© Navy Blue, Oona Doherty - Sinje Hasheider
It comes as no surprise that Montreal’s famed summer festival season starts as early as May! During Asian Heritage Month, the Festival Accès Asie celebrates with live music, dance, art exhibitions, film screenings, culinary workshops and more from May 4 to 28. From flamenco to oud melodies to West African rhythms, the Festival des Musiciens du monde presents global music from May 19 to 21. A celebration of the richness of Japanese culture in the city, LA SEMAINE JAPON returns with new activities and events from May 8 to14 (followed in June by its Japanese street food counterpart YATAI MTL.)
The Metro Metro urban music festival brings music to the Esplanade of the Olympic Park from May 19 to 21, featuring headliners Lil Wayne, Jack Harlow and Lil Baby. Also on the Esplanade, dance to the beat of the Fuego Fuego Latin music festival on May 27 and 28, with Wisin & Yandel, Feid and more artists. NON STOP showcases artists from the local and international electronic music underground in a continuous 36-hour party on the outdoor stage at the Grand Quay of the Port of Montreal from May 19 to 21, plus a free daytime stage on May 20 at Place des commencements. Discover local musicians performing mini-concerts during PorchfestNDG in the neighbourhood of NDG from May 20 to 21.
Expect the unexpected at Festival TransAmériques, presenting innovative world-class theatre, dance and performance art on the city’s main stages and outdoors from May 24 to June 8. At the same time, see even more live performances at the OFFTA festival! Take a deep dive into history during the Festival d'Histoire de Montréal, held at 14 different Montreal museums from May 12 to 14 – and there’s even more history and art to experience throughout Montréal Museums Month. Montréal’s Portuguese community celebrates its food and culture during Montreal International Portugal Festival – join in the fun from May 26 to 28.
© Festival Vélocité
Montréal is a biking city and Go Bike Montréal Festival celebrates that fact from May 28 to June 4, when cyclists of all ages bike together for the Tour de Nuit, a night tour of the city, and Tour de l'Île, a longer group ride during the day. Earlier in the month, Festival Vélocité features bike demonstrations, short film screenings and more things biking from May 4 to 7.And for kids of all ages who love science, Festival Eurêka! presents hands-on activities and demos from May 26 to 28 in Parc Jean-Drapeau. And the Montréal Comic Arts Festival brings Québec artists and their art to Saint Denis Street between Gilford and Roy, with free activities for all ages, from May 26 to 28.
Summer starts early at Piknic Électronik, where the world’s biggest electronic music producers and the greatest local talents get crowds dancing at Parc Jean-Drapeau every weekend beginning May 21 and 22 with Louie Vega, Deborah De Luca and more artists. A conference that seems like a festival, C2MTL welcomes all-star speakers and thousands of attendees from May 24 to 26. And let the St-Ambroise Montréal Fringe Festival surprise you with new theatre, dance and comedy shows – plus a free outdoor stage in the Plateau-Mont-Royal neighbourhood – from May 29 to June 18, 2023).
© Eva Blue
May city sights
Walk the cobblestone streets of Old Montréal to the Saint-Lawrence River and visit the peacefully illuminated square outside Notre-Dame Basilica (one of Montréal’s most famous icons) – inside, see gorgeous multimedia show AURA. A springtime must in Montréal, see Cirque du Soleil under the big top in the Old Port of Montréal: Cirque’s new show ECHO, a tale of evolution as seen through the eyes of a female protagonist named Future, makes its world premiere in Montréal and runs throughout spring and summer!
In the Old Port of Montréal, see incredible city and river views from the La Grande Roue de Montréal Observation Wheel and boost your adrenaline while seeing an incredible view on the MTL Zipline. Kids will love adventure ropes park Voiles en Voiles, based around two sailing ships. Explore the Saint Lawrence River around the Old Port by boat with Navark, Croisières AML, Bateau-Mouche, Petit Navire, and for the adventurous, Rafting Montréal, jet-ski tours with Wet Set MTL or go jet boating on the Lachine Rapids!
