It was a chilly night in October when we boarded a plane at Montreal’s (then) Dorval airport and flew west to our new home in the Rockies. The only thing I knew about Calgary – it is located in the prairies –  horrified me because Dorothy’s house in the Wizard of Oz was also in the prairies and look what happened to her! My irrational 5-year-old-self was petrified of tornadoes and apprehensive of leaving my home.

While no tornadoes swept me away in the subsequent years, little did I realise, watching the lights of Montreal fade in the distance, that it would be over 30 years before I set foot in the city of my birth again. 2017 was a perfect time to rectify that situation as Montreal celebrated 375 years.

Those twinkling lights that I stared at from the plane have expanded exponentially! If Paris is the city of light, Montreal gives it a run for its money! The city beams with artistic light installations.

One of the oldest and most famous lights in Montreal is the rotating beacon of Place Ville Marie. For over 50 years the beams of light have illuminated the sky atop the cross-shaped building, acting as an anchor of sorts for citizens. You always know the lights will be on, and you always know where they begin, even if you are 40 or 50 kilometres away. In the winter, Au Sommet at Place Ville Marie is also the best spot to see the lights of Montreal below from its 360° Observation Deck. Catch a glimpse of Mount Royal, Old Montreal, and the Jacques Cartier Bridge from 185 meters in the sky!

Montreal Skyline at Night Place Ville Marie Lights

Montreal Skyline at Night Place Ville Marie Lights

The newest lights in the city are on the recently outfitted Jacques Cartier Bridge in honour of Montreal’s 375th anniversary and Canada’s 150th anniversary. Called “Living Connections”, the LED lights change based on the mood of the city, gauged from the changing seasons, social media, traffic reports and, if the Habs score a goal. Want to be a part of the dynamic bridge lights? Use hashtag #illuminationMTL on Twitter or Instagram when you’re visiting the city. The ever-changing light show will remain on the bridge until 2027.

Walk around Old Montreal, and you may find yourself face to face with a ghostly silhouette. The history of the city inspires cité Mémoire. As you walk the streets, you will see videos illuminated on the ground, the trees, the walls of buildings all telling a different story about the characters who form the tapestry of the city. Download the Montréal en Histoires mobile app and listen to the accompanying music and sounds when you are near one of these light projections. No worries about using your data though, you can also connect to free wifi network MTLWiFi in old Montreal.

Citi Memoire Tableau

The Piece de Resistance is Aura, the vibrant light show at the Notre Dame Basilica. Incorporating light, sound, music and the religious icons in the church, the show is an awe-inspiring experience. Never have I ever been to any performance where the audience is so rapt that they take well over a minute to gather themselves and file out in silence when the show ends. Words do not adequately describe the wonder, so we’ll let this video do the talking.