Living in Florida means I’ve only seen snow a few times in my life; only during that occasional “cold” trip, hence I basically get stupid with joy when I’m in the snow. Like a puppy dog running through a snowy trail in the forest for the first time. Yup. That’s me. Granted, I would not want to live in a cold place, because that would mean adult responsibilities such as shoveling aforementioned snow, de-icing your car before work, and other unwanted, winter related chores. No thank you. I choose to enjoy all the best parts of the Winter Season such as snow angels, snowball fights, hot mulled wine and cold weather outdoor fun by opting to only vacation at beautiful chilly destinations like Montreal, Canada.
Montreal was an almost perfect winter trip. I say almost because it was even colder than Iceland; something I certainly didn’t expect. The coldest temperature in Reykjavik during our trip back in 2015 was 25 F (-4 C). The coldest day we experienced in Canada? Well, it got to -3 F (-19 C) Yikes! My husband thinks I’m officially crazy for wanting to visit cold destinations and dragging him along. But Montreal is a beautiful old city, with a lot of history & charm. Cobblestone streets, French Colonial architecture (particularly in the Vieux-Montreal area), city blocks dotted with old historic cathedrals, everyone bundled up, Christmas markets and there’s snow on the ground; how could I not love it?
Here Are 12 Cool things To Do And See In Montreal During the Winter Season:
PS: I paired the sightseeing by proximity to make it easier to plan your day.
1. Old Port – There weren’t any boats in the port since the river was frozen over, but the sunset was so beautiful over the Old Port area, it was perfect for an evening stroll. Ice-skating is a fun activity available during the winter and you can skate your little heart out while a DJ spins awesome Pop/Dance music. You can also visit the Science Center in the vicinity. The Old Port area is teeming with quaint little side streets, full of great art galleries, restaurants and bars. We stopped at Mondavi Wine Bar for dinner, and they had a fantastic wine list, live jazz music and amazing food! (metro: Orange line, stop: Champ-de-Mars)
2. Bonsecours Market – Indoors artisan market perfect to get some shopping done. Everything from wool accessories to hand carved wooden art by local artists.
3. Notre Dame Basilica – A stunning example of Gothic Revival architecture in the heart of Montreal, Notre Dame was the first church of its kind in North America. The ceiling is absolutely beautiful with its teal color and dotted with gold stars. Fun Fact: At its inauguration, Notre-Dame Church was the largest house of worship in all of North America!
Parc Olympique Area:
4. Biodome – An indoor biosphere with multiple ecosystems that includes an impressive rainforest environment with macaws, gators, monkeys, tropical flora just to name a few. The Polar ecosystem is pretty cool too, specially if you’re a fan of cute little peguins. Such a rich and lush environment, it’s easy to forget where you are and you might just think you’re in a Mexican Cenote or the El Yunque Rainforest in the Caribbean.
Beautiful Blue Macaws at the indoors Rainforest in the Biodome
5. Planetarium Rio Tinto Alcan – Opened in 2013, the outside structure is made of Aluminum, the most abundant metal on Earth and it houses two theaters and exhibits on astronomy and outer space. The “Chaos” 360 movie about our galaxies and meteors was pretty neat. And you get to watch it laying on beanbags or reclined chairs. We went with the beanbags of course!
Le Torre de Montreal
6. Le Torre de Montreal – Inclined Tower – Take the lift up to the tallest inclined tower in the world and get a wonderful bird’s eye view of the city from the tower’s viewing deck.
7. Botanical Gardens – A big hit from spring through fall with greenhouse exhibits and outdoor gardens. We decided not to go since we visited during the winter and more than half of the grounds were covered in snow. You can add it to your package when purchasing tickets to the other Olympic Park attractions listed above.
WEB: http://espacepourlavie.ca/en These attractions are closed on Mondays (metro: Green line, stop: Pie-IX or Viau)
Running in the snow
Mont Royal Area:
8. Parc Du Mont Royal – The Central Park of Montreal, this urban park sits right on the mountain in the middle of the city. Mont Royal has various hiking trails and lookout points for a great panoramic view of the city; and it’s supposedly how the city got its name. During the winter, ice skating is available at Bear Lake or you can try cross country skiing through out the park’s trails. (metro: Orange line, stop: Mont-Royal)
TIP: Don’t walk to Mont Royal from St. Josephs’ Oratory. Trust me, it’s not as close as you think. We learned it the hard way and walked 40 minutes steep uphill, in – 3 degrees F, with strong winds. Not fun guys. Not. Fun. At. All. The hubby thought he was going to have a heart attack. Needless to say, the next vacation will be to a tropical island LOL.
9. Saint Joseph’s Oratory – Majestically sitting a top of a hill, The St. Joseph Oratory became famous because Brother Andre Bessette was said to have healing powers and performed many miracles at this church. You can see old crutches displayed along the alters of the smaller chapels inside St. Joseph’s Oratory. (Bus #166 drops you off right in front of the Oratory)
Downtown/Place des Arts:
10. Underground City – If you want to escape the freezing temperatures up above, head underground where you’ll find a labyrinth full of stores, restaurants, movie theaters and metro stations to distract you. This is where we bought winter gloves because the ones we brought along were not apt to the Canadian cold. Speaking of shopping, I got most of my cold gear from Columbia Sports. Check out the link @chasingwildgusts.com
11. Museum of Fine Arts, Contemporary Art Museum, and many more – So many museums in this historical city, it’s hard to pick just one.
12. Grand Marche de Noel – A must stop if you’re visiting during the Holiday Season, Le Grand Marche De Noel is set up adjacent to the Contemporary Art Museum at Place des Arts. Vendors at the Grand Marche Noel (Christmas Market) sold textiles, winter accessories, hand made jewelry and artisanal bath & body products. As for food and drinks, there are food trucks serving up tasty dishes through out the market. Try one of the vendors serving “Vin Chaude” aka hot mulled wine with spices. It was a delicious way to warm up in the cold.
Ordering a little “Vin Chaude” to warm up
GOOD TO KNOW:
Getting around: The Montreal Metro system is a lot easier to navigate than NYC metro. Thank God! If you’re in the city for a few days, it’s cheaper to get a multi-day pass. From the street, Metro stations are marked by a blue sign. The buses are pretty easy and convenient too.
Where we stayed: Loews Hotel Vogue in the heart of downtown and conveniently close to 2 metro stations and bus stops. No car rental needed, unless you’re planning to do a day trip out of Montreal.
Language: French is the main spoken language in Montreal but the good thing is most of the city is bilingual. But it doesn’t hurt to be a good traveller and learn the basic words like ” Bonjour, Merci, Excusez-moi, S’il vous plait” Being polite doesn’t cost anything am I right? And a little effort goes along way. Check out Duolingo, a language learning App that I use and enjoy.
Au Revoir Montreal! A bientôt.
And there you have it! From historic cathedrals to an indoor rainforest to an urban park on top of a mountain in the heart of the city. Next time we visit Montreal, we are definitely going to the Botanical Gardens, hitting up more museums and enjoying even more local food and you should too! And I can sharpen my French skills of course.
Have you ever visited Canada? What city and what time of year?