Montréal’s summer festival season 2021 is here!

Mark Hamilton

Likes romantic walks on Mount Royal, long-distance cycling, beard oil products and antique travel guides. Has a bad habit of falling in love with men in vintage photographs who are certainly long dead. If he could be anything, he’d live his life as a professional flâneur. Until then, he spends his time writing, making music, and wandering.

As Covid-19 restrictions are gradually lifted, Montréal’s calendar is returning to vibrant life with the announcement of this year’s summer festival roster. Running the gamut of dance and music, comedy and performance, and film and fun, Montréal’s beloved festivals are an integral part of lie in the city. Taking over public spaces, parks and performance venues, the full range of what’s on offer guarantee something to sate everyone’s creative hungers. With public health considerations at the forefront of organizers’ minds, 2021’s festivals are back with a new slate of unmissable programming with an eye firmly on celebration and safety. Grab a pen and your day timer – our guide to Montréal’s 2021 summertime festivals is sure to fill your schedule to the brim.

Summer kicks off in June

Festival TransAmériques (May 26 to June 12, 2021)

An annual must-see for experimental dance and performance art lovers, the Festival TransAmériques brings together some of the world’s most exciting talent for a full slate of premieres and performances. The 2021 program includes the new Private Parts ou L’Origine du monde by Montréal’s Gerard X Reyes and appearances from Polaris Prize-winning rapper BACKXWASH and the renowned Jordan Tannahill.

Suoni Per Il Popolo (May 28 to June 22, 2021)

Marking their 20th anniversary with appearances from left field visionaries like Damo Suzuki, Jeff Parker and Vashti Bunyan, Suoni Per Il Popolo guarantees mind expanding experiences and community-driven events challenging the boundaries of musical expression.

St-Ambroise Montréal Fringe Festival (June 1 to 20, 2021)

Street performers, musicians and surprise theatrics take over the Plateau-Mont-Royal quartier for three weeks’ worth of fun now entering its third decade. Check out the programme  – during Fringe, everywhere’s a stage.

Yatai MTL – La semaine Japon (June 7 to 13, 2021)

With involvement from over 30 of Montréal’s Japanese businesses, artisans and restaurants, Yatai MTL’s inaugural La semaine du Japon brings a week-long immersion in the tastes and creations of the land of the rising sun. You won’t want to miss the special menus and pop up markets around the city – keep tabs on their Instagram and Facebook pages for up to date listings and locations.

Festival des Musiciens du monde (June 10 to 13, 2021)

The Centre des Musiciens du Monde’s annual festival of world music programming offers four evenings of two-part performances featuring songs and rare instruments from all over the globe. There’s also online workshops and lessons available through the centre to keep the music flowing all summer long.

July’s festival season in full effect

Mtl en Arts (June 30 to July 11, 2021)

In what’s been termed the largest open-air arts gallery in Eastern Canada, the annual Mtl en Arts Festival runs along the pedestrianized Ste-Catherine Street in Montréal’s LGBTQ+ Village. Featuring the work of hundreds of artists – including one of a kind masterpieces available for purchase – Mtl en Arts is also extending its programming with a virtual exhibition to boot. (The in-person event runs until July 4, while the online gallery is available until July 11, 2021. See the Mtl en Arts website for further information).

Festival International Nuits d’Afrique (July 6 to 18, 2021)

Celebrating its 35th year, the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique is a crown jewel of Montréal’s festival season. Jam packed with over 100 performances, activities and workshops, Nuits d’Afrique brings the wonders of Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America into the spotlight.

TOHU – MONTRÉAL COMPLÈTEMENT CiRQUE (July 8 to 18, 2021)

Bringing the circus out of the big top and setting it loose across the city, MONTRÉAL COMPLÈTEMENT CiRQUE lets fans experience some of the world’s top circus performers up close and personal. Check the programming guide for an up to date list of indoor and outdoor events, including performances in the Cirque du Soleil gardens, eye-popping acrobatic competitions and freebies throughout the city. Look up! It’s a man! It’s a bird! No, it’s MONTRÉAL COMPLÈTEMENT CiRQUE!

