Montreal Igloofest Guide to Braving the Crowd & the Cold

Montreal’s Igloofest is the perfect middle finger to winter.

In the time of year associated with being cooped up indoors, fender benders and no sun after 4pm, an outdoor music festival doesn’t seem most appropriate for winter.

But Igloofest fully embraces whatever the elements can throw at us with the coldest outdoor rave in Old Montreal, held from mid-January to early February each year.

Brought to you by the organizers of Piknik Electronik, Igloofest began in 2007 and brought about 4,000 EDM fans to Jacques Cartier Pier where it’s still held now. Other than the location being the same, Igloofest has changed quite a bit over the years.

It has since grown from a single-weekend event to spanning four entire weekends and attracting over 85,000 partygoers annually. So yeah, it's a big deal.

Photo by Élise Apap

Local, national and international DJs of all styles have all been part of past lineups including Rusko, Diplo, A-Trak, Mark Farina, James Holden, Joris Voorn, and Carl Craig. And Igloofest is just as much