Montreal is a city bustling year-round with a number of cultural events and celebrations, concerts and performances, and community engagement activities. However, each May, mostly due to spring's long-awaited arrival, the city really starts to heat up with dozens of outdoor events and things to do.
From free art and culture events to some of the biggest festivals and concerts of the year, adding these activities to the itinerary for your Montreal trip will help you immerse yourself in the culture of this southern Quebec city. Whether you're a tourist or lifelong local, you're sure to find something to do this month in Montreal.
While the weather in Montreal is considerably warmer throughout most of the month, remember to pack a light jacket and raincoat as May can be rather wet and the temperatures still dip down at night. However, the flowers and foliage are in full bloom, meaning it's also the perfect time to enjoy outdoor celebrations and activities all month long.
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Even if you have a tight budget on your trip to Montreal, there are plenty of free things to do in May. Free days at the Botanical Gardens run until May 15, but you can also enjoy all nature has to offer during a hike of Mount Royal any time you like. Plus, every Sunday from May 6 through September 30, you can join the Tam Tams drum and dance circle at Mount Royal Park.
Other highlights include the Festival TransAmériques on May 23 to June 3, Festival BD de Montréal on May 25 to 27, Porchfest Notre-Dame-de-Grace on May 19 and 20, and Free Comic Book Day on May 5.
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Featuring local and international artists big and small—from indie and electronic to pop and rock—Montreal is a music-lovers city featuring over 200 concerts every month at dozens of venues across the city.
In May of 2018, concerts kick off with Kygo and Alan Walker at Place Bell, Unknown Mortal Orchestra at Théâtre Corona, and Olden Yolk at Casa Del Popolo on May 1. Other big names coming to Montreal this month include Theory of a Dead Man, Glass Tiger, the Alaclair Ensemble, Annie Hart, Fever Ray, Bon Jovi, Feist, and the Santa Theresa Music Festival on May 18 to 20, 2018.
If you're looking for another great festival, be sure to check out Pouzza Fest, which features over 150 punk, ska, dub, and reggae acts converging in Montreal May 18 through May 20. Alternatively, starting May 20 and going all summer long, Piknic Electronik Montréal features the best in electronic artists at Plaine des Jeux every Sunday.
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Montreal Museums Day is an annual tradition when over 40 museums in the city open their doors to the public free of charge. Museums Day takes place on Sunday, May 27, 2018, and not only includes Montreal's top museums but some smaller, independently-funded exhibits and galleries as well.
Among museums that will be included n the Montreal Museums Day event for 2018, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Pointe-à-Callière, and the Montreal Science Centre are among the most popular for new exhibits and interactive displays. Galerie Got in Old Montreal and the PHI Centre are also great places to go if you prefer photographic or video art instead.
You can also walk through the doors of the Pointe-a-Calliere museum in Old Montreal where you'll enter the world of Egypt circa 1500 B.C. in its exhibition The Queens of Egypt. The show displays more than 350 pieces related to Nefertari, Nefertiti, and Hatshepsut—all legendary queens of Egypt—and reveals their connection to this ancient civilization.
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Known in French Canada as the Festival de Fromage Grillé, over 100 restaurants across the province of Quebec (including Montreal) are offering their own versions of the quintessential grilled cheese sandwich in celebration of the Grilled Cheese Festival. From May 1 through May 7, you can sample sandwiches like the Grilled Cheese Obelix by Brasseur de Montréal, the Taco Grilled Cheese by La Bêtise, Grilled Cheese Gras Hard from Le Gras Dur. Unfortunately, the 2017 favorite, the Vladimir Grilled Cheese from Vladimir Poutine Montreal won't be available this year as the restaurant permanently closed down in early 2018.Continue to 5 of 12 below.
