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Montréal en Lumière
Photograph: Michael Vesia

The best things to do at Montréal en Lumière 2020

From outdoor winter playgrounds to gastronomic events that’ll blow your socks off, these are the best things to do at Montréal en Lumière

JP Karwacki
Written by
JP Karwacki
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No lie, in the 21 years that Montréal en Lumière has been running in this city, it’s grown to be a massive Montreal festival that spreads across ten neighbourhoods and forms a massive takeover of the Place des Festivals in Downtown Montreal. It’s so big, in fact, that it can be difficult to know what to do: A wine tasting inside of a giant glass igloo? A Michelin-starred dinner? Sliding down a giant neon-lit chute, followed by a ride on a Ferris wheel? Party it up in the best clubs in Montreal or explore the best museums in Montreal until the sun comes up during Nuit Blanche? It’s a lot to take in, so use this guide to make the most of this week-long Event of the Winter.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Montréal en Lumière 2020

Best of the city under one roof

Time Out Market Enters the Twilight Zone

Save the date of February 22 on your calendars and start prepping your appetites like Thanksgiving was coming early this year. As part of Montréal en Lumière’s Nuit Gourmande event on February, Time Out Market Montréal’s restaurants and chefs are putting their heads together to create one amazing menu you only get one night to try: Each eatery will be doing a dish inspired by another restaurant. Get all the details below.

The best things to do at Montréal en Lumière 2020

1. Explore the outdoor winter wonderland

Every year, Montréal en Lumière puts together a huge outdoor festival area where you can bundle up and party on. Once you arrive at the site, you can’t miss it: The interactive light installations that are Illuminart (a collection worth checking out in and of itself), a giant lit Ferris wheel, a 110 metre-long slide, musical performances, plus food, food and more food to try from ‘gourmet kiosks’ hosted by local darling restaurants and caterers.

2. Drink it up in a giant glass igloo

You’ve got to hand it to the SAQ, they’ve outdone themselves this year: Located in the heart of the outdoor site, you can grab glasses of wine or spirits under the geodesic dome of a glass igloo, running every night from 5pm to 11pm (and starting as early as 2pm on February 29th and March 1st).

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3. Roast some food on an open fire

The outdoor site’s going to keep you nice and toasty at its outdoor braziers with open fires. You’ve got sweet and savory options here: Purchase some sausages or some s’mores, a stick, and start cooking. And hey, if you gorge yourself a little too much, the fireplace area’s got some Adironack chairs for you to lounge in.

4. Do a restaurant crawl with Nuit Gourmande

With more than 100 restaurants participating, we’re betting you’ll only be able to handle one dinner during this one-night-only extravaganza. Wherever you go, however, it’s going to be good: Every kind of establishment you can imagine—from restaurants and bars to grocery stores, fish markets and pastry shops—is offering some kind of tasting that can range in cost from free to ticketed.

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5. Take a tour with Tastet

Tickets are going fast—and we mean that some are already booked solid while you’re reading this—to take part in “privileged access” tours guided by local gastronomical promoter Élise Tastet and her father, the food critic Jean-Philippe. There are six different tours to pick from: Natural, organic and biodynamic wines; discovering sake options; exploring the best speakeasies in Montreal; and three food-based tours around Greek, Chinese and Italian cuisine.

6. Watch the high diving act

Lysanne Richard, who took third place in the the 2019 Red Bull Cliff Diving circuit, will be taking to a high diving platform and splashing down into a pool that’s only 3 meters deep. That’s not even the craziest part: All of this will be happening outside, in the cold, and it’ll be happening three times every day the festival is taking place. Now that takes some dedication.

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7. Stay up late and party even later

One of the crown jewels of Montréal en Lumière, Nuit Blanche is an all-night affair where you can explore the city until the sun comes up—literally. On February 29th, the Metro will be open until 5am, so you hop, skip and jump between events and last calls at bars to your heart’s content. It seems like every gallery and museum worth its salt has got something going on this night. Highlights include: The Egyptian mummy exhibit at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, a kiki ball at Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, a virtual reality exhibit at Ausgang Plaza, a mafia-themed escape room at Vortex Escape Room, and lots, LOTS more.

8. Light up your night with interactive art

As if the illuminated landscape that is Montréal en Lumière’s outdoor playground wasn’t enough to bright light to take in, the interactive and though-provoking installations placed throughout the downtown site are expansive and multitudinous enough to merit a night’s visit in itself. From zootrope and praxinoscope-inspired carousels of animation to holographs, photo booths and immersive art based on the concept of altered reality, we’ll bet money that this is something you’ll never have seen before.

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9. Explore the Michelin star-studded events

With every successive year that Montréal en Lumière takes place, the more highly-lauded chefs come to play in the best restaurants in Montreal. This year’s programming features chefs like the ‘Demon chef’ Alvin Leung, Mathieu Jacri, Franck Putelat, Michael Anthony of NYC’s Gramercy Tavern, chefs from Belgium’s L'Impératif, Lionel Rodriguez, Paul Burgalières, a king of French cuisine Alain Ducasse and many, many more. Kind of amazing when you think about the sheer amount of chefs in town. Maybe now they’ll consider Canada for the Michelin Guide.

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