Montréal thrives in summer and excels at good times in winter. Unlike other cities that lie dormant in the cold, the Québécois spirit is alive, warm and well, keeping active in the snow, and making the most of warmer months and the colorful autumn days.
Despite the high humidity, summer is the best season as it's when most of the music and comedy festivals happen, followed by spring and then fall. Winter can be spectacular if you’re up to the cold temperatures.
It may get cold, but people care about winter fashion in Montréal. If heading to nightclubs, heavy cold-weather gear, even boots, can be left at coat check. In the transition seasons (early spring and early autumn), the weather can change quickly so the key is to dress in layers. Even after the cold has gone, ice can linger, so bring footwear that can tackle slippery surfaces.
Want to more about when you should visit Montréal? Find out here.
Spring: April to June
Best time for wildlife watching
Montréal comes alive in April at the first signs of spring. The ice has mostly melted – and off come the coats. Cafes fill up the first sunny weekend and there is a buzz in the air, especially along Rue St-Denis, Rue St-Laurent, Plateau Mont-Royal, and in Mile End and Little Burgundy.
Read more: How to get around in Montréal
The Bixi rental bikes stations are installed for spontaneous trips. Locals in-the-know wear layers because the weather can turn cold in a snap through May. Adding to the fervor in mid-May is the start of the festivals that locals love, kicking off with Piknic Électronik.
Wildlife awakens on Parc du Mont-Royal, and bird watchers flock to spot a color-wheel of migratory species, which use the area as a passage on their way to breeding grounds – red-shouldered hawks, bluebirds, indigo buntings and many more.
Summer: June to September
Best time for festivals and the outdoors
June arrives and summer is in full swing in Montréal. Parc Jean-Drapeau awakens for a full calendar of festivals and the Grand Prix du Canada. This is an ideal time for families to explore Montréal and the amusement park on the island before the humidity sets in. A stroll on the island and Downtown is pleasant, with plenty of smiles all around you. The Old Port is a favorite recreation spot for both joggers and in-line skaters, while cyclists can take in the view from the city bike path that runs parallel to it.
When steamy July and August arrive, the arts-loving city is more alive than ever with visitors outdoors Downtown at Rue Sherbrooke Ouest filling the cool spaces of museums such as the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal. Follow locals cooling off at the Plage Jean-Doré and Complexe Aquatique on Parc Jean-Drapeau, or lounging near shaded Lac aux Castors.
The Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, Just For Laughs Festival and Montréal Pride are the festive drawcards to be burnt into memory by the heat. In the Village, bars, clubs and restaurants spill over with revelers baring skin to beat the heat. Rooftops here and Downtown especially turn into parties at any time of the day. As if to emphasize the vibe, the popular fireworks shows of L’International des Feux Loto-Québec explode on Parc Jean-Drapeau and can be heard for miles around.
Fall: September to December
Best time for autumn colors
You might have already visited Parc du Mont-Royal in the spring, but the mountain wears a different coat in fall. Trees turn to crimsons, peachy orange and pale yellows against deep greens, visible from Downtown. Parc La Fontaine follows suit with a change of tones and crunchy leaves underfoot. Leafy Montréal's streets look more picturesque. Try Rue St-Laurent's murals, framed by fall leaves, and streets from McGill University leading to Mont-Royal in a golden promenade. From mid-September to early November the Chinese Garden at Jardin Botanique dons its most exquisite garb for the popular Magic of Lanterns, when hundreds of handmade silk lanterns sparkle at dusk.
Cooling weather brings an excuse to drink wine in bars and apple cider brewed in the Eastern Townships and served in Montréal pubs.
Winter: December to April
Best time for cold weather adventures
Montréal excels at cold weather pursuits. The locals celebrate the season in cozy pubs, steaming sugar shacks, or on the slopes of local mountains skiing, picnicking and tobogganing. You can rent ice skates, cross-country skis, snow shoes and sleds at Lac aux Castors. The slopes above the lake are popular for sledding.
At the Old Port, skating at the outdoor rink is iconic, as is family-friendly Fête des Neiges, for ice-sculpting contests, dog-sled races and (MAPAQ humane regulated) snow games.
Head to sugar shacks and do the taffy pull, where steaming maple syrup is poured into the snow and then scooped up on a popsicle stick once it's cooled. You can get around without freezing in the underground city, thanks to a colossal 30km network of interlocking shopping malls, all hidden neatly beneath the surface. You could even take in a performance at Place des Arts and never need a jacket.
Montréal kicks off the year with a bang, with New Year’s Eve parties at restaurants and clubs, and fireworks at Old Montréal's Quai de l’Horloge. Temperatures start to really plummet and ski season begins.
Amid the deep freeze, snow piles up and Montréalers do their best to beat the blahs by cheering on the Canadiens hockey club. Temperatures can fall below -20˚C.
Spring break brings families outdoors for a still-frosty, but sunny staycation; but unpredictable March can also bring blankets of snow back to cover the city.
Key events: Nuit Blanche
One sign that winter is over is when the Bixi rental bicycles are deployed and bike lanes are reinstated. Spring is here…though bring layers, a last blast of snow is possible.
Key events: Blue Metropolis – Montréal International Literary Festival
With the snow gone, rainy, windy weather sets in but doesn’t last. A few weeks of mild weather preface rising temperatures, which can soon reach the high 20°Cs.
Key events: Biennale de Montréal; Piknic Électronik; Tour de l’Île
Amid this hot, festival-packed month, Québecers celebrate their ‘national’ day, the Fête Nationale du Québec, on June 24. Everyone is out for a drink, some good food and fireworks.
Key events: Grand Prix du Canada; Montréal Beer Festival; Festival International de Jazz de Montréal
The heat is on in July, humidity sets in and Montréalers long for surrounding lakes and distant beaches. Tourists throng the city for the jazz fest (which kicked off late June) and other major festivals.
Key events: Just for Laughs; Montréal Pride; L’International des Feux Loto-Québec
Steamy days, heat and thunderstorms mark August, when many Montréalers leave town for seaside resorts. It’s high season for travel.
Key events: Osheaga Festival Musique et Arts; Montréal World Film Festival
The weather in September could stay hot or start to cool, depending on the year. The trees will usually start to turn beautiful colours mid-month.
Temperatures begin to fall quickly in October as trees put on a spectacular display of color. It’s a perfect time to see the Laurentians and the Eastern Townships.
Key events: Festival du Nouveau Cinéma de Montréal; Black & Blue Festival
Temperatures will continue to drop and travelers should expect cold temperatures. But this is a great time of year to cosy up in restaurants and pubs, and avail of cheaper hotel prices.
Montréal’s European-influence is rarely as on display as during the Christmas market season. Bundle up and enjoy the lights and celebrations.