Downtown Montréal is the place to be this summer!

Mark Hamilton

Mark Hamilton is the community director for QueerMTL, an internationally-touring musician with his projects Woodpigeon and Frontperson  and a graduate studies student of history researching LGBTQ+ activism in the city. He’s lived in Montréal since 2015, during which time he’s most often spotted atop a BIXI bike usally running a few minutes late.

This article was updated on June 2, 2023.

Theres something undeniably special about a Montréal summer—from the picnics and relaxing hangs in the citycalming parks to the beloved bustling terrasses, the neighbourhood fresh markets to the islandunforgettable biking routes all over the island—and summer 2023 is another guaranteed stunner set for the record books. If youre looking for the perfect starting point for a season of adventure and surprise, look no further than Downtown Montréal, stuffed to the brim with performances, pedestrianized streets, arts installations and innovative urban flourishes guaranteeing something fresh and fun around every corner.

The beating heart of the island

Back for another vibrant season, Les moments du cœur de l’île transforms downtown and the Quartier des Spectacles boroughs into eye-popping hot spots of fun and frolic for all ages. Easily accessible via bustling pedestrianized streets, bike paths (try getting there and back with a BIXI!) and a multitude of easy to navigate métro stops (not to mention free parking on weekends), the citycentre-ville glow-up across eight categories promises #mtlmoments galore throughout the entire district all summer long.

 

1. Oases of calm in the city centre

From the Gay Village and the Jardins Gamelin at downtowns eastern edge, the midtown Esplanade Tranquille right at the heart of things, and the Esplanade Place Ville Marie in the west, eight specially constructed relaxation installations plus over 300 seasonal terrasses promise both a well-deserved break and the perfect #selfie background to spark some true #FOMO amongst the folks back home. This year also marks the full re-opening of the stately Phillips Square, spruced up with new comfy seating and a full season of lunchtime concerts.

 

2. Get sporty in the Old Port

From June 24-25, 2023, the Groupe Copley World Triathon sees athletes from all over the world competing in an urban test of wills and skills. And as an added bonus, the 2023 edition also includes the World Triathlon Sprint and Relay Championships. (And while the athletes are breaking a sweat, you can catch some of the action from the vantage point of the La Grande Roue de Montréal, or soak up the multitude of special events and features the Old Port has in store for this summer).

 

3. Art as far as the eye can see

Montréal is a mural city, and several stunners make for picture-perfect punctuation on any stroll through the downtown quartiers. This year, Tourisme Montréal is also proud to present three new major artworks to downtown’s walls, plus two new “discovery” murals—keep your eyes upwards for the chance to see world-class mural artists at work high in the sky. And after dark, you might notice some of those multi-storey artworks in full motion as cutting-edge video projections take over iconic downtown buildings like the Grande Bibliothèque—Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec and the UQÀM campus’ Pavillon President-Kennedy.

 

4. Futuristic public places and artworks

Speaking of after-dark, the Les moments du cœur de l’île 2023 plan has paid particular attention to additional illumination throughout the downtown core, not only enlivening city life but further enhancing the feeling of safety once the sun has set. Furthermore ranging from modern meeting installations like the Station d’été workstations open for free use with reservations, the McCord Stewart Museum’s breezy Urban Forest installation, the newly mounted Les fleurs sont partout : Le jardin du centre-ville (sure to join The Ring at the Esplanade Place Ville Marie as one of Montréal’s newest urban icons) or the trend-setting digital history lessons accessible by mobile of Ste-Catherine Circuit—Montréal en Histoires, the cutting edge is fully on display.

 

5. Performance, performance, performance!

When it comes to public performances this summer, the numbers dont lie. With over 300 appearances by more than 530 multidisciplinary artists, central Montréal is an open-air theatre all summer long. And circus lovers won’t want to pass by either Le Jardin du Monastère, presenting open-air circus performances all summer long including the Cabaret de la Fierté from August 3 to 19, shining the spotlight on performers from LGBTQ+ community, or the specially constructed Géant on the Esplanade Place Ville Marie upon which some of the city’s top circus troupes will perform feats of derring-do free for all.

 

6. A city of culture

Ranging from Cirque du Soleils mind-boggling new experiential extravaganza ECHO in the Old Port’s Big Top, special programming from the MUTEK festival, classical performances by the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, to the open-air stages of Esplanade Tranquille, Phillips Square, Jardins Gamelin (introducing its brand new layout) and the Zone Musique Place dArmes, this summer puts the spectacle in the Quartier des Spectacles on a grand scale.

 

7. A day at the museum

The Montréal-centric McCord Stewart Museum presents a jam-packed summer program including Indigenous Voices of Today: Knowledge, Trauma, Resilience, Joannie Lafrenière’s Hochelaga—Evolving Montréal and Karen Tam’s Swallowing Mountains, while natural history lovers won’t want to miss the Redpath Museum on the McGill University campus.

 

8. Did someone say festivals?

Every summer in Montréal is punctuated by its unbeatable roster of festivals, encompassing music, film, food, comedy and more. This year is no different, with the downtown core playing host to the likes of MONTRÉAL COMPLÈTEMENT CiRQUEFrancos de Montréal, the Festival du nouveau cinéma at the Esplanade TranquilleAfroMonde FestivalThe Great Montréal PoutineFest and more.

 

Your summer hub

Created in collaboration between Tourisme Montréal, Montréal centre-ville, Ville de Montréal, the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal and the Quartier des Spectacles Partnership, Les moments du cœur de l’île marks Downtown as the place to be in summer 2023.

For full details, complete listings and ticket links check out their interactive website.

Mark Hamilton

Mark Hamilton is the community director for QueerMTL, an internationally-touring musician with his projects Woodpigeon and Frontperson  and a graduate studies student of history researching LGBTQ+ activism in the city. He’s lived in Montréal since 2015, during which time he’s most often spotted atop a BIXI bike usally running a few minutes late.

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