Ours to Discover: Even in winter, Montreal is active and vibrant

Embrace the snow and cold by exploring city streets or attending ones of its outdoor festivals

By Dean Lisk Wheels.ca

Jan 28, 2023 7 min. read

Article was updated 8 months ago

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In this four-week series, we take readers on a road trip through Quebec, learning why

La Belle Province is ours to discover this winter. This week, we end our journey in the province’s largest city, Montreal.

No matter what the season, Montreal is a vibrant city full of festivals, events and attractions waiting to be experienced. Even a heavy snow fall can’t dampen the energy of the bundled-up locals who fill the city’s squares and parks to enjoy the winter air. What so much to see and do, here are our picks for a memorable winter getaway.


In the morning: Start your visit to Montreal by exploring some of its unique neighbourhoods. Head to the Plateau-Mont-Royal area by taking the subway to Sherbrooke station. Start at Square Saint-Louis where you can admire the charming townhouses with their colourfully painted upper levels and snow-covered curving staircases.

As you walk, keep your eyes open for some of the murals that decorate this area of the city. There is a multi-story one of singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen on the corner of Napoléon and Saint-Dominique streets, and one featuring baseball player Jackie Robinson – the first African American to play in Major League Baseball and who debuted with the Montreal Royals – on Napoléon.

Quebec Montreal

After, take the bus to the top of Mont Royal to explore its snow-covered park, where you will encounter energetic locals cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and winter running along an extensive network of trails.

Around noon: Follow the staircases and pathways that lead from Mont Royal through the campus of McGill University into downtown. Stop for lunch at the Time Out Market located in the Centre Eaton de Montréal. Opened in 2019, the market includes more than a dozen food concepts created by the chefs of some of the city’s best restaurants. Try a plate of the Moroccan lemon confit chicken at Lebanese-inspired Mezzmiz or bowl of Vietnamese pho from Le Red Tiger.

In the afternoon: Walk from the Centre Eaton to the McCord Stewart Museum on Sherbrooke Street. The institution celebrates everything Montreal, chronicling the city’s past and present and stories of its diverse residents.

Its current exhibits include more than 250 images by Alexander Henderson, who photographed life in the city and other parts of Quebec in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and “Indigenous Voices of Today: Knowledge, Trauma, Resilience,” which includes artifacts from the museum’s Indigenous Cultures collection combined with stories from members of the 11 Indigenous nations in the province.

Quebec Montreal

In the evening: End your first day in the city by checking into Hyatt Centric Ville-Marie Montréal, a newly opened hotel on Rue Notre-Dame next to the historic railway station, Place Gare Viger. Located in Old Montreal, it features 177 chic rooms, many with views of the Old Port, St. Lawrence River and harbourfront.

Enjoy dinner at the on-site Restaurant Cartier Arms. Dig into plates of cavatelli with a

cauliflower bolognese, wild arugula, and grated parmesan, or the beef and venison burger

on a pretzel bun with truffle mayonnaise, while admiring the views of the French château-style railway station through the restaurant’s floor-to-ceiling windows.


In the morning: Enjoy breakfast at your hotel or, if you can wait, head to Chinatown where you can enjoy dim sum at popular spots like Red Ruby or Restaurant ChinaTown Kim Fung. Spend your morning walking in and out of stores along the pedestrian-only portion of Rue de la Gauchetièr or admiring Place Sun Yat Sen, a public square with a traditional pavilion.

Quebec Montreal

The roots of this neighbourhood, its boundaries are marked by four ornate gates, date back to the early 1890s. One of the oldest still-standing buildings is The Wings, located on the corner of de la Gauchetière and Coté streets, where fresh noodles and bilingual fortune cookies were made for decades.

You should also pop inside the Holiday Inn Montreal Centreville Downtown on the corner of Rue Saint-Urbain and Avenue Viger. Its restaurant is home to an ornate water feature complete with carved stone bridges and swimming koi.

