A Montreal Travel Guide – The Year-Round Festival City

A cultural gem of French Quebec that’s synonymous with European charm, read our Montreal travel guide to discover a city that enjoys events all year long. Whether you’re looking for a white Christmas full of lights or somewhere sunny for open-air festivities, this Quebecois city has got you covered. Our tours of Canada are created bespoke just for you. We pride ourselves on crafting journeys that surpass all expectations, and in Montreal, there’s something to elate every traveler. Sit back and read on about a city where it’s always festival season!

A Spring Montreal Travel Guide:

Spring is a wonderful time to visit Montreal. As the snow clears, you can expect crisp days with blooming flowers across the city. We recommend bringing a jacket and boots, as the days can still be frosty, but when spring is in the air you can feel it throughout the city.

Montreal Travel Guide: Montreal pink blossom in the spring.
Ah, the Montreal Biosphere in the spring! Credit: Tourisme Montréal.

For a heavy dosage of spring, the Botanical Gardens are well worth a visit. One of the most anticipated occasions that marks the end of winter is Butterflies Go Free, an event organized by the gardens in partnership with the Montreal Insectarium. At this event, 20,000 of the winged beauties are released into the exhibition greenhouse turning it into the most spectacular butterfly conservatory. One of the hallmarks of the city, this fluttering show is spellbinding.

Montreal may be French in origin, but the city has a deep love for Paddy’s. Another spring highlight, visit around St Patrick’s Day and you’ll experience a full-blown week of Guinness, green parades and Irish bars. You’ll be thanking your four-leafed clover that you arrived in time for the festivities!

Montreal Travel Guide: man taking photos in a blooming garden.
The Montreal Botanical Gardens are a blooming oasis. Credit: Raymond Jalbert.

A Summer Montreal Travel Guide:

In the summer, Montreal really comes alive. Montrealers love a festival, and there are ample to go to in the warmer months. Food and drink are a part of life here, you’re allowed to drink alcohol in public parks if you are eating, and residents make the most of this rule by flocking to public spaces to enjoy the warm summer evenings. It doesn’t get much better than this! Rain isn’t uncommon so bring a waterproof jacket, but make sure you pack your sunglasses as well because you’ll almost certainly need them! Visit in July and you can expect warm temperatures of around 75 degrees Fahrenheit along with a bubbling city energy. 

When it comes to festivals, you’ll be spoilt for choice. From music to sports, Montreal has an event that will sate every palette. The Grand Prix Montreal, one of the world’s touring marvels, runs in early June. The race is held at the Gilles Villeneuve Circuit, a meticulously maintained track on Notre Dame Island. Take a seat in one of the grandstands and watch Formula One’s best-known names lap the course at speeds of up to 350 km/h. It’s quite a spectacle! Don’t forget to give yourself extra time to enjoy the Beach Zone, a terrace complete with DJs, beach games, and, of course, a bar. You’ll also want to mingle around the pit zone to get a closer look at the most high-performance cars in the world.

Montreal travel guide: the Montreal Grand Prix.
Montreal is home to one of the finest Formula 1 circuits in the world. Credit: Eric Gagnon.

Held between June and July, the Festival International de Jazz Montreal is the largest of its kind. Here, over three-thousand artists and two-million visitors come together for one of the greatest jazz shows on earth. Performers in the past have included; Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, B.B King, and Aretha Franklin! Spanning ten days in the heart of Montreal, the energy in the city during this period is bubbling across both free and paid events.

Montreal Travel Guide: a lit up stage performing to crowds of people.
Montreal is home to the largest jazz festival in the world. Credit: Benoit Rousseau & Montreal International Jazz Festival.

If you’re in Montreal in July, don’t forget to look up to the skies at night. The L’International des Feux Loto-Québec is a pyrotechnics display that runs through the month. Many Montrealers camp out on the roofs to see the spectacular firework shows, and if it’s good enough for the residents…

The summer fun continues into August when you can enjoy many cultural events. The Montreal First Peoples Festival champions the art and music of Canada’s original residents, and for an authentic and meaningful introduction to the heritage of Montreal, this is a memorable addition to any itinerary. For a taste of classic Montreal cuisine, Le Grand Poutinefest offers over 20 styles of the iconic fries, curds, and gravy dish. No trip to Montreal is complete without filling up on some of its famous poutine! For more cultural events across Canada, you can check out our full travel collection.

