I have some really great insights into Berlin that I want to share before the holidays, but first I want to introduce you to someone who’s got some great tips to share about a city that is a bit closer to ya’ll US readers! Nicole Le Page is the American daughter of French-Canadian parents. Although she was born and raised in New England, she spent most of her childhood summers in the suburbs of Montreal with her grandparents and has a unique understanding of the city, which she writes about for several publications.

Combining the charm of Old-World Europe with modern amenities and architecture, Montreal, Quebec, is one of North America’s most fascinating cities. Although the city is packed with museums, parks, cathedrals, galleries and restaurants that could fill any visitor’s itinerary, it’s the city’s festivals and special events that really offer a flavor of the city and its French-Canadian culture.

The Montreal Jazz Festival held each summer is one of the highlights of the annual schedule and well known throughout the world—thousands of visitors flock to this city, and, as a result most hotels in Montreal fill up quickly. However, there are dozens of other festivals throughout the year, ranging from small neighborhood celebrations to major events that draw well-known artists, musicians, chefs and more from around the world. If you’re planning a trip to Canada, consider adding one of these special events to your touring schedule.

Montreal En Lumiere

One of the largest winter festivals in the world, Montreal En Lumiere draws nearly a million visitors every year to experience the best of Montreal’s food and culture. The festival usually takes place during the last week of February, and the Quartier des Spectacles and Place des Festivals in the heart of downtown transform into the festival headquarters, with food booths, performance venues and more. Expect to see music, drama and circus performances, and taste culinary creations from the best Montreal chefs as well as those from around the world. Many of the festival’s events are free or inexpensive; some events, such as the wine dinners, cost more and require purchasing advance tickets.

photo credit: VanDerMouche via photopin cc

photo credit: VanDerMouche via photopin cc

The Montreal Bike Fest

If you enjoy pedaling around on two wheels, then don’t miss the annual Montreal Bike Fest, a five-day event usually held at the end of May each year. During this event, Montreal is overtaken by bicycles, giving enthusiasts the chance to explore the city streets while encouraging others to embrace a bicycle lifestyle. The festival includes several large-scale bike rides, including the Tour de I’lle Challenge, a non-timed, high-speed ride through the streets, and the Un Tour de Nuit, a twilight bike ride in which thousands of bicyclists don costumes and ride a 22-mile course through the city. The festival also includes workshops, charity events and parties, bringing together cyclists from all around the world.

Montreal Fashion and Design Festival

Each August, fashionistas from around the world flock to Montreal for the annual Montreal Fashion and Design Festival, highlighting the best in new and avant-garde design. With fashion shows from major labels and designers, workshops on the latest in fashion, trends, design and shopping, the festival is the place to see what’s new and different in the world of fashion—and see what’s coming to a department store near you. The festival also features design contests open to designers and students from around the world.

The Magic of Lanterns

The Montreal Botanical Gardens are worth a visit any time you come to the city, but each fall, the Chinese gardens come alive with The Magic of Lanterns, an annual event in which visitors can learn about the traditional art form of decorative lantern-making and, each evening, see a stunning display of brightly lit, colorful lanterns in the garden. The festival runs from September through November.

photo credit: Marie Berne via photopin cc

photo credit: Marie Berne via photopin cc


Cinemania is a celebration of French film, and over the course of 10 days each November, festival-goers can view dozens of French language films chosen by the festival committee. The films, all shown at the Imperial Cinema, are subtitled in English. In addition to viewing the films, festival attendees can attend discussions, lectures and other events devoted to the study and celebration of French cinema.

These are just a few of the many festivals that take place in Montreal throughout the year. Whether your interests lie with art, literature, music, sports, animals, nature or all of the above, there is a festival or special event that will appeal to you. Plan to visit the city during one of these special events, and get a taste of the city that you might not have otherwise experienced.