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Although it might sound a little suspect (...or sketchy) to the American tourist, the Montreal Sketchfest is a week-long festival dedicated to sketch comedy by 60 of North America's most promising sketch troupes from May 3 to 12, 2018. Although a majority of performers for Sketchfest come from Montreal, Toronto, New York, and Philadelphia, the festival also features acts from D.C., Vancouver, Ottawa, Halifax, Vancouver, and Chicago. Admission prices vary by event or package deals (like double-features and weekend passes), and most shows are held at Théâtre Ste. Catherine in Montreal.
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Producing world-renowned maple syrup is a Quebec tradition, and you can see how it's done at Sucrerie de Montage, through May 6. You'll see how the sap is drawn from the maples and taken to a wood-fired evaporator, where it turns into that delicious maple syrup. While you're there you can also take a horse-drawn sleigh ride, partake of a huge feast, and check out the General Store, where you'll find maple syrup, butter taffy, and other sweet treats.
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Tattooing is the star of this show, which takes place in Griffintown May 25 through 27 at a restored church now called Salon 1860. Tattoo artists from around the world will show off their style of tattooing, and food trucks will add to the festive atmosphere. Griffintown is alive with restaurants, art galleries, antique shops, and cafes, and it's worth a stop after the tattooing event.
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The Montreal Medieval Fair provides another way to go back in time this May in Montreal on May 4, 5, and 6 at the Pierre-Charbonneau Center. Your senses will be bombarded with music and dancing, fights, and acrobats, and you'll meet gunsmiths, jewelers, leather craftspeople, and makers of armor, candles, and shoes. During the Medieval Fair, you'll also see Vikings, Roman gladiators, and musketeers roaming around in this carnival-like atmosphere with a medieval ambiance.Continue to 9 of 12 below.
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In 2018, Mother's Day in Montreal falls on Sunday, May 13. Although there aren't really any special events in Montreal for Mother's Day—even though mothers certainly deserve parades—there are plenty of opportunities for you to make your mom's visit to Montreal extra special. You could take your mom out to a Mother's Day brunch or special holiday tea at one of the city's many tea houses. Alternatively, you could enjoy a day outdoors and take a stroll through the flowers and foliage Mount Royal Park, St. Joseph's Oratory, Parc Jean-Drapeau, Parc La Fontaine, or the Montreal Botanical Gardens.
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Over 30 bars and restaurants will be serving up over 250 specialty cocktails all week long from May 14 to 20, 2018, during Invasion Cocktail, an annual celebration of Montreal's bar and nightlife scene. Featured bars include 132 Bar Vintage, Bar Palco, Bootlegger, Chez Tao, and La Distillerie No 1, and you can download the event passport app free online to get deals on these special creations at participating establishments. Invasion Cocktail also features several events including cocktail workshops, a visit to the Cirka Distillery, and brunch at Perles et Paddock.
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The Ninth Edition of the Chromatic Festival returns to the Ancienne École des beaux-arts de Montréal on May 26 to June 2, 2018. The festival features a combination of the high tech industry with modern graphics artistry with exhibits including digital installations, photography, virtual reality, and painting as well as art workshops just for kids. There's also an industry-wide conference and parties almost every night of the event. While the emphasis of Chromatic Festival is to bring attention to local Quebec artists, it also attracts a diverse and expansive international crowd and community.
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One of the largest celebrations of Latin culture in Quebec takes place each year at the Complexe Desjardins over Victoria Day (Journée des Patriotes) weekend from May 17 to May 21, 2018. The annual Montreal Salsa Convention features workshops, pro dance showcases, free dance classes, and multi-level competitions all in one place. With four days and nights of shows, parties, and feasts, as well as over 30 workshops, the Salsa Convention features international and local talent include amateur and professional dancers, DJs, and musicians.
For more music from our southern neighbors, a Latin Jazz Night takes place on May 13 at Upstairs Jazz Bar & Grill in Montreal. You can eat great food and order your adult libation of choice as you listen to the Alex Bellegarde Quintet and its original compositions that fuse contemporary jazz with an Afro-Cuban sound.