Over a square kilometer in size, the Quartier des spectacles – which can be literally translated as the “neighbourhood of spectacles” – is Montréal’s Entertainment District. A city of music, performance, and festival, Montréalers’ healthy appetite for all things artistic is uniquely hungry. Vibrant and constantly evolving, the Quartier des spectacles hosts over 40 annual festivals, houses over 80 performance spaces, and gives Paris a run for its title as the City of Lights. Served by three Métro stations and 10 bus lines, and also connected to the city’s labyrinthine RÉSO “Underground City” shopping complexes, the Quartier is an easily accessible detour into Montréal’s cultural epicentre.
A CULTURAL – AND URBAN – HEART OF THE CITY
The Quartier des spectacles’ cultural Mothership is the mammoth Place-des-Arts, a multi-purpose complex home to the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, Opéra de Montréal, and the Montréal Symphony Orchestra. The neighbourhood is also home to many of Montréal’s up-and-coming artists. Over 30 independent galleries operate from the Belgo Building at 372 Ste-Catherine Street West, with many others dotting the area.
Besides art, the Quartier also offers some of Montréal’s finest hotel accommodation, a wealth of fine dining, and eye-popping shopping options. As the geographic buffer between the modern skyscrapers of Downtown and the stately domes and steeples of Old Montréal, the pulse of Montréal’s heart – both new and old – sounds loudly here.
UP IN LIGHTS
The Quartier des spetacles comes alive after dark, the area’s buildings bathed in lights and transformed by projections by local artists. Featuring the easy to navigate Luminous Pathway, projected red dots lead visitors through 30 of the area’s most notable locales. And throughout the year, the Luminothérapie (or Light Therapy) series of large-scale public installations transforms the Quartier into an open-air playground. Previous Luminothérapie constructions include fluorescent see-saws and bottom-lit swingsets – when used, each seat provided twinkling musical accompaniment letting riders play a part in an ever-changing urban symphony. Using flashing lights and spinning block-cut illustrations, 2017’s winter installation Looplets users create mini-animations, in turn projected onto the adjacent façade of UQÁM (the University of Quebec at Montreal).
CHANGING WITH THE SEASONS
Throughout the year, the Quartier des spectacles constantly evolves with the season. Spring’s forward-thinking Festival Transamériques offers cutting-edge dance and theatre. The summer’s world-renowned Festival International de Jazz de Montréal and Just For Laughs comedy festivals pack the pedestrianized streets closed to car traffic. And just in time for the holidays, Montréal’s Christmas market takes over Sainte-Catherine Street, filled with family winter activities and Québécois artisanal crafts. With its eye-popping temporary urban space installations, busy festival and exhibition schedules, and vivid street-life, no two visits to the Quartier are ever the same.
Area: Quartier des spectacles
Location: Bounded by City Councillors Street, Berri Street, Sherbrooke Street and René Lévesque Boulevard in Montréal’s Latin Quarter.
Claim to fame: Home to many of Montreal’s major festivals