10 Reasons to Visit Montreal for its 375th Birthday

Canada’s joie de vivre capital turns 375 on May 17, but the celebration lasts all year long.
 

Mount Royal, photo courtesy of Tourism Montreal

1. Expo 67 turns 50

Montreal arguably came of age when it hosted Expo 67. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of that crowning achievement, the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal has created a major exhibition entitled In Search of Expo 67 (June 21 to Oct. 8). It includes recreations of works from 1967 and new works by a dozen contemporary Canadian artists such as pop-art-influenced, Inuit artist Geronimo Inutiq.

Read more: Five Museums to Visit in Montreal 

2. Street parties

Every weekend for 19 weeks (May 12 to Sept. 17), a different Montreal borough will host a massive block party called La Grande Tournée du 375e. Local merchants will provide the bread (and cheese, charcuterie, beer and other culinary delights) and local Cirque Éloize will provide the circus. There will also be treasure hunts (one for kids, one for adults) and exhibits such as Les fenêtres qui parlent, a project that teams locals with artists to turn homes into art installations.

3. The city is a comic book

From August to December, life will imitate art when graphic novelist Michel Rabagliati, best known for his popular autobiographical Paul comics (Paul in the Subway, Paul Has a Summer Job, etc.), will install a dozen oversized comic book panels throughout the Plateau Mont-Royal neighbourhood. The Paul à Montréal project includes both narrative and interactive elements.

Musée d’art comtemporain de Montréal, photo by Sébastian Roy

4. So Many Festivals

Whether it’s heavy-hitters like the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal (June 28 to July 8) and the Just for Laughs comedy festival (July 12 to 30) or smaller celebrations dedicated to everything from genre films and theatre to kites and anime, Montreal is wall-to-wall festivals during the summer. Expect the non-stop party to be bigger, louder and crazier in honour of Montreal’s marquee year.

5. New metro trains

As the Montreal subway system celebrates its 50th year of service, it’s rolling out a fleet of sleek new electric trains. These AZUR trains are packed with fancy screens and lights, but the biggest thrill is decidedly low-tech: passengers can now walk between cars, from tip to tail. Nostalgic trainspotters needn’t worry, though: there are still plenty of the classic cars, which ferried visitors to and from Expo 67, in service.

La Grande Tournée du 375e, photo courtesy of Tourism Montreal

6. Orchestras are alfresco

On Aug. 19, the city’s three major symphony orchestras, Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, the Orchestre Métropolitain and McGill Symphony Orchestra, will converge at Mount Royal for Montréal Symphonique, a special outdoor concert. This event will bring together more than 300 musicians, and this is the first time these three orchestras have ever come together for a performance.

7. Giant puppets

From May 19 to 21, the Royal de Luxe troupe will tell the story of Montreal using puppets (read more about this). The location is being kept secret, but marionettes as tall as five storeys will be hard to miss. These French street theatre artists have previously created site-specific performances in places such as Liverpool and Berlin (to commemorate 100 years since the sinking of the Titanic and 20 years since the reunification of Germany, respectively), so the Montreal shows promise to be epic.

Read more about the giant marionettes coming to Montreal’s 375th Birthday

8. Rideable art

The self-serve BIXI bicycle rentals are a fun, affordable means to get around the island’s core. (There’s a reason the Quebec-built bikes now roll through the UK, Australia and many North American cities.) If 57 kilometres of new bike paths, part of Montreal’s major infrastructure makeover, isn’t enough reason to saddle up, this year the BIXI fleet will include 375 special bikes, the fenders and baskets of which are adorned with artwork created by the public.

BIXI bikes, Photo courtesy of Tourism Montreal

9. Eleven days of Pride

From Aug. 10 to 20, Montreal is hosting Canada Pride Montréal 2017, the country’s first national LGBTQ celebration. In addition to the parade (a Montreal tradition since 1979), the 11-day event will include sports competitions, concerts and a three-day conference on the advancement of LGBTQ rights. The event, which is expected to draw some 2.5 million people, will be held in a different Canadian city every four years.

10. Art by the kilometre

Anchored by the Musée des beaux-arts Montréal on one end and the McCord Museum on the other, La Balade pour la Paix/An Open-Air Museum (May 29 to Oct. 27) will turn a one-kilometre stretch of rue Sherbrooke into a downtown public art walk. Sculptures, installations and photographs by 67 contemporary Canadian and international artists will underscore values of tolerance and openness.

Read more: Free things to Do for Montreal 375 in May

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