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Montreal, the Celebration City

In the early 1990s, Montreal faced political uncertainty and economic decline, with calls to separate the province of Quebec from Canada. The city needed something to celebrate and a reason to unite.

Since Montrealers famously love a party, funding current and new festivals proved an ingenious way to infuse life and culture into the city’s downtown. Today, there is almost always a festival going on somewhere in Montreal, where there are more than 100 each year.

The city has developed its own culture out of the mix of French and English traditions, which visitors can experience at many of Montreal’s festivals.

Some of the biggest crowds flock to the free music of the International Jazz Festival and the world-class pyrotechnics of the International Fireworks Competition. Many visitors also choose the culturally enriching Montreal Festival of Lights and Mural Fest for larger-than-life displays of lights and public art.

Infuse excitement into your next group trip to Montreal by planning the tour around one of these four world-famous festivals.

Montreal International Jazz Festival

The freewheeling sounds of jazz music echo across the streets of Montreal each year for the world’s largest jazz festival. The Montreal International Jazz Festival attracts about 3,000 artists from 30 countries to perform more than 650 concerts. During 10 days in late June, you can hear jazz music all over downtown Montreal.

The first Montreal jazz festival in 1980 produced an attendance of 12,000, which was declared a success. Since then, around 2.5 million visitors a year attend the festival to hear their favorite jazz artists or just soak in the upbeat atmosphere.

“Groups really enjoy the festival’s outdoor experiences and free concerts,” said Dominique Desrosiers, leisure market and member services for Tourisme Montreal. “It’s summertime, and you’re outside listening to music. It’s a wonderful experience.”

Music concerts are held at 10 free outdoor stages and 10 indoor concert halls. The city’s downtown streets ban vehicle traffic so outdoor shows can stay open to the public from noon until midnight.

Visitors seeking the intimacy of an indoor venue can choose from relatively small jazz clubs to massive concert halls such as Place des Arts. Pop-up bars, food trucks and spaces to sit also add to the enjoyment.

Mural Fest

Watching the creative process involved in constructing a towering wall mural ignited such a fascination that Montreal’s 3-year-old Mural Fest was extended from a few days to 11 days in 2015. The celebration of urban art has exploded in popularity since its inception in 2013 and now welcomes 20 local and international artists to paint 20 new murals.

Groups can watch the artists toil on Montreal’s Saint-Laurent Boulevard, which is closed during the street art festival. The June festival features not only art, but also pop-up shops, DJs, concerts, free workshops and an international dance competition.

“Mural Fest is a very vibrant and dynamic time for Montreal,” said Desrosiers. “It’s a very young and hip festival. It’s a new festival, but the murals stay on the streets year-round for us to enjoy.”

Food trucks and other vendors offer festival cuisine that visitors can enjoy while strolling around the open-air museum. Visitors can learn about the murals and the stories each one tells to fully appreciate this difficult art form.