Montréal goes wild for the Formula 1 Grand Prix!
This article was updated on May 29, 2019.
Montréal is known around the world for its colourful neighbourhoods, amazing food scene and vibrant nightlife. Any time of year, whether it be the dead of winter or the height of summer, you’ll find an exciting festival or a new restaurant opening to keep you on your toes. During the Formula 1 Grand Prix du Canada, however, Montréal’s festive spirit soars to exalted heights as we get revved up for the races, the parties and so much more.
From June 7 to 9 visitors from around the world will pour into Montréal for the Grand Prix. A mix of racing fans, social butterflies, people watchers and celebrities will join Montrealers as we collectively soak up the fun at the tracks, on the red carpet and inside some of the wildest parties you must see to believe.
Weekend kick off - Thursday
While officially, the racing activities begin on Friday, June 7, the parties and events kick things off on Thursday, June 6. The public spaces set up in Montréal’s downtown core swell with masses of people eager to take part in the dozens of activities prepared for the weekend and get a look at the cars set up at various sites.
The balconies of the restaurants along Crescent Street in downtown Montréal will become one of the hottest tickets in town all weekend long during the Grand Prix. Within walking distance to many of Montréal’s major shopping destinations (such as the new Holt Renfrew Ogilvy) and steps away from many of our most glamorous hotels, Crescent’s party vibe is turned up to maximum. On Sunday the street is closed to traffic and people pour out to eat and drink on the street level terraces that pop up.
Last year a mini racing course was set up steps from Place du Canada and people clamoured together to sip on bubbly at the Chandon paddock. Every year something spectacular awaits the throngs of people who are here for the Grand Prix. This year is sure to be no exception.
The heart of downtown Montréal will become the epicentre of Grand Prix madness all weekend long. With Peel Street closed off to traffic from René-Levesque Boulevard to de Maisonneuve Boulevard, expect an atmosphere that will bubble with excitement! Starting on Thursday, race fans from around the world will gather to sip on champagne at the Peel Paddock, presented this year by Piper-Heidsieck in association with the Casino de Montréal. World-class restaurants located on Peel Street such as Soubois, Chez Alexandre, Cafe Ferreira and more will feature exclusive Grand Prix terrasses and sumptuous menus. A pop-up fashion show hosted by Montréal’s own Geneviève Borne will add a bright spot of glamour to the weekend on June 6 and 7 from noon to 2 p.m.
All revved up and so much to see - Friday
The racing festivities begin on Friday, June 7 when the tracks open at 8:00 a.m. At the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, a track covering 4,361 metres, fans can enjoy a Beach Zone, a bar-terrace and even a Family Zone where kids get to enjoy all the excitement. Free practice sessions and various races are peppered throughout the day, ending at 9:00 p.m. but, for many at this hour, the fun will be just beginning.
For years, the Ritz-Carlton Montréal's Friday night Grand Prix party has been one of the most coveted in town. From champagne parties in the Palm Court to dancing in the Oval ballroom and chilling in the back garden, this is the party where you’re likely to run into celebrities and sports stars rubbing elbows with the masses.
Off to the races - Saturday
On Saturday the sounds of races running on the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve become part of the city’s soundtrack. Thousands of people will gather at the track for the qualifying sessions, access to the track and pit as well as various races from Ferrari and Porsche.
The scent of internationally inspired foods waft along Saint-Laurent Boulevard, one of our city’s most storied streets. Also known as the Main, the street is closed to traffic from Sherbrooke Street to Mont-Royal Avenue and the businesses, bars, shops and cafes all take up residence on the street for three days of unparalleled fun.
Restaurant Le Richmond Red Carpet Party
While the Restaurant Le Richmond features parties every night during the Grand Prix, it’s the Red-Carpet party on Saturday night that gets the city talking. Having quickly become one of the most high-profile parties of the Grand Prix, le Richmond holds nothing back as it transforms the restaurant into a dazzling red-carpet extravaganza.
Race Day - Sunday
Sunday, June 9 is the day we’ve all been waiting for. At the tracks, the podium presentations, Ferrari and Porsche races continue from 7:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. when the Grand Prix race gets under way.
Although it’s the last day of festivities in the city, there’s no sign of slowing down.
The biggest parties during Grand Prix weekend
During Grand Prix, La Voûte, one of Old Montréal’s wildest nightclubs, kicks off its festivities on Thursday with internationally renowned DJ Claptone. The party continues Friday with DJ Dragon-i from Hong Kong and DJ Remy Kersten. Rolling into the weekend, Monaco based DJ Carmine Sorrentino will feature on Saturday and, on Sunday, drivers, celebrities and more will gather for The Code 20, La Voûte’s highly anticipated Grand Prix closing party.
The W Montréal is once again ready to rev its engines for the Grand Prix. Starting on Thursday, Bartizen will have DJs spinning sets during its famous happy hour and, on Friday, DJ Nico de Andrea and more will have us out of our seats and on our feet dancing. On Saturday during Pitstop, an invitation-only afternoon of pre-party pampering, DJ Fafa Khan, the new face of Saint-Laurent, will perform a set alongside musical duo HeartStreets.
The PY1 pyramid in Old Montréal is set to offer visitors something truly unique during the Grand Prix. Not only will Guy Laliberté be spinning two DJ sets during the festivities, but a slew of local artists, including The Neighbors, Head Nodders, Bedouin and Alain Vinet, add to the stunning visual worlds created exclusively for PY1. Come dressed to escape into an experience that will leave you breathless.
Handy tricks and tips
Leave the driving to the professionals. Getting around the city is easier when you take public transportation or when you walk (be sure to wear comfortable shoes). Getting to and from the races is a breeze with the metro while darting from one event to the next on a BIXI city bike is a great way to get in a little exercise.
Be sure to bring snacks and water if you’re going to be watching the races from the track. A little sunscreen will also go a long way. If you’re going to be in the general admission area, a folding chair might be a good idea.
While the races are a lot of fun, the cars can be very loud. Bringing earplugs, especially for the kids, helps reduce the noise, ensuring a comfortable day or two at the races.
Take in the sites
While the races are plenty of fun all on their own, Montréal offers things to do for every taste. take in an exhibit at one of our many museums (like the amazing Thierry Mugler exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts) or take the metro out to the Olympic Park and the Montréal Botanical Garden.
Montréal’s famous neighbourhoods, such as Mile End, Old Montréal and the Plateau-Mont-Royal, are a great place to find eclectic food and great shopping. Take a break and soak up a little sun and java at a café in Mile End or grab a cocktail on at rooftop bar in Old Montréal and watch the world go by.
The Formula 1 Grand Prix du Canada unofficially kicks off Montréal’s busy summer season with an immensely fun weekend and has been doing so since 1978, when Québec driver Gilles Villeneuve won the very first Grand Prix.
Ready, set and off to the races we go!
Blair Dohey, writer
Blair Dohey is a Canadian writer and blogger who relentlessly tracks down the coolest things to do and see in Montréal and loves discovering amazing restaurants and bars in the city. When he’s not writing about his travels through Montréal, you’ll probably find him sitting at a bar, chatting with friends and laughing at his own jokes.