No matter the season, there’s always plenty to do and see in Montreal, but summer in this vibrant city is an especially magical time. From innovative museum exhibits and scenic bike paths to world-famous festivals, here are five reasons to spend time in Quebec’s largest city this summer.
1. Culture is cool here (literally)
Most Montrealers revel in the steamy, sticky heat of their summers, but when the temperature hits sweltering levels, reprieve can be found indoors. With exhibits ranging from high art to exotic insects, museums here offer a perfect dose of air-conditioned culture. Among the visiting shows to check out this season are Shalom Montreal: Stories and Contributions of the Jewish Community at the McCord Museum (on until November 11) and Moving Dunes at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (on until October 28).
2. Biking is a way of life
Montreal is considered one of North America’s most bike-friendly cities. And in the summertime, there’s nothing quite like making the most of its 600 km of pathways. For a classic trip, ride the tree-lined trail along the historic Lachine Canal, making stops along the way at Old Port, Atwater Market and Rene Levesque Park.
3. The Tam Tams
Sunday afternoons in Montreal’s Mount Royal Park are a summer institution thanks to the Tam Tams, a totally inclusive drum circle that starts up around noon at the George-Étienne Cartier Monument and keeps going until sundown. The vibe of this free weekly event is laid-back and celebratory as thousands gather to drum and to dance, or just to sit and watch while enjoying a picnic and soaking up the sun.
4. History comes alive
With trendy shops and innovative restaurants tucked inside beautiful, centuries-old buildings, it really does feel like the past and present have collided in Old Montreal. And this summer, thanks to the Cité Mémoire program, the area’s history seems more modern than ever. Essentially an art installation, Cité Mémoire takes you back in time with a series of more than 20 historic scenes projected on buildings, trees and streets throughout Old Montreal. Download the free Montreal En Histoires app to trigger remarkable tableaux, then spend an evening strolling the cobblestone streets and meeting some of the city’s characters from the past.
5. It’s got the best festivals
Visit Montreal any time of the year and you’re guaranteed to come across a great festival. This is a festival city, through and through—and summertime is the pinnacle of its festival awesomeness. Throughout downtown’s Quartier des Spectacles and in other venues across the city, locals and visitors come together in droves to enjoy an unparalleled variety of world-class events.
Here are a few of the heavy hitters.
The Montreal International Jazz Festival (June 28 to July 7)
Ten days of music magic that include more than 1,000 indoor and outdoor concerts (around 350 of which are free) in genres that stretch beyond jazz.
Just for Laughs Festival (July 11 to 29)
Celebrating comedy in its many forms, with more than 1,600 artists (including “A-list” comedians) performing at free and ticketed events throughout downtown.
Osheaga (August 3 to 5)
Highlighting emerging national talent alongside some of the biggest international names in the business, all rocking out on five stages throughout Parc Jean Drapeau.
L’International des Feux Loto-Quebec (Throughout July)
Illuminating the night sky with incredible (and free) fireworks displays, all part of the largest pyrotechnics competition in the world.
[This story appears in the June 2016 issue of WestJet Magazine and has since been updated]