A few winter tips:

  • The wind is your enemy during winter: it's cold!  So a coat with buttons is less effective than one with a zipper.
  • Most of us have coats with high-tech insulation that are warm and light (or low-tech down or fur). If you don't have a coat warm enough for the ski slopes, dress in layers, including a thick polar fleece and something that will cut the wind.
  • Toques or hats that cover your ears are much better than a baseball cap that doesn't.
  • Mittens where your fingers are kept together are warmer than gloves, though less convenient for gripping things.  Gloves with high-tech insulation are MUCH warmer than a simple knit that lets the wind through.
  • Hiking boots can be made warmer with wool socks and warm insoles.
  • You won't need ski pants; if you wear them, everyone will laugh at you. Montréal is quite a fashionable city, and although it's much more forgiving in the winter out of necessity, there are limits.
  • A warm scarf will keep the cold air away from your neck, and if it's really windy and cold, wrap it around your face. Note that your glasses will probably steam up though :)
  • Having a shirt or undershirt tucked into your pants is warmer than just a sweatshirt that goes over allowing the cold wind to hit your midriff. Brrrrr!
  • Although freezing rain can make the sidewalks incredibly slippery sometimes, it doesn't happen that often, and for the most part they remain relatively clear all winter, so clip-on crampons are a little overkill. Just walk carefully!
  • Disposable or reusable hand and feet warmers can be found at pharmacies, some dollar stores, and camping shops
  • A fairly thick moisturizer on the face and lip balm on the lips can help reduce a cold wind's bite.  Slightly.
  • Long underwear can be your friend if there's a particularly cold spell.
  • If possible, choose accommodation close to a métro stop: métro stations stay nice and warm, whereas bus stops do not.
  • If you need to buy winter clothes and accessories, the expensive light and warm stuff can be found at most outdoor shops, but you probably don't need it unless you want to spend a lot of time outdoors. Instead, check out department stores or even the dollar stores, and just be sure to pop into shops and cafés and the underground passageways downtown every so often to warm up as you explore the city.

With the hottest months being July and August, shorts are fine for roaming around town, and nicer jeans or light khakis or a simple skirt for women and a nice shirt are acceptable wear at just about any restaurant.  While Montréal is a fashion-forward city, they are also practical and on very hot days comfort is more important than looking fabulous.  Some sort of hat and sunglasses to protect from the sun will complete your look. 

In summer, temperatures may climb into the 30s Celsius (90s Fahrenheit), although high 20s (80s Fahrenheit) are more likely.  The nights can be warm or cool, so you may need a very light jacket in the evening.  There is the occasional heat wave where it remains hot, humid and sticky even in the evening, so you will want air conditioning in your hotel. 

For exploring the city: the Underground City is a series of tunnels and shopping malls that are climate-controlled, so if the weather doesn't suit you, they can be very convenient for getting around downtown.  Don't fret if you forget to bring something that's needed, because the Underground City has more shops than many large cities and you can find anything you want there.  Quite a few hotels have direct access to the underground passageways, and the malls downtown are all linked together, so you can go quite far and shop to you drop without ever going outside or even needing your coat.  Almost all shops and buildings are air conditioned, some busses are too, but the métro (subway) is not and can get quite hot, although big fans in the trains blow wind to help cool you a bit.

A word on weather: 

Montreal's winter climate is a bit colder Philadelphia, New York City or Boston.  Montreal lies on the 45th parallel, New York City on the 40th, Philadelphia on the 39th and Boston on the 42nd parallel.  Boston's climate is more similar to that of Toronto than to Montreal.  Toronto lies on the 43rd parallel.

Being north of these cities, Montreal gets darker earlier in the winter and gets lighter later in the winter morning.  Spring starts about three weeks later in Montreal than in Boston; likewise, autumn is advanced by about three weeks in Montreal than it is in the Northeast U.S. cities.  The temperature in Montreal year-round is generally about 10 degrees cooler Fahrenheit than it is in Boston.

So it is safe to say that winter in Montreal is generally a bit wintrier than in these other cities and summer weather is a bit less summery.  During the summer, the extremely oppressive heat and humidity found in Boston, Philadelphia and New York is less so in Montreal.  Average Montreal high temperatures in the summer are about 76 degrees Fahrenheit and average low temperatures in the summer are about 65 degrees.  Temperature can exceed 86 degrees Fahrenheit during a summer in Montreal.  Boston's summers reach an average of at least 10 days in the upper 90s, with oppressive humidity.

Cooler temperature in Montreal during the winter means that generally more snow falls than in Boston, New York or Philadelphia.  There are, however, exceptions to this.  Average snowfall in Montreal is about 86 inches, with a snow cover lasting about 12 weeks.  Average snow fall in Boston in winter is generally about half of that in Montreal, although many winters Boston has had no snow and a few winters Boston's snowfall has exceeded that of Montreal.  The average mean temperature in Boston in January is about 29 degrees Fahrenheit.  The temperature in January in Montreal ranges from 5 degrees Fahrenheit to 15 degrees Fahrenheit, with wind-chill factors down to minus 40 Fahrenheit and minus 40 Celsius.

Montreal has superb snow removal, which is important.  Many streets are hilly and ice is a factor.  However, the heavy winter clothing worn in most northeastern U.S. States will work for Montreal, too -- most residents have high-tech winter coats which are light but warm and are easily unzipped when popping in and out of buildings and the métro which are all heated. 

If you're from the Northeastern states or New England, the best idea is to bundle up in Montreal as if you were going skiing.  Don't wear your usual downtown winter chic; wear your ski gear and you'll be happy as a clam or happy as a cozy fire après ski.