BY Naftalia Allison & Matthew Skelhorne

Jaden Umali, 23, comes to Montreal at least once every month. It’s a ritual he’s been doing for the last two years.

“Ever since I was a kid, I noticed that this city is constantly evolving its infrastructure. But the thing is, Montreal always keeps the essence that makes it special.”

“I come out here when I need a break from Toronto and some fresh perspective,” says Umali, “I come out and I’m inspired every time by its movement. Montreal’s events, nightlife, and art scene has always been booming.”

Skaters at Place-Des-Arts ice rink.

Skaters at Place-des-arts esplanade ice rink. Photo by Naftalia Allison.

And that scene is booming all year round. In the winter, Montreal hosts events that capitalize on its Nordic climate.

Even with freezing temperatures, people visiting Montreal will always have something to do. With four season programming found in every corner of the city, it’s become a huge part of Montreal’s charm.

Mixing music and the cold may help your way out of the winter blues. Video by Matthew Skelhorne.

Igloofest celebrates its fifteenth year of bringing thousands of electronic music heads together in the Old Port. It’s billed as the “coldest music festival in the world.”

Utilizing winterscape to its fullest potential, event organizers MultiColore curate lineups with both local and international artists and DJs.

“We’re always so tired of the snow and harsh climates. But imagine people who haven’t lived here. We forget that we’re a Nordic country and we should build on that. We have a beautiful time with landscapes that other people haven’t seen,” says Jean-Sébastien Boudreault, President of the Greater Montreal Hotel Association.

Back for another year under the stars, Montreal en Lumiere transforms Quartier des Spectacles and Place des Festivals into one of the largest outdoor winter festivals in the world.

Ferris wheel and crowd at Montreal en Lumiere

Festival goers walk through Montreal en Lumiere’s outdoor exposition. Photo by Naftalia Allison.

It’s every night owl’s dream event and it has its twentieth birthday Feb. 25—Nuit Blanche is the highlight of Montreal en Lumiere’s program. It invites both locals and tourists to enjoy some 200 mostly free musical, artistic and culinary activities across different neighborhoods in the city all night long.

Crowd at Montreal en Lumiere.

Festival goers stand in front of a Rogers DJ booth at Montreal en Lumiere. Photo by Naftalia Allison.

Tourism Montreal’s Aurélie de Blois calls visitors like Umali cultural tourists.

“Cultural tourism is as much about observing new urban developments as it is about illuminating buildings,” she says. “The use of public spaces is part of urban practices and, at the same time, public policies encourage the deployment of culture.”

According to De Blois, a major part of Montreal’s appeal is the diversity of its core. A Montreal itinerary can be condensed during a first time traveler’s weekend or stretched over the course of multiple visits.

“The perfect itinerary for me starts with downtown. Montréal’s safe and walkable Centre-Ville is one part sophistication and one part entertainment – from the majestic Golden Square Mile to the always lively Quartier des Spectacles,” says De Blois. “The side streets and back lanes of Old Montreal reveal their secrets over repeated visits.”

A woman crosses the street in the Old Port of Montreal.

A woman crosses rue Place Royale in the Old Port of Montreal. Photo by Naftalia Allison.

It’s not unlike tourists to feel picturesque neighborhoods like Saint-Henri, Little Italy and the Plateau coaxing them. With tasteful restaurants and cafes, passionate residents and stunning frescoes, De Blois says that Montreal neighborhoods also help the tourist sector attract sightseers and create social links with residents and the city’s lifestyle.

A Tourism Montreal report shows us that hotels are still in the process of recovering from the pandemic. The average occupancy rate for the summer of 2021 was 22.7 per cent higher than in 2020, but still 47.5 percent lower than in 2019.

tourism in Montreal during the winter

This graph is based on data obtained from Tourism Montreal’s annual report. Graph by Naftalia Allison.

“Money from hotels is given back to tourism Montreal because hotels are able to promote the entertainment in the city. Madonna, Metallica, and Grand Prix are hosted this summer. Where would they stay?” says the Hotel Association’s Boudreault.

“Huge events and shows come to Montreal because there are so many people who would be able to welcome us with our infrastructure. It wouldn’t be in Saguenay and trust me I love it out there too because it’s where I’m from.”

Main image by Naftalia Allison.
Published March 10, 2023.