Every February, as part of the annual Montréal en Lumière festival, artisan cheesemakers from around the Quebec province gather to bring you the Montreal Cheese Festival (or Fêtes des fromages d'ici, in French). This free festival features made-in-Quebec cheeses as a way to promote local small-batch cheesemongers, as well as the slow food movement. More than 700 different kinds (and more than 32,000 tons) of cheese are produced in the province each year, including award-winning varieties made with raw milk, a completely legal and safe undertaking in the eyes of the regional government. At the Montreal Cheese Festival, you can join the celebration of a province known for its exceptional fromage, taste a few samples for yourself, and come away with some goodies for home and an education on all things cheesy.
The Montreal Cheese Festival has been canceled for 2021.
How To Get There
The Complexe Desjardins Grand-Place at 150 Saint Catherine Street hosts the Montreal Cheese Festival. The easiest way to get there is by taking the metro's green line to the Place des Arts stop in the heart of downtown. You can also drive and park in numerous lots and parking garages along Saint Catherine Street, and then walk the rest of the way. Festival goers arriving on foot from the east or west can walk Saint Catherine Street all the way to De Bleury or Jeanne-Mance Streets. Bikes are not permitted on-site. Festival times vary, depending on the year, but tastings are usually available all afternoon on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of the event.
Admission to the festival, as well as the cheese samples, are free to the public. On-site wine and beer tasting are also free, but with cheese the only food at the festival, make sure to limit your consumption if you're driving. Children and adults alike are welcome at the festival, but carried in alcoholic beverages, glass and aluminum products, bikes and skateboards, and drones and not permitted inside the Complexe Desjardins. For more information, locate the information kiosk on the Place des Festivals at the corner of Jeanne-Mance Street and Saint Catherine Street.
What to Expect Inside
The indoor festival contains booths from approximately 20 cheese vendors promoting their sampled varieties, including blue cheese, brie, and aged cheddars. Don't miss the grilled and crumbed haloumi cheese, a semi-hard, unripened cheese made from a mixture of goat's and sheep's milk, as it's always an event favorite. Alongside the cheese itself sits local beer brewers and winemakers to advise you on the perfect pairings for certain cheeses. After achieving your fill of local goodness, make sure to circle back around to your favorite booths and purchase some cheese, wine, and beer to enjoy at home. Supporting the local artisans that make this event possible guarantees the event's return in the future and sends you home with some feel-good fuzzies.
Other Events at Montréal en Lumière
The Montréal en Lumière festival runs from March 1 to March 28, 2021, and includes fine dining events, outdoor festivities, and cultural programs. Other foodie events this year include a digital gourmet program featuring culinary activities from Montreal's renowned chefs, wine producers, and speakers. You can also join in on the J'adore mon restaurant (I love my restaurant) movement by purchasing a reusable tote, ordering takeout, or offering lunch to a health care worker.
On February 25 and 26, 2021, you can attend a socially-distanced performance of Diane Dufresne with the Orchester Métropolitain at the Montreal Symphony House. This singer-songwriter performance, combined with the music of a complete symphony orchestra, is a concert not to be missed.
You'll also want to catch the laser light shows and interactive installations as part of Illuminart. This fine art experience can be accessed this year via a new mobile app, Montréal en Lumière.
Lastly, the eighteenth edition of Nuit Blanche (traditionally an all-night party), complete with free cultural, musical, culinary, and sports activities, will take place virtually this year. Check the event's website in mid-February for a complete lineup of events.
Some Montréal en Lumière events have been canceled for 2021. Please check with event organizers for the most up-to-date information.