With close to 2 million residents, Montreal is one of the largest French-speaking cities in the world. Not only is Montreal an amazing culture of old warm charm, but it also blends in perfectly with new world vitality. With over 100 ethnic communities, the unique and multicultural city offers phenomenal art and food scenes as well.
Montreal is a fun city to visit year-round, but the city is especially attractive during the summertime when there are dozens of unique [and many are free] festivals happening all summer long. Last summer, I received an invite from Tourisme Quebec to experience “A Festival a Day” to celebrate Montréal’s 375th anniversary, which was not only a special and historic time for Montreal, but also Canada as whole.
As a complete newbie to Montreal, this trip helped me to appreciate how perfect summertime is in Montreal to be able to enjoy all the amazing outdoor activities. If you’re planning an upcoming summer trip to Montreal, here are some recommendations that I’d love to pass along.
International Jazz Festival
Known as one of the most famous music gatherings worldwide, and also ranked the largest by the Guinness Book of World Records, the International Jazz Festival hosts over 600 concerts across various stages spanning over 10 days. In 2018, the festival is scheduled to run between June 28 – July 7.
It’s been setting the bar high for jazz musicians for the past 40 years and consistently draws in over 2 million music lovers into downtown Montreal each and every year. The best part of this festival? Many of the performances are free (though there are some admission-based VIP performances). It’s a mix of music performers that are small acts and huge names and each and every one of them draw crowds all day and night long.
Mount Royal Park
I’m ways looking to do a little healthy outdoor exercise on my trips, so hiking up to Mount Royal is exactly what I needed. I absolutely recommend climbing to the top to really enjoy some stunning panoramic views of the city. There may be a ton of stairs to get to the top, but it’s worth every step. It is completely free and sincerely was one of the highlights of my trip that I explored on my own.
Visit the Outdoor Markets
Montreal has some amazing outdoor markets as well that are certainly worth a visit. Jean-Talon Market offers almost any fresh food item, fresh flowers, and local artisan goods that you could need or want. You can spend a good chunk of time here browsing all of the aisles on a beautiful day. I also recommend stopping at Atwater Market too, which offers great views of Montréal’s Southwest borough and Lachine Canal. I also can’t forget to mention that I purchased the sweetest strawberries I’ve ever tasted!
Explore Montreal by Scooter
Being on a scooter and exploring Montreal was one of the many highlights of my trip. It’s an exciting and exhilarating way to toodle around town to see all the majestic sights like the Plateau, the Old Port, Saint-Helen’s Island, and the southwest neighborhoods of Montreal.
I took a 3-hour group trip with Dyad Scooter, and it included stop at Atwater market and hop off the scooter easily for a quick bite to eat.
Founded in 2012, the annual Mural Festival has become an important part of Montreal’s summer culture, attracting dozens famous mural artists in the urban art scene from all around the world.
You can come see the artists in action as they paint and transform Saint-Laurent Boulevard with over 80 installations from June 7-16, 2018. If you’re not in town then, the diverse murals stay up all year round for locals and tourists to admire until the next year’s festival.
Some of the murals are interactive and even “come to life” when you look at them through a special app you can download through your phone. It’s super cool, and I’m sure you will appreciate the creativity behind what looks like a regular still piece of art.
The festival is free to attend, and everyone is welcome to stroll Saint-Laurent Boulevard and spot the murals on their own, but if you really want to get up close and personal with the art and the stories behind them, you can elect to schedule a guided tour for just $20 CAD for everyone in your group.
Discover Old Montreal on Bike
I spent one of my mornings in Montreal taking a scenic bike ride on a guided tour by Ca Roule Bike Shop.
This is a great family-friendly way to familiarize yourself with the city, and you have the option to pay extra for a buggy car attachment so that little ones can ride along too.
On my bike ride, I was able pedal over the cobble-stoned streets that line Old Montreal and discover Plateau Mont-Royal, Mile-End, and Little Italy.
It was a way a fun way to take in Old Montreal while also getting some great exercise. There were also a few stops along the way to enjoy some local food like bagels at the world-famous St-Viateur Bagel shop, homemade gnocchi in Little Italy, and delicious berries from Jean-Talon Market.
First Fridays Food Truck Festival at Olympic Park
Mark your calendars for the First Fridays Food Truck Festival on the first Friday of every summer month between May to October. It’s the biggest food truck rally in Canada and takes place right outside of Olympic Stadium.
Each truck in attendance is actually represents a restaurant in the city, so it’s super fun way to be able to taste-test their menu options to see if their restaurant is something that you’d like to explore even further. This is a fun event, appropriate for all ages, that I highly recommend!
Weekends du Monde
Two great music festivals take place on Parc Jean-Drapeau island – Weekends du Monde & Piknic Electronik
Spend a day and take a river shuttle across the Saint-Lawrence to Parc Jean-Drapeau. Once you arrive on the island, you’ll get to enjoy two great music festivals.
Weekend du Monde is a completely free festival near the Montréal Biosphere where you can discover and celebrate the diverse culture of Montreal though dance, music, and food on July 7, 8, 14, and 15, 2018. In addition to the great music, the food and ambiance is outstanding as well.
It’s not common to expect an electronic music festival to welcome people of all ages! Family friendly is the theme of the Piknik Electronik music festival, which was evident by the kid’s stations that were set up all around the grounds.
The festival runs every Sunday from May-September in Plaine des Jeux and is a fun way to spend the day if you appreciate the great outdoors and electronic music in a completely chill idyllic setting. Generally admission is $13.50 CAD, and children under 12 are free.
Montreal Cirque Festival
As you may know, Montreal is the circus capital of the world, and as someone who truly appreciates the artistic elements of acrobatics and circus performances, being in Montreal during the heart of the annual Cirque Festival was so exciting.
From July 5 to July 15, 2018, there are so many types of performances to experience, ranging from indoor, outdoor, and even interactive street performances.
During my visit, we saw an indoor show, Tabarnak, which was a circus performance put on by a real circus family with a storyline around Quebec traditions of heaven and hell. We also saw a wonderful outdoor show, Rouge, in the heart of downtown.
Montreal Cirque Festival is a really spectacular and engaging event that’s perfect for the entire family. The streets were lined with interactive acrobats truly connecting with the audience and making them part of the show. It definitely showcases the essence of Montreal!
There are so many wonderful family-friendly outdoor activities and festivals to experience in Montreal during the summer. I loved getting to explore the diverse and tasty food scene within Montreal, while also staying active.
Have you traveled to Montreal in the summer and experienced any of the festivals before?
Full disclosure: my trip to Montreal was provided by Tourisme Quebec. All opinions and stories are my own.