Epic Montreal Festivals: From The Biggest to the Weirdest

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Epic Montreal Festivals: From The Biggest to the Weirdest
Did you know Montreal is world-famous for hosting one of the best music festivals yearly? Make that 2 world-class festivals, one of which is regularly attended by acts like Arcade Fire, The Lumineers, and the Arctic Monkeys. I'll tell you where to get your tickets and fast.
Julia Gallacher
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Julia Gallacher is a creative copywriter and maker of literary art prints. She owns and runs Highland Fables, a one-mum-show where she enjoys reading, writing, and creating while looking after her family in rural Scotland. In her past life, she lived on three continents and in seven different countries. She loves exploring diverse cultures especially in food and traditions.

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Beyond its incredible nightlife scene, Montreal has always been a popular destination for world-renowned festivals. There are about 90 events yearly, including parades, concerts, food festivals, and more. 

It's something about the blazing sunshine in the summer months and being surrounded by sparkling waters on the Île de Montréal.

Choosing from the many festivals can seem overwhelming, particularly if you're not from the island. Having lived on the island during my Uni years and beyond, I can help you make things more accessible. 

But let me tell you, most festivals in Montreal are great. So even if you choose to go to a totally obscure one instead of one of the bigger hitters like Osheaga or the Film Festival, you'll discover a vibrant city with lots of fun things to do and see.

Still on the fence about that? How about a sneak peek into Montreal events? 

The Top 5 Montreal Festivals You Must See

With nearly 90 festivals being showcased in Montreal each year, I've narrowed it down to the top 5 events in Montreal you must see. 

These are the cream of the crop and the ones that are regularly visited by tourists from all over the world. But don't worry if you'd rather see some quirkier events. You can explore my secondary list below.

5. First People's Festival

The First People's Festival is one of the slightly lesser-known Montreal music festivals, but absolutely worth attending. 

Here, guests are invited to come to the popular Quartier des Spectacles. You'll watch film screenings, performances, and concerts and enjoy traditional craft items, all made by Canadian aborigines.

4. Montreal World Film Festival/Just For Laughs

I couldn't pick just 1 here, so I placed both festivals at number 4. If you can attend at least 1 of them, that's great. 

The Montreal World Film Festival is a yearly event attracting millions of attendees worldwide yearly. This festival lasts for 10 whole days between August and September!

On the other hand, Just For Laughs is all about comedy shows. You'll have heard of this one if you've been anywhere in Canada. You can attend comedy acts in both English and French, and it regularly includes famous comedians. 

Fun fact: Jim Carrey, Dave Chapelle, and even Mr. Bean became famous after attending this festival.

The St Denis theatre stage in Montreal ready for Just For Laughs
Photo by Wikipedant on Wikimedia

3. Fête Des Neiges

Most of you would probably prefer to attend one of the famous Montreal summer festivals. The Fête Des Neiges is worth attending, especially if you're already in Montreal in winter and need to warm up. 

Montreal's Snow Festival offers a chance to try many of its best-loved winter sports, including curling, ice skating, and tobogganing. 

There's also music and lots of fun activities for kids.

2. Osheaga Festival

Osheaga is an annual 3-day music festival that attracts people from all over the world. It's also held in Parc Jean-Drapeau, where the Formula 1 Grand Prix occurs. That alone tells you how big this festival gets. 

Here, you'll find a selection of stages with different acts, from world-famous artists, remember I mentioned the Arctic Monkeys, to newcomers. 

The music includes a variety of indie pop, rock, electronic, and hip-hop. 

If you're planning a trip to Osheaga for the first time, you'll need this handy survival guide on the Osheaga music festival. It'll help you plan your trip and ensure you don't miss any must-see acts.

A crowd watching a live music performance on a stage illuminated with lights during the daytime.
Photo by velkr0 on Wikimedia

1. Festival International De Jazz De Montréal

Let's save the best for last, shall we? Locally known as the Montreal Jazz Fest, because the other title is just way too long, regularly attracts a huge international crowd. 

The Jazz Festival occurs between June and July, coinciding roughly with when Montreal is also the hottest. You'll want to pack many thin layers and a water bottle or 10 for this one, but it's worth it. Montreal's Jazz Festival is so famous it's regularly the headlining event for all of Canada.

Top tip: If you want to enjoy this one to the fullest, follow this handy festival essentials packing guide.

The 3 Most Bizarre Montreal Events

It had to be said. With so many festivals in Montreal, there are a few slightly weirder ones. These are the top slightly more random events in Montreal. 

Disclaimer: Weird in no way means bad. These are just a little… different and should be seen to be believed.

3. Montreal RibFest

Montrealers love their food. And this one's exactly what it says on the tin: an outdoor festival celebrating ribs. 

There's BBQ food, music, and lots of fun stuff for the kids to enjoy. The event is a giant fundraiser for local children, so it's all for a good cause. 

The programs this festival supports include mentoring and assistance for youth in the West Island of Montreal. It goes without saying that if you like ribs, you'll love RibFest.

Ribs served with tomatoes, dips, and fries
Photo by Alexandru-Bogdan Ghita on Unsplash

2. Montreal Medieval Fair

I'll admit that this used to be a personal favorite of mine. Did you know that you can learn how to do medieval swordplay? You do now. I was never any good, but it was fun while it lasted. 

The Montreal Medieval Fair exhibits a mixture of history, medieval-style jewelry and accessories, and sword-fighting performances. 

The Salon de la Passion médiévale et historique is a great place to meet other medieval history aficionados. If you're thinking of dressing up, you can't possibly go overboard. Go as all-out as you want.

1. International Balloon Festival

The International Balloon Festival of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu is a hidden gem. It's possibly worth attending more than some of the bigger hitters above. 

This festival offers a magnificent display of 125 hot air balloons taking to the skies, all while big music stars entertain you below. This year has the likes of Ceelo Green and a vast array of local and international musicians.

Image of a few deflated hot air balloons on the ground and some flying high in the sky
Photo by Matias Garabedian on Wikimedia

Plan Your Montreal Festival Experience with Pilot

Whether you want to attend the big hitters in Montreal's blazing hot summers or would rather dip your toes at one of the smaller festivals, you can start planning your perfect trip.

With so many weird and wonderful Montreal festivals, you can start to craft your ideal travel experience for you, your family, and your friends. 

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Julia Gallacher
Contributor
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Julia Gallacher is a creative copywriter and maker of literary art prints. She owns and runs Highland Fables, a one-mum-show where she enjoys reading, writing, and creating while looking after her family in rural Scotland. In her past life, she lived on three continents and in seven different countries. She loves exploring diverse cultures especially in food and traditions.

Read more about this author
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