As one of the most exciting and unique North American cities, Montreal can always capture the imagination and make you feel as though you have taken a charming mini break in a European city. But visit in July and you’ll feel like you have entered a magical realm. From July 4th-14th the city is totally animated by the arrival of the Montreal Cirque Festival, organized by TOHU, a venue created specifically to host circus shows all year long.

This year TOHU celebrates a decade of bringing the circus arts to the streets around St. Denis and further across the city at free events, indoor and outdoor performances and a range of special events. The signature free show, Candide, is put on twice nightly at 6.30pm and 9.30 pm and includes a pre-show parade where 32 acrobats and circus performers interact with the audience enticing them to follow along like a Cirque-themed pied piper.

Montreal Cirque Festival 2-Photo AndrewMiller

Photo Andrew Miller

Children, especially, will be enthralled with the way the performers use the buildings and natural environment as their playground- climbing onto traffic lights, hanging from trees or balconies and balancing all along the route.

Once at Jardins Gamelin the site of the Candide show, right by Métro Berri-UQAM, the audience will be treated to an amazing show in the sky, as aerial artists soar on a 60-foot arch hanging with silks.

Indoor ticketed shows are also on offer with prices starting at $90 for three performances or single shows from $23.50. Tickets for kids start at $15.

Montreal Cirque FestivalFF-4-AndrewMiller

Photo Andrew Miller

Circus activities are held throughout the city during July but many of the free activities and the procession happen on St-Denis street. Stay at the ITHQ Hotel to be right in the center of the action, but because the hotel rooms here are tucked away on the 8th floor you won’t be disturbed by any revellers down below on street level once bedtime rolls around. Select the glamping package and an adorable little pop-up tent will be set up in your room so that the kids can experience a little of the circus life! My son slept so soundly in his little tent. Breakfast and a surprise souvenir are included.

Montreal Cirque FestivalFF-Andrew Miller

Photo Andrew Miller

You can also visit one of the most famous modern circus’s right in the city by seeking out the Alegria show by Cirque Du Soleil down at the Port of Old Montreal-look for the big blue top! Cirque De Soleil is also celebrating an anniversary this year as it turns 35 years old and will be in Montreal until July 21st when the show goes on tour around Gatineau, Toronto and then onto Miami. The show really is absolutely thrilling and features fire performers (my sons’ favourite) acrobats, dancers, and adorable clowns who bring humanity, humour and snow, yes, snow, to the stage!

Alegria Cirque Du Soleil

The festival doesn’t allow any performances featuring animals so you can be sure of a cruelty-free experience. One of the best things about the family-friendly festival is all the free programming which is perfectly suited to parents of small children as you can watch until the kids are hungry or need a break and then simply wander on to the next act.

Cirque is a unique cultural art form transcending language and age-everyone can enjoy the spectacle!