Forget Vegas. Next time you’re looking to let loose in a city full of sin, head straight to Canada. Yep, we’re talking about the place that’s best known for its beautiful natural parks, cozy winter festivals, and world-class international food scene. But if you dig past the country’s wholesome exterior, you’ll find that there’s actually a whole lot of party waiting to happen. That’s right, we’re lookin’ at you, Montréal.
Montréal’s festival scene is out-of-this world. Think: circuses in the streets, neon lights glittering the entire city, raves in an igloo, and high-speed car races. If you’re planning a trip and seeking the best things to do in Montréal, look no further. Here are 24 of the best festivals in the heart of the city:
Montréal Jazz Fest
Montréal Jazz Fest 2020: June 25 to July 4, 2020
Where: Quartier des spectacles
Set in the Quartier des spectacles, Montréal Jazz Fest (Festival International de Jazz de Montréal) is host to hundreds of shows that pop up from noon until night right in the heart of the city. This year, they’re pulling out all the stops with an extensive lineup of hundreds of artists. Best part? Over half of those shows are completely free, making Jazz Fest one of the best things to do in Canada.
Pro tip: Snag a Jazz Passport Package and gain unlimited access to 3 of Montréal’s coolest venues: MTelus, Club Soda and L’Astral. Includes: 3 nights’ accommodation, breakfasts, Jazz Passport, festival fun pack, and a guided tour of the Festival site.
Montréal Food Trucks Festival
Montréal Food Trucks Festival 2020: June to October, 2020
Location: Montréal Olympic Park
The largest food truck gathering in North America happens on the first Friday of every month at the Montréal Olympic Park from 4 pm to 11 pm. Whether you’re craving tacos, burgers, dim sum, grilled cheese, or ice cream, Montréal’s First Fridays menu options are endless (and freaking delicious). Starting Friday, June 7, you can enjoy food offers from over 40 food trucks along with live music, DJs, activities, terrasses and more.
Pro tip: The festival itself is free to enter, but each truck and bar cart (there’s also booze!) varies in cost.
Montréal Complètement Cirque
Montréal Complètement Cirque 2020: July 2020
For 10 days, Montréal moves to the rhythm of circus arts with Montréal Complètement Cirque. Montréal venues, streets, parks, and sidewalks become colorful stages to showcase high-flying performances from all around the world. Look forward to participatory activities, international shows, outdoor street performances, electric surprises and magical moments galore.
Pro tip: This year, several Montréal districts will turn Complètement Cirque for an evening or a weekend. The official outdoor line-up can be found here.
Montréal en Lumière
Montréal en Lumière 2020: February 20th to March 1st, 2020
Location: Quartier des spectacles
Montréal en Lumière is one of the largest winter festivals in the world. For two weeks in late February/early March, the Quartier des spectacles is bright and buzzing with free activities for visitors of all ages, including a circuit of interactive and luminous art, a neon-lit ferris wheel, urban slide, zip line, free shows, and food kiosks for gourmet pit stops. Nuit blanche à Montréal (the last night of the festival) takes over three districts. Throughout the night, these districts will be linked by a shuttle service, allowing the festival-goers to move easily and quickly from one district to another.
Pro tip: Each year during the light festival, the Metro stays open all night long. Hop on and explore over 150 stops around the city, each uniquely lit up with celebratory festival light.
Montréal Pride 2020: August 6th to August 16th, 2020
Location: The Village
Founded in 2007 by Montréal’s sexual & gender diversity communities, Montréal Pride Festival, aka Festival Fierté Montréal, is now the largest Francophone pride gathering in the world. The organization’s primary mission is to “support and promote local communities while serving as a beacon of hope for people around the world who continue to battle injustice.” This year, Montréal Pride Festival will attract more than 2 million local and international visitors over two weeks of community, cultural and festive activities including free shows, panels, the Community Day and the oh-so-famous Pride Parade.
Pro tip: The Parade kicks off on August 18th. The 2.7 km route will “symbolically link the old and the new,” departing from the former west end LGBTQ+ sector to arrive at the very heart of the new Gay Village. The parade will begin at Metcalfe Street and end on Alexandre-DeSève Street. This year, the parade’s theme will highlight the color violet, which “evokes dreams, gentleness and peace.”
Piknic Electronik 2020: May 17th to September 27th, 2020
Location: Parc Jean-Drapeau
Pack a picnic, head to Parc Jean-Drapeau, and get ready to hear some sweet, sweet tunes. Piknic Electronik is a weekly outdoor electronic music festival that takes place every Sunday from mid-May until the end of September. This summertime fest is so popular that it’s quickly spreading to other cities around the world: Barcelona, Melbourne, Dubai, and Santiago (to name a few).
Pro tip: A picnic is obviously encouraged, and be sure to buy your tickets ahead of time (although, if you’re planning a last minute trip, there may be some available at the door).
