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How to make the most of a summer weekend in Montreal

Quebec is calling

  • Valerie Lee
  • 7 August 2019

Beyond its reputation as the star of Quebec, Montreal is an outstanding global contender as one of the most prolific and mature electronic scenes out there. Home of legends like Tiga and Turbo Records and Kaytranada, of major dial-moving events like the tech-driven MUTEK and AIM Festival, Montreal should be at the top of any music lovers list. Plus, it’d be irresponsible to talk about the city without mention of Stereo, Montreal’s premier nightclub and favorite after hours that keeps the energy high until well into the early morning hours.

Summertime in Montreal has a good reputation: after months of bitter snow and stay-indoors-for-as-long-as-possible weather, the entire city is ready to get out and get busy enjoying the city’s deep cultural roots that extend into music, art, technology and beyond.

Here’s a list of extracurriculars to add to your summer itinerary - that is, activities to plan around your visits to Stereo or New City Gas.

June
See street art come to life at the Mural Festival

Throughout the entire month of June, Montreal's Saint Laurent Boulevard becomes a "living museum" of sorts and home to the city's best street art showcases. Known as the Mural Festival, artists set up shop and begin painting larger-than-life masterpieces on the sides of buildings, replacing and painting right over ones from the previous year.

It's a full on showcase, with artists, vendors and live music and dance performances all taking place alongside the street art's transformational process across the four weeks.

June through July
Walk the bridge for the Fireworks Festival

Montreal has hosted the annual International Fireworks Competition since 1985.

That's right - that's a thing! And it's been going on for decades!

The dazzling and (what we can only imagine) fierce competition makes for the perfect summer activity for tourists and locals alike. The shows take place on Wednesdays and Saturdays around 10 in the evening. While tickets are available for purchase for the promised best seats in the house at La Ronde to watch the fireworks blossom not only in the sky but also reflected in the nearby Dolphin Lake, there's a multitude of places around the city to enjoy the show for free.

It's highly recommended to put on a pair of comfy walking shoes and make your way to the Jacques Cartier Bridge to catch the display. The bridge closes off vehicles from 8:30 PM on on show days, but pedestrians are allowed. It's a fantastic way to close off a lovely summer evening and get some steps in while you're at it.

Until August 31
Get lost at PY1

Besides being a must-see at the top of any Montreal tourist’s list, it’s physically difficult to miss the epic PY1 installation. It’s a huge, pyramid-shaped structure that sits (and sticks out like a sore thumb) amongst the historic buildings of Montreal’s Old Port area. It was dreamed up by Guy Laliberté, one of the founders of Cirque du Soleil, so appropriately, its immersive experience has been described as “walking into a dream, leading audiences through the stars all the way to Earth”.

In the daytime, the pyramid features a 60-minute, immersive experience called Through the Echoes, which is the aforementioned dream-like journey. It’s a trippy multimedia adventure, made up of lasers, projections, special effects and visuals. By night, the pyramid transforms into a nightlife venue of sorts, opening its doors to electronic artists and accompanying visual jockeys, who can utilize the entire building from top to bottom as their playground. PY1 has a variety of themes for its evening events (that are all 18+), ranging from enticing names like Eye Wonder to Astral Plane.

Tickets range between $26-41 and can be purchased here.

PY1 is only open to the public this summer in Montreal until August 31, so get to it soon. But don’t be discouraged if you won’t be able to make it - the creators has emphasized the venue’s ability to travel, so anticipate that it’ll make its way elsewhere, soon.

All summer long
Go vinyl hunting

With such a rich music history across jazz and electronic, it should come as no surprise that Montreal is an absolute treasure chest of records... as long as you know where to go hunting.

La Rama is a top choice for electronic crate diggers and is considered a home base for promoters and music heads across the city. Run by Kris Guilty, the shop prides itself on featuring any genre under the sun (or, perhaps more fittingly, under the disco ball) from global deep cuts to current must haves. Plus, they keep their Instagram up-to-date with new hauls, so be sure to follow them there.

Montreal's self-proclaimed best record store is Aux 33 Tours, which certainly offers one of the widest selections in the city. From jazz to hip-hop and across music from all around the world, Aux 33 Tours will keep you browsing and satisfied for hours.

Photo via The Vinyl Factory

Every Sunday
Play at Piknic Électronik

Though traditionally, Sunday is the day reserved for relaxing and recuperating after a satisfying weekend, Montreal locals know that there's a better way to spend such a precious day, and that is Piknic Électronik, of course. Every Sunday across summer, Piknic welcomes people in for an all-day celebration of music and good weather. In the daytime, families come prepped with picnics and their kids for a more family friendly outing, and once the sun begins to dip, those looking for one final weekend dance come out to play to catch sets from house and techno names like Loco Dice, Dusky, Soul Clap, Detroit Swindle, Octo Octa and dozens more on not one, but two stages.

There's also a ferry that shuttles you straight from the Old Port to Parc Jean-Drapeau where Piknic is held for a fun extra bit of sightseeing before heading in for a boogie.

Tickets to Piknic range from $16-$20 and they also offer student and all season long passes. Find more info here.

Photo via Villedepulie

All summer long
Get into a great show at MTELUS

The MTELUS building has history. Before it became a performance theater, it was formerly a cinema and also an ice rink. Known to locals as the Metropolis, it's the spot to catch big name acts from Vampire Weekend to Hot Chip, plus their more underground tipped nights called Nocturne, which feature names like Blawan, Mathew Jonson, Jlin, Nicola Cruz, Wajatta and more.

All summer long
Experience the Satosphère

If you've already checked out PY1 and are looking for more music-meets-technology experiences, look no further than the Société des arts Technologiques' Satosphère, described as an immersive modular theater with a 360-degree projection dome that features music, visual, dance and game projects and experiences. Unsurprisingly, it hosts some of the more avant-garde leaning art displays, but is the perfect activity for those seeking a little something off the beaten path.

Find a dancefloor

If it isn't obvious by now, Montreal is a city thats absolutely teeming with culture. After the sun goes down, there's still plenty to see. Music has always played an important part in Montreal's history, and continues to live on in nightclub venues and DJs who keep the weekend rotations hot.

It would be a shame to go out and not step foot into the hallowed doors of Stereo, an after hours spot that has been deemed a top-tier venue across not only Montreal, but all of North America. Stereo not only hosts the best of techno and house names, but is also equipped with a hydraulic floor, meticulously double-layered sound wall and top of the line sound system designed by the prolific Angel Moraes, who brought the inspiration to Montreal from his own personal escapades at Paradise Garage. Now if that's not worth seeing... we don't know what is.

New City Gas is another iconic venue, though one that leans more towards evening shows than a late night dancefloor option. The building is a historic remnant of the industrial era, formerly housing a complex to transform coal to gas for Montreal's city lighting. Big names across dance music like Eric Prydz and Armin Van Buuren will land at New City Gas for their Montreal performances.

Bar Datcha is a more intimate spot to grab a drink along with a quick boogie to the sounds of funk, disco and electro. The Russian-themed spot is one of the rare spots in Mile End.

Ausgang Plaza isn't solely a nightclub, but often offers its event space to DJ performances along with local art and culture offerings. Names like DāM-FunK and Jacques Greene have all performed at Ausgang Plaza.

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