By Guest Author: Yacine Merzouk
When summer arrives, Montreal rolls out the carpet for the festivals. Known for its joie de vivre, this city is sure to impress with its extensive lineup of events.
This article would be a novel rather than blog if we wrote on every festival, so we chose to feature our favorites: Just for Laughs, The International Fireworks Festival, The Montreal International Jazz Festival and The Montreal Cirque Festival.
Visit during the middle of July to see the world’s largest international comedy festival. Founded in 1983 as a two-day French-only festival, Just For Laughs has grown to almost a month long event featuring famous comedians from around the world. Its reputation attracts world renowned comedians like Seinfeld and David Spade.
If comedy shows aren’t your thing, there are still many (free!!!) opportunities to enjoy the festival. The Place des Festivals in downtown Montreal hosts most of the street festival, which is our favorite event.
Strolling through the festival, you might catch a puppet show, a parade, amazing costumed characters and other whimsical encounters. Bring your camera - you’ll want it!
Here's where you can find the Street Festival Info.
Free fireworks for a month! Montreal adds pizzazz to summer nights with their International Firework Festival, featuring the top pyrotechnics from countries including France, Portugal and England. Enjoy the fireworks on Saturdays in July (and a few Wednesdays) at 10 p.m. rain or shine.
Some of the best places to watch the fireworks for free are: Parc Jean-Drapeau, Clock Tower Beach, and Jacques-Cartier Bridge, Old Port, and Notre-Dame St. near Papineau St.
My favorite spots and Old Port and Notre-Dame St. because they’re pedestrian-friendly and near subway stations (avoid driving into these areas on firework nights).
Splurge on admission to La Ronde if you’d like a front row view of the fireworks, complete with musical accompaniment. Tickets range from $50-$70 and will get you a full day at the amusement park and the evening fireworks.
In 2004, The Guinness Book of World Records named the Montreal Jazz Festival the Largest Jazz Festival in the world. Our favorite part of this festival? Almost two thirds of the concerts are free!
We love strolling among the multiple stages, people-watching and seeing what type of music we come across. While it’s called the Jazz Festival, the naming is pretty loose and you’ll find all types of music and entertainment.
Last year we saw a human powered musical train that snaked through the audience! There are free outdoor shows and events almost every day of the festival.
We saved our favorite for last. The Cirque Festival is the newest addition to the lineup, but it’s a perfect fit as Montreal is the home of Cirque Du Soleil. Students of the cirque schools take over a portion of St. Denis street for a week and fill it with cirque performances.
You can stroll the street and see aerialists twirling, acrobats balancing on the rooftops and even get a chance to try your hand at cirque. Last year they had juggling and hula hoops to try! The playful nature of the festival is amazing and there are so many free shows to attend.
The Place Aux Performances is the home base for longer free shows and they’ve never disappointed. We recommend bringing a blanket, grabbing some food in the area and enjoying the open air show.
The festival imports circus artists from around the world for its paid lineup. We’ve seen bearded men launching each other into the air while twirling rainbow streamers, a two-man show where the artists performed in a 100+ degree heated theatre and built their act around getting progressively more sweaty and slippery, and an amazing French comedy cirque group that “juggled” towels, keeping their (possibly bare) crotches covered.
If you plan on seeing a lot of shows, get the full pass which will give you admission into everything. It’s a deal!
Our last piece of advice is: Go! You will fall in love with Montreal. Enjoy drinks on the terraces, have Poutine, take in shows, stroll the historic streets and take the time to people-watch. Montreal is bursting with life in the summer and your trip will be unforgettable. If you’d like more suggestions for Montreal, you can view our top activity trip here.
Have you ever been to festivals in Montreal? What were your favorite? Share in the comments below.
About the Guest Authors
Yacine Merzouk is a Montreal native and Michelle Rundbaken is from Hawaii. They are the founders of Tripidee, a visual trip organization and planning tool. Yacine and Michelle met traveling and working in the Bahamas. After careers in programming and education, they decided to turn their love of travel into a project that can can help others travel and plan with ease.