Montreal kicks off summer with its biggest event of the year, the Formula 1 Grand Prix Du Canada. Hundreds of thousands will pack the grandstands June 10 to 12 to see the thrilling races. But the Grand Prix action also takes place off of the track, with parties, festivals and other celebrations overtaking the Canadian city.
Our Forbes Travel Guide editors give you inside tips on what to do, where to stay and what to know during all of the F1 festivities.
What to Know
The action takes place at a unique spot: Île Notre-Dame, a manmade island that’s part of Parc Jean-Drapeau. Just south of downtown Montreal, the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve doesn’t have parking for spectators, so you’ll either have to take the Metro to the Jean-Drapeau station or have a taxi drop you off under the Concorde Bridge and you can walk along the bike path to the destination.
Tickets can be hard to come by, but they are still available (read the “Where to Stay” section below if you procrastinate and have to pick up last-minute tickets). One of the best vantage points of the 70-lap race is in grandstand 12, which puts you right at the hairpin turn.
Upgrade your experience by reserving one of the competition’s suite packages. One of them, the Elite Restaurant, puts you on the outside of the track, between the start/finish line, and gives you access to a dining room, a grandstand, a terrace and an exclusive souvenir boutique. The Paddock Club package perches you above the team garages, overlooking the pit lane and affords views of the start/finish line as well.
What to Do
During the races, explore the surrounding Parc Jean-Drapeau. Open 24 hours, seven days a week, the Casino de Montréal provides round-the-clock entertainment right in the park. You must be 18 to enter the spaceship-like casino and its bars and restaurants (unfortunately, the casino’s new L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon won’t open in time for the Grand Prix).
For a more family-friendly park option, head to the nearby La Ronde; the Six Flags theme park is the largest in Eastern Canada with more than 40 rides. Or visit the Biosphere, a striking 206-foot-tall geodesic dome that serves as an environmental museum. If you happen to be in the park on Sunday, catch Piknic Électronik, a weekly outdoor summer dance party featuring a slate of electronic artists (June 12’s edition will include Chloé and Till Von Sein). Whichever you choose, carve out time to stroll the riverfront for a view of Montreal’s skyline.
Venture outside of the park to discover the Grand Prix celebrations throughout the city. One of the largest will be the Crescent Street Grand Prix Festival. Between 400,000 and 500,000 are expected to attend this year’s three-day event, organizers say.
For the festival, the city shuts down popular nightlife corridor Crescent Street, between Sherbrooke and Saint Catherine streets, for nightly live performances, driver appearances, DJs (Montreal electronic dance music artist Seibaz will be on the decks), racing simulators and displays of hot cars. Visit the always-popular Abarth 124 Spider Pit Stop Challenge, which tests how fast you can change a tire, just like the Grand Prix pit crew pros.
The best scene will be at Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star The Ritz-Carlton Montreal, whose annual race bash attracts athletes, celebrities and politicians. For this year’s June 10 party, the hotel will be decorated in metallic finishes and feature light shows and laser beams for a dazzling effect — though your eyes may be more drawn to the sleek McLaren 675LT, 650S and 570S on display.
Drinks will be poured everywhere you go in the hotel’s Palm Court, Oval Room and Oval Terrace. There will be a Moët & Chandon bar with cocktails and champagne, dedicated Cointreau bars serving classic gin rickeys, Romeo Gin pop-up bars and a Belvedere spritz bar. Of course, there will be food as well, with stations by hotel executive chef Johnny Porte.
While you sip and mingle, enjoy live music from artists such as Montreal R&B singer/songwriter Shaharah Sinclair, Vancouver electronic duo Destineak, DJ YO-C and cellist Philip Sheppard, who has composed a McLaren F1 symphony.
Hotel Le Crystal brings a fashionable spin to the Grand Prix with its Soirée Glam & Tux on June 11. The trio of fashion shows struts through the Forbes Travel Guide Recommended hotel’s Bistro Laurentian La Coupole, starting at the lovely third-floor terrace and winding its way to the main floor. Come check out clothing from Loue1Robe (Montreal’s brick-and-mortar version of Rent the Runway) and Loue1Tux (for men) while you enjoy a local wine or a dish from the Quebec-sourced menu (the tender goose confit tatin with big apple chunks balances that savory-sweet line well).
When you want an after-party, head to a hot spot like Flyjin, a dark, izakaya-inspired Japanese restaurant that transforms into a rousing nightlife venue.
Where to Eat and Drink
The proper way to toast to the Grand Prix is with champagne. Raise a glass at The Ritz-Carlton Montreal’s Dom Pérignon Champagne Bar, the first of its kind in Canada. Housed in the hotel’s airy and elegant Palm Court, the slick black bar serves rosé and brut selections.
Or visit the hotel’s Four-Star Maison Boulud. Not only will you get a chance to savor French master chef Daniel Boulud’s food (try the tender rack of lamb; the creative sea buckthorn and apple dessert is a must), but the Montreal restaurant will convert its terrace into stylish pop-up beach bar called La Plage Moët & Chandon on June 6. That means you get to indulge in champagne on the sand overlooking The Ritz-Carlton Montreal’s charming garden and pond.
For a boisterous atmosphere, trek into Old Montreal, where thumping DJ beats accompany bubbles from France, Spain and Italy at the trendy La Champagnerie.
Where to Stay
The Ritz-Carlton Montreal tops our list of places to stay because aside from hosting one of the most highly anticipated bashes, it sits just two blocks from Crescent Street and its Grand Prix Festival. Even better, the hotel’s well-connected concierges can score you last-minute Grand Prix tickets if you neglected to reserve yours in time.
When you stay in the chic, high-tech accommodations, you’ll have access to The Ritz-Carlton’s Pit Stop stand, which will hand out all sorts of nutritious snacks and drinks, sunscreen and other race-day amenities June 9 to 12.
Set in downtown, Hotel Le Crystal also offers a special Grand Prix weekend package that includes a special welcome gift when you reserve one of its contemporary rooms.
Another downtown property that’s revving up for the big race is Le Germain Hotel Montreal. Guests who stay at this modern boutique hotel during the competition will enjoy cocktails in the lobby and patio on June 10, a complimentary late checkout on June 13 and a goodies table filled with sunscreen, ear plugs, disposable sunglasses, bottles of water, the official program and more.