Named the largest jazz festival in the world by the 2004 Guinness Book of World Records, the Montreal Jazz Festival attracts about 2.5 million visitors every year according to festival organizers and offers hundreds of concerts over 11 days.
The 2019 Montreal Jazz Festival runs from June 27 to July 6, bookended by pre-opening shows and post-fest closers. The best part? Roughly two-thirds of the fest's concerts are free! Family-friendly activities geared towards kids are also generally free.
Everything From Jazz and Worldbeat to Rock and Pop
Covering the gamut of jazz genres since its debut edition in 1980, the fest also features related genres such as blues, Latin jazz, soul, Brazilian, Cuban, African, rhythm and blues, reggae, and electronica.
Rock, pop, and just about every other genre end up on the roster too, irking some purists who complain that the Montreal Jazz Festival isn't jazzy enough. But there's something to be said about keeping an open mind. Indeed, it's the non-jazz shows that have arguably made the Montreal Jazz Festival as big as it is.
Sharp-eyed observers might also point out that crowds wouldn't be in the seven figures without all of those free, taxpayer-funded shows coupled with the festival's auspiciously centralized location.
But if pure, unadulterated jazz is all that you seek, then head to Montreal's hottest jazz clubs either before, during, or after the festival. International talent fills Montreal during fest time and world-class jazz is guaranteed for every musical taste, whether you're looking for freestyle, standards, covers, or new compositions.
Free Outdoor Shows
A blessing to music fans on a budget, hundreds of free shows are held at the Montreal Jazz Fest's downtown hub. A full scheduled line-up of music will make all jazz lovers rejoice.
Memorable Montreal Jazz Highlights
The Montreal Jazz Festival has been the site of an almost endless roster of best-of moments and memories, forged by an eclectic bunch of A-listers, up-and-comers, and jazz icons. Among the fest's most lauded performers: Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, Charlie Haden, Ray Charles, B.B King, Oliver Jones, Aretha Franklin, and Pat Metheny.
There were unforgettable Prince appearances, a free outdoor Stevie Wonder show, and Tony Bennett gracing audiences year after year. New Orleans piano icon Allen Toussaint was a regular at the fest, where Diana Krall was first discovered and Earth, Wind & Fire got crowds dancing 40 years after their first hits were released.
Where to Stay
For Montreal visitors, hotels in town offer accommodations at every price point within a short walk of the festival's outdoor site. Closest of all is the Square Phillips, which is affordable, pet-friendly and just three blocks away from all the action.
Big spenders might consider booking a room or suite at one of Montreal's five-star hotels. InterContinental Montreal's commodious rooms and suites are a great fit for families, who can take a scenic 15-minute stroll to the festival grounds from its central downtown location. For truly high-end luxury, check into Le Mount Stephen, a meticulously restored gentlemen's club with a Sky Loft and Royal Suite flooded with natural light.
For a fun stay at a slightly more affordable price, try one of Montreal's hottest boutique hotels. The charming Chateau de l'Argoat is just a short walk from the lively Latin Quarter, where you can catch after-hours jazz in the clubs. And the African-themed Hotel Kutuma is Montreal's hidden gem. Its nine private-entrance rooms are filled with African art, and the ground-floor restaurant serves delicious Ethiopian food.
If you want to mix jazz with old-world charm, book a European-style experience at one of Old Montreal's top-rated hotels. Nestled in the heart of the old city, Auberge du Vieux-Port boasts sweeping views of the river and cobblestoned streets. It's a bit more of a walk to the festival, but you can easily call a cab or hop on the subway, both of which take you from Montreal's historic center to all the festival action in just 10 to 15 minutes.