Nuit Blanche sur Tableau Noir, February
Grand Prix du Canada, June
L’International des Feux Loto-Québec, June
Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, July
Montréal World Film Festival, August
Montréal kicks off the year with a bang, with New Year’s Eve parties at restaurants and clubs throughout the city. 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.
On a Saturday night in late February, Montréal becomes one giant performance space, with all-night performances, film screenings, art installations and concerts. Hundreds of venues participate. The biggest challenge is choosing where to go (www.montrealenlumiere.com/nuit-blanche).
One sign that winter is over is when the Bixi rental bicycles are deployed and bike lanes are reinstated. Spring is here.
Blue Metropolis – Montréal International Literary Festival
This festival brings together 200-plus writers from all over the globe for five days of literary events in English, French, Spanish and other languages in late April. There are even events for kids (www.bluemetropolis.org).
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.
Biennale de Montréal
One of Montréal’s most creative events showcases the best and the brashest of the Canadian art scene, including conferences and seminars on contemporary art. It happens on even-numbered years (www.biennalemontreal.org).
Montréal Beer Festival
Here’s your chance to quaff brews from around the globe over five days in mid June. It's held inside the Palais des Congrès in downtown (www.festivalmondialbiere.qc.ca).
On Sundays from mid-May to mid-September, you can enjoy outdoor revelry out on Parc Jean-Drapeau. House-spinning DJs work the decks on two stages, while young friends gather and dance on the grass (www.piknicelectronik.com).
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.
Tour de l’Île
Also known as the Montréal Bikefest, the Tour de l’Île (www.velo.qc.ca) draws 30,000 cycling enthusiasts for a 50km spin around the island of Montréal and a big party in the city afterward (there's also a 28km route). It’s staged in late May or early June, with preregistration required.
Grand Prix du Canada
Formula 1 is going strong in Montréal. It’s usually held in early or mid-June on the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve. Don’t forget your earplugs. It brings huge crowds; book accommodation well in advance (www.circuitgillesvilleneuve.ca).
L’International des Feux Loto-Québec
Thousands camp out on rooftops and on the Pont Jacques-Cartier for the planet’s hottest pyrotechnics display. The 10 shows last 30 minutes each and are held on Saturday nights and a few Wednesday nights for the entire month of July (www.internationaldesfeuxloto-quebec.com).
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 and other major festivals.
Festival International de Jazz de Montréal
With more than 1000 concerts and nearly two million visitors every year, North America’s hippest music fest just gets bigger and better, with world music, rock and even pop music sharing the program with jazz legends and upstarts over 10 days from late June to early July (www.montrealjazzfest.com).
Just for Laughs
More than 650 artists perform in over 1000 shows at this comedy festival which runs for two weeks in mid-July. Past events have featured The Muppets, Kevin Hart, Margaret Cho, Lewis Black, Bob Saget and Bill Hader (www.hahaha.com).
Montréal’s Gay Pride parade (www.fiertemontrealpride.com) is the event on the Village calendar, drawing more than a million people, even in slow years. The streets around Pl Émilie-Gamelin pulse with dancing, art exhibits, concerts and parades. It’s held over one week in August.
Steamy days, heat and thunderstorms mark August, when many Montréalers leave town for seaside resorts. It’s high season for travel.
Osheaga Festival Musique et Arts
In early August, Parc Jean-Drapeau is transformed into a giant stage for one of the city’s grand rock festivals. More than 100,000 music fans turn up to witness the powerhouse lineup of performers, which in recent years has included heavy hitters such as Jack White, Interpol, Stromae and Vampire Weekend (www.osheaga.com).
Montréal World Film Festival
One of the most prestigious film events in Canada, attracting 400,000 visitors to screenings from 70 countries. The stars come out, as well as the directors, producers and writers of the big screen. It’s held over 10 days in late August and early September (www.ffm-montreal.org).
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.
Festival du Nouveau Cinéma de Montréal
This festival highlights who is up-and-coming in feature films, documentaries, experimental shorts, videos, narrative features and electronic art forms during 10 days in October (www.nouveaucinema.ca).
Black & Blue Festival
One of the biggest events for the gay community, with major dance parties, along with cultural and art shows, all in the second week of October (www.bbcm.org).