Ask almost any Montréaler what they love about living in the quintessentially French city and the first thing out their mouths — likely before you can even finish the question — is “the summer.” Summers in Montréal are a thing of enchantment. There’s a palpable energy in the air as the weather gets warm and the days get long. Music drifts from the open café windows, people flock to the city’s parks and sidewalks, and the general malaise of a long winter is replaced by the happy faces of the Quebecois sipping rosé on all of those gorgeous wrought-iron, twisting staircases and balconies.
There’s also plenty of entertainment and special events that happen in Montréal every summer, bringing tourists from all over the world to partake in the festivals, concerts, and seasonal delights of the city. Trying to plan your trip accordingly? Read on for some of the hottest entertainment this side of the St. Lawrence.
What: Music festivals
Where: Various venues
Tickets are available online or at the various venues
Plenty of cities in North America feature yearly jazz festivals, but there’s nothing quite like Montréal’s; in fact, the Guinness Book of World Records ranks it as the world’s largest jazz festival. Taking place from June 27th–July 6th, the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal is celebrating its 40th year, and there are plenty of gems to be found in this year’s line-up for a variety of ages and musical tastes. Alt-J, Norah Jones, and First Aid Kit are all scheduled to perform; for those who prefer a little more classic Canadiana, Bryan Adams and Blue Rodeo will both be taking to the stage.
A festival with a different sort of spirit, Osheaga will take place from August 2nd–4th in Parc Jean-Drapeau. The list of headliners will no doubt have you racing for a festival pass; Janelle Monae, Hozier, Childish Gambino, the Lumineers, King Princess, and Metric will all be performing. Get your flower crowns and temporary tattoos ready.
What: Day spa
Where: Old Port of Montréal
Reservations a must (excluding water circuit)
Monday–Thursday: 10 am–10 pm
Friday–Sunday: 9 am–10 pm
Chalk it up to the city’s European influence, but there are plenty of Scandinavian-style spas to be found on and around the island of Montréal. But there’s none more unique and beautiful than Bota-Bota. Located on a refurbished river ferry that has been permanently docked near Quai Alexandra and the Old Port, the spa features a variety of hot tubs, cryotherapy tanks, bergamot-scented steam rooms, and dry saunas for a relaxing retreat. There’s a strict silence policy on the boat itself, so be forewarned; cell phones are prohibited, period, so you won’t be able to snap cute Instagram photos here. But for those looking for a day of leisure with friends or a lover, a larger hot tub, lukewarm pool (complete with a waterfall), and chilled pool located off of the boat offer plenty of space to chat. In the summertime, an outdoor bar serves Aperol Spritzes and rosé. Don’t miss it!
What: Comedy festival
Where: 2101 Saint-Laurent Blvd, Montréal
Tickets on sale online or in person
Montréal’s Just for Laughs Comedy Festival (July 10th – 28th) is the largest international comedy festival in the world. (Hey, Montréal has a knack for breaking records.) A mainstay since 1983, the Festival is one of the most competitive, prestigious indications that a comedian has — well, arrived. This year’s line-up is endlessly impressive, with headliners like the funny and brilliant Trevor Noah, Queer Eye darling Jonathan van Ness, back-on-the-scene Adam Sandler (plus a surprise guest!), Howie Mandell, Aziz Ansari, and 2008 Last Comic Standing champion Iliza Shlesinger.
What: Cultural festival
Where: Parc des Faubourgs, Montréal
Parade is free. Registration to participate & VIQ Passes available online
Across North America, annual Pride parades have become a regular summer fixture of colourful, delightfully camp revelries. (And hey, camp is back with a bang.) Fierté Montréal will take place from August 8th–20th this year. It represents the “largest gathering of the Sexual and Gender Diversity communities in the Francophone world,” and this year’s line-up will feature one massive parade, a community day, and Drag Superstars presented by MAC Cosmetics. Fan favourites from RuPaul’s Drag Race are scheduled to make appearances, including Brooke Lynn Hytes, the show’s first Canadian queen. The full line-up of performing artists has yet to be confirmed as submissions are still open — be sure to check the site for updates.
What: Cultural exhibition
Where: 1380 Sherbrooke Street West, Jean-Noël Desmarais Pavilion, Montréal
Ticket fees apply
French fashion designer Thierry Mugler famously refused any sort of retrospective for years; according to The Montréal Gazette, the artist feared that in the wrong hands, such an exhibit would imply the end of a creative arc. But finally, the long-awaited exhibit has found, according to the publication, the “right time and place” in which to exist. Thierry Mugler: Couturissime has made its world premiere to considerable acclaim, showcasing over 150 garments fashioned between 1977 and 2014 in a series of immersive galleries. The evocative, daring works of the artist described by the MMFA as a “visionary couturier, director, photographer, and perfumer” are accompanied by photographs by world-renowned fashion photographers like Helmut Newton, Sarah Moon, Pierre et Gilles, and many more.
What: Place of interest
Where: 4101 Sherbrooke Street East, Montréal
Entrance fee applies
The Jardin Botanique de Montréal comprises 75 sprawling hectares of green space. Designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 2008, it features a wide variety of thematic gardens and green space; highlights include a Chinese Garden constructed in the traditional style of the Ming Dynasty; a Japanese Garden, which features an exhibit on tea and a large koi pond; a First Nations Garden, which educates visitors on the various medicinal and food plants of Canada’s indigenous peoples and features several totem poles; and an Alpine Garden, which features rocky, winding paths that showcase the delicate flora and fauna of alpine climates and regions.
What: Film festival
Where: 1455, de Maisonneuve W, Montréal
Ticket fees apply
Montréal plays host to a variety of annual film festivals, but a summer highlight is definitely the Fantasia International Film Festival (July 11th–August 1st). North America’s largest genre film festival, it is now celebrating its 23rd year, and has in the past played host to both big-budget and offbeat indie fantasy, sci-fi, horror, and action films. Past guests of the festival have included Robert Pattinson, Guillermo del Toro, Mark Hamill, David Arquette, and Jay Baruchel. The 2019 line-up has yet to be announced, but if you’re hoping for some celebrity sightings during your time in Montréal this summer, be sure to scoop up a festival pass.