If you’re planning a Christmas holiday, there really is no better place to spend the festive season than Canada. With snowy scenes and seasonal cheer in abundance, you’ll feel festive in no time.
Many of Canada’s cities transform from bustling metropolises to winter wonderlands over the festive period, with Christmas markets and lots of other events and celebrations planned. Read on for our top 6 places to jet off to for some festive cheer.
There are lots of cheap flights to Toronto that you can book around the holiday season, but you won’t be the only ones to be drawn to Canada’s largest city. Half a million people are attracted by the sparkling lights, outdoor skating rinks, seasonal events and magnificent window displays.
Best Christmas events in Toronto:
- Toronto Christmas Market (1 December to 22 December 2021) – Toronto Christmas Market has been cancelled in 2020 but will return with festive cheer in 2021. Inspired by the European Christkindlmarkt that originated in Germany in the 1400s, the Toronto Christmas Market is a month-long event celebrating the sounds, sights and scents of Christmas.
- Christmas at Casa Loma (December) – A homage to Gothic castles of days gone by Casa Loma features incredible lights and is a sight to see during the Christmas period.
- Cavalcade of Lights (28 November) – The illumination of the iconic Christmas tree in Nathan Phillips Square takes place during this event. There are performances from some of Canada’s top musical talent and an amazing firework display.
- Christmas Flower Shows (first weekend in December until mid-January) – Allan Gardens Conservatory and Centennial Park Conservatory are decorated and then filled with thousands of flowering plants including over 30 varieties of poinsettia.
Québec is a must-visit destination as it is regarded by many as the most festive location in the whole of Canada. The city itself is bursting with culture and is the perfect place to go for a city break holiday over the festive period.
During the Christmas period, the cobbled streets, Parisian-style cafes, and designer boutiques of Québec are dressed in lights and decorations, which turn the city into a real Christmas village.
Below are some of the best Christmas events in Québec:
- German Christmas Market (15 November-15 December 2021) – The German Christmas Market is cancelled in 2020 but will return in 2021. In the heart of Old Québec, the Christmas market recreates the European markets with its atmosphere, beautiful decorations, selection of delicious German treats (bratwurst, mulled wine, gingerbread, and much more), Christmas gifts, choral singing and indoor and outdoor performances.
- Cicérone Tours – Discover traditions of Christmas past on a walking tour with a costumed guide dressed from the early days of New France.
- Stroll through the city – From Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church in Place Royale to the end of Rue du Petit-Champlain, you can experience a winter wonderland as the area is decorated with a variety of amazing Christmas lights.
Montréal, also in the French-speaking province of Québec, is another great city to enjoy over the Christmas season. You can indulge in delicious festive food and check out one of the colourful seasonal events.
The duo behind Practical Wanderlust highly recommends heading to the city over the festive period: “We visited Montréal between Christmas and New Year’s, when the city was still decked out in stunning Christmas displays and windows were bedecked in wreaths and pine boughs. The crunching snow – er, slush – beneath our winter boots only enhanced our Christmas cheer. Plus, Montreal’s Christmas Markets rival Europe’s. Need we say more?!”
Best Christmas events in Montréal:
- Enjoy a Victorian Christmas – At the Sir George-Étienne Cartier National Historic Site, you can explore the old Victorian house and get an insight into how Christmas was celebrated during the era. There is also Christmas card making classes you can get involved in.
- Holiday Alley in Old Montréal – The Pepin Shop (Maison Pepin) decorates an alley in Old Montréal with decorations that make you think of Christmas. You can then browse the shop for presents to give to friends or family.
- Merry Montréal (Montréal En Fetes)(17-31 December) – Merry Montréal presents free activities in Old Montréal, so you can live the holiday season magic again. Be transported with the holiday spirit at Nordic Square and experience musical performances, hot spots to warm up, interactive light installations and a sampling bar of Québec’s finest products. Then celebrate 2021’s arrival on the Jacques-Cartier Pier in Montréal’s Old Port at Canada’s biggest New Year’s Eve party! Ariane Simon, the general manager of Merry Montréal, recommends that you dress up warm, “The best way to enjoy Montréal in the winter is to dress warmly and get out there! Make sure to wear a beanie, gloves, a scarf and lots of layers. A good trick is also to keep an extra pair of socks to change them once you get cold. Winter is also a fantastic excuse to indulge in a warm hot chocolate or gluhwein at Place Nordique to warm up.”
4. Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls is one of the most popular places to visit any time of the year, and this iconic waterfall is also a great destination to head to over the festive period.
There are nightly fireworks over Christmas, and these spectacularly illuminate the falls, but it’s the snow-covered Niagara that really is a sight to see as it puts you in the festive spirit.
Best Christmas events in Niagara Falls:
- Winter Festival of Lights (14 November – 10 January 2021) – The event is cancelled in 2020 but will return in 2021. The incredible light displays capture the magic of the holiday season, and the signature 8km long route travels through the Niagara Parks, Dufferin Islands and the surrounding tourist districts to transform the city into a winter wonderland.
- Skylon Tower Christmas (25 December) – In celebration of Christmas Day, the tower will glow red. The popular attraction is a great place to visit in the build-up to the big day as you can enjoy some great Christmas food over the festive period whilst getting unrivalled views of Niagara Falls. Anita Pang Hrepic, Director of Sales at the Skylon Tower, tells us about the different celebrations, “Skylon Tower transforms into a magical place at Christmas. We are decorated in the Holiday spirit with a Christmas tree in our lobby and Summit Suite Buffet restaurant and festive trimmings throughout the building. We officially welcome Santa to Skylon Tower on Saturday, November 24th.”
- Visit the Nightmares Fear Factory – If you love Christmas books like Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, then there will be plenty of ghosts and other scary things related to Christmas that you can see at the Nightmares Fear Factory over the festive season. The Nightmares Fear Factory is a psychological haunted house and is the oldest attraction of its kind in North America.
- Santa Claus Parade (14 November at 3pm – 5pm) – Santa Claus is coming to town! You can watch marching bands as part of the parade and even meet Santa and Mrs Claus at the Niagara Falls City Hall for a meet and greet, face painting and live entertainment.
Ottawa is the perfect city to walk around and celebrate the festive season as you can put on some skates and explore the city via the Rideau Canal.
Emily Cordonier, the blogger behind Embracing Ottawa, says the city is a favourite destination for many over the holiday season. She’s shared with us her most popular Christmas events in Ottawa:
Best Christmas events in Ottawa:
- Byward Market (Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm throughout the year) – “A favourite holiday destination is the Byward Market which is illuminated by thousands of lights and you can browse the many market stalls selling Christmas trees, wreaths, maple syrup and handmade gift ideas. On the weekends you can even enjoy a free horse-drawn wagon ride around the market.”
- Alight at Night at Upper Canada Village (Dates TBC) – “Another must-see holiday attraction in the Ottawa area is Alight at Night at Upper Canada Village. Go back in time and experience Christmas as it once was with thousands of multicoloured lights, a horse-drawn carriage ride around the village, visits with St. Nicholas, carollers in the old chapel, a train ride and delicious holiday treats. Nothing gets my family in the Christmas spirit more than this spectacular holiday outing.”
One unique place to celebrate Christmas in Canada is Vancouver. If you’re lucky enough to be spending time in the city over the festive season, then you’ll be delighted to see the city’s bounty of Christmas lights, markets and events against the backdrop of the snowy Coast Mountain Range.
Gemma and Craig from Two Scots Abroad have visited Vancouver at Christmas and love both of them: “There are a number of shows and shopping opportunities throughout Vancouver. On weekends you can escape to ski at Whistler or snow-show at Joffre Lake. The sunsets on the Sunshine Coast are worth the ferry ride.”
A lot happens in the city during this time of year!
Best Christmas events in Vancouver:
- Vancouver Santa Claus Parade (6 December) – With floats, marching bands and, of course, Santa, it is an unmissable event. The annual tradition attracts more than 300,000 people and lasts around two hours as it travels through the city.
- Canyon Lights at Capilano Suspension Bridge Park (canyon lights running until 3rd January 2021) – The Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is an iconic sight any time of the year but, with it dressed in Christmas lights, the bridge becomes even more of an Insta-worthy photograph.
Here are our top six best places to spend Christmas in Canada:
- Niagara Falls
If you want to make Christmas extra special by spending it in one of the above places, then take a look at our range of Canadian holidays and to find your perfect Canadian adventure.