From Fireworks to Festivals and Everything in Between
With the arrival of warmer weather, the city of Montreal heats up its events series during the summer months, offering dozens of festivals, art walks, and special occasions throughout the season. Whether you're a fan of music, art, beer, food—you name it—you'll likely find a way to celebrate in the capital of Quebec this summer.
Le Mondial de la Bière (Montreal Beer Festival)
Le Mondial de la Bière offers visitors a chance to sample hundreds of beers from around the world, try the latest in chocolate beer, pair a lager with a slab of kangaroo meat, or indulge in special brews made expressly for the festival. Additionally, pub crawls involving Montreal's hottest brewpubs are often part of the fun once the fest shuts down for the night.
Montreal International Fireworks Competition
The largest pyrotechnics competition of its kind in the world, the Montreal International Fireworks Competition has been going strong since 1985 and remains one of the city's top attractions, showering Montreal skies every Saturday evening (sometimes Wednesday evenings, too) throughout the summer.
The Montreal International Fireworks Competition usually kicks off in late June and runs through mid-August each year. Although viewable from many destinations around the city—including Mont Royal Park—the best place to see the show is from the waterfront in the Old Port district of Montreal.
Montreal Sidewalk Sales
From June through October each year, various districts around the city host their own special summer sidewalk sales. Guests can wander down streets closed to vehicle traffic as they sample cheap street foods and watch various street dancers perform. You can also play chess on a jumbo board and marvel at the stilt walkers—you never know when you'll see one in Montreal.
The most popular sidewalk sales of the summer include the Old Port Public Market in late August, the Latin Quarter street fair in early May, and the Gay Village every weekend of the summer.
On Sundays from May through September (and sometimes in October), the local celebrity drum group the Tam Tams perform in Mount Royal Park for an annual event series that has become a staple of summer in Montreal for locals and tourists alike.
The mysticism of the hand drum dance in the park paired with Dark Age revivalists fighting to the death with foam swords makes the weekly Tam Tams event truly unique. Entirely free to attend, the Tam Tams event is open to all ages and interests—every generation and a wide variety of subcultures are represented at the event.
Piknic Électronik brings the best of Montreal's nightlife to Parc Jean-Drapeau every Sunday during the summer. Featuring a wide variety of house, techno, progressive, and minimal music concerts, this family-friendly event invites a number of local and international talent to the park starting in mid-May each year.
Tickets are required to attend Piknic Électronik and can be purchased in advance online or at the gate. Check the website for more information on performers and to see the summer concert schedule in full.
Grand Prix Weekend
Each year from early to mid-June, Montreal goes absolutely nuts when Formula One racing rolls into town. While many locals hide out the week of the Grand Prix to avoid some of the rowdy crowds the event seems to attract, a number of tourists enjoy the festivities surrounding the race nonetheless.
While the race itself is the highlight of Grand Prix weekend, there are also a number of associated street parties and exclusive invite-only affairs that happen throughout the four-day event.
Montreal Fringe Festival
Expect anything to happen on stage at the Montreal Fringe Festival: the good, the bad, the outrageous—you name it, the Fringe Fest categorically refuses to censor it.
A performance art festival that believes anyone should be able to express creative urges in front of an audience if they so wish, the Fringe Fest selects its lineup via a judge-free lottery system that randomly awards applicants a spot on the roster.
In turn, audience members are charged modest admission fees to ostensibly counter the risk factor inherent with the Fringe's unique hit-or-miss selection system. That chainsaw dance massacre you paid $10 to catch could very well be the performance art highlight of your entire summer, or it could be 45 groan-worthy minutes of your life you'll never get back. If it's really that bad, make a beeline for the Fringe Fest beer tent.
The Montreal Fringe Festival takes place over the first three weeks of June and tickets are available online in advance and at the box-office at various participating theaters.
One of Montreal's most important festivals is Les Francofolies de Montréal, the largest French music festival in the world, which attracts almost one million spectators during the course of 10 days. Several free outdoor shows are scheduled every June at Place des Festivals as part of the event.
Gay Village Summer Events
Every spring and summer, the Montreal Gay Village undergoes a transformation. Its main thoroughfare, Ste. Catherine Street, shuts down to car traffic, making room for the neighborhood to come alive with free art exhibits, street sales, performances, and spontaneous out-of-left-field busking action.
Like clockwork, Gay Village restaurants and bars flood the concrete with terraces for outdoor dining and drinking. All summer long, visitors can casually stroll Ste. Catherine Street, stop into pop-up sales at local boutiques, or sample some of the food Montreal has become famous for.
Montreal Jazz Festival
The largest jazz festival in the world is right here in Montreal, drawing in two million people during the course of its roughly two-week run from late June through early July each summer.
During the event, hundreds of indoor shows are complemented by hundreds of free outdoor shows featuring the best in the biz. Check out this year's Montreal Jazz Festival lineup and be primed to join the masses indulging in dozens of free outdoor shows scheduled every day at Place des Festivals, the Jazz Fest's official hub.
Carifiesta Montreal, also known as Carifête, is one of the city's more engaging parades, a summer tradition in effect since 1975 that celebrates Montreal's Caribbean community on the first Saturday in July each year.
Like the famous Carnivale across the Caribbean islands, Montreal's Carifiesta celebrates the summer with beautiful costumes, steelpan performances, and vibrant parade participants dancing in traditional Caribbean styles.