Also in the Old Port, visit the Montréal Science Centre, currently featuring major exhibition Hockey: Faster Than Ever, with 30 interactive stations made for both hockey fans and science fans – also see incredible Dinosaurs of Antarctica 3D at the IMAX®TELUS Theatre. At night, the projections of Cité Mémoire illuminate history on Old Montréal building facades, while downtown The Ring installation glows above Esplanade Place Ville Marie.
Outdoors in Place des Festivals downtown, discover a new beat and play a tune on musical art creation Ville Orchestre, installed along the Promenade des Artistes. Play giant games of chess and scrabble on Sainte-Catherine Street. See science-focused animated video projection Matière à réflexion on the immense façade of the President-Kennedy pavilion at UQAM. And take a break for live music and theatrical performances (and even a snack and a drink too) at Esplanade Tranquille at the corner of Clark and Sainte-Catherine Street and at Jardins Gamelins near Berri-UQAM metro, reopening at the end of the month.
© MTL Detours
Discover the city with expert guides on Montréal tours, set your own agenda with private walking tours, see the city like a local with MTL Detours, bicycle around the city on a bike tour or a BIXI shared bike, and take a free walking tour of the Quartier des spectacles too! MURAL Festival isn’t until June (see new murals as they’re being painted!), but spring colours blossom on murals from this year and years past on Saint-Laurent Boulevard and throughout the Plateau, downtown and Old Montréal – hear more about the artists on a street art tour with Spade & Palacio.
For ultimate relaxation any time of the day, visit Bota Bota, spa sur l’eau on the Saint-Lawrence River in the Old Port and other world-class spas like Scandinave Spa Vieux-Montréal, Avie Spa & Coiffure, Rainspa and Strøm Nordic Spa. Or if watching sports is more your speed, don’t miss the World Aquatics Diving World Cup at the Olympic Park Sports Centre from May 5 to 7, and catch Major League Soccer team CF Montréal on the pitch at Saputo Stadium on May 6, 13 and 27. If you can’t be at the games, watch soccer, hockey playoffs and other sports at Montréal’s sports bars.
© Eva Blue
Nature in the city
Among the many free things to do this spring, visit Montréal's parks, green spaces and cultivated gardens to experience an abundance of nature in the city, including spring flowers this month. See incredible city views of the city from Mount Royal Park: take a walk through the park and up the stairs to the lookout or bus or drive up to Beaver Lake or go on a guided discovery walk on the mountain, including a guided therapeutic walk that starts at the Musée des Hospitalières on May 11 and May 25.
Another picturesque sight, Parc La Fontaine in the Plateau neighbourhood is perfect for taking a stroll after shopping, a bike ride, or after a great meal on Mont-Royal Avenue, St. Denis Street or Rachel Street. Cross the river to Parc Jean-Drapeau for a riverside walk and an eastern view of Old Montréal – while there visit the Space for Life Biosphère too for environment-focused exhibitions, the interactive Ecolab and more. The ice skating season may be over, but you can always try ice skating indoors at Atrium Le 1000 downtown! And nature meets history at the Port of Montréal’s Grand Quay, where you’ll find the cruise ship dock, information on marine history, and green spaces for watching the ships go by.
At the Space for Life museums: stroll the Montréal Botanical Garden grounds and sprawling tropical greenhouse; experience several wild ecosystems at the Biodôme, where you’ll see penguins, otters and more; explore the mysteries of the universe in immersive 360° films and exhibitions (like films Worlds of Ice and Quest for New Skies) at the Planetarium Rio Tinto Alcan; and learn about the thousands of butterflies, moths and other insects at the Insectarium. Go to the West Island’s Ecomuseum Zoo to glimpse local wildlife in their natural outdoor habitats. Visit dozens of Montréal attractions, museums and more at a discount with the MTL Passeport MTL!
© Olivier Bourget
Springtime food and drink
Montreal’s many food festivals happen throughout the year. This month, don’t miss Pizza Week from May 1 to 14, when many of the city’s pizza joints and other restaurants create signature pizzas – remember to vote for the one you like best! Festival Mondial de la bière (Montreal Beer Fest) offers beer tastings, food pairings, workshops and demonstrations by local microbrews and international favourites. The Québec tradition of sugar shack season extends into the beginning of May. For a real Québécois experience, visit some of the best sugar shacks in and around Montréal. And if you’re going to see Cirque du Soleil, book a table at these Old Montréal restaurants near the big top.
