Saint Pauls church in Old Montreal greets seafarers.
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Despite subfreezing temperatures this time of year, Montreal’s white-hot cultural scene remains a draw in every season.


Chez Swann
1444 rue Drummond

1228 Sherbrooke Street West


1227 de la Montagne St.

Au Pied Du Cochon
536 Duluth Est

La Fabrique
3609 St-Denis


La Ville Souterraine
For information and a store map, click above

Marche Des Saveuers
280 Place du Marche du Nord


Quartier des Spectacles

Montreal en Lumiere

Old Montreal

Mount Royal

There are two words you hear a lot in Montreal around this time of year: bonjourhello and brrr. The first is used to greet visitors in this European-North American hybrid of a city, where French is preferred but rarely required by the bilingual populace. The second is used to express that Montreal is cold. Really cold. The average temperature in February is about 18 degrees Fahrenheit. But rather than hibernate for the winter, the city of 1.7 million people celebrates the frigid temperatures with events like the renowned Montreal en Lumiere festival, an annual ode to the cold taking place this month. (Too thin-skinned to visit in February? Not to worry: Montreal hosts 106 festivals a year, so there’s plenty of fun to be had all year long.) Here’s how to spend a weekend in this lively city, where the people are warm even when the climate is not.

STAY: Quirky boutique hotels have become hot properties in Montreal in the past few years. One of the newest is downtown’s 23-room Hôtel Chez Swann. The contemporary rooms have glassed-in showers where you must draw a red velvet curtain for privacy. More traditional accommodations are at the Ritz-Carlton Montreal. The hotel dates to 1912 but just reopened after an extensive four-year renovation that modernized its 129 rooms, some of which feature welcomed fireplaces.

EAT: The staff at Europea, a pricey eatery in downtown Montreal, strives to make your meal an experience by serving top-notch food in ­creative ways — like a “book” that opens to reveal a smoked-salmon appetizer. This dinner-as-theater style has made chef Jérôme Ferrer’s modernized French cuisine wildly popular in a city that takes dining out seriously. Such theatrics are not on the menu at Au Pied de Cochon, but decadence surely is. The eatery in Montreal’s Plateau neighborhood has a cultish following for locally sourced dishes with a rich twist. Here, the Quebecois dish of ­poutine — french fries topped with cheese curds and gravy — is served with foie gras. For weekend brunch, a nearly sacred meal in Montreal, Bistrot La Fabrique serves up heavenly fare such as brisket on brioche.

SHOP: Locals and tourists looking to escape the cold head to La Ville Souterraine, or the Underground City, for shopping and walking. There are 120 access points to the 20 miles of connected tunnels, including downtown’s five-floor Eaton Centre mall. For Quebecois foodstuffs, the best place to go is Marché des saveurs du Québec, part of the sprawling aboveground Jean-Talon Market, which carries local cheeses, maple syrup, ice cider and other specialties.

DO: Quartier des Spectacles — a neighborhood that houses more than 80 cultural venues including a newly opened symphony hall — is the hub for most of Montreal’s many festivals. In its center is a crowd-friendly, two-block-long open space that features a 235-jet fountain and a constantly changing LED light display. Those lights shine bright during Montreal en Lumiere, an 11-day celebration of winter held each February that offers art exhibitions, food and wine tastings indoors, concerts and a 350-foot luge course. The festival culminates in the 24-hour Nuit Blanche on March 2, where buses transport festival­goers to dozens of events all over town, all night long. In cold and warm weather, Old Montreal is the city’s main attraction. Inhabited since 1642, the area is a UNESCO­ World Heritage site and home to the city’s original port; narrow, cobblestone streets; neoclassical buildings that house restaurants, shops and hotels; and the 184-year-old ­Notre-Dame Basilica, whose stunning interior may best its Parisian namesake. Similarly striking are the views from the 770-foot Mount Royal, from which the city takes its name. Worth summiting in warm weather, the mountain’s peak is surrounded by a 470-acre park featuring hiking and biking trails.