Montreal Travel Guide: parade of people in bright, First Nations clothing.
The Montreal First Peoples Festival offers a true taste of the region’s heritage. Credit: Mario Faubert.

An Autumn Montreal Travel Guide:

Montreal in the fall is a picturesque experience featuring autumnal-hues and cozy indulgences. As the weather begins to cool in September, the crowds disappear, and you’re left with an idyllic city to wander. As ever, there are plenty of events to keep you entertained. In the afternoon in September, the temperature hovers in the high sixties, dropping to the high twenties in November. Bring your boots and jacket and you’re set for a vacation that showcases Autumn in the best possible way.

Montreal Travel Guide: Autumnal leaves and the sun setting over Montreal.
Montreal in the Autumn – hazel colors and stunning sunsets! Credit: Tourisme Montréal & Mathieu Dupuis.

Starting at the beginning of September, foodies will love the YUL EAT culinary festival. Located near the Old Port of Montreal in the center of the city, you’ll find a mouth-watering selection of gourmet food and drink stalls in a quaint setting. Alongside having a plethora of sumptuous food to try, you can also partake in masterclasses to learn how to make internationally inspired delicacies. Masterclasses last year included classes on Caribbean Rums and Tapas, an Introduction to Espresso and Veganism at its Simplest. If you’re looking for a great day out where food & drink remains front and center, this is for you. After all, there’s a reason Montreal featured in our Top Five Foodie Destinations Across Canada list!

As night draws, Montreal’s Botanical Gardens lighten up for their renowned Garden of Lights exhibit. Illuminated paths will take you on a magical tour through the forest past Chinese Lantern displays, a lit-up Japanese garden, and a First Nations sanctuary complete with a Sacred Tree representing the Circle of Life. This enchanting fall activity is an immersive experience that will be a highlight of any trip to Montreal. This event runs from September to the end of October.

Montreal Travel Guide: lit up colored boats on a lake.
Get lost in the illuminated Garden of Lights. Credit: Paul Parent.

A Winter Montreal Travel Guide:

Now, fair warning, Montreal does get cold! On a visit to Montreal in the winter, you can expect snow on the ground and temperatures around the low minuses. However, this doesn’t stop Montrealers from making the most of their winter wonderland! So, don some sweaters, bring your boots and an insulated jacket, and make the most of the wintry season.

Montreal Travel Guide: cross-country skiers looking out over Montreal's skyline.
There are many ways to get around Montreal in the winter! Credit: Eva Blue & Tourisme Montréal.

Christmas in Montreal is a favorite time of year for both residents and tourists alike. The city has a range of festive events that will put you in the Noël spirit! A tradition dating back to 1925 is the Santa Claus Parade where you will see a range of festive floats and performers along with, of course, the big man in red himself!

In January and February, the Fête des Neiges (the Montreal Snow Festival) comes to town! All kinds of fun in the snow can be had here, think snowshoeing, dog sledding and tubing. Alternatively, if you’re looking for some fun indoors, why not explore Montreal’s underground city? One of the largest underground networks in the world, there are over 20 miles of tunnels below ground-level full of shops, cafes and street art. These networks are all heated and beautifully lit.

Montreal Travel Guide: snow falling in Montreal at Christmas.
Montreal during the festive season is like something from a Christmas card. Credit: Tourisme Montréal & Matthieu Dupuis.

Montreal’s Festival of Lights is another winter highlight. Known locally as, “Montréal en Lumière”, this event is a collection of fine dining pop-ups, live performances, and phenomenal light shows. From the lit-up festival site to underground art, if you’re in the city from the 20th of February to the 1st of March then you won’t want to miss this!

Montreal Travel Guide – An Event for Every Season:

As our Montreal travel guide shows, this treasure is a bustling haven that lives the good life in every way. From the rich food & drink to the numerous cultural events throughout the year, no city makes the most of every season as Montreal does. For a journey exploring Montreal and the best of Quebec, take a look at our Exploring La Belle Province itinerary for an in-depth introduction to the Entrée Destinations experience. If you’re interested in a bespoke tour of Montreal, fill out our short Plan Your Trip form, or call us toll-free on 1-888-999-6556

Montreal Travel Guide: holding up a bagel to the camera in Montreal.
Montrealers are passionate about their bagels. Credit: Alice Gao & Canada Tourism.