Note: Tourisme Quebec provided this trip, however, all words and photos are mine (unless noted).
Last year I attended 97 concerts, and in that tally – music festivals were counted as just one. When Tourisme Quebec asked me to join them in Montréal for a “festival a day” over one long weekend, I knew I could do it – but that I would be sad not to have more time at each one. That suspicion proved to be correct as we trekked all over the city at breakneck speed.
Verdict: I can’t wait to go back and spend more time in Montréal!
While Canada turned 150 this year, Montréal stretches back 375 years with a culture that combines First Nation, French and English history. Locals speak French first and foremost but easily switch to English when they realize the only words you may know are “bonjour” and “merci.”
But even above and beyond affinity for French, Montréal has a passion for the arts. It’s apparent everywhere, and most especially in how they chose to celebrate their birthday. I was in town during the world-famous International Jazz Festival, and my lovely hotel was within walking distance – so I did get to that particular festival more than once.
But there are hundreds of events going on all year, every year, so check out Alive 375 and the Montréal Tourism site for things to do every day.
Photo by Jean-François Leblanc
Here are the festivals we attended over our four days.
Take a deep breath… it’s a lot!
This one technically happened earlier in June but we were able to tour the area and see all the artwork that has made its mark on the neighborhood. The paintings are diverse, interesting, and in some cases, interactive. I love their mission: to democratize urban art. Founded in 2012, this festival grows every year and now includes over 80 installations.
COST: Free for the festival, $20 CAD for a scheduled guided tour.
I love the concept of this festival, which runs every Sunday from May to September in Île Sainte-Hélène’s Plaine des Jeux. It’s a quick (and fun) river shuttle ride (or metro stop) from downtown Montréal and aims to share electronic music in a family-friendly environment. Sure, I still had some yummy cocktails – but it was also awesome to watch kiddos dancing with their ear protection on. The diverse lineup made it fun to wander from stage to stage and remember that electronic music really does not all sound the same.
COST: $13.50 CAD and up for various pass levels, ages 12 and under free.
First Fridays (Les Premiers Vendredis) Food Trucks
On the First Friday of every summer month, food trucks gather around Montréal’s Olympic Stadium to show off delicious samplings from around the city. Yes, of course, they have poutine (which I discovered is not just fries with gravy) – but each truck represents a restaurant in the city, so it’s a great opportunity to taste-test anything and everything.
COST: Free entry.
Weekends du Monde
This festival celebrates the culture of different countries – with music, dance, and food. Weekends du Monde happen throughout July just across the way from Piknic Electronik, near the Montréal Biosphere. This year featured performers from Jamaica, Colombia, Africa … and we enjoyed Mexican music and food during our visit!
Cost: Free entry.
Photo by Abdallahh on Flickr
Montreal Cirque Festival
This festival really captured the heart of Montreal for me – all the excitement and passion of the people who live there, plus everyone they welcome with open arms. There are indoor shows like Tabarnak, which was focused on Quebec traditions (as much as one can while 50 feet in the air), and outdoor extravaganzas that incorporated the latest technology to get the crowd involved. No kidding! We could use the Quand La Foule Devient Cirque app to find performers around every corner.
Cost: Starting at $30 CAD, $15 CAD for 15 and under.
Montreal International Jazz Festival
And, of course… we attended one of the most famous music gatherings in the world, the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal. Also: ranked the largest by Guinness. So big, it’s housed in the Quartier des Spectacles, an urban square dedicated to the arts. Much like any festival, there are small acts and huge names. I enjoyed both! Buddy Guy, Bob Dylan, and Melissa Etheridge were among the highlights for 2017 festival-goers. We were lucky enough to see Anderson .Paak close it out and bring down the house.
Cost: Many free and some admission-based performances.
Whew! That’s a lot for a long weekend, right? We also did tours of the city and I fell in love with several neighborhoods, but that’s a different post for another day.
The crazy thing is we didn’t scratch the surface of everything the city has to offer.