Universes collide at Montreal ComicCon, a convention center smorgasbord of sci-fi, fantasy, horror, wrestling, and comic book celebrity panels, photo ops, and autograph signings as well as assorted paraphernalia for sale at various booths around the event.
Montreal ComicCon usually takes in early July each year at the Montreal Convention Center, Palais des congrès, which is located at the north end of Old Montreal. Tickets are required and are available for one, two, or all three days of the event.
Just for Laughs Comedy Festival
Montreal's other juggernaut festival attracting upward of two million visitors interested in free outdoor performances is Just for Laughs, a comedy fest crawling with talent scouts, booking agents, managers, and producers looking for the next big thing.
Many of today's household names—Denis Leary, Tim Allen, Dave Chappelle, and Jon Stewart—got their big break at the Montreal Just for Laughs Festival or saw their career take off after participating. Events for the festival take place throughout the month of July, and while many of the performances are free to attend, ticket registration is required in advance of some shows.
Montréal Complètement Cirque (Montreal Circus Festival)
One could make a case for Montreal being a world capital for circus arts. It's home of the Cirque du Soleil headquarters and the National Circus School as well as several other internationally-renowned Quebec circus troupes such as Les 7 Doigts de la main and Cirque Éloize.
It should come as no surprise then that one of Montreal's leading summer festivals—Montréal Complètement Cirque—features mind-bending contortions, flips, juggling, balancing, clowning, flying, and other physical feats circus artists perform year in, year out. Also known as the Montreal Circus Festival, this annual event usually takes place over the course of two weeks in early July.
Festival International Nuits d'Afrique
The Festival International Nuits d'Afrique ("African Nights") is nearly two weeks of world music from the African continent, a proverbial show of hands from more than 35 different nations. Every year proposes at least a couple dozen free shows for the masses, with concerts usually held on an outdoor stage about a block or so east of Place des Festivals.
African Nights usually takes place over nearly two full weeks in mid-July. While many of the events are free, all performances require advanced registration or ticketing to attend.
Fantasia Film Festival
Fantasia Film Festival, a Montreal silver-screen staple since 1996, is not quite as tame and heartwarming as Disney's groundbreaking collection of shorts that go by the same name. Horror, fantasy, Hong Kong action, animation, gored-up sci-fi, gratuitous nudie shot B-movies—name your non-PG genre and chances are Fantasia has it covered in its programming, particularly Asian films, which make up almost half of every year's selection.
This annual genre movie festival usually takes place from mid-July through early August and features a variety of free and ticketed screenings.
Osheaga Arts & Music Festival
California has Coachella and Montreal has Osheaga—a smaller-scale music festival held in Parc Jean-Drapeau every summer. Osheaga features dozens of the hottest acts in the music industry, from headlining household names to up-and-comers poised to take their place, and usually takes place in late July or early August.
Heavy Montreal is a two-day, heavy metal and hard rock music festival held at Parc Jean-Drapeau and various other venues across the city each year in late July or early August.
Also known as Heavy MTL, this annual event features a lineup of the hottest metal bands across the globe, including hardcore, hard rock, death metal, and thrash metal performances as well as a cross-section of other subgenres.
ÎleSoniq is Montreal's chief Electronic Dance Music (EDM) festival—a chance to catch some of electronic music's hottest acts under the same proverbial roof. The annual event also features a variety of hip hop artists as well as performances in other pop genres, though the main focus of ÎleSoniq is EDM.
Organized by the same people who produce the Osheaga festival, ÎleSoniq usually takes place in early to mid-August and requires tickets to attend.
Gay Pride Parade
Montreal's Gay Pride Parade is fun, flamboyant, and open to everyone. Usually taking place in mid-August, this annual event is an LGBTQ tradition that was first celebrated in 1979 when a group of 200 people commemorated New York City's 1969 Stonewall Riots with "Gairilla," a precursor to today's festivities.
Along with the Pride Parade itself, Montreal Pride also features a number of parties at venues across the city, including all-night dance events and a number of street festivals, especially in Montreal's Gay Village.
Festival Mode et Design
Turning the downtown core into a series of free outdoor fashion shows and special events during the course of several days in mid-to-late-August, Montreal fashion fest Festival Mode et Design is one of the city's more visible summer attractions and a prime opportunity to check out the latest trends from local designers and high-street brands.
While many events of Festival Mode et Design are free to attend, most require advance registration or tickets of some kind.
18th Century Market
In late August each year, Pointe-à-Callière, Montreal's museum of history and archeology, sets up stands with "authentic" 1750s produce for sale and hires actors to roam around Old Montreal as part of the annual 18th Century Market event.
This public market reenactment of what it was like to shop, dress, and socialize with the Montreal community in 1750 also features hands-on games and kid-approved cookies as well as spirits, cider, and cheese for a more discerning palette.
Labour Day Weekend
Canada Labour Day weekend in Montreal, as well as in the province of Quebec as a whole, is rife with business closures, countryside getaways, and a collective lamentation over the symbolic end of summer, which coincides with the first Monday of every September across Canada.
A number of free events pop up around the city for Labour Day weekend, which is quite similar to how Labor Day is celebrated in the United States. From street fairs and parades to public markets and even a few free music events, the city is full of fun to close out the summer over Labour Day weekend each summer.