Given this year’s sky-high airfares to Europe and that unpronounceable Icelandic volcano’s erratically pesky eruptions, French-speaking Montreal just north of the U.S. border is worth a serious look for a romantic rendezvous. Not only is the city known for its charming hotels and fabulous food scene but June to August is the city’s primetime when its boulevards and rues come to life with an engaging succession of festivals. Here’s the scoop:
JUNE Music will fill the streets of Old Montreal June 24-28 during the Montreal Baroque Music Festival, featuring free and ticketed classical performances ranging from Scottish violins to Renaissance flutes. Overlapping, the world-famous Montreal International Jazz Festival runs from June 25–July 6 in the city center and features a jam-packed roster of music legends including Boz Scaggs, Dave Sanborn, Lionel Ritchie, George Benson, Smokey Robinson and more. Concurrent to both and continuing each Saturday night through mid-August, the International Fireworks Festival explodes overhead with pyrotechnic displays designed by a half dozen countries.
JULY Eclectic art, nonstop laughter and sultry dance are the themes this month: The open-air FIMA art festival will showcase the works of over 300 painters and sculptors from July 1–11. The uproarious Just for Laughs Festival guarantees a good time from July 2–25 with A-list headliners that include Lewis Black, Cheech & Chong, Brad Garrett, Jeff Ross, John Leguizamo, Rob Corddry, Tom Green, and several “Artists to be Announced.” Couples in the mood for sultry evenings, can also check out the Montreal International Tango Festival from July 6-11, featuring workshops and open-air dances.
AUGUST While small festivals celebrating everything from folk to blues and Italy to Japan are scheduled throughout the month (click here for links), the capper is the Montreal World Film Festival, running August 26–September 6 and featuring culturally diverse entries from around the world.
STAY & PLAY To enjoy the festivals by day and romance by night, here are three hotel picks: Hotel Nelligan, featuring modern décor, Jacuzzi tubs, and a rooftop bar in a trio of centuries-old buildings in Old Montreal (from $284/night); Hotel Le St-James for circa-1870 elegance with modern five-star amenities on the edge of Old Montreal (from $382/night); and Loews Hotel Vogue for contemporary ambience and a central location near restaurants and shopping (from $288/night). Dining suggestions: L’Express for amazing and authentic French bistro fare on atmospheric Rue St-Denis; Beaver Hall for contemporary French-European cuisine; and Le Jardin Nelson for a satisfying brunch or lunch as you enjoy jazz in a charming alfresco courtyard in Old Montreal.
For more trip-planning information, see our Montreal Travel Guide.