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Photograph: Stéphan Poulin | Tourisme Montréal

Best Things to do on Christmas in Montreal

It may look like the city’s taking the day off at first, but there’s plenty of things to do on Christmas Day in Montreal

JP Karwacki
Written by
JP Karwacki
Amie Watson

You’ve unwrapped your gifts and drank all the cocoa in the house, and you've got the whole day ahead of you. Are your long johns in a twist because you think everything’s closed? Don’t worry, there’s plenty going on in this city on December 25th. On the dining and drinking side, expect to find seasonal cocktails in speakeasy bars and feasts in the city’s best Chinese restaurants alongside the best brunch and best breakfast spots. As for getting out and about, activities range from ice skating in Montreal to indie films, live music and some volunteer opportunities (‘tis always the season!).

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Explore the city’s Christmas lights
Photograph: Shutterstock

1. Explore the city’s Christmas lights

The streets may be a little quieter than usual, but the city and many of its most popular hubs will have put up big and bright displays worth exploring. From Instagram-worthy pop-ups to Christmas markets in Montreal full of kitsch, there’s a lot of Christmas light decorations worth checking out across the island, most notably in the downtown core.

See a huge choir performance
Photograph: Marie Deschene

2. See a huge choir performance

On Christmas morning, a ‘Super Christmas Choir’ will be performing at the Gesù church in downtown Montreal. Featuring traditional hymns and harmonisations for four mixed voices by Raymond Daveluy, it’ll be running from 9:15am to noon, and friends and musicians are more than welcome to pitch in; just be sure to reach out to the church in advance if you’d like to sing along.

Hit a skating rink
Photograph: Stéphan Poulin | Tourisme Montréal

3. Hit a skating rink

You’ll hear those sleighbells jingling (ring ting tingling) at the popular Bonsecours Basin's Old Port Natrel Skating Rink, a skating spot that stays open on Christmas Day. You’ll need to bring your own skates, however, in order to be on your merry way. If not here, there’s a bunch of spots for skating around the city as well. Glide on, Montreal.

Go to Chinatown
Photograph: Krista Stucchio

4. Go to Chinatown

If there’s one kind of business that doesn’t close on Christian holidays, it’s the best restaurants in Chinatown. That means there’ll be plenty of hand-pulled noodles at Lan Zhou, dumplings at Qing Hua, spicy Szechuan fish at Chez Chili, barbecue pork at Dobe & Andy, bubble tea at Presotea or some of the city’s best dim sum at Imperial. Need some groceries? Grab some ramen, steak, tofu or durian at G&D or Heng Heng grocery if you need something to sub in for a dry Christmas turkey.

Drink at Miracle Montreal
Photograph: Alison Slattery | Two Food Photographers | Tourisme Montréal

5. Drink at Miracle Montreal

The Christmas-themed pop-up bar hosted by the 132 Bar Vintage is back this year from November 22 to December 26 with its menu of specialty seasonal cocktails: Old Fashioned es neiges with gingerbread and rye, anyone? Christmapolitans, the Enlfing Around with a mulled wine reduction, the SanTaRex with tequila and mezcal? Naughty and nice shots? Get ready for a boozy good time—and be sure to enjoy responsibly!

Test your wits with a pub quiz
Photograph: Courtesy Benelux

6. Test your wits with a pub quiz

There are only so many bars that choose to be open on Christmas Day, but among them, Benelux in Verdun will be and doubling down with the drawcard of a pub quiz night. Run by Quiz Tonic, there are beer prizes for the first two winning teams, so get your friends together and knock it out of the park. Just note that the quiz is held in French.

See a movie
Photograph: Krists Luhaers

7. See a movie

Why fight the crowds at the major cinemas on Christmas when Montreal has such great indie theatres? Cinema du Parc is the downtown destination of choice for English language small-run gems, features and docs while the Dollar Cinema on Decarie Boulevard is the cheaper option, showing a mix of recent releases and cult classics for $2.50 a film. For French films, there’s Cinema Beaubien, a reputed cinema that shows international award winners and Quebecois productions.

Head to the Montreal Casino
Photograph: Casinos du Québec

8. Head to the Montreal Casino

Hoping to win yourself some cash for that toy Santa never delivered? Or maybe you just want drinks while playing slots? With its climate control and bright lights, you never know what day it is at the Montreal Casino anyway, and all those jangling sounds colourful games make it a year-round playground for adults. Please gamble responsibly, and if you win, consider giving a bit to those less fortunate.

