Shake off the Slanket and step away from Downton Abbey: there’s light at the end of the tunnel that is our interminable Montreal winter, and it’s pointing you to a pile of Quebec cheeses. Starting February 21, Montréal en Lumière will brighten the city with eleven days of shows, concerts and gourmet dining. The festival culminates with Nuit Blanche, a city-wide, all-night art party on Saturday, March 2.

Cheapskate? Penchant for makin’  it rain? No matter: the 2013 program is searchable by budget, with seven intervals ranging from “free” and “$1 to $25” all the way to “$150+”. Between the circus troops, guest chefs and cheese fests, this whirlwind of winter activities will whisk you into spring before you know it!

Cultural highlights include:

  1. Tony Bennett paints: When he’s not belting out duets with Lady Gaga,  Tony Bennett paints a mean watercolor. Check out “The Art of Anthony Benedetto” (Bennett’s real name) for FREE from February 21 to March 3.
  2. Le Festival mondial du cirque de demain features performances from acrobats, tightrope walkers, clowns, jugglers and trapeze artists from around the world.  Daily from February 21 to March 3. No performance on Monday, February 25.
  3. -M-: A Montreal fan-favourite, France’s -M- (aka Mathieu Chedid) will hold court for two evenings at Métropolis. Expect loud guitars and flamboyant costumes. February 21 & 22 @ 8pm.
  4. Nuit Blanche: For one spectacular, bleary-eyed night, Montreal’s visual arts, music, film, theatre, dance and lit scenes take over Quartier des Spectacles, Old Montréal, Plateau-Mont-Royal and Mile-End, and the Parc Olympique. Festivities run from 5pm on Saturday, March 2 until 6am on Sunday, March 3. The all-night art party celebrates 10 years of eclectic frosty fun this year!

Gastronomical highlights include:

  1. Festival of Quebec Cheeses. Discover over 60 Quebec cheeses and a vast selection of wine and beer! February 20 to 23.
  2. Guest chefs from Buenos Aires: 19 Montreal restaurants (including Pullman, Toqué and La Chronique) welcome 19 Argentinian guest chefs into their kitchen.
  3. Lunching around the world: Satisfy your mid-day craving for Portuguese, Iranian, Moroccan or Italian food. $15 gets you lunch at one of six participating Montreal restaurants.