Winter in Montreal…more than just snow and ice
There are few things you can do in order to make winter bearable when you live in a city whose average temperature in January lands at –15 degrees Celcius. Taking up snowboarding or popping some vitamin D pills and hiding at home, waiting for the worst to be over may seem like your only options, now that the excitement of the first snow fall has worn off, and the warmth of the holidays are behind you. Well, good news for all you winter grinches out there; turns out, Montreal in the winter really isn’t so bad.
Over the past few years I have come to realize that, despite Montreal’s infamous winter weather, this city breaks through all winter hibernation stereotypes and manages to come alive during the darkest months. Festivals, music and warm, delicious snacks are just a few of the reasons why I love Montreal…even when it is 30 degrees below.
Igloofest is definitely one of the greatest things about winter in Montreal. For those who have heard about or experienced an afternoon at Piknic Electronik, think of this as the winterized version. For three weekends in January, Montreal’s Old Port is transformed into the setting for what can best be described as a giant, outdoor dance party. Igloofest features some of the best artists of the electronic music scene, light shows, outdoor bars and a hilarious ski suit competition! It runs from January 13-15, 20-22 and 27-29 from 6:30pm-midnight and is definitely worth facing the cold for. In minus 30 degree weather, sometimes you’ve got to dance to stay warm.
And on the topic of crazy, winter, night time adventures in the city…Montreal’s High Lights Festival, more commonly known as Nuit Blanche is an annual all-night, city-wide festival that celebrates the culture, music, art and creativity of Montreal’s best and is, by far, one of my favourite nights of the year. The STM offers free bus routes to take you all around the city, from the Mile End to the Old Port, where most of Montreal’s galleries, museums and cultural centres stay open all night and feature over 175 (mostly free) activities. In the past, I have spent the better parts of my Nuit Blanche nights making masks for the masquerade ball at the McCord Museum, sliding down the massive ice slide that runs through Old Montreal, listening to gospel choirs at Notre Dame Basilica and roasting marshmallows over a bonfire outside the Science Centre. The greatest thing about Nuit Blanche? It truly caters to people of all ages. From loud, drunken university students to adorable children in snowsuits, there really is something for everyone, right up until its time to head to Beauty’s for breakfast. This year, Montreal’s Nuit Blanche starts at 8:00pm on February 26th with activities running well into the morning hours. Recommended: really, really warm socks.
This really wouldn’t be an adequate review of winter in Montreal without a shout out to the ultimate winter treat; hot chocolate. For those of you who have yet to experience it, you need to check out Juliette & Chocolat (on Laurier at Parc, St. Denis at Ontario or St. Laurent at Prince Arthur) for the best hot chocolate in the city, according to yours truly. A far cry from the usual “just add water” instant hot chocolate, Juliette et Chocolat’s hot chocolate (which comes in extra-bitter dark, dark, milk, or white chocolate) comes closer to warm chocolate pudding than a liquid drink. And while you’re there, you should probably also try one of their delicious, warm, freshly made brownies…the fleur de sel (chocolate brownie with salted caramel sauce) and the ivory (white chocolate and coconut) are two of my all-time favourites.
All these years, summers in Montreal have been getting the glory while Montreal winters have been the unfortunate target of harsh hatred from the people who call it home. So this winter, give the city a chance and check out some of the amazing night life, food and culture that Montreal has to offer. And if there’s anything I’ve missed, feel free to post it below; I’d love to hear about your favourite winter-in-Montreal traditions!