Summer Festivals in Montréal

A colorful chalk board advertises the brews on tap in a vendor stall.

The Brutopia booth at the 2009 Mondial de la Bière, Canada’s largest beer festival. Photo &copy Patrick, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

There are many festivals that take place during the summer in Montréal. From Fantasia Film Festival to Heavy MTL, learn more about the exciting events in and around the city.

Divers/Cité

Divers/Cité (various locations, 514/285-4011, free-$25) is a week-long celebration of gay pride in late July, and though it’s not the only queer celebration in the city, Divers/Cité is the biggest, with free outdoor performances and art shows happening throughout the week. The mission of this festival is to focus on the art and culture of the LGBT community; the performances on view here range from modern dance to jazz, funk, and world music. It’s recognized throughout the world, and members of the LGBT community flock to the city during this event.

Fantasia Film Festival

Running throughout the entire month of July, Fantasia Film Festival (various locations, $9/film, $80 for 10 films) is North America’s premiere genre film festival. From the obscure to the grotesque, the Japanese to the Korean, it offers a wide range of films from all over the globe. Established in 1996, it has since grown to become the place where distributors come to scope out the best of the weird and the strange. Popular with moviegoers, it has become a destination festival for die-hard genre fans.

Festival International de Jazz de Montréal

One of the most recognizable festivals in the world, the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal (various locations, 514/840-3618), free-$150) attracts thousands of tourists to the city each summer, running from the end of June to early July. Some of the biggest names in music have played here, including Tony Bennett, B. B. King, and Norah Jones. The 11-day festival offers nonstop music with big international acts playing for free in the middle of a shut-down rue Ste-Catherine. The outdoor atmosphere and huge crowds make it one of the most exciting festivals in the city.

Festival International Nuits d’Afrique

Fans of African music will rejoice at the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique (various locations, 514/499-9215, $10-35), which focuses on music with African roots. From Ethiopian jazz to Algerian raï and even sounds from Latin America, this festival has it all. Established in 1987, it has become the springboard for African music in North America and has helped introduce many international groups to Canadian audiences. Happening throughout July and August with free shows at Place Émilie-Gamelin, it is the city’s premiere world music festival.

Festival Mondial de la Bière

Canada’s largest beer festival, the Festival Mondial de la Bière (various locations, 514/722-9640, free entry, tasting $1-5), takes place every June. Local and international microbreweries share the stage with giants like Molson and Stella Artois. Brewers from all over the world converge, allowing visitors to taste hundreds of different types of beers. Entrance is free, but a full pint will set you back about $8. Tasting coupons are also available for a dollar a pop.

Festival St-Ambroise Fringe de Montréal

Though not as big as the Edinburgh Fringe, Montréal’s version, the Festival St-Ambroise Fringe de Montréal (various locations, 514/849-3378, $10-25, $250 unlimited Fringe Pass) comes close, with over 55,000 attendees at the week-long festival. Running in early June, the festival takes over venues around the city with local and international Fringe performances that are randomly picked by lottery; if your play makes it to the stage, it is all about luck. Though the program is released a few days early, the best way to see if there’s anything that tickles your fancy is to stop by the Fringe for All a few days before opening to see snippets from upcoming shows.

La Fête des Enfants de Montréal

La Fête des Enfants de Montréal (Parc Jean-Drapeau, free) takes place in Parc Jean-Drapeau for a weekend during the month of August. Kids 12 and under can participate in 100 different activities, including singing, dancing, games, live music shows, and creative and sports workshops. Characters in costume entertain the kids; there is also a specialty area for those with infants, offering changing tables, bottle warming, and stroller parking.

Les FrancoFolies de Montréal

Les FrancoFolies de Montréal (various locations, 514/876-8989, free-$120) is a massive street festival in celebration of Francophone music that takes over downtown every June. A whole strip of rue Ste-Catherine is blocked off to make way for the throngs of fans who come out in force to check out emerging and established Francophone bands and musicians. Not all concerts are free, however; bigger names play to a more contained crowd in venues across the city. It’s a great way to check out the latest in the Québécois and francophone music scenes.

Heavy MTL

Heavy MTL (Parc Jean-Drapeau, $130 weekend pass): The name says it all. This two-day festival, which takes place outdoors at Parc Jean-Drapeau, is all about heavy metal. Offering a mix of old time metalheads like Megadeath, Danzig, and Rob Zombie with new kids on the block like Mastadon, Avenged Sevenfold, and Baroness, it keeps fans from all generations pleased. No matter who’s playing, you can guarantee it’ll be loud.

Just for Laughs

What started as a two-day Francophone comedy event, Juste pour Rire (Just for Laughs, various locations, 514/845-4000, $15-120), has since grown into one of the biggest comedy festivals in the world. During July, streets all over downtown are closed off to make room for the street performers stationed throughout the city. Each year a number of established comedians, including Bill Cosby, Louis CK, Jerry Seinfeld, and Flight of the Conchords, bring their own brand of stand-up to the city. The recently launched Zoofest, also part of Just for Laughs, has a younger take on funny and features more obscure (sometimes funnier) acts.

Montréal Pride

Montréal Pride (various locations, free-$35) is quite the celebration. Since taking over organization of the gay and lesbian pride parade from Divers/Cité in 2007, nonprofit Fierté Montréal has expanded the celebration to include a community day and five days worth of gay pride activities, including outdoor concerts and dance parties, drag races, and performances by interdisciplinary artists in early August.

Osheaga Music and Arts Festival

The three-day Osheaga Music and Arts Festival (Parc Jean-Drapeau, $90/day, $235 weekend) is one of the biggest in Montréal, taking place off-island in the picturesque Parc Jean-Drapeau. Thousands of people of all ages and creeds spend the weekend checking out unknown emerging bands, musicians like Robyn and Hot Chip, and big-name acts like Arcade Fire, The Cure, and Snoop Dogg. Local art collectives set up installations in a designated area of the site and you can often check out the work as it is in process. Among leafy-green forests, it is a great way to spend the first weekend in August.


Excerpted from the Third Edition of Moon Montréal & Québec City.

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