan 7th – Feb 2nd, thurs, fri, sat nights)
Thousands of brave souls dance their butts off outdoors to music by DJs from all over the world. Vintage ski suits encouraged.
Check out this year’s line up. Diplo is already sold out, Four Tet plays jan 19th.
- Barbegazi (Jan 12th – 13th & 19th – 20th)
Where thrill seekers gather to prove their prowess in all sorts of winter sports.
- Festival Montréal en Lumière (Feb 21st – March 3rd)
An outdoor carnival in the heart of downtown. Top chefs from around the globe are invited to guest star in restaurants all across town, while the theatres across town put on dance shows and concerts to please every taste. The 10 day event comes to a close with the next item on our list: Nuit Blanche
- Nuit Blanche (March 7th)
An overnight extravaganza where hundreds of events happen simultaneously between dusk and dawn because, well, sleep is overrated when you’ve got Montréal at your fingertips.
3. Spa Bota Bota
It sounds crazy, and you probably won’t understand it until you’ve tried it, but there’s nothing like soaking in hot water until you’re almost cooked, then jumping into a cold bath. Bota Bota has an amazing water circuit with an enviable location on the icy waters of the St-Lawrence. Part of the facilities are on an old ferry boat. Take full advantage of the views overlooking the old port, old Montréal and the city’s skyline while you let the outside world melt away.
Find out more: Bota Bota Spa
4. Tour the Underground City
Forget what you think you know about this vast pedestrian network connecting buildings all across the downtown neighbourhoods. Fitz’s 3 hour fully indoor walking tour brings you through some of the lesser known parts of the network and by the end you’ll know the underground city better than most locals. There’s some excellent public art along the way. The cherry on top is a ticket included for a trip 185 metres up to the Observatoire Place Ville Marie’s indoor observation deck to get a bird’s eye view of the city below.
Find out more: Fitz & Follwell
5. Check out a Hockey game
No other city loves hockey as much as Montréal. Okay that statement might instigate a few arguments, but hockey roots run deep here. The first ever official hockey game was played at Montréal’s Victoria rink in 1875. Our beloved home team, the Canadiens, is the oldest professional hockey team in the world. For hockey fans everywhere, no matter who your team is, to experience a Montréal home game at the Centre Bell is like going to the temple of hockey. And if the Canadiens win, partaaayyy! The Molson beer goes down pretty well here.
Get your tickets here: nhl.com/canadiens/tickets
No matter what you end up doing, your winter experience in Montréal is sure to be forever frozen in your memory.
Here’s some more helpful resources about Montreal:
STM Public Transport: Do yourself a favour, leave your car parked and use our efficient metro and bus system to get anywhere you need to go.
Street Art Walking Tours: To discover the creative hub of Canada’s coolest city – tours are offered year-round.
MTL Blog: Everything Montreal related – Things to do, nightlife, food, news, lifestyle and more.
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Thom’s favourite thing these days is watching videos of howling wolves. He loves how their lips form the sound. Also, he can’t get enough pho. If you’re on one of his tours, he will probably stop to pet a dog and show you where to find the best spots for pho.