Montreal Jazz Festival

Held in the middle of summer around the first week of July, this 10 day festival is lot of fun and everyone can enjoy it - from families on vacations to solo travelers. The city of Montreal is a large part of why this is so much fun of course - great city, nice people (but all Canadians are nice!), and lot of interesting food.

Tips for enjoying the festival:

  • Visit for as many days as you can. 5 days seems like a good minimum. Try to be there for one of the two or three special event concerts which are held on the first day, the last day, and in the middle of the festival duration.
  • Roughly figure out what shows you want to see. Go to the first one, and then move around if you wish - multiple shows going on. Explore all areas of the festival. Watch a repeat performance if you liked the band. Discover new music, and new sounds, all of which is chosen to get the crowd going.
  • While standing close to the stage is always a good spot, you can also enjoy the show from further off - just make sure you can see the people on the stage. Don't get too close for the special events though - it can get claustrophobic - for special events, they have big screens in the back, so can safely enjoy it from afar. The fun is in watching the musicians play, and watching the people in the audience go all crazy and gyrate and move to the music. Participate - at least tap your foot and shake your noggin!
  • For old folks like me, this is back-breaking business - my back certainly can't take standing for more than one hour, and each performance here is 60 minutes, with 90 minutes each for the three special shows. Some people bring portable tripod-based seats. But usually easy to just sit on the ground.
  • For taking good photos or videos, bring a tripod or a monopod.
  • Be prepared to relax! Many people forget this and don't pace themselves - this is a festival that has good music from 6PM to 12Midnight and later! So sleep during the day, a siesta will re-energize :-)
  • Do walk around during the day too. They may turn on the fountains on Jeanne-Mance (main stage area), and someone is also performing too, so there is still stuff to see and do.
  • It will be hot in the afternoon. It may rain late in afternoon, though all the times I've been here, the rain pours for an hour, and then stops. And usually only happens 1 or 2 days out of the 10 days. But weather is fickle, so be prepared. Just find a place to take cover during the rain, and then come out when the clouds clear.
  • Eat and drink at the festival! There is no ticket for the entire free festival area with multiple stages, so this is the main way to show support. The grilled sausages taste great in the open air atmosphere, and they have crepes, french fries and poutine, and in the past few years, the mangue en fleur has become a favorite here. To avoid the long lines for food, eat before or after normal lunch and dinner hours.
    And there is the music stall selling CDs of performers, and a nice souvenir gifts shop too.
    As they mention before each show - this is run by a non-profit organization, and it is the purchases on the festival premises that keep this thing going.
  • The show is very well organized. Many info booths, everything runs like clockwork, and they even have people bringing beer for sale in the audience areas so can avoid walking the 20 feet to the beer stall! Security is also very good, and the STM (Metro and Bus) also are well prepared for the large crowds.
  • This is all about the free shows and performances. There are big-name ticketed performances too, if you are really into Jazz (and other types of music too).
  • Around 2 million tourists visit Montreal during the Jazz Festival. 100,000 or so show up for the 2 to 3 highlight shows on the main stage. 800 concerts in 10 days. It may be the world's largest music festival!
  • And if you thought the city must be occupied with this one festival, and would not hold another major activity at the same time - you'd be wrong! Some days, there can be up to 4 major events. Things like Canada Day Parade, the Cari Fiesta (Caribbean) parade, the International Festival at Parc Jean-Drapeau, and the International Fireworks Competition (watch this from Jacques Cartier bridge - go to Metro Papineau, then proceed to Pont Jacques Cartier Bridge road which is closed to traffic for this, and enjoy the 30 minute fireworks show).

Related links:
Food, Transportation, Accommodation tips
Montreal Jazz Festival 2012 with video snippets
Festival Pictures

External links: current festival details