Montréal Osheaga 2020: July 31st to August 2nd, 2020
Location: Parc Jean-Drapeau
Osheaga is a multi-day indie music festival that is held every summer at Parc Jean-Drapeau. A huge celebration dedicated to music and visual arts, Osheaga prides itself in discovering local and national emerging talent, and then offering them the opportunity to play alongside some of the biggest international artists in the business. Over the course of several days, approximately 100 bands take to the stages and across the city for one of the best summer music fests in North America. Looking for a place to stay? Check out our fave Montréal Airbnbs.
Pro tip: Come social ready: three years ago, the festival introduced “Osheaga Play”, an interactive play area and social media integrated photo system.
Montréal Mural Festival
Montréal MURAL Festival 2020: June 1st to June 30th, 2020
Location(s): Saint-Laurent Boulevard; citywide
Hidden in alleys, on rooftops, in parking lots, and covering local businesses and restaurants: street art has become one of Montréal’s core visual identities over the last few decades. As an international public art festival bound to the celebration of creativity and the democratization of urban art, MURAL transforms the famous Saint-Laurent Boulevard into a real open-air museum where local and international artists unite.
Pro tip: Want to spot some street art but not sure where to start? Check out MURAL’s dynamic street art map.
Montréal Beer Fest
Montréal Mondial de la Bière 2020: May 21st to May 24th, 2020
Location: Windsor Station
Mondial de la Bière, “America’s most important international beer festival,” features over 500 beers and 90 breweries over a 4-day booze-a- thon. Hosted in the historic Windsor Station, newcomers, casual beer lovers and connoisseurs can look forward to beer and food pairings, tastings, beer-making workshops, panels, music and more.
Pro tip: Admission is completely free, but you’re looking to wet your lips, you can purchase virtual coupons that can be redeemed for workshops and tastings. Plan to stick around? Tasting packages are also available.
Montréal Tam-Tams 2020: May to September, 2020
Location: Mount Royal Park
This summer, head to the Sir George-Étienne Cartier monument in Mount Royal Park for the Tam-Tams: a giant drum circle event that runs every Sunday from May until October. And okay, when we say giant drum circle, we mean it. Picture thousands of drummers, dancers, vendors and visitors filling the entire park each week. The weirdest part? No one knows exactly when and how the Tam-Tams started, and it’s neither officially sanctioned or sponsored by the city.
Pro tip: The festival has always taken a laissez-faire approach to cannabis and drinking (police would look the other way if you were chill and used digression), but the 2019 Tams will be the very first season with legalized weed. Check out our expert Montréal guide to learn more about our favorite dispensaries.
MUTEK Montréal 2020: TBD
MUTEK Montréal is six days and nights of audiovisual performances, live electronic music and a full theatre of experiences that pushes the boundaries of digital art and turns Montréal into an epic digital playground.
Pro tip: In 2019 the festival will celebrate the fifth year of MUTEK_IMG, a forum on current practices in digital creation, which runs three full days from August 20 to 22. “Covering mixed realities, artificial intelligence, and new iterations in audiovisual spectacle the event provides a high-level context for professionals, practitioners, researchers and creative companies to reflect, exchange and get inspired.”
Montréal Igloofest 2020: January 16th to February 1st, 2020
Location: Jacques-Cartier Quay (The Old Port Montréal)
Feel the heat in the dead of winter at Igloo Fest: Montréal’s coolest electronic music festival. Every January, thousands of music lovers huddle up (and bundle up) at the Quays of the Old Port for two weeks of ice cold jams. Check out Igloo Fest’s giant igloo village, enter yourself in the annual “Iglooswag” snowsuit contest, and keep yourself warm with endless hot adult drinks.
Pro tip: When we say bundle up, we’re not kidding. The temps can dip below -25 Celsius (that’s a brisk -13 Fahrenheit). Wear layers under your snowsuit and don’t forget to protect your fingers, toes and eyes from the wind and the cold.
L’International des Feux Loto-Québec
L’International des Feux Loto-Québec 2020: June 15th to July 15th, 2020
L’International des Feux Loto-Québec is an international fireworks show where world-renowned companies (representing their respective countries) show off the latest techniques and innovations in the field of pyrotechnics. On the evenings the fireworks are held, the Jacques-Carter Bridge is completely closed to traffic so that everyone can sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.
Pro tip: The best viewing spot is from the grandstands at La Ronde (Canadian Six Flags), where spectators have the best vantage point, (and accompanying music!), to view the explosive light show.
Francos de Montréal
Francos de Montréal 2020: June 11th to June 20th, 2020
Location: Quartier des spectacles
For a true taste of Quebec culture, head to Francos de Montréal for 9 days of French jams. Featuring over 1,000 French-language performers from all over the world, most of the events (which are held on several stages in and around the city center) are completely free and fun — whether you speak french or not.
Grand Prix Montréal
Montréal Grand Prix 2020: June 12th to June 14th, 2020
Location: Parc Jean-Drapeau
The Montréal Grand Prix is the biggest sporting event in all of Canada; it attracts 100,000+ people per each day of competition, class, charm, and world-class parties. Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve (the racetrack), is located on Île Notre-Dame at Parc Jean-Drapeau, right in the heart of the Saint Lawrence River. Because of its tight 14 turns, Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve is conducive to a lot of driving errors and overtaking, making the Grand Prix du Canada a thrilling and spectacular race.