May also marks the start of terrasse season! Find out what’s happening on the city’s patios in this refresh on Montréal’s outdoor patios. Also check out Montréal’s newest restaurants and “buvettes” and don’t miss a classic Montréal brunch, whether for Mother’s Day weekend or any weekend! Also try some of Montréalers’ favourite lunch restaurants, from Old Montréal and downtown to Villeray or the South-West, and favourite French restaurants.
Dig into long-time Quebec classics like smoked meat, poutine and Montréal bagels – and discover more classics with these retro places to stay, eat and drink. And check all the boxes on your “must-eat list” with these musts for foodies in Montréal. Warm yourself with the best hot food for cold days, from Indian dishes to Japanese ramen and Vietnamese pho. Any time of day, warm up with the best hot chocolate in Montréal and add more sweetness to your life with treats from Montréal’s best chocolate shops.
For a romantic dining option or something fun to do with friends, have dinner or drinks on Restaurant Bivouac’s terrace, where you’ll also be treated to a magnificent view of downtown Montréal. It’s also an excellent time to have dinner and see a show at the Casino de Montréal: live music and cabaret shows entertain while incredible seafood and more is on the grill at Le Montréal, there’s a gourmet buffet at Pavillon 67, and quick delicious eats at L’Instant. Explore superb restaurants and cafés along Beaubien Street in the Rosemont-La-Petit-Patrie neighbourhood (also where you’ll find Little Italy and some of Montréal’s best Italian restaurants). And enjoy dinner and a show at restaurant-cabaret Le Balcon right downtown.
© Alison Slattery
Shopping in Montréal
Go shopping for springtime staples and dinner-party glam in Old Montréal’s boutiques, downtown along Sainte-Catherine Street and in the underground city malls, or head to the Plateau and Mile End for unique finds. Keep your eye out for items made by Montréal designers, relaxing self-care staples and plenty of home decor.
Find unique and locally made decor, clothing, jewelry, art and more at the Puces POP fair from May 19 to 21 at Eglise Saint Denis, just across from Laurier metro. Add sparkle to your life at the coolest Montréal jewelry stores. Shop local and eco-friendly at the most fabulous vintage boutiques in the city. Pick out the perfect new books for friends and family from Montréal’s bookstores. And dive into a wide world of music at Montréal's excellent vinyl stores.
© Space Explorers: L'INFINI
May exhibitions and experiences
Montréal’s cultural calendar is as packed as ever this month, and museums and art galleries are no exception. At the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts, see a new exhibition of works by Indian artist Nalini Malani in Crossing Boundaries, exhibition Parall(elles): A History of Women in Design, award-winning master carver creations in Wolves: The Art of Dempsey Bob, and more.
The Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal presents Lili Reynaud-Dewar exhibition I Want All of the Above to Be the Sun at the intersection of sculpture, performance and video, opening May 18. Also see a new mural on the museum’s wall at Place Ville Marie: Walter Scott: Open Ended / Painted Shut. At home, explore immersive online exhibition Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything, a recreation of the MAC’s monumental show.
© Victorine Sentilhes
An immersive art experience created by Moment Factory, Miroir Miroir activates the imagination with interactive activities for all-ages, at Place Bonaventure. A massive immersive art experience in surround sound and laser light, Oasis Immersion takes over the ground floor of Palais des congrès with virtual reality experience transformé! And out in the city, take a Portrait Sonore sound walk downtown and on the Mountain to discover Montréal art and culture. And hunt for more public art everywhere in the city.
Also see new exhibitions at Bradley Ertaskiran (this month featuring Rick Leong’s Long Time No See and Alexa Hawksworth’s Stall) in the neighbourhood of St. Henri, Darling Foundry in Old Montréal, Hugues Charbonneau, Galerie B-312, SBC Gallery (see group exhibition Truths That Remain), McBride Contemporain and Ellephant downtown, as well as Pierre-François Ouellette art contemporain (in May showing the photography of Observation - Phyllis Lambert), Oboro, MAI in the Plateau, Centre Clark and Dazibao in Mile End, Galerie d'Outremont in Outremont, artwork by Umberto Riva at the Istituto Italiano di Cultura near McGill University, and many, many other amazing art galleries in every neighbourhood – find out more in our Montréal guide to gallery hopping and these affordable places to buy contemporary art.