Attend a service at St. Joseph's Oratory
Photograph: Nathalie Dumas

9. Attend a service at St. Joseph's Oratory

In addition to three masses on Christmas Eve (6pm, 9pm and midnight), St. Joseph’s Oratory usually hosts two masses on Christmas Day, including one with Les Petits Chanteurs du Mont-Royal. Whichever you attend, the Oratory’s world-class organ makes for an exceptional experience that will have the Christmas spirit running through you, from your nose to your toes. The Crypt Church also hosts several French services in the morning afternoon and evening as well as an English service and a Spanish service.

Hotel brunches, lunches, dinners and take-out
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Maison Boulud

10. Hotel brunches, lunches, dinners and take-out

Hotels don’t close over Christmas. They’re full of guests and those guests need somewhere to eat, and that means many hotel restaurants also often stay open. The best even offer special holiday meals that lure non-guests to brunch, lunch and dinner. Our top picks include: Maison Boulud, where Chef Riccardo Bertolini does a special three-course Christmas brunch or four- or six-course dinner complete with black truffle and artisanal yule log; Renoir at the Sofitel, where French Chef Olivier Perret combines local, seasonal ingredients with French flair; and the Christmas brunch at Rosélys inside the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth.

Merry Montreal in Old Montreal
Photograph: © Eva Blue - Tourisme Montréal

11. Merry Montreal in Old Montreal

Every year, Jacques-Cartier Square in Montreal’s Old Port celebrates the season with music, beer, hot chocolate, mulled cider and photo booths. Usually there’s a Nordic zone with art installations, a Quebec tasting bar of local products, warm-up zones and activities for kids and adults—on Christmas Day, these aren’t available, but its installations remain up to explore.

Winter Activities on Mont-Royal
Photograph: Eva Blue / Tourisme Montréal

12. Winter Activities on Mont-Royal

From skating and hot chocolate at Beaver Lake to snowshoeing, cross-country skiing or hiking the trails that wind from the northern tip of Peel Street or the western side of Parc Avenue to the famous Mont-Royal cross and lookout, there’s plenty of activity on the mountain on Christmas Day.

Christmas Mass at the Basilica
Photograph: Basilique Notre-Dame / Stéphan Poulin

13. Christmas Mass at the Basilica

The Notre-Dame Basilica charges admission to its Christmas masses, minus a few free seats with an obstructed view in the balcony (get there an hour in advance if you want them). It’s first-come, first-served. This year, renowned soprano Caroline Bleau will perform Christmas carols 20 minutes before the start of the celebration during Mass on the night of 24th of December; regular Mass will take place as per usual on Sunday, December 25th, at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., & 5 p.m.

Christmas in the Park
Photograph: Emmanuel Crombez

14. Christmas in the Park

Held at three Montreal parks, this annual celebration involves sipping hot cocoa, snuggling up in a blanket and listening to free music at Place Émilie-Gamelin, Parc Lahaie or Parc des Compagnons de St-Laurent. The Noël dans le parc organization both sells Christmas trees and donates them to families in need. There are French storytellers, sleigh rides, mulled wine, marshmallows toasted on an open fire and even sheep for kids to play with. Add Santa, elves, clowns and some giant stilt-walkers dressed as monkeys, and it’s a Christmas tradition everyone can get into.

Volunteer at the Old Brewery Mission or Santropol Roulant's Meals on Wheels
Photograph: Old Brewery Mission /

15. Volunteer at the Old Brewery Mission or Santropol Roulant's Meals on Wheels

It can actually be hard to get in to volunteer at the Old Brewery Mission over Christmas. The food bank and shelter has become such a go-to spot for volunteering during the holidays that it often gets too many volunteers (though it could certainly use your help during the rest of the year)! Remember that there are plenty of other worthy charities that get overlooked. To find them, contact Centraide, a resource network for non-profits, or call Santropol Roulant which runs a Meals on Wheels program year-round—including Christmas Day—that needs extra help over the holidays both cooking and delivering food to seniors in the area.

Carol at a seniors centre
Photograph: Marie Deschene / Tourisme Montréal

16. Carol at a seniors centre

Been practicing your four-part harmony to Silver Bells? Bring your songbooks or print off the lyrics to your favourite holiday tunes and call a senior’s centre to see if they’d like some carollers. While hospitals can be a little trickier about giving permission to enter patient wards, senior’s centres are often open to having some younger voices join the holiday celebrations.

Be a volunteer driver for Operation Nez Rouge
Photograph: Veronique Lalande /

17. Be a volunteer driver for Operation Nez Rouge

Any given year, more than 1,800 people sign up to volunteer at this car service for sleepy or inebriated revellers over the holiday season. Anyone who’s gone out for a drink over the holidays or feels too exhausted to safely get themselves home can call the service, which sends a team of three to drive the caller home safely. The service was founded in Quebec City by Jean-Marie de Koninck who figured too many people drive when they shouldn’t because they want a way to get their cars home. By having a volunteer drive the caller’s car, his goal was to take the risk out of the equation.

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