By Dave & Deb Bouskill, on March 25, 2014

The best festivals in Montreal

Montreal just might be Canada’s most festive city; it has harsh winters and hot summers, but the party never stops. The festival scene continues year-round; from comedy shows to winter celebrations, there’s something for everyone at Canada’s most bilingual city.

Just for Laughs

Just for Laughs, held every July, is probably Montreal’s most famous festival. Attracting the likes of Dave Chapelle, Sarah Silverman, Amy Poehler, Kathy Griffith, and Seth Meyers, it is the largest international comedy festival on Earth. Just for Laughs has launched the careers of many comedians, and it just keeps on growing. There’s even a spin-off show, named, Just for Laughs Gags. No worries if you go and you don’t speak French–the show is acted out through miming. At the same time, the producers set up gags all around the city, taking Montreal citizens by surprise and duping them with hilarious stunts.

Just for Laughs Festival

Montreal Circus Arts Festival (Montréal Complètment Cirque)

Did you know that Cirque du Soleil originated in Quebec? If you find yourself in Montreal during the Just for Laughs festival, you’ll notice that there are a lot of circus performances going on around the city. This is because the International Circus Arts Festival happens in July, as well. Attend this festival and you’ll be able to watch free outdoor performances put on by some of the most talented acrobats in the world, and witness trapeze artists perform above the city and spiral down toward the ground on their silks. When we were there, we even saw a human cannonball explode across the city square!

Snowfest (Fête des Neiges)

Not all festivals happen in the warm summer months. The city of Montreal knows how to embrace the snow, too. The best winter party is Snowfest. The celebrations begin in mid-January and run through four weekends to mid-February.  From snow-tubing to snowboarding at a snowboard park and even ziplining, there’s an adventure for everyone. Immerse in Canadian culture, try your hand at dogsledding, skate along the St. Lawrence River, and watch the spectacular display of artists carving magnificent ice sculptures as you enjoy frozen maple syrup on a stick. During Snowfest it’s all about function over fashion, so bundle up, wear your layers, and don’t be afraid of the cold.

Viewfinder Tip: For winter festivals dress in layers. Things can start out cold, but as you do outdoor activities you can heat up fast.


When people think of Canada’s party capital, they imagine it being Montreal. The annual Igloofest celebrates this party spirit. For eight years Igloofest has been attracting fans of electronic dance music; it takes place in the port of Old Montreal over the course of four weekends from mid-January to mid-February. At this event, people dress in their kitschiest winter outfits and celebrate the wee hours of the morning and munch on poutine and pizza. More than 70,000 fans attended last year, and Igloofest has grown so rapidly that organizers have added an extra weekend to celebrate in 2014. Igloofest attracts some of the best deejays out there, including San Francisco based artist/producer Eskmo, and Kanye West protégé Kid Sister. 

Montreal Jazz Festival

Montreal has a fantastic music scene, and the Montreal Jazz Festival, from June 26-July 6, celebrates that culture. The event is the World’s Largest Jazz Festival, hosting more than 3,000 musicians from 30 different countries. What makes this festival unique is that two thirds of the venues are free to enter! If you go, look out for artists such as Nora Jones, Prince, Diana Krall, BB King and Tony Bennett.

Montreal is the city of festivals. Each month you will find at least one extraordinary festival happening around the city. No matter what time of the year it is, visiting a festival in this city always is a good time.

What are your favorite festivals to attend around the world?