10 Things to Do in Montreal This Summer

Come summer, Montreal exudes a “joie de vivre” unlike anywhere else in Canada. Soak up the sun and sights with our countdown of the 10 essential things to do in Montreal this summer.

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Montreal's entertainment districtPhoto: Just for Laughs Festival

1. Snag tickets to Montreal's frenzy of summer festivals

Montreal hosts so many music festivals they actually overlap in a summer-long symphony. Rock, electronic, reggae, chamber music, folk and African music are showcased, and Osheaga's live band extravaganza and the long-running International Jazz Festival are, of course, legendary. In amongst the music festivals, you also have Just for Laughs—the biggest comedy festival on the planet, and the annual International Fireworks Competition that attracts competitors from all corners of the globe. Oh, and there are film festivals and theatre festivals, too. Exhausted already? Catch your breath—we're just getting started!

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"Goliath" ride at La Ronde theme park in MontrealPhoto: La Ronde (Member of the Six Flags Family)

2. Get goosebumps at La Ronde

The La Ronde Six Flags amusement park on Montreal's St-Helene's Island is worth an entire day of exploration—even if you don't have kids. There's plenty of thrills for grown-ups, including Goliath, the largest and fastest of La Ronde's roller coasters, and the brand new, family-friendly Tourbillon. If it gets too hot, simply barrel down The Splash: a 50-foot waterfall at 30 miles-per-hour into a giant tank of water? That'll cool you off!

Helpful hint: If you're in Montreal for the International Fireworks Festival, the VIP seats at La Ronde offer the best views in the city.

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Street performers in Montreal during the summerPhoto: Montreal Tourism

3. Get entertained—for free!

No budget for tickets to Montreal's frenzy of summer festivals? No problem! Related acts and artists—including some of the best buskers in the business—spill over from the festivals into the streets of Montreal, including pedestrian-only districts like Quartier des Spectacles. Why so many great street performers? Part of it's due to the fact that the National Circus School is headquartered in Montreal, so you're bound to see students practicing their moves all over town. Public green spaces also play host to free events like Shakespeare-in-the-Park, and outdoor film screenings.

Helpful hint: For recommendations tailored to your tastes, preferences, location and time, try the new Official Montreal City Guide app!

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$100 burger at M:brgrPhoto: David Duran

4. Indulge in Montreal's eclectic outdoor eats

Mark Twain once said Montreal was "a city where you couldn't throw a brick without breaking a church window." Come summertime, something similar can be said of Montreal's plentiful terraces. After a long winter, the entire population of Montreal comes out of hibernation to drink and dine al fresco. Indulge in local specialties like smoked meat, poutine, craft beers, and—for bragging rights alone—this behemoth $100 burger at M:brgr (a portion of profits go to local children's charities). And now that food trucks are legal in Montreal, eating in the streets has never been more eclectic! Want even more? Every first Friday from May to October, the biggest food truck rally in Canada takes place at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium!

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Montreal Botanical GardenPhoto: TM - Madore - Daphné CARON

5. Explore Montreal's green spaces

Mount Royal—or as locals call it, "The Mountain"—is the natural lungs of this concrete metropolis, located right in the middle of downtown Montreal. It offers a refreshing natural forest setting with a man-made pond (Beaver Lake) at its summit. The lookout affords panoramic city views, and every summer Sunday hosts a musical free-for-all called Tam Tams, which attracts throngs of free-spirited revelers. Another downtown green space worth exploring is the Montreal Botanical Gardens, which blooms into a living museum in the summer months. It's a sprawling natural oasis that boasts over 22,000 plant species, and free musical concerts on Sundays.

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Bota Bota Spa in MontrealPhoto: Bota Bota/Sid Lee

6. Treat yourself to a spa day

Due for some pampering? Montreal has Nordic-style spas in abundance. Take the St. Jude, for instance, a converted historic church on trendy St. Denis Street. Then there's Bota Bota—a reconditioned ferryboat docked in the Old Port. (Once you've finished with the on-board thermal pools and waterfalls, be sure to check out the adjacent garden, which affords a spectacular view of the Montreal skyline.) Head to Nun's Island for Strom Spa, which offers an incredible array of luxurious treatments. It may be only five minutes from downtown Montreal, but the densely forested island setting truly feels like another world.

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La Grande Roue Observation Wheel in MontrealPhoto: Tourisme Montréal

7. Experience the magic of Old Montreal

The charming cobblestone streets winding through the historic cafes, shops and art enclaves of Old Montreal draw visitors in droves each summer. The vibe is always electric, and there's so much to discover beyond iconic sites like Notre-Dame Basilica. Take a self-guided history tour with virtual reality projections via the nifty new (and free!) Cité Mémoire app, or whizz through the streets on a quad-bike that can seat the entire family. You can even zip-line over the waters of Bonsecours Basin for a thrilling bird's eye view of the city. End your night with show-stopping views from the Montreal Observation Wheel—the largest of its kind in Canada.

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Montreal skylinePhoto: Eva Blue

8. Take to the water

Montreal's skyline must be seen from the water to be fully appreciated. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to do so, including jet boats, jet skis, eco-friendly electric boats, large dinner cruise ships and even an amphibious bus that goes from land to water. If you want to tour the waterways in high style, you can also charter a luxury yacht in the Old Port on board Absolu 80. Additional options include wedding services (the captain himself can perform the ceremony), and an on-deck hot tub, which is surprisingly affordable if you split the cost with your group. For smaller groups, Le Petit Navire is an exciting tour that can go in the Lachine Canal.

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Pride MontrealPhoto: André Bilodeau

9. Expect the unexpected

You never know what will pop up in the streets in a Montreal summer. Don't be surprised to find yourself in the middle of a colourful cultural parade like Carifiesta or Italian Week, or a sidewalk sale that stretches for kilometres like the one on St. Catherine Street. And, who knows? If your trip coincides with the Rogers Cup Tennis Tournaments, you could very well bump into Denis Shapovalov. The second edition of Canada Pride Montreal is also happening this summer.

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Antique store in MontrealPhoto: Susan Moss Photography

10. Seek out Montreal's hidden gems

Summer's an ideal time to seek out Montreal's hidden gems. Although you can do your sleuthing on foot, Bixi bike rentals make it easy to zip from one neighbourhood to the next. New hot spots regularly pop up in the Plateau, St. Laurent, downtown, and newly gentrified neighbourhoods like Griffintown and Point St. Charles. See if you can find secret speakeasies like Prohibition-style emporium The Cloakroom on Mountain Street, or O. Noir on Prince Arthur where you dine in the dark and servers are legally blind. Afterwards, head to The Village to trendy new Agrikol for authentic Haitian food, drink and music.