Winter Montreal, inside and out

Quartier des Spectacles Luminotherapie

Luminotherapie is Montreal’s annual interactive outdoor art exhibition on Place de Festivals a short walk from the hotels of Old Montreal. Photo courtesy Quartier des Spectacles Montréal

In summer, Montreal is chockablock with outdoor arts festivals. In winter, Montreal is freakin’ cold. But there’s still art-y fun to be had — and you can even find some laughs goofing around outside. Here are four pairings of outdoor winter activities with indoor art bazaars.

Old Montreal / downtown

Outside: The Quebec winter experience doesn’t get more hardcore than ice-fishing. Le Village de pêche blanche offers 30 heated cabanes on a frozen stretch of the St-Laurent’s Quais de l’Horloge basin, right in the heart of Montreal. They provide the rods and bait (and a great view of the old city), so you just need to bring your stamina. And gloves. And maybe a flask. Feeling extra tough? Ditch the tent and drop your line in one of the open-air holes.

Inside: A souk is a noisy northern African market. The Société des Arts Technologiques is an ultra-hip combo of high-concept experimental restaurant, 360-degree domed cinema, open-source software lab and concert venue. Put the two together, and you get souk@SAT (November 25 to 29), an annual four-day art loft party. Sixty-something Montreal creators are on hand to peddle their slick creations: furniture, lighting, clothing, toys and designer knick-knacks. There’s a bar, too.

Rosemont

Outside: If you’re looking for some contemplative tranquility in the middle of the city, head over to the Jardin botanique next to Olympic Stadium. It’s obviously not the cornucopia of greenery that it is in spring and summer, but the massive grounds are still open for strolling (or skiing, but there’s no rental onsite). And when you’re all Zenned-out from staring at snow-covered pagodas, thaw out in the greenhouses.

Inside: Now in its third year, Le Marché des Deux Mains (November 28 and 29) is an up-and-comer on the Christmas market scene. Quebec designers and artisans get together in the majestic, neo-classical St-Marc Church to showcase their textiles, jewellery, pottery, painting, cabinetry and pretty much anything else they can make with, well, two hands. Stick around to sneak a peek at the church’s awesome Casavant Frères pipe organ.

Quartier des Spectacles

Outside: Luminothérapie is an annual outdoor interactive art exhibition on Place des Festivals. Each year showcases a different artist. From December 10, 2015, to January 31, 2016, you can immerse yourself in light and sound, including Impulse, an interactive installation of teeter-totters rigged with LEDs and speakers, and epic video projections on the sides of buildings. You don’t have to wait until sunset, either; the installations are designed for day- or nighttime viewing.

Inside: Dreaming of a green Christmas, or at least some eco-friendly gifts under the tree? Check out Le Salon des Artistes Récupérateurs (December 4 to 6) at the Maison du développement durable. More than sixty artists and craftspeople sell works made from recycled, reused or salvaged materials. Give yourself time to navigate the crowd; since starting in 2006, SAR has grown to attract some 7,000 visitors.

Plateau / Mile-End

Outside: Didn’t think to pack skis with your little black dress? Ce n’est pas grave. There are 22 kilometres of cross-country ski trails winding through the Frederic Law Olmsted-designed Mt-Royal park, plus a huge skating rink and groomed tube runs — and you can rent whatever equipment you need at the pavilion next to Lac aux Castors.

Inside: Despite the name, Puces POP Fair (December 11 to 13) isn’t a flea market: It’s the thrice-annual arts and crafts arm of indie music juggernaut POP Montreal. The Mile-End neighbourhood is like Disneyland for hipsters (think fixies, beards, exotic juices sipped from mason jars), so this is your chance to stock up on artisanal, small-batch foodstuffs and grooming products — plus tastefully designed housewares and clothing, with a particularly nice selection of baby- and kids-wear.

Getting there:

From Montreal’s Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (YUL), the heart of Old Montreal’s hotel district is a 25-minutes cab ride away. Most of the abovementioned activities and attractions are within a short cab or bus ride or are walkable from this central neighbourhood.

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