Gardens of Light
Gardens of Light 2020: September 6th to October 31st, 2020
Location: Montréal Botanical Garden
A luscious green garden just outside the heart of the city, the Montréal Botanical Garden is 190 acres of thematic gardens and greenhouses. If you visit September-October, see the property set aglow with Gardens of Light, a massive and bright paper lantern exhibit that lights up the Chinese, Japanese and First Nations gardens. Wander the meandering footpaths set ablaze in a million colours, with delicate silk lanterns and ethereal light projections, and watch nature come to life.
Festival Eurêka! Montréal
Eurêka! Festival 2020: June 12th to June 14th, 2020
Location: The Old Port Montréal
Festival Eurêka! is an invitation to discover, experiment, exchange and reflect on technological, social and environmental issues that we face today. During this free and fun festival, the public is invited to meet with researchers, engineers, technicians, and students and engage in conversations about science in 2019. Thanks to interactive activities, Eurêka! successfully shares their enthusiasm for science and brings together “those who perform science and those who experience it in their daily lives.”
Festival Elektra Montréal
Elektra Montréal 2020: TBD
A Montreal-based cultural initiative founded in 1999, ELEKTRA festival is dedicated to immersive experiments and installations. The festival makes it possible to discover the diversity of performance practices, particularly audiovisual and robotics. For its 20th anniversary, ELEKTRA looks back on its greatest successes of the last 20 years. The 2019 festival will once again present the iconic pieces that made the success of ELEKTRA, accompanied by new works by emerging artists.
Festival International Nuits d’Afrique
Festival International Nuits d’Afrique 2020: TBD
Location: Quartier des spectacles
Over 13 days of indoor concerts and 6 days of free outdoor programming, discover the multiple expressions of African, Caribbean and Latin American culture with Festival International Nuits d’Afrique. Starting July 16, the Nuits d’Afrique’s village comes alive with 700 artists, concerts, activities for the whole family, dance and musical instrument workshops, a children’s place, and the legendary Timbuktu market with exotic food and drinks.
Just for Laughs Montréal
Montréal Just for Laughs 2020: TBD
Location: Quartier des spectacles
Just for Laughs (Juste pour Rire) Montréal is the world’s largest international comedy festival, welcoming 2 million people each summer. Each day, performers, both vocal and visual, perform throughout the city. In the evenings, the nightclubs and live venue theatres offer a knee-slapping line-up of big-name acts and performers.
Boochfest Montréal 2020: August 28th, 2020
Location: IGA Stadium (Parc Jarry)
Kombucha culture is strong and diverse. Experience it in action this summer at Boochfest: Canada’s fave international kombucha festival that encourages attendees to taste tasty ‘booch from around the world. According to the team at Boochfest, the culture of kombucha “begins at home”, which is why the festival puts a spotlight on home brewers with the popular World Homemade Kombucha Competition.
Pro tip: Boochfest is free to attend: sample kombucha, buy bottles onsite, meet brewers, groove to live music and have a picnic in the park. Want to attend a workshop or enjoy a VIP experience? Upgrade passes can be purchased here.
Montréal World Film Festival
Montréal World Film Festival 2020: TBD
Location: Cinéma Cineplex Odeon Quartier Latin
The Montréal World Film Festival (Montréal International Film Festival) is not just Canada’s oldest international film festival, but it’s also the only festival in North America that’s officially accredited by the FIAPF. Their mission? To “encourage cultural diversity and understanding between nations, to foster the cinema of all continents by stimulating the development of quality cinema, to promote filmmakers and innovative works, to discover and encourage new talents, and to promote meetings between cinema professionals from around the world.”
Pro tip: The festival is split into two sections: competitive and non-competitive. In addition to judges, festival-goers are invited to vote for the films they like best in different categories, making this fest an immersive and inclusive movie-watching experience.
Farmers Market at Marché des Éclusiers
Farmers Market at Marché des Éclusiers 2020: June to September, 2020
Marché des Éclusiers is an indoor-outdoor market with fresh produce, coffee & baked goods all summer long. Located on the waterfront at Place du Génie, le Marché des Éclusiers has a simple mission: to showcase Québec products. For that, they’ve created a community of farmers, businesses and consumers who are conscientious about their ecological footprint and what they eat.
Pro tip: The Farmers Market runs from June to September twice a week on Thursdays (2pm to 7pm) and Saturdays (9am to 2pm).
Noël dans le Parc
Noël dans le Parc 2019: December 1st to December 31st, 2019
Le Festival Noël dans le Parc is a free outdoor music festival that celebrates the spirit of Christmas in all its warmth, while showcasing a variety of musical artists. Throughout the entire month of December, you will be able to enjoy this traditional experience, purchase an all-natural christmas tree for your home, and even treat yourself to a roasted marshmallow! What’s more, the event advocates for and commits to inclusive, multicultural and community values throughout all of its activites.