Winter festivals don’t get much more fun than MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE – with Montréal’s 375th anniversary added to the mix this year, the arts and culture festival outdoes even itself. Get ready for downtown Montréal to become a blizzard of entertainment and activities, from glamorous theatres to revamped outdoor sites.
The 18th edition of the MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE winter arts and culture festival, at various locations in downtown Montréal from February 23 to March 11, 2017.
What you’re getting yourself into
Over the course of 17 days, MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE welcomes millions of fearless fun seekers to one of the largest winter festivals in the world. Whether you love live music and fine dining or your kids can’t get enough of ice slides, the annual event is sure to please with an excellent program of performing arts (live music, theatre, dance, circus arts and more), innumerable gastronomic options (over 500 chefs, wine producers and culinary experts have participated over the years), and all kinds of events and activities at the action-and-art packed outdoor site. All that plus epic all-nighter Nuit blanche.
Where everything’s happening
Over 100 paid indoor performances and concerts (from jazz, classical and rock concerts to theatre and circus) take place at dozens of venues around Montréal, the majority within the centrally located Quartier des Spectacles downtown. You’ll find most of the free performances at the festival’s outdoor site, day and night.
The free outdoor site
A central hub for all the MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE action, the family-friendly outdoor site awaits in the middle of the Quartier des Spectacles at Place des Festivals. There you’ll find a giant outdoor stage, a curling rink and ferris wheel, interactive art installations, food trucks and kiosks, bars and bistros, activity zones for kids, and live entertainment. The outdoor site is open on Thursdays and Fridays from 5 p.m. until 11 p.m., on Saturday from noon to 11 p.m., and Sunday from noon until 6 p.m.
How to get there
Just like all roads lead to Rome, pretty much all downtown transportation either leads to, or intersects with, the Quartier des Spectacles. Two metro stations serve the festival site (Place des Arts and Saint-Laurent) and it’s within easy walking distance of many downtown hotels. Get a feel for the area with this cool artist’s rendition of the site, and get your bus and metro info from the Société de transport de Montréal.
What to bring
Winter clothing The historical average Montréal temperature for this time of the year ranges from -2 Celsius (daytime) to -12 (nighttime), though it can be much colder with the wind chill and conversely, much warmer… who knows these days. The rule of thumb is to prepare for the worst and hope for the best, especially if you’re going to spend time at the outdoor site: warm boots with good wool socks, a hat that covers your ears, a scarf to wrap around your face, warm waterproof gloves – all just in case! If you need a winter wardrobe update, check out our guide to wear to buy winter wear in Montréal.
If it’s especially cold… Consider having some hand and foot warmers on hand. These chemically activated warmers slip inside clothes, stay active for hours and are available at most pharmacies.
Travel light to the outdoor site It’s advisable to leave bulky items like purses and backpacks at home, especially if you plan on doing things like the Zip-Line or Urban Ice Slide.
What not to bring
Your own personal stash As tempting as it may be to put this at the top of your “to bring” list, your own refreshments of the alcoholic persuasion are not permitted onsite (and be aware that bags will be checked at all outdoor site entry points and many venues for security purposes).
Specific containers No glass and aluminum containers will be permitted into the site, nor will any other objects deemed a threat to public safety.
A bad attitude Sometimes the wait for some of the more popular attractions (like the Ice Slide) can be lengthy during peak hours, so pack an extra layer of patience for your fellow humans.
What not to miss
Place des Festivals This massive outdoor area outside Place des Arts can accommodate tens of thousands of festivalgoers for MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE’s concerts (live bands and DJs), shows (including X-Lumina, combining electro-organic music and pyro acrobatics), interactive games and art displays, live ice carving, marshmallow-roasting warming stations and more entertainment than you can throw a snowball at.
The Air France Ferris Wheel, Curling En Lumière (a Canadian tradition, you’ve gotta try it), the RBC Tyrolean Zip-Line, the Urban Ice Slide and Mini Slide. These super popular attractions are, in a word, awesome. They’re all located along Sainte-Catherine Street at the south end of Place des Festivals.
ILLUMINART A luminous 3.6-kilometre (over 2-mile) outdoor circuit of 25 immersive and interactive technological art works spanning the Quartier des Spectacles. Presented by the Casino de Montréal, ILLUMINART includes Lyon-based artists’ Bétonnière boule miroir (a cement truck turns into a gigantic disco ball on an urban dancefloor), Éléphant rouge illuminating the Promenade des Artistes, the gigantic humanoid figures of Amanda Parer’s Fantastic Planet on the Parterre, and much more.
Nuit blanche MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE hosts the always epic Nuit blanche all-nighter on March 4, inviting families and night owls alike to partake in upwards of 200 (mostly free) activities including live music, film, dance, performance art, interactive installations, storytelling, digital and visual art, great food and equally great times. Exceptionally, on this night the outdoor site stays open until 3 a.m.
Food and drinks Satisfy all appetites not only with meals at participating restaurants but with workshops, talks and tours featuring renowned chefs. On top of that, the outdoor site features food trucks, pop-up bars, roving tricycles selling cotton candy, hot chocolate and desserts, and Gourmet Pit-Stops: discover Québec cheeses; sausages for grilling; an All-Duck Tasting Evening; beer and hot dogs stimés at the Curling Bar, and mulled port at Porto Cabral. That’s just for starters. And with Lyon as the featured city for festival’s 2017 edition, expect to find many of the French Alps region’s specialties.
Important on-site info and services
For information regarding first aid, the lost and found, dressing tables for parents with babies, access for those with reduced mobility and the always important location of bathrooms (also for those with reduced mobility), please consult the festival’s FAQ page. Happy festing!