Many locals hate the winter weather, but as an exchange student, I’ve learnt to make the most of every opportunity and always find something to do whether its a -23°c snow blizzard, or a beautiful 1°c (warm for Canadian winter) sunny day. Even in the winter, there is still SO much to do in Montreal – arguably more than in summer! I have only been here for a month yet if you asked me, “What have you done in Canada,” it would take me hours to go through everything. But here are some highlights!
Igloofest is an electronic music festival that is on every Thursday, Friday and Saturday for a whole month, so you pick which nights you want to go depending on who’s playing. Tickets sell for $35-$48 NZD for each night depending on the demand, which is quite cheap for a concert this good. They’ve had some pretty big DJ’s perform in the past such as Diplo and RL Grime and I went on the night Kaytranada was playing! There are also heaps of free activities around the festival ground such as free marshmallow roasting, tube sliding, photo booths and a retro arcade game tent.
The cold is extreme, therefore everyone packs on the layers, which makes it kind of hard to dance and is an odd sensation but the event is a Montreal MUST-DO if you’re here for the winter semester, Igloofest is definitely not your average festival.
The city is located three hours away from Montreal and is VERY French. The Quebec City Winter Carnival is an important annual event that celebrates French Canadian culture with food, entertainment and amusement rides. Tickets to Quebec are about $40 one way, (according to my flatmate), however the McGill International Student Network offered exchange students return bus tickets for $35! Tickets to the Carnival were $18, but we also used the time to explore the breathtakingly beautiful city streets.
Some of the activities at the carnival were:
- Exploring a castle made entirely out of ice (it even had an ice slide)
- Axe throwing
- Wearing sumo suits and playing ice hockey (wearing shoes not ice skates though)
- Tube sledding
- Ski shots (4 shots attached to a ski – very Canadian)
- Making maple syrup toffee. Done by pouring maple syrup onto snow until it freezes and you eat it like a lollipop
Sledding is an everyday winter activity for Canadian children, but my flatmate and I had never done it, so we decided to embrace our inner child and invest in a sled. You can rent one $7 a day, but we bought ours in downtown Montreal for $15. After only one sledding trip we already got our moneys worth and plan to use it many more times. Beside McGill University is Mount Royal which takes 45 mins to walk up to get a view of the entire city, but halfway up the mountain is a literal winter wonderland. There’s sledding tracks and an ice skating link on a beautiful frozen lake where there’s sledding tracks and an ice skating rink on a frozen lake.
The nightlife in Montreal is much better than in Auckland. You can go out every night of the week here if you wanted to and most clubs have different themed nights e.g. House, Regge, R&B and Throwback etc… Although it is freezing outside, everyone still wears typical clubbing outfits like they would in Auckland plus a jacket or coat for walking in between clubs. Everywhere offers coat check for $3-$5, but I just tie my jacket around my waist or hide it behind a plant instead. #hacks.
To anyone reading this and thinking of coming to McGill University – DO IT. Montreal is an incredible city that has so much to offer. There has not been a single day yet where I have been bored. If you ever want a (long) list of recommendations feel free to email me. firstname.lastname@example.org
Although the winter semester has intense weather, Montreal truly embraces it. There are so many events on and things to do all day and all night – just don’t forget your thermals!