Festival Eurêka! (July 14 to 18, 2021)

Montréal’s family science festival is back, offering online programming and in-person activities for kids and adults alike. The fest’s Virtual Eurêka game platform for 8- to 12-year-old lets participants build a boat and sail through a series of scientific discoveries. Check the festival website for further fall in-person events!

Just For Laughs(July 26 to 31, 2021)

No joke, Montréal’s Just For Laughs is the world’s premiere comedy festival filling the city’s clubs, theatres and streets with laughter. This year’s streaming edition will feature live performances from some of JFL’s fan favourites and new discoveries streaming from Montréal, NYC and Los Angeles as the festival recharges for full in-person reboot in 2022. For the first time ever, the JFL Awards Show will also stream live. And proving that JFL’s dedication to spreading laughter is no joke, all digital events are entirely free!

The heights of August

Festival Fantasia (August 5 to 25, 2021)

Marking a quarter century of cinematic thrills and chills, the Fantasia International Film Festival returns with its annual celebration of genre film. Horror, sci-fi, documentary and even the just plain weird take to the big screen across three weeks of screenings and Q&As for one of Canada’s most loved film festivals.

Montréal’s Italian Week Festival (August 6 to 21, 2021)

Montréal’s Italian community comes together over two weeks’ worth of food, folklore and fun. While centred largely in the Little Italy district, Italian Week events spread throughout the city, guaranteeing a bellissimo time for everyone.

Montréal Pride (August 9 to 15, 2021)

Fly that rainbow flag high this August for Montréal Pride, returning for 2021 with a hybrid format of virtual and in-person activities. Featuring a kick-off performance by Polaris Prize-winning Two-Spirit musician Jeremy Dutcher, the return of the annual Pride March, the Literary Pride series of readings and workshops and Community Day in the heart of Montréal’s Gay Village. Explore Montréal’s vibrant gay village during Community Day Long one of the year’s biggest, most joyful parties, Pride 2021 is sure to be another unforgettable celebration of the LGBTQ+ community that’s open and welcoming to all.

MURAL Festival (August 12 to 22, 2021)

A rare festival that literally transforms the city as it happens, the annual MURAL Festival brings internationally renowned graffiti artists to create large-scale urban artworks on Montréal’s bustling Saint-Leonard Boulevard. Coupled with block parties, guided tours of past works and your chance to watch the artists at work, it’s no exaggeration to give MURAL credit for changing the face of the city.

Montréal Fashion & Design Festival (August 17 to 22, 2021)

Home to some of North America’s most trendsetting fashionistas and designers, the Montréal Fashion & Design Festival turns the Quartier des Spectacles into a giant runway with fashion shows, pop up shops and daily fashion-themed events. It’s the perfect opportunity to show off your best outfit while seeking out your next look. In celebration of the festival’s 20th anniversary, the festival is working in collaboration with Osheaga to bring together the worlds of music and fashion in a series of unmissable events.

MUTEK (August 24 to September 5, 2021)

Long a world-leading exposition of electronic music and digital art, MUTEK’s 22nd edition promises an insider glimpse into the latest offerings from the most cutting edge avant garde creatives out there. Coupled with virtual components, MUTEK 2021 is a multi-platform immersive experience you won’t want to miss.

Festival Go Vélo (August 27 to 29, 2021)

The climax to a summer’s worth of bike-fuelled events, the Festival Go Vélo’s penultimate weekend features guided bike tours of Montréal including the Night Ride on August 27 and a car-free pedal through the heart of the city on August 29. Registration is open now!

Mark Hamilton

Likes romantic walks on Mount Royal, long-distance cycling, beard oil products and antique travel guides. Has a bad habit of falling in love with men in vintage photographs who are certainly long dead. If he could be anything, he’d live his life as a professional flâneur. Until then, he spends his time writing, making music, and wandering.

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