Just for Laughs
Since its first iteration in 1983, Montreal’s Just for Laughs has grown exponentially to become the world’s largest international comedy festival. Taking place at different venues across the city through July, the festival incorporates a series of events, performances, and shows, some of which are free for all to enjoy.
International Jazz Festival
Another world-famous festival taking place annually in Montreal is Jazz Fest, which is the world’s largest jazz festival. Every year the festival showcases around 3,000 artists representing 30+ countries, performing in more than 650 concerts (including 450 free outdoor performances). Jazz Fest shuts down a significant part of the city’s downtown area, as the festival attracts over 2 million visitors.
For Coachella-style festival fans, Osheaga is the multi-day indie music event that you won’t want to miss. Held every summer in Montreal’s Parc Jean-Drapeau, the concerts transpire across six different stages and attract attendees in the hundreds of thousands. Past headliners have included such diverse artists as Eminem, Jack Johnson, Metric, Cat Power, Lorde, Tegan and Sara, and Kendrick Lamar—among countless indie performers.
Les FrancoFolies de Montréal
For a celebration of French-language and Québéois musical artistry, Les FrancoFolies brings in over 1,000 French-language performers from all over the world, along with over 500,000 visitors. Many of the performances are free, taking place on outdoor stages in the downtown core.
Montreal’s Igloofest claims to be the coldest music festival in the world, and it truly does live up to this title annually. Transpiring in the Old Ports from late January into early February, Igloofest draws EDM lovers from across Quebec, Canada, and abroad—to the tens of thousands. What makes this festival unique is the fact that it takes place entirely out-of-doors, during the coldest depths of winter. So bring your parka and mittens and be ready to warm up with beer or hot chocolate as you dance the night away. The 2018 lineup includes artists Kaytranada, Bonobo, NGHTMRE, Petit Biscuit, DJ Esco, Sasha and John Digweed.
Montréal en lumière
Montréal en lumière is another big winter festival in Montreal, first taking place in 2000. It is held in the ever-vibrant Quartier des Spectacles and is one of the largest winter festivals in the world. Combining performing arts, gastronomic experiences, free outdoor family activities and more, the festival attracts around 900,000 attendees seeking a way to banish the winter blues.
The Winter Carnaval in Quebec City holds the record for being the oldest and most famous of the winter festivals that take place annually across Canada. Represented by the distinctive Bonhomme figure, the most well-known events of Carnaval are the night-time and daytime parades, which move through the magical light and ice sculpture displays of the upper city. There are also free outdoor public banquets, outdoor sports (including ice skating, skiing, hockey, snowshoeing, and dogsledding), and even a masquerade ball with up to 400 participants at the grand ballroom of the Château Frontenac.
Quebec City Film Festival
The Quebec City Film Festival takes place annually in September, showcasing a range of short and feature films, and premieres movies from all over the world. The film fest has been running since 2011, with screenings including around 50 international feature films and more than 100 short films. The festival has grown every year since its inception, attracting around 30,000 people in 2016. Be sure to check out the he Ciné Pop-up around the downtown area, both before and during the festival.
Quebec City Summer Festival
The winter festival might be the star of Quebec City’s celebrations, with long, harsh winters being one of the defining elements of local culture. But, since 1968 the city has also hosted a popular summer music festival that runs through 11 days every July. Around 135,000 passes are sold annually, with total attendance of about 1.5 million music lovers. There are hundreds of performances over a dozen venues across the city, usually within walking distance of one another. The festival is known for representing a wide variety of music genres, from rock and punk to hip-hop, classical music, francophone music, world music, and EDM.
The International Balloon Festival of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu
The International Balloon Festival of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu is the largest balloon festival in Canada, held annually around mid-August. In 2018, there will be 100 Hot Air Balloons from Canada, the United States, France and Brazil filling the skies around Haut-Richelieu. The festival also includes amusement rides, musical performances, comedy shows, and nuits magiques (tethered, glowing night-time demonstrations).
Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival
The Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival is an annual celebration featuring a magical display of hot air balloons of every shape and colour. The festival includes around 300 shows and performances, taking place over the four days of Labour Day weekend. Recent years have drawn over 200,000 visitors to the city of Gatineau. 2018 will mark the festival’s 31st year.
Le Festif! in Baie-Saint-Paul
Le Festif! is a three-day music festival that attracts thousands of visitors annually at the end of July. In 2017, 35,000 revellers attended performances by the likes of Xavier Rudd, Timber Timbre, Plants & Animals, and many others, including several prominent Québécois musicians such as Le Couleur, Les Dales Hawerchuk, and Louis-Jean Cormier.
Fête d’hiver de Saint-Jean-Port-Joli
What’s winter in Quebec without winter festivals? In addition to the most famous Quebec City Carnaval, a number of cities, towns, and communities across the province hold significant winter celebrations. The Fête d’hiver de Saint-Jean-Port-Joli is one such event, annually held in February and specifically featuring snow sculptures. Attendees can watch professional artists as well as up-and-coming sculptors from Quebec and elsewhere. There are also a number of other activities to celebrate surviving another long, cold winter, including musical shows, cultural and sports events, fireworks, and more.