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Montreal: A City of Light in Winter

Richard Cavalleri / Shutterstock
Richard Cavalleri / Shutterstock
Written by Joseph Decibus

While Paris, France may be the ultimate city of light, Montreal, Canada outshines it at least for about half a month each year when it holds its Montreal En Lumiere or Montreal High Lights Festival. Combining lights, music, food, and more, this extraordinary festival, now in its 17th year, runs from February 18th to March 5th, 2016, and is one of the largest winter arts and cultural festivals in the world.

This year, the festival honors Shenzhen, China as its grand featured city with tributes to its lights, food, and philosophers.

To whet your appetite, we’ve put together a few highlights of the High Lights Festival.

Place des Festivals

The Place des Festivals in the Quartier des Spectacles in downtown Montreal is the epicenter of the festival. 

Looking like a futuristic outdoor winter fairground, the Place des Festivals features a Chinese Ferris wheel (in honor of Shenzen!), a 360 foot long ice slide complete with sound and light effects, and a massive interactive installation of multi-colored pastilles, all set amid a galaxy of decorative lights. There’s also the L’ilot de chaleur bonfire which derives its heat from a combination of special lights and the human warmth of people dancing around it.

If this isn’t enough to lift your spirits this winter, you can literally soar across the festival itself on a Tyrolean zip line that flies you over the site.

Fine Dining

Shebeko / Shutterstock

Shebeko / Shutterstock

Montreal En Lumiere is about lights of a different sort as well.  Gastronomic de-lights!  In addition to literally lighting up the dark winter night of Montreal, the festival is also about lighting up your appetite with fine dining and presentations by the chefs that make it all happen.

While it’s renowned for its bright lights and other sprightly entertainments, Montreal En Lumiere has become equally well known for its gastronomy and wine program.  Since the year 2000, some 500 renowned chefs, wine producers, and speakers have taken part in this festival in a variety of ways, including the Festival’s Finest Tables segment where a local Montreal chef joins forces with a foreign chef to create special, cross-cultural menus for various restaurants in town, exploding cultural barriers and taste buds alike!

One of the most delectable morsels on the menu this year is the Bistro du festival SAQ, which will once again be presenting its All-Duck Tasting Evening. Featuring a six-course serving of Rougie duck paired with wines, this alone could be reason enough to visit the festival!

Nuit Blanche

And just to blow all of the fuses of the festival, there’s also an all-nighter night on Feburary, 27th called Nuit Blanche. On this night, more than 200 activities, most of them free, run non-stop from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.  The programming details of this special night, in which the activities are so exciting and peripatetic as to leave you sleepless, are not revealed until February 9th.  If this year’s Nuit Blanche is anything like last year’s, you can expect that the Village Mammouth at Olympic Park, with its NHL-size refrigerated ice rink and 75-foot long whole-family slide, will be a focal point for a lot of fun!

It’s a city that reveals its true beauty during winter”. (Bernard Voyer, international explorer.)

Certainly, Montreal En Lumiere is one way in which you can appreciate the beauty of Montreal and its winter.  Furthermore, the strong dollar, the low price of hotel rooms and airfare to Montreal all combine to create the perfect storm to whisk you on your way there for all of the festivities.


Have you ever visited the Montreal En Lumiere festival?  If you’ve been bewitched and dazzled by all of the lights and festivities before, let us know your favorite moment by adding some comments below.


About the author

Joseph Decibus

Joseph Decibus writes for OneTravel and is also an avid traveler who occasionally writes about his trips. He looks forward to informing readers periodically about interesting places and events throughout the world.

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