Around noon: Stop for lunch at La Capital Taco, which serves authentic Mexican fare in the heart of Chinatown. (Its décor is a mix of the two, with, for example, a traditional fortune or lucky cat wearing a lucha libre wrestling mask.) Pair a plate of tacos, like its marinated pork or beer-battered fish, with a side of guacamole and one of its mezcal cocktails.

Montreal chinatown

In the afternoon: Discover all the excitement in the Quartier des Spectacles, Montreal’s entertainment district featuring 80 venues and eight public squares that play host to 40 festivals each year. Rent a pair of skates and take a spin around the Esplanade Tranquille rink or interact with some of the light and sound installations that are part of Experience Luminothérapie.

Plan your visit to coincide with Montréal en Lumière. A winter festival that runs between Feb. 16 and March 5, it is a combination of free outdoor activities for the whole family as well as music, a Nuit Blanche event with more than 100 art displays and performances, and food-based workshops and tastings.

In the evening: End your day with a meal at one of Montreal’s iconic restaurants, L’Express. Opened in 1980 by two theatre lovers, it attracts an eclectic mix of artists, families from the neighbourhood and trendy couples on date nights. Start with the chicken liver pâté with pistachios or the bone marrow with fleur de sel before moving on to main dishes like veal kidney in mustard sauce, roasted quail with wild rice or confit duck leg


In the morning: Hop into your car and make the 20-minute drive for brunch at Paname Restaurant in Verdun. Dig into its pancetta eggs benedict served on a brioche bun or the duck confit with soft boiled eggs and maple beans.

The restaurant is located on Promenade Wellington, which Time Out Index named the coolest street in the world in 2022. Once a French working-class neighbourhood, Verdun – and the street – is now a mix of quaint family-owned business that have operated for years and newer stores and boutiques. There is also a strong community spirit, with several local festivals – like the Cabane Panache sugar shack themed event usually held from mid-March to early April.


While on Wellington, step into Fromagerie Copette for fresh cheeses, Maltéhops for microbrews from around the province and Café le 5e for one of its zero-waste coffees.

Around noon: For a light lunch grab a hot sandwich from Bossa. The Italian delicatessen stuffs its crusty bread full of tasty ingredients to make delicious cheese steak, porchetta, chicken cutlets and meatball sandwiches.

In the afternoon: Drive back to Montreal by following the waterfront to the Old Port to visit Pointe-à-Callière. An archaeology and history museum, it is built on the site of some of the city’s oldest European settlements and includes a mix of exhibits about world cultures and artifacts tied to the history and growth of Montreal.

The museum makes it possible for visitors to walk on a glass floor above the remains of Fort Ville-Marie, established in the 1640s, as well as tour a tunnel that was once part of the city’s first sewage collection system, which was built between 1832 and 1838.

After, spend time exploring the rest of the historic area by touring the interior of Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal or riding the La Grande Roue de Montréal, an observation wheel that reaches 60 metres high for spectacular views of the city and area.

If you happen to be visiting Montreal on a weekend between now and Feb. 11, the Old Port comes alive with Igloofest, an outdoor event featuring DJs, dance music and festival goers dressed in crazy costumes to stay warm as the move to the beats.

Quebec Montreal

In the evening: Celebrate your final night in Montreal with a meal at Maggie Oakes, a modern grill specializing in aged meats located in the Hôtel William Gray. Begin your culinary experience with a plate of fresh oysters and the French onion soup before savouring the lobster ravioli, braised lamb shoulder or the 55-day aged New York steak.

For the ride

Embrace Montreal’s international flavour by listening to Congolese Canadian musician Pierre Kwenders, who won the 2022 Polaris Music Prize for his album, “José Louis and the Paradox of Love.”

The Toronto Star has partnered with Bonjour Quebec to bring you this road trip series. The writer travelled as a guest of Bonjour Quebec, which did not review or approve this article.




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