Montreal in the summer is a city transformed. From a place where people take the extra long route to work to avoid leaving the underground tunnels, it becomes a utopia of skin-bearing, joyful celebration, with myriad outdoor activities to facilitate morning to night sun exposure.
While compiling a list of just five amazing activities is a huge challenge, I think that these five distil the essence of the city with accessible and enjoyable activities for all ages. So join the throngs of grinning Montrealers in their prime, and go have some no-holds-barred fun outside.
Montreal is a city of festivals. While these go on year-round, they peak in the summer with free and paid concerts, art shows and film screenings, both indoors and out. Among those that happening each summer are the Montreal International Jazz Festival, which starts at the end of June; the Just for Laughs comedy festival follows it from the middle through the end of July; the Osheaga music festival on Parc Jean-Drapeau takes place at the beginning of August; Fierté Montréal Pride is in mid-August and the Montreal World Film Festival run from the last week of August through early September. For a complete listing of the years’ festivals, check out Montreal.com’s festivals page.
2) Tam tams
After moving to Montreal for university, it wasn’t long before I discovered that every Sunday in the summer, provided the weather is fine, thousands of Montrealers of all backgrounds, as well as plenty of visitors, gather on the grassy slopes of the Mont-Royal park to hang out, picnic, play their drums and dance. In Montreal you’re allowed to drink in public provided that you’re eating, so it’s a great way to spend an afternoon with friends, in the sun or the shade, watching the fascinating people and enjoying the happy vibe of a relaxed summer-loving culture.
With the sun comes seasonal fruit and veggies, and our outdoor markets become bustling hives of activity all week long. While the two most famous markets in the city are the Marché Jean-Talon in Little Italy, and the Atwater Market in Little Burgundy, smaller neighbourhood markets have also begun to pop up all over the city. A great activity for a weekend morning, we love to buy bread and local charcuterie and Quebec cheeses, along with whichever fruits are in season that week, and head to the canal or a park for picnicking and people-watching. This week, you can get unbelievably sweet Quebec melons (cantaloupe and watermelons) as well as a wide range of berries, plums and peaches. Make sure to ask where your food is coming from as there will still be imported produce sold alongside the Quebec offerings.
4) Street Sales
Hate shopping in malls? Montreal is a city that loves to close down streets to cars and hold ventes trottoirs on the major shopping arteries. These are more than street sales: they are festivals of their own sort, with cafes and restaurants setting up seating areas on the street, great clearance items and designer clothes, street food, and even road-side massages available. Whether it’s downtown, Little Italy, the Plateau or Chinatown (to mention only a few) there are dozens more of these coming up throughout the summer. Take a look here for a complete listing.
5) Fruit Picking
One of my favourite summer activities is getting a little way out of the city to pick berries or other fruit at a local farm. Although strawberry season is just finishing, there is still the opportunity to pick blueberries, raspberries, currants, gooseberries, peaches, pears, apples, corn and pumpkins (along with lots of other veggies, depending on the farm you visit). This is a great day’s activity, and many of the farms also have pre-picked fruits as well as honey and baked goods for sale. Take a picnic, organize a group of friends and fill your bellies with fruit picked directly from the bush! A few nearby options are listed here.
What’s your favourite Montreal summer activity? I know I’ve left lots out so let me know what yours is!