For ten days every summer the sound of jazz fills the streets of Montreal, Canada. The music event has been held for over thirty years, commencing at the end of June. Several blocks of the city are closed to traffic and stages are erected in the streets and in parks. In 2004 the Montreal Jazz Festival (officially the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal) was crowned the world’s largest jazz festival.
According to montrealjazzfest.com , “The Festival hosts some 30 countries, 3,000 musicians and public entertainers, 1,000 concerts and activities—two-third of which are free—, 15 concert halls, 8 outdoor stages and welcomes more than 2 million visitors, from noon to midnight!”.
I first stumbled onto the Jazzfest in 1997 by accident while stopping in Montreal on my way to a camping trip in Gaspé, Québec. I had been to Montreal once before, but had never heard of the festival. After almost giving up on finding a place to park, one appeared. Not knowing where to start my exploration, I heard music and decided to follow it. What I found was several stages, free music, street food, lots of Labatt Blue, wine, and people in the streets having a great time. I didn’t have a lot of time to spend at the Montreal Jazz Festival that year, but went back three more times. Each time I had a unique and fun experience. Once I went with my family, one time was just my daughter and I, and another time was a boys trip.
The Festival International de Jazz de Montreal isn’t just for hardcore jazz aficionados. The first music I heard at the event was oldies in one of the parks. Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, Prince, B.B. King, Wynton Marsalis, George Thorogood, Miles Davis, The B-52’s, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, and Sting have all played the Montreal Jazz Festival.
If for some reason you’re not entertained by the jazzfest, you’re sure to find something to do in the festive city of Montreal that surrounds you.
TIP: Make hotel/hostel reservations well ahead of time if you plan on staying in the city for jazzfest. Lodging fills up fast and gets expensive if you wait. There are some nice hotels across the river in Longueuil that I’ve found to be a little cheaper and still provide easy metro acces to the festival.