This post is the first in a new series entitled Winter in the City. In this series I will showcase various cities that may have reputations for being cold, but can actually be great places to travel during the winter. These cities know how to do winter, and they can turn your dreary, overcast days into a winter wonderland full of warm and cozy fun!
Instead of escaping to the beach this winter, why not travel to a cold weather city? First, you will find amazing discounts on flights to these destinations, as well as on accommodation once you get there. This means you can get a lot more bang for your buck. You can get a deluxe suite at an upscale hotel for a third of what it would cost during the high season.
Interested yet? If you’re still not convinced, visiting cold weather locales during the winter also means that there will not be as many other tourists, so no long lines or crowds at those big attractions. Finally, these cities are cold weather experts. They’ve been around in the low temps for a long time and they know what they’re doing. Heated sidewalks, underground cities, winter bazaars, and cozy cafes all await your visit.
Today’s spotlight city, Montréal, really knows how to celebrate winter. Winters in Montréal can be extreme. January is typically the coldest month, with average temperatures between 7 and 22 degrees Fahrenheit (-14 and -5 Celsius). Average snowfall in the city is 82.5 inches (209.5 centimeters). On the shortest day of the year the sun rises around 7:30am and sets around 4:30pm, providing around nine hours of daylight. Cold and snow often dominate the news, but that does not stop the people in this fair city from having fun.
Before your trip you may want to look into purchasing Passport Montréal. This is a city pass that is valued at over $300 and gives you free or discounted admission to 23 of Montréal’s must-see attractions, as well as unlimited transportation within the city. There are two passes, a 48-hour pass for $85, and a 72-hour pass for $99 (all prices in this post are in Canadian dollars). See a list of included attractions here.
Also take a look at this map of Montréal’s Underground City. To keep you warm on those cold winter nights, Montréal has created a large series of tunnels under the main part of downtown connecting many of the major sights so you don’t even have to step outside to go from one place to another. And these are not just tunnels, but whole underground cities filled with shops, restaurants, and more.
Below is an incredible list of fun and amazing things you can do in Montréal this winter.
Montréal en Lumière
The 19th annual Montréal en Lumière festival will take place this year from February 22 to March 4, 2018. Montréal en Lumière, Montréal in Lights in English, is one of the highlights of winter in the city. Instead of dreading the snow and cold, Montréal embraces it and offers residents and visitors alike the chance to experience fun in the snow! The festival features several events, musical acts, food stalls, and amazing winter-themed activities. One of the most amazing of these activities is the zipline where you can fly high over the festival over Sainte-Catherine Street. There is also a luge, a ferris wheel, and more! As a bonus, all activities are free!
Get more details on the website here.
Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal
(Museum of Fine Arts)
Montréal’s Museum of Fine Arts is an amazing place to spend a few hours. The permanent collections include archaeology and world cultures, early to modern international art, Quebec and Canadian art, international contemporary art, photography and graphic arts, and more.
Admission to the collections and discovery exhibitions is free for those aged 30 and under, or $15 for those 31 and over. Entrance is also free for those with Passport Montréal. Check out the museum’s website for more information on pricing, opening hours, and special exhibits.
Centre Bell is where the action is! As the home of the Montréal Canadiens, hockey fans flock here on chilly evenings to cheer on the “Habs.” The Montréal Canadiens were founded in 1909 and are the longest continuously operating professional team worldwide. There is some mystery surrounding the team’s nickname: the Habs. Many believe this name stems from the abbreviation of les habitants, meaning “the habitants,” referring to the early farmers of Quebec. However, this meaning may erroneously stem from a comment made by the owner of Madison Square Garden in 1924 who told a reporter that the “H” on the Canadiens jersey stood for “habitants.” In actuality, the distinctive C-wrapped-around-H logo on the Canadiens’ jerseys stands for the team’s official name, the “Club de Hockey Canadien.” The “H” stands for “hockey.”
If hockey isn’t your thing, Centre Bell also hosts several other events throughout the year, including major concerts. If you’re really making the most of your trip, you can try out a hockey game one night and a concert the next! As a bonus, the Bell Center is connected to the underground city.
Get more information about Centre Bell and its events on their website.
Bota Bota, spa-sur-l’eau
This is hands down one of my favorite spas in the world. Created from a converted ferryboat, Bota Bota sits serenely in the St. Lawrence River. In the winter the boat is surrounded by ice, but once inside it is a warm and tranquil experience. Their quiet relaxation rooms, saunas, and steam rooms make for an extremely relaxing experience. As a Nordic style spa, you can also take a brave plunge in one of their cold pools before warming back up in a hot pool, sauna, or steam room.
The garden (above), reached by crossing a causeway to the land nearby, is absolutely beautiful and boasts its own hot pool, cold plunge pools with waterfalls, relaxation rooms with individual hammock chairs hanging from the ceiling, sauna and steam rooms, and two lounge areas with fire pits. From the rooftops of the boat you can relax in hot pools while taking in expansive views of the Montréal skyline.
Visit their webpage for more information.
And if you’d like more information about other amazing spas around the world see my previous post: Unique Spas Around the World.
Montréal’s Biodôme, Planetarium, Botanical Garden, & Insectarium
These four amazing attractions are all part of Espace pour la vie (Space for life) Montréal. They are all located in the Olympic Park where the main Olympic stadium of the 1976 summer Olympics is located. These centers make up the largest natural science museum complex in Canada and are one of the leading tourist sites in Montréal and all of Québec. The locations offer immersive experiences combining science and emotion, inviting visitors to look at nature differently. Space for life’s philosophy is to rethink the ties that unite human beings and nature. You can experience a variety of ecosystems at the Montréal Biodôme, a living museum of plants from around the world at the Botanical Garden, marvel at over 250,000 specimens of living and naturalized insects at the Insectarium, and experience things from out of this world at the Planetarium. In the winter, the Botanical Garden and Insectarium team up for an event called Butterflies go Free. The Insectarium offers its expertise and the Botanical Garden offers its facilities where they release up to 20,000 butterflies in the greenhouses. This year’s event runs from February 22 to April 29, 2018.
Butterflies in the Botanical Garden.
Entrance is free to all four locations with Passport Montréal. If you don’t have the pass you can purchase a Space for life package for $49.75. You definitely want to buy a pass if you plan on visiting more than one location. Individual prices are high at $20.25 each for the Biodôme, Planetarium, and Botanical Garden and Insectarium (one ticket gives entrance to both of these last two locations). Get more information on the Space for life website here.
Parc du Mont-Royal
(Mount Royal Park)
Frederick Law Olmsted, the landscape architect behind New York City’s Central Park, is also responsible for designing Montréal’s amazing park. There are many winter activities you can participate in at Mount Royale, including ice skating, cross country skiing, and snowshoeing. In addition, the park offers stunning views of the city’s skyline.
Get more information on their website here.
So now that you’re convinced winter really can be better in the far north, pack your bags and head to this winter wonderland!