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Montreal's legendary music scene

Osheaga Music and Arts Festival

Montreal's legendary music scene

Home to poets, artists, and dreamers, Montreal is as serious about its music as it is about fine wine, great food, and cafe culture. Quebec's stylish, French-speaking city of creatives has an eclectic, experimental, bold music scene dating back to the 1920s that you'll want to dive into. It runs the gamut from indieExternal Link Title, electronica, world beats, and heavy metal, to classical, hip hop, jazz, and bluesExternal Link Title. Here are the scenes and spots to check out.

Spontaneous music

It isn't a venue per se, but Mount RoyalExternal Link Title is a treasured public green space spanning nearly 500 acres and perched atop the city's highest point overlooking the St. Lawrence River. It's also a spontaneous experimentation lab of sorts. Every Sunday if the weather is nice, a loose gathering of drummers and dancers known as the Tam-TamsExternal Link Title convene at the big statue to jam. Watch and listen -- or dance and join!

Live music in clubs, restaurants and bars

Montreal is a hot bed for talent, meaning you might be witnessing the next Arcade Fire over cocktails. But whomever you're watching, local audiences are appreciative, receptive, and uninhibited. This means live music hot spots around town are easy to come by.


First the blues, soul, and jazz institutions: Golden-age brick-and-stone social club Upstairs Jazz Bar & GrillExternal Link Title, chandelier-lit, art nouveau House of JazzExternal Link Titleand cabaret-style Le BalconExternal Link Title, plus, blues and alternative at Quai des BrumesExternal Link Title are all worth checking out.


Don't miss the homegrown trio of famed Casa del PopoloExternal Link Title, a concert hall-bar-bistro with an underground venue, La Sala RossaExternal Link Title, that's also known for Spanish tapas, and La VitrolaExternal Link Title, home to indie bands on the second floor. These are all authentic places to see international touring bands and local faves.


There's also bistro Jardin NelsonExternal Link Title in Old Montreal that features live jazz nightly, a pretty outdoor garden patio, and inventive sangria. Old-school wine bar ModavieExternal Link Title has jazz bands every night; ditto for basement jazz club Diese OnzeExternal Link Title. Bohemian Mile End indie joint Le D?panneur Caf?External Link Title's mic and piano are open to all for a huge range of live music all day alongside great coffee. Eat perogies and sausage on church pews at cozy Caf? StashExternal Link Title in Old Montreal while listening to the piano. With live traditional music nightly, Hurley's Irish PubExternal Link Title is best on Thursdays for pints and music on two floors beginning at 10 pm.

Concert venues

No matter the genre, Montreal's got something for you. Start at Bell CentreExternal Link Title for headliner stadium concerts. Check out Place des ArtsExternal Link Title, the city's largest performing arts location, for classical and summer concerts with symphony, opera, and musicals on the stage at Salle Wilfrid Pelletier. For ethereal organ music, Notre-Dame Basilica of MontrealExternal Link Title is spectacular on Sundays. With a 235-jet fountain and cool accent lighting, Place des FestivalsExternal Link Title hosts massive outdoor plaza music events, always accompanied by a cadre of food trucks. Small and experimental? Pack into Divan OrangeExternal Link Title, a bar and small concert venue that hosts global acts of all genres, as well as  DJs and late-night parties.


For indie-rock in a glam former theater ambiance, try ornate Corona TheatreExternal Link Title, 1913 Cabaret La TulipeExternal Link Title with themed dance nights, or high-style Le National. You can get the closest, though, at Theatre FairmountExternal Link Title in the trendy Mile End neighborhood, host to well-known acts spanning world music, hip hop, electronic, and rock. See the latest "it" bands in metal, rock, pop, and hip hop, plus local up-and-comers, at either performing arts hub M TelusExternal Link Title, a stylish ex-theater, or concert hall Club SodaExternal Link Title -- both in Quartier des Spectacles. For established alt-folk-country, dark-wave electro, or psych-rock, it's Bar Le Ritz P.D.B.External Link Title for concerts over cocktails and microbrews, plus dance parties and karaoke.


If you really just want to go dancingExternal Link Title, scan the latest listings.


Festivals? Oui. This is a city of festivals, no matter the season.That said, there are a ton packed into the warm weather months, including the world's biggest jazz celebration. Thousands swarm to downtown's Quartier des Spectacles for the annual Montreal International Jazz FestivalExternal Link Title.External Link Title


If you're interested in global French-language music, join free performances during the June-to-August Les FrancoFolies de MontrealExternal Link Title. Every summer Sunday there's the locals' fave outdoor Piknic ElectronikExternal Link Title with top DJs spinning at Parc Jean-Drapeau. July's 13-day Festival International Nuits d'AfriqueExternal Link Title is a spotlight for African, Caribbean, and Latin American artists with many free events. Contemporary music is on at MEG MontrealExternal Link Title in late July, and Aboriginal concerts are showcased during the July-August Montreal First Peoples FestivalExternal Link Title.


The three-night August emerging artists showcase for hip hop, electronic, indie pop, and rock, Osheaga Music and Arts FestivalExternal Link Title is summer's high-profile event outside on St. Helen's Island. Metalheads will love late July's Heavy MontrealExternal Link Title, whereas mid-August's IleSoniqExternal Link Title caters to the electronic dance crowd. There's multi-sensory tech and digital music shindig MUTEKExternal Link Title in August, as even early fall's POP MontrealExternal Link Title that celebrates local and touring hip hop and indie rock bands. For fans of classical, the mid-August Montreal Symphony Orchestra's Classical SpreeExternal Link Title is a must. In January and February, thousands dance under the stars to electronica at IgloofestExternal Link Title in Old Port.

Music with art

Hugely popular, NocturnesExternal Link Title pairs music, art, and cocktails periodically on Fridays. DJs spin tunes while patrons browse contemporary art exhibitions at the Mus?e d'Art Contemporain de MontrealExternal Link Title. There's also multi-use SATExternal Link Title that combines live performance with installations and an artisan market in an edgy, futuristic indoor-outdoor space.

Record shops

Not surprisingly, Montreal has several outstanding record stores. Vinyl collectors like Mile End's Phonopolis Record StoreExternal Link Title, home to rare finds, a varied selection, and great people watching. You can also pick up concert tickets here. For underground music, hit L'ObliqueExternal Link Title; for punk and metal, SoundcentralExternal Link Title; and for a comprehensive selection, you'll want Cheap ThrillsExternal Link Title, a tiny place with helpful staff that's been top rated since 1971. Beatnik RecordsExternal Link Title covers the whole gamut of genres, if you're still on the hunt. Fans looking for memorabilia, decor, and posters will love vinyl store and gallery BBAM! GalleryExternal Link Title.

Discover more good vibes at the Tourism Montreal website.