© Caroline Thibault -Pointe-à-Callière
History past and present
Among the Montréal museum exhibitions this season, go to Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Archaeology and History Complex in Old Montréal to learn about not only the city’s history but cultures from around the world: explore 3000 years of history in major museum exhibition Egypt. Three Millennia on the Nilesee; follow the story of Montréal through historic objects in Favourites! Our Collections on Display; see environmentally themed exhibition Frédéric Back: A Passion for the Planet; and kids of all ages can step into history in interactive display Come Aboard! Pirates or Privateers?
The McCord Stewart Museum bridges past and present in its exhibitions: see Indigenous Voices of Today: Knowledge, Trauma, Resilience, Artist-in-Residence Karen Tam’s Swallowing Mountains, a tribute to the women of Montreal’s Chinatown, photographer and film director Joannie Lafrenière’s Hochelaga-Maisonneuve – Evolving Montréal, and La Press: 10 Years of Photos That Made the News. At the Canadian Centre for Architecture, see film and photography exhibition كیف لا نغرق في السراب / To Remain in the No Longer about a failed international fairground in the city of Tripoli, Lebanon, as well as Visibly Iroquoian, an installation by interdisciplinary performing artist Ange Loft.
Travel back in time as you tour the rooms of Château Ramezay and historical site Chateau Dufresne near the Olympic Stadium. Not far from the city, climb aboard railway cars, learn about the history of the railroad and explore miniature railways at the Exporail the Canadian Railway Museum. Take a historic walking tour of Jewish Montréal, with the Museum of Jewish Montréal, and learn more about Montréal’s Jewish culture, food and more. Explore the Afromuseum, representing the contributions of Afro-Canadians to the cultural landscape of Canada. Discover the vivid history and present of Québec ceramics at the Musée des métiers d'arts du Québec. And for another slice of Québec history, visit Montréal’s stunning churches and sacred sites.
Make the most of your visit and save big on museums and other attractions with the Passeport MTL: discover five Montréal attractions for one low price, and get discounts at many more! And don’t miss these top 10 attractions to see with the Passport MTL. Or discover even more in the city and just outside it in the Montérégie region with the MTL + Montérégie Passport.
© Sasha Onyshchenko
On stage in May
Montréal’s cultural calendar is packed this season, with entertainment for everyone on the city’s many stages, at Festival TransAmériques and elsewhere. Cirque du Soleil is always an incredible experience in spring, Cirque’s brand new show ECHO thrills under the big top in the Old Port of Montréal. The Opéra de Montréal presents an international cast in Giacomo Puccini’s 1904 masterpiece Madama Butterfly, from May 6 to 16 at Place des Arts.
In theatre, Centaur Theatre Company presents master puppeteer and Canadian national treasure Ronnie Burkett and his Daisy Theatre in Little Willy, based on Romeo and Juliet, from May 2 to 14, and Persephone Productions presents Annie Baker’s Pulitzer-winning play The Flick at the Centaur from May 31 to June 11. The Segal Centre for the Performing Arts presents Joshua Harmon’s Prayer for the French Republic, about a Jewish couple in 1944 Paris who face the aftermath of the Holocaust, running to May 14. Also at the Segal, see multi-award-winning production Josephine, a biographical musical of Josephine Baker, from May 28 to June 18. A musical review of rock classics of the 70s and 80s, Rock Story revs up the crowd at Espace St-Denis on May 12 and 13. And Queen: It’s a Kinda Magic immerses fans in the extravagance of Queen and Freddie Mercury at Place des Arts on May 9.
In dance, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens presents Ultraviolet, an evening of contemporary dance featuring works by four choreographers: Beguile by Lesley Telford, Crater by Roddy Doble, Delightful Disruption by Kristen Cere and Substrate by Cass Mortimer Eipper, from April 27 to May 6. Les Grands Ballets also presents fantastical blockbuster production Cinderella from May 31 to June 4, choreographed by Jayne Smeulders.
