In many cities, festivals are special occasions; in Montréal, they’re a way of life. In the summer, especially, the city explodes with festivals, many taking place in the gleaming entertainment quarter, Quartier des Spectacles. For festival news and updates, consult the excellent w tourism-montreal.org. You can buy festival tickets via a variety of sources, including the festival websites (worth checking frequently for special deals); La Vitrine Culturelle, the Quartier des Spectacles’ central info and ticket centre; and Admission, a division of TicketMaster (t 514 790 1245, t 1 800 361 4595, w admission.com). The world-renowned Cirque du Soleil (w cirquedusoleil.com), based in Montréal, regularly puts on shows. Here’s a selective list of the best events:
Fête des Neiges de Montréal Late Jan w fetedesneiges.com. Île Ste-Hélène hosts ice-sculpting and general seasonal carousing.
Vues d’Afrique Late April w vuesdafrique.org. Brings a rich variety of African and Caribbean films to Montréal.
International Fireworks Competition Throughout June and July w international
desfeuxloto-quebec.com. The most visually spectacular of the city’s shindigs, featuring breathtaking, music-coordinated pyrotechnics from countries around the globe at the La Ronde amusement park on Île Sainte-Hélène.
Francofolies Mid-June w francofolies.com. Dance to international tunes at this festival, which brings French musicians from around the world to various downtown stages.
Festival International de Jazz de Montréal Late June and early July w montrealjazzfest.com. North America’s largest jazz event, with more than four hundred shows, most of them free at huge open-air stages in the Quartier des Spectacles.
Montréal First Peoples’ Festival Generally in July w nativelynx.qc.ca. A lively event celebrating Aboriginal peoples’ history and featuring traditional activities, from throat-singing to stonecutting.
Juste pour Rire (“Just For Laughs”) Mid-July w hahaha.com. The world’s largest comedy festival, with past headliners including Tim Allen, Louis CK, Jerry Seinfeld, Rowan Atkinson, Jim Carrey, John Candy, Lily Tomlin and Whoopi Goldberg.
Festival International Nuits d’Afrique July w festivalnuitsdafrique.com. The sounds of African beats fill the city to full effect.