Montreal is home to handfuls of internationally renowned bands and musicians so it only makes sense that this musically-inclined city would have the venues to match. Whether you're looking to catch local acts like Coeur de Pirate, Arcade Fire or Stars, or you've come to town to see a chart-topping pop act, these are the best music venues in Montreal — from intimate, underground bars to sold out stadiums.
The Corona Theater’s preserved façade makes it one equally intriguing both as a music venue and an architectural landmark. Surrounded by some of the best restaurants in the city in Montreal’s Little Burgundy neighbourhood, this vintage cinema turned music venue was built in 1912 as a silent theater and ran until the '60s, when it was shut down and forgotten for 30 years. It was reopened in the late '90s and has since hosted up-and-coming artists from around the world.
Formerly known as the Métropolis, Mtelus is located just outside of the city center, between the Quartier des Spectacles and Quartier Latin. Home to many jazz festival performances and indie rock shows — think Lou Doillon, Metric, and Vampire Weekend — this mid-sized venue holds up to 2,300 people but the open floor plan and cozy balcony seating makes it feel much more intimate.
Another Quartier des Spectacles mainstay, Club Soda was established in the early '80s by a group of Quebecois filmmakers and promoters. Today, the owners of this 500-seat cabaret have made it their mission to provide a safe, reputable venue for up-and-coming musicians and young local artists to perform and make their name. Previous big name acts from the international scene include the likes of Oasis, Amy Winehouse and Jay Leno.
Look up, look way up! Fairmount Theater can be easy to miss partly because of its no-frills exterior and partly because of its location. This unique venue is nestled into the top floor of a carpet and rug outlet store in Montreal’s artsy Mile End neighbourhood. The cozy, somewhat hidden venue has housed many independent and up-and-coming Canadian and international bands — from Mother Mother to Kate Nash. The versatile concert venue can accommodate up to 600 standing guests but the intimate stage and easy going amenities feel closer to a house party performance than a stadium spectacle.
The Bell Centre (formerly known as the Molson Centre) is the largest stadium in Eastern Canada. Now owned by Geoff Molson and his two brothers, Andrew and Justin, the sports and entertainment complex hosts all of the chart-topping international music acts — think anyone from Ariana Grande and Taylor Swift to Paul McCartney and KISS — and is also home to the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens. Its seating capacity is nearly 22,000, making it the largest hockey stadium in the world, and not a bad spot to catch a big music act, either.
Built in 1923 by Montreal architect Joseph-Raoul Gariépy and designer Emmanuel Briffa, the Rialto Theatre functioned as a baroque cinema up until the nighties. Since then, it has been recognized as a National Historic Site of Canada for its carefully preserved Parisian-inspired facade and Louis XVI-style interior decor. These days, the Rialto Theatre hosts Just for Laughs shows, intimate musical performances and independent film festivals. It’s widely recognized as one of the most striking music venues in the city.
If intimate, unpretentious venues are your thing, L’Escogriffe (lovingly referred to as L’Esco by locals), is a must-see. Tucked into the ground floor of a block of business and apartment buildings on bustling Saint Denis Street, LEsco feels like stepping into a college friend’s basement apartment — in the best way possible. Here, you can expect to catch local performers flitting through the crowd and chatting with fans before taking the stage all while enjoying affordable brews in a decidedly dive bar environment.
Dating back nearly 100 years, L’Olympia is a piece of Montreal history. The versatile venue just outside of the downtown core prides itself on its flexibility — it currently lends itself to everything from music performances to comedy configurations and theatre productions. Its hosting chops range from local bands to big names in rock like The Kills and Arctic Monkeys as well as Just for Laughs icons like Sugar Sammy and more.
This intimate venue is one of the other stars of Quartier des Spectacles. The carefully planned acoustic configuration and modern, inviting atmosphere makes it a local favorite. Here you’ll find many up-and-coming indie bands, burlesque shows and cover bands.
A different venue from the typical Montreal heritage configurations, New City Gas offers a vibrant dance club in the heart of trendy Griffintown. The industrial space was built in 1859 but only recently converted into the massive club with a sprawling outdoor space and an impressive selection of sparkling wine and cocktails. Here you’ll find everything from international DJs and EDM to live events that coincide with Montreal’s colorful citywide festivals such as Formula 1 or Osheaga.