Through an emergence of creative enthusiasm, Montreal has become a swinging door to a multitude of festivals and pop-up cultural events that stimulate imagination and energy all year long. What could be considered a runner-up to the city that never sleeps, Montreal hosts a variety of music festivals, innovative culinary events, mural showcases, urban planning pop-ups, and traditional events within its diverse communities.
The city of Montreal encourages festivity makers and attendees to be bold and limitless making it one of the largest creative metropolises of the world. The city embraces an amiable Canadian philosophy and sprinkled in is the Franco European vibrancy and an ambitious urban attitude that composes a perfect medley for local acquaintance and exploration.
1. MURAL Fest
Photo courtesy MURAL Fest
For 11 days in June, walls all over the city become canvases that display the personality of Montreal. MURAL Fest invites world-renowned artists to recreate the landscape of Montreal’s “Main” downtown. St. Laurent Blvd is packed with artists, musicians, panelists and films for what’s one of Montreal’s most colorful programs of the year. Luckily, the effects of Mural Fest can be seen throughout the entire year, so no matter when you visit, take a stroll downtown to find the old lady with her spray paint can walking off the wall.
2. Restaurant Day
The culinary carnival happens four times a year, the next one being in November. Montreal’s Restaurant Day saw over 12,000 participants this past August. At over 110 pop up eateries attendees sat down together in Montreal’s Mile End alleyways to eat raw oysters, waited in line in the Rosemont Quartier for street style Pad Thai or took a seat on colorful textile beanbags in the Laurier Park to eat Indian Quiche. The day is not meant for the professional restaurateurs, but for local residents to bring out their inner chef and share with the community the flavors and creative dishes that make them drool. They are encouraged to be as imaginative as possible when creating an atmosphere and menu for a temporary restaurant. The city of Montreal gives its blessing to set up anywhere, so whether you find yourself on a rooftop, in someone’s garden, a corner stoop, a beach or a dining room of a stranger’s home, you are guaranteed to make a new friend, discover new districts and tickle your taste buds.
For four weekends in the dead of winter (January through February), the most devoted music fans take on Montreal’s outdoor winter festival (pictured at top). Dressed up like superheroes and funkadelics, or in fashionable retro snowsuits, they dance for hours under freezing conditions to some of the top electronic DJ’s. The designers architecturally take on winter with gigantic icy steel structures, making it as provocative visually as the music sounds.
4. Le Village Au Pied du Courant
Photo by Jean-Michael Seminaro
Le Village Au Pied Du Courant is how Montreal experiments with architecture. The event takes place at a free pop-up beach constructed just for this festival underneath the Jacques Cartier Bridge. From mid-June to mid-September, Saturdays can be spent discovering music and art. On International Day, enjoy food from New Orleans, Detroit or Kingston. Sundays are best spent relaxing in wooden cabanas drinking local craft beer, passively being an audience to some of Montreal’s best emerging musicians performing live or a DJ mixing an eclectic blend of world music. The night ends under the stars with an old movie and some fireworks with views of the river.
5. Pop Montreal & Passovah
Closing out the summer festival season and slowly strolling into Fall are two festivals that showcase Montreal’s unique music scene. International festival Pop Montreal (September) and it’s new stepchild, Passovah Fest (August), both have been used as launching platforms for Montreal artists big and small. At Passovah, artists let out their vulnerabilities in small intimate bar settings. Imagine the magic of a regular bar night in Montreal complimented by an undiscovered band or an Arcade Fire member popping in to show off his new project. Pop Montreal takes over large historical theatres, rooftops, stores and other unmarked spaces to bring together both local and international acts in pure Montreal settings. A night at Pop goes from seeing a grandiose Barrs Brothers performance to watching Ought at the neighborhood Ukrainian theatre to then dancing with Saxsyndrum at 3 a.m. in an obscure venue. You never know what you will find, but it will always be interesting. Each fest lasts five days, with affordable all-access passes to see over hundreds of performances. All pretension is put aside as you witness the exclusive and intimate sonic moments that are rare to find.