Making the Most of Montreal's Entertainment Scene

Explore the Montreal entertainment scene by visiting the city's most popular attractions and events. From nightlife and sporting events to museums and annual festivals, this French-Canadian city has it all.
By Katie O'Hara
Montreal, Canada skyline
Montreal, Canada skyline  (iStockphoto)

Montreal is a booming city that offers unlimited options for staying entertained, whether you’re there in the quaint winter months when glistening snow layers cobblestone streets or in the summer when the city really comes alive: think colorful food markets, festivals and comedy shows, and a host of museums and nightlife options. Here’s a guide to navigating Montreal’s cultural offerings.

Away.com’s Montreal Travel Guide

Nightlife
Like most big cities, Montreal has a wide variety of bars, pubs, nightclubs, and lounges. With a drinking age of only 18, Montreal attracts locals and tourists alike to its dynamic bar scene. Many clubs offer specials, such as ladies’ nights, so check out the offerings before starting your evening. Expect to wait in line outside the most popular clubs. Some clubs even have multiple floors featuring different types of music (hip hop, techno, disco, etc.). Popular nightclubs include Light UltraClub, Muzique, 1234 Montreal, Bains Douches, and Arena Montreal. If you prefer live music to DJs and dance clubs, you’ll find a constant stream of acts from genres such as rock, Celtic, folk, and jazz playing at the pubs on Bishop, Crescent, St. Laurent, and St. Denis. Be sure to check out Le Swimming, Le Divine Orange, Club Soda, and Grumpy’s Bar for memorable live-music performances.

Museums
If museums are your thing, Montreal has several you’ll need to check out. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is home to many Canadian paintings and prints, decorative objects, and the latest traveling exhibits. It’s considered the most prestigious museum in the city. The Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art showcases and promotes the latest Quebec art. Besides art, you’ll find interactive exhibits highlighting scientific advances at the Montreal Science Centre and a promotion and study of architecture at the Canadian Centre for Architecture. For a unique museum experience, stop by the Just for Laughs museum–guaranteed to provide hours of amusement.

Sports
Sports fans visiting Montreal are in luck. The biggest team is the Montreal Canadiens of the National Hockey League. Check out one of their games at the Bell Centre—located directly downtown, it’s easily reached by public transportation throughout the city. Besides hockey, Montreal is home to the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League and the Montreal Impact of Major League Soccer. The Alouettes play in Molson Stadium located downtown on Mount Royal. The Impact play at Saputo Stadium, the former site of the 1976 Summer Olympics that underwent a major renovation starting in 2008. Several auto-racing events also take place each year in the city, including Formula One Canadian Grand Prix and the NAPA Auto Parts 200, part of the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

Festivals
Depending on the time of year, you’ll find a variety of festivals in Montreal. Check with local newspapers to see what events are in town when you visit, or plan your trip around a specific festival. Some of the biggest festivals in Montreal include:
Jazz Fest: More than 2,000 musicians play nearly 500 concerts in June and July. The event attracts about two million visitors to the city and is known for showcasing both new, local talent and big names. A bonus? Most of the concerts are free.
Just for Laughs Comedy Festival: Held in July, this festival features popular comedians performing for large crowds. The festival has spurred an international television show spin-off.
Igloofest: Held each January, Igloofest is a huge outdoor party with musical acts and cheesy snow suits.
Fringe Festival: A quirky festival that gives freedom to the underground artist, Fringe Festival gives complete control to the artist to express themselves through music, dance, and visual arts. It is held annually every June.
The Magic of Lanterns: If you’re visiting Montreal in October, be sure to check out The Magic of Lanterns at The Botanical Gardens. Colorful lanterns are lit at night creating a mystical setting ideal for photographing.

Published: 29 Jan 2013 | Last Updated: 31 Jan 2013
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

Best Hotels in Montreal

$209-$254
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#1
Hotel Le Crystal
$283
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#2
Le Saint-Sulpice Hotel Montreal
$300-$418
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#3
Hotel Nelligan
$260
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#4
Sofitel Montreal Golden Mile

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