Contemporary dance is on the program at several venues in the city. See Switch (meditations on crying) + Poetics to Activate the Technology of the Body + Nurse Tree by Be Heintzman Hope from May 2 to 6 at MAI (Montréal, arts interculturels). Dancers and spectators come together for Tap Water Jam: Battle Tandem Carré, a performance and a Hip Hop and House dance battle on May 18 at the PHI Centre. At La Chapelle, see dance creation Au Jardin des Potiniers, a magical and playful interactive performance (children 6 and up are welcome!) in which stories unfold among performers, audience and props, from May 12 to 14. Discover new contemporary dance and interdisciplinary performances presented by Agora de la danse (including works by Mélanie Demers and Caroline Laurin-Beaucage), Tangente (see group show Les danses de mai, opus 2023), and Danse Cité.
Join British primatologist, anthropologist and author Dr. Jane Goodall in person for an unforgettable evening of stories and discussion at Théâtre Maisonneuve on May 24. In literature, Montréal author Daniel Allen Cox discusses his new book I Felt the End Before It Came: Memoirs of a Queer Ex-Jehovah’s Witness at La Petite Librairie Drawn & Quarterly on May 16. Montréal author Michelle Syba launches her book End Times at Librairie De Stiil Bookstore on May 4.
Can’t-miss drag shows this month include superstar Sasha Velour at MTELUS on May 4, legendary Michel Dorion at Rendez-Vous de la Drag on May 27 to 28, RuPaul’s Drag Race alumn Sasha Colby at Cabaret Mado on May 24. The NDG COMEDY FEST entertains in venues in Montréal’s west end from May 19 to 21, featuring Joey Elias, Bowser & Blue, Derek Seguin and other local comedians.
On screen in May
A film festival that honours ethnographic cinema in Canada – and is always free of charge – the Festival international du film ethnographique du Québec (FIFEQ) runs from May 4 to 11 at URSA, the Rialto Theatre rooftop and other venues. Now celebrating its 12th year, the South Asian Film Festival of Montréal (SAFFM) is committed to showcasing new artistic work that fosters discussion and delves into universal issues, a platform for filmmakers worldwide whose films have a focus on South Asia and the South Asian diaspora.
In the Society for Art and Technology’s 360° Satosphere dome, immerse yourself in Parallèles, a program of immersive short films, from microscopic views to cosmic landscapes that invite you to discover the limitless possibilities of the mind and the universe. See independent features, family films, documentaries and more at Cinéma Moderne in person and online. See the art world in a whole new light thanks to the International Festival of Films on Art year-round ART FILM program.
Experience a cinematic show celebrating the 50th anniversary of Pink Floyd’s iconic 1973 album The Dark Side of the Moon at the Planétarium de Montréal. The Montréal Science Centre’s IMAX cinema puts nature on the giant screen in all its glory – this month see incredible Dinosaurs of Antarctica 3D. Discover new art house films and more from Montréal indie cinemas' programming at Cinéma du Parc, Cinéma du Musée at the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts, and Cinémathèque québécoise in the Quartier des spectacles. And explore the city through cinema in these Hollywood movies made in Montréal.
Starting May 26th, the Korean Film Festival Canada returns for its 10th edition. Stay tuned for their program at the Cinéma du Parc, the McCord Stewart Museum and the Black Box Theatre in Dazibao (Mile End).
© Antoine Saito
The Orchestre symphonique de Montréal (OSM) presents concert Prokofiev’s Concerto no. 2 with Finnish conductor John Storgårds and pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin from May 10 to 13 at Maison symphonique. The OSM performs Bach and Glass on the Grand Orgue Pierre-Béique on May 28. And the orchestra closes its 89th season with Gustav Mahler’s Third Symphony with OSM conductor Rafael Payare, American mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung, the OSM Chorus and a children’s choir from May 31 to June 3 at Maison symphonique.
