BY MARK KEAST

Many of us opt to travel to sunnier, warmer climes for a winter holiday, even during the Christmas period, through New Year’s. However there are many options within Canada’s borders.

We have written on Old Montreal before – a place of European glamour, kind of a Christmas balm for the soul, a Cat 5 cable connecting what’s magical about the holiday season with your inner self. Old Montreal is one of our nation’s jewels – over 370 years old, when it was first a fur-trade town, now a cosmopolitan city. Old Montreal was declared a “historic district” in 1964. Your arrival there marks a re-generation of sorts, a celebration of the season.

Image by John Raddi

Image by John Raddi

Image by John Raddi

Old Montreal is a magical place where you feel transformed far away from the crass commercialism that seems to mark the season. We always recommend heading out for an early morning walk. Last year we left our St. Paul St. hotel just after 7 a.m., Christmas week, just after daybreak. Snow was falling lightly, the temperature had hit well below sub-zero. It was still and silent, just the distant click of the horses’ hooves from the carriages hitting the cobblestone streets, all under the twinkling lights and festive decorations and Santa Claus figurines.

We went for our morning coffee – Café Olimpico, located in the William Gray hotel.  A stroll down Saint-Paul St. W., and you are in the middle of everything – art galleries, world-class dining, eclectic shops, and the district’s iconic architecture. Head to Montreal Tourism for more information.

THINGS TO DO

NEW YEAR’S EVE FIREWORKS

Top off 2019 with a walk down to Old Port, for the big New Year’s Eve celebration. Fireworks, ice skating at the Natrel Skating Rink, live performances – join up to 70,000 of your fellow revellers in a safe, friendly environment. Image: oldportofmontreal.com

A VERY GATSBY NEW YEAR’S EVE – BORD’ELLE

The Bord’elle invites you to travel back to a time of great prestige for this New Year’s Eve. This beautiful venue was carefully designed to bring an air of exclusivity and a definitive sense of sophistication. Their modern menu is following the new trends surrounding meat and seafood while also appropriating old classics such as their famous shrimp cocktail. With Bord’elle the amazement does not stop there as their New Year’s Eve program will include a live acrobatics show during the evening.

LE REFUGE 87 – AUBERGE SAINT-GABRIEL

L’Auberge Saint-Gabriel and its now famous New Year’s Eve party will transport you once more to a different world. They will bring you to the heart of their winter world: Le Refuge 87. They invite you to enter a parallel universe hidden in the snowdrifts. A cult hideout lost in time; Le Refuge 87 is a strange place where things don’t happen quite as you’d expect. Inside, you’ll find the glow of fires and beautiful tables set with good meals. Vinyls hit the decks as music fills the maze of halls. Wander through a dance party that never ends, as your perception begins to melt into the walls.

MONTREAL BALL – MUZIQUE

Picture a world where the champagne never stops flowing, the music never stops playing, the jewels never come off and the party never ends. Muzique welcomes Montreal’s nightlife elite to enjoy during this night of international glitterati the thumping bass of decadent modern house music, the sexy sounds of R&B and the guitar riffs of old time rock & roll. With a focus on service and catering to a mature clientele, you’re in for a night of absolute ecstasy as Muzique, Montreal’s high-end destination, brings you the art of indulgence to start your new year.

FIRE AND ICE

Celebrate the holiday season with fireworks every Saturday night at 8:00 p.m. in Old Montreal, at the Natrel ice rink and the Ferris wheel. Enjoy film composer John William’s music while the fireworks pop over St. Lawrence River and Old Montreal. Take your experience to another level by watching the fireworks while ice skating!

NATREL SKATING RINK

The perfect ice skating rink that comes right out of a fairytale. This refrigerated outdoor rink will offer the best view of the city. Don’t forget to stop at the Bistro Bonsecours for a delicious hot chocolate.

ILLUMI

A new event in Montreal surroundings from the popular company Cavalia. After sundown, walk through the wondrous lighted up eight worlds, from Santa’s village to Feliz Navidad. The structures are not lighted by a spot, they are the light source. Located in Laval, next to Montreal, there is either easy parking on-site or an easy access shuttle from Montmorency subway station.

WHERE TO STAY

HOTEL EPIK: Stylish, boutique luxury hotel, just ten cozy rooms and suites, 171 Saint-Paul St. W., 514-842-2634

W HOTEL: Modern, contemporary luxury, sleek, sexy, steps from Old Montreal and a lengthy list of downtown Montreal attractions. 901 Square Victoria, 514-395-3100, Image: Courtesy W Hotel.

HOTEL NELLIGAN: Lavish rooms and suites, matching contemporary luxury comforts with exposed, classic century-old stone walls. 106 rue Saint-Paul St. W., Montreal, 514-788-2040, Image: hotelnelligan.com.

WILLIAM GRAY: Old meets new: a sleek, eight-storey glass tower sits perched above two 18th-century stone homes (the Maison Edward-William Gray and the Maison Cherrier), 127 rooms, prime viewing of the holiday scene around Old Montreal from the rooftop. Sip a glass of wine during dinner at Maggie Oakes restaurant (pictured). A must-visit is Café Olimpico, at the base of the hotel, featuring the best coffee in Old Montreal.