Fierté Montreal Pride has become one of the premiere LGBT events in Canada. (Photo: Fierte Montreal)
Montreal insists on having a good time. Whether cozying up around a winter bonfire or sipping sangria in the summer sun, locals love coming together and participating in a little something called joie de vivre. It means the “joy of living” — and Montrealers take it seriously.
While it’s a futile activity to rank Montreal festivals (nobody should ever have to choose between food or music), this introductory roundup of renowned celebrations will help you choose the best time of year to plan a sojourn.
Montreal International Jazz Festival
Arguably the best-known of all Montreal events, Jazz Fest holds the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest jazz festival.
Past headliners include some of the greats — such as B. B. King, Diana Krall, Ray Charles and Ella Fitzgerald — but don’t let the world record and big celebs distract from the true essence of the festival: fantastic music. Up-and-coming talent packs the roster, and many events are free. Late June to early July.
One of the newer festivals on the city’s annual lineup, Mural is a celebration of creativity and the democratization of urban art. Watch blank, brick walls transformed into imaginative three-story murals and then chat with the artists about their processes. Essentially, it’s arty but accessible. Late June.
From very humble beginnings in 2006, Osheaga has grown into a mammoth, three-day music festival that now sells 45,000 tickets per day as a matter of routine. The roster is eclectic (where else does The Weeknd share a stage with Belle and Sebastian?), and the crowd is all peace n’ love (n’ Snapchat). Late July/early August.
Just for Laughs
The mission of Montreal’s comedy festival is summed up in three simple words: make people happy. Visitors can nab tickets to the biggest names in stand-up comedy (think Amy Schumer, Louis C.K. and Chris Rock) or simply wander through the vivacious venue where street performers and urban artists cajole spectators with a jovial form of absurdity. Happiness guaranteed. Mid-July.
Here’s an annual assembly of independent musicians and the folks who love the songs they make. While music is ostensibly the focus, POP Montreal also offers conferences, art exhibits, activities for kids and plenty of all-night parties. Most events take place in the Mile End neighborhood. BYO Converse sneakers. Late September.
Fierté Montreal Pride
Over the past few years, Fierté Montreal Pride has gained momentum and has become one of the premiere LGBT events in Canada. The sizzling summer festival has all the typical fixings of a pride celebration: community-building events, crowd-pleasing DJs and a multicolored parade. The differentiating factor, however, is the francophone flair — gaiety with an adorable French accent. Mid-August.
Montreal’s Restaurant Week offers the perfect opportunity to sample a wide variety of food in different corners of the city. From Michelin-rated restaurants to quaint corner bistros, each participating restaurant features an affordable, three-course, fixed-price menu. Bring your appetite. Early November.
Montreal en Lumière
The short version: a celebration of light and warmth in the depth of winter. The slightly longer version: a multi-week food and art festival that transforms Montreal’s entertainment district with a program that includes gastronomic events, wine tastings, and live music and cumulates with “Nuit Blanche” — an all-night party with hundreds of downtown activities (many connected to the local art scene), all linked by a free shuttle service. Late February.
Rencontres Internationales du Documentaire (RIDM)
Montreal’s international documentary film festival is better known by a simple acronym: RIDM. The festival lineup includes more than 100 films and offers plenty of opportunities to network and dive deeper into social justice and environmental topics. Film buffs can take part in master classes and debates. Mid-November.
In Montreal a bit of snow is no reason to hibernate. A festival of electronic music, Igloofest lures locals into the Old Port (a revitalized industrial area) with warm drinks and hotter digital beats — all under a twinkling winter sky. Fashionistas take note: Bring your best winter duds to participate in the annual one-piece snowsuit contest. Weekends throughout January.