The Orchestre Métropolitain presents Bigger Than Nature conducted by Nicholas Carter, on May 19 at Maison symphonique. Renowned Montréal tenor Marc Hervieux and the Orchestre Classique de Montréal take us to Italy in concert Festa Italiana with Marc Hervieux on May 9 at Pierre-Mercure Hall. Les Violons du Roy presents Handel, choeurs et feux d'artifices royaux on May 12 at Maison symphonique. Hear Star Wars: Return of the Jedi performed live in concert by the FILMharmonique Orchestra as the 1983 film plays on the big screen at Salle Wilfred-Pelletier on May 19 and 20. For even more classical music, go to the relaxed and acoustically refined Bourgie Hall at the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts to hear chamber music, choirs, quartets, jazz performances and more.
Move live music
Any time of year, there’s plenty of live music in Montréal. Among the can’t-miss concerts this season, catch English singer-songwriter Charlie Winston on May 1 at Corona Theatre, chart-topping rap soul superstar Lizzo on May 4 at Bell Centre, Montréal funk king Fredy V and The Foundation on May 4 at Petit Campus, SUBA Trio featuring incredible Cuban pianist Omar Sosa and Senegalese kora maestro and singer Seckou Keita on May 6 and 7 at Le National, or go for something completely different as Megadeth brings their Crush the World Tour to Place Bell on May 11 with Bullet for My Valentine and ONI. Retro soul legend Lee Fields performs on May 13 at Corona Theatre, British soul man Seal comes to Théâtre St. Denis on May 14, Canadian pop favourite Feist is at MTELUS on May 19, while pop and trumpet icon Herb Alpert and Lani Hall perform at Théâtre Maisonneuve on May 18. Hear Belgian-Egyptian singer Tamino on May 19 and American-Australian roots rocker John Butler on May 24 at Corona Theatre. The Wailers bring their reggae vibe to Le Studio TD on May 21. Pop diva Hayley Kiyoko performs on May 28 at Corona Theatre, English singer-songwriter and former One Direction boy-band member Louis Tomlinson comes to Place Bell on May 29 and American indie rock band Young The Giant play the same venue on May 30.
Gayance & The Jazz Cats make a new album launch into a multi-faceted party on May 20 at the PHI Centre. Adria Kain performs authentic R&B grooves from her new album When Flowers Bloom, on May 12 at the Phi Centrel. Vox Sambou, his band and guests perform at Petit Campus on May 7. Dawn Tyler Watson and Matt Herskowitz perform blues, jazz and classical music on May 5 at the Gesù.
See these shows and more co-presented by Greenland, Blue Skies Turn Black, I Love Neon, and other show promoters at venues citywide, including Fairmount Theatre, Corona Theatre, Bar Le Ritz PDB, Casa del Popolo and Sala Rossa, L’Escogriffe and elsewhere throughout the month.
In electronic music, catch Mahmut Orhan at Theatre Fairmount on May 5, Yaeji and Ouri at Corona Theatre on May 16, Seven Lions at Place Bell on May 19, and Odd Mob at Newspeak on May 26. Studio Isotone celebrates its fifth anniversary with a party featuring Ramzilla, Gene Tellem, Kris Guilty and Mok-T at the SAT on May 6. Berlin-based artist collective Live From Earth Klub lands at the SAT on May 13 with performances by DJ Gigola, MCR-T, Bauernfeind and Syana b2b Mossy Mugler.
Groove to live Motown, soul, disco, jazz, salsa, Cuban music and more at Le Balcon, where you can have dinner with a show, go dancing, and enjoy a gospel brunch on weekends ‒ or have meal and drinks on Le Balcon’s new terrasse right on Sainte-Catherine Street downtown. Hear live jazz nightly at Montréal’s amazing jazz and blues clubs, like Diese Onze and Upstairs Jazz Bar & Grill. And go out dancing late into the night at Montréal's dance clubs.
Live a Dragon Ball Symphonic Adventure on May 25, at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier for a full-immersive concert with the music of Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z.
Robyn Fadden is a Montréal-based writer and editor who searches out city secrets, new bands, life-changing art and things to do with her perpetually active kid. Robyn has covered major events for HOUR, MUTEK, ARTINFO, CKUT 90.3FM and more.