Montreal St. Patrick's Day Parade

The Ultimate Guide to Défilé de la Saint Patrick

United Irish Societies of Montreal‎, Montreal's 195th St Patrick's Parade
Courtesy of United Irish Societies of Montreal‎, Montreal's 195th St Patrick's Parade

One of the city's most anticipated spring events, the Montreal St. Patrick's Day Parade (also known as Défilé de la Saint Patrick) is a celebration of the rich Irish heritage of North America, featuring thousands of participants marching down Ste. Catherine to Phillips Square each year.

While the 195th Annual Montreal St. Patrick's Day Parade took place on Sunday, March 18, 2018, it's never too early to prepare for next year's big event, which will also take place on the Sunday of St. Patrick's Day in 2019.

Each year, the parade is made possible by the United Irish Societies of Montreal, who've been organizing the procession since 1928. Attendees can expect the particularly jovial and animated parade to last about two to three hours, with a variety of special events before and after the parade itself.

Montreal St. Patrick's Day Parade Route

Years past have had the parade start at the corner of du Fort and Ste. Catherine Street, with it proceeding along Ste. Catherine until it reaches Phillips Square, but due to construction, the route changed for 2018 and potentially 2019 to de Maisonneuve Boulevard.

The 2018 parade route started with participants lining up from City Councillors Street to Jeanne-Mance Street (by Place des Arts) along De Maisonneuve Boulevard. The parade marched down De Maisonneuve before turning onto MacKay and ending along Rene-Levesque Boulevard.

Interestingly enough, the parade route wasn't always so close to Phillips Square anyway. Held on March 17 or (usually) on the Sunday closest to the day Ireland's patron saint is traditionally honored, Montreal's St. Patrick's Day Parade used to proceed along Notre-Dame Street in Old Montreal, blocks away from the community's historical home turf in Griffintown, which back then was gruff and industrial but today is sleek and gentrified.

Before and After the Parade: What to Do in Montreal

Several Irish pubs in the downtown area serve breakfast and Irish coffee prior to the parade, so you can usually find a table to enjoy a traditional meal to start your day of festivities. However, you'll want to book a hotel near the St. Patrick's Day action if you want to get the best views of the parade as the streets fill up quickly before the noon start time.

After the parade, you can head back out to a downtown-area Irish pub for traditional Irish music, drinks, and bar foods, but keep in mind that these can get really packed post-parade. If you'd rather avoid the crowds, you can visit one of these great bars on Saturday or earlier in the day instead.

There are also a number of street festivals, performances, and community events scheduled after the parade, or you could stick around the end of the parade route to watch or help the parade's participants dismantle their floats.

The Longest-Running St. Paddy's Parade in Canada

The oldest St. Patrick's Day parade in Canada, the Montreal St. Patrick's Day Parade has been held every single year since 1824, and no circumstance, from snowstorm to wartime to economic depression, has stopped it from marching on. Historian Don Pidgeon claims Montreal has been celebrating St. Paddy's Day decades earlier than that, since at least 1759, the year of the Conquest, just not in a parade format.

Up until the 2009 edition, a widespread myth spotted in Montreal's major newspapers, in press releases and various news websites, that Montreal's St. Patrick's Day Parade was the longest-running in North America, was somehow established as fact.

However, the title of longest-running uninterrupted North American St. Paddy's parade belongs to New York City—at least according to its organizers as well as National Geographic, The New York Times, and a slew of other credible publications, actually belongs to New York City's procession—which boasts over 250 consecutive annual runs since 1762, 14 years before the Declaration of Independence. Meanwhile, Boston lays claim to the first North American St. Patrick's Day Parade decades earlier, in 1737, but did not celebrate the parade consecutively (2018 was the city's 117th annual parade).