Whether you’re excited about fashion, food or fun art, Montreal is the place to be this summer. Here are some of the things we’re loving now in Quebec’s coolest city.
Four Seasons’ Newest Hotel
Opened in May along the city’s Golden Square Mile, Four Seasons Hotel Montreal brings contemporary glamour and a new restaurant — the first in Canada by New York celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson — to this downtown district (more on this below).
The property, which has guest rooms up to floor 12 with private residences above, is built around an atrium that’s open to the sky, where a suspended sculpture of leaves and flower petals by Montreal designer Pascale Girardin appears to sway in the wind.
Mauve chaise lounges, glowing pink bedside lamps, marble counters and deep-soaker tubs add modern style to the 169 rooms, while high-tech features like energy-saving thermostats, drapes that automatically close when you leave the room and switches that control electronics from your bedside add convenience and an element of environmental friendliness.
Canada’s First Marcus Restaurant
Occupying an airy space decorated with vintage photos on the luxury hotel’s third floor, Marcus Restaurant + Terrace serves up a seafood-centric menu imagined by Ethiopia-born, Sweden-raised chef Samuelsson.
You might share small plates like grilled maple-spiced salmon belly, scallops marinated in hibiscus tea and an excellent seafood sausage, or dig into crisp-skinned arctic char with bacon and Asian pear, or spaghetti with uni butter and Quebec snow crab.
While Marcus buzzes till the late-night hours, it’s also an excellent destination for breakfast, whether you’re conducting a business meet-up or readying for a day around town. Try the hoecakes, thick cornmeal pancakes garnished with fresh berries and Quebec maple syrup, or the beet-cured gravlax layered on a bed of fresh greens and pickled vegetables.
A New Multimedia Show from Cirque du Soleil’s Founder
Cirque du Soleil co-founder Guy Laliberté and his production company, Lune Rouge, are launching a new entertainment venture this summer in a purpose-built pyramid dubbed PY1.
From June through September on Clock Tower Pier in Montreal’s Old Port district, the PY1 pyramid will host two different multimedia spectacles.
The first is an immersive 60-minute performance called Through The Echoes that will combine original music with 360-degree light and laser projections, presenting the story of life and highlighting the importance of human connection.
On weekend evenings, the pyramid will transform into PY1 Nights, a nightlife experience headlined by local DJs and VJs with a rotating lineup of unique themes, from the apocalypse-inspired Underworld to the whimsical Candy World. The company has announced that Laliberté himself will even spin the music a few nights himself.
A Light Show that Illuminates Montreal’s Notre-Dame
The Notre-Dame Basilica, built in the 1820s in Old Montreal, provides the backdrop for another show-stopping multimedia event.
Created by locally based production company Moment Factory, Aura uses the cathedral’s gothic interior as a backdrop for a sound and light show that illuminates the statuary, stained glass and grand arched ceiling with a range of special effects.
Running two or three times per night (except Sundays) through October, the 40-minute experience will leave plenty of time for a pre- or post-performance bite. We recommend stopping by nearby café Un Po’ Di Più for a glass of wine and Italian-influenced dishes to share. Take a seat at the long metal bar for burrata with roasted carrots and pesto, bruschetta topped with fresh Quebec shrimp or creamy gnocchi tossed with crunchy chicken skin.
A World-Premiere Couture Exhibit
Whether you love fashion or simply want to get inside the mind of an outrageously imaginative designer, visit the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts for “Thierry Mugler: Couturissime,” the world’s first comprehensive exhibition featuring designs of the noted French couturier.
On view are more than 150 wildly inventive outfits, bedecked with feathers, sequins and risqué cutaways that Mugler crafted between 1977 and 2014. He’s dressed Lady Gaga, David Bowie, Celine Dion and numerous other celebrities and crafted costumes for productions as diverse as Cirque du Soleil’s Zumanity and Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
Besides Mugler’s garments themselves, the exhibition spotlights a stellar collection of photos by noted fashion photographers like Helmut Newton, Herb Ritts and David LaChapelle, who worked with the designer.
Be sure to check out companion show “Montreal Couture,” too, to see what’s happening on the local fashion scene. Both exhibits run through September 8.
A Mural Fest and Street Art Tour
Montreal has one of North America’s most vibrant street art scenes, and the best way to experience this avant-garde culture is at the city’s annual Mural Festival. Taking over a section of Saint-Laurent Boulevard through June 16, the event brings street artists from around the globe to paint new work on the district’s walls and buildings, where you can watch the creators at work.
Even if you can’t make it to Montreal for the festival, you can still explore the local street art scene on a two-hour guided walk with Spade & Palacio. Opt for the Montreal Mural Art Tour to follow knowledgeable guides as they point out nearly two dozen of the area’s most notable works, fill you in on the artists’ backgrounds and send you on your way with a tip sheet of their favorite local places for food, drink and plenty more pieces to check out.
After taking in the murals, stroll over to St. Denis Boulevard for brunch at La Fabrique, a local morning hot spot. Whether you tuck into an omelet with smoked bacon or confit salmon paired with pasta and baby vegetables, the pan-fried brioche with apples and housemade chocolate-hazelnut spread makes a sweet finish.
A Yoko Ono Solo Show
Yoko Ono has been one of the world’s leading conceptual artists for more than 50 years. Get a glimpse of a diverse selection of her works through mid-September in “Liberté Conquérante/Growing Freedom,” a two-part exhibit at Old Montreal contemporary art space Fondation Phi.
One section of the exhibition showcases Ono’s performance pieces and participatory works, where visitors interact with the creations. In Ma Maman Est Belle, for example, attendees are invited to post memories of their mothers, while in the thought-provoking piece, Arising, Ono has compiled statements of women who’ve suffered violence in many forms.
A second component of the exhibit highlights Ono’s relationship and creative partnership with her late husband, former Beatle John Lennon. It details the history of their collaborative art ventures and peace demonstrations, including their famous “bed-in for peace” at Montreal’s Forbes Travel Guide Recommended Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth in May 1969.
Celebrating 40 Years of Jazz
For several decades, the Montreal International Jazz Festival has drawn music lovers from near and far, and this year’s 40th edition of the annual summer music extravaganza will be no exception. Between June 26 and July 6, the fest will welcome performers as diverse as Norah Jones, Bryan Adams, Joshua Redman, Nikki Yanofsky and Blue Rodeo, along with up-and-coming musicians from around the world.
Escape the festival crowds at one of the city’s newest neighborhood draws, stylish Bar St. Denis, which opened earlier this year near Jean-Talon Market.
Two of the venue’s owners, Emily Homsy and David Gauthier, are alums of acclaimed local restaurant Au Pied du Cochon, and they’re bringing jazzed-up twists of upscale classics to their cocktail-friendly small-plates menu. Nosh on grown-up chicken nuggets or herb-packed Egyptian-style falafel, then see which seasonal creations grace the bar-height tables for the main course.
If you’re lucky, you’ll find halibut from Quebec’s Côte Nord paired with fresh fiddleheads or a salad of locally caught snow crab, day lilies and baby pea shoots. Just a few more things to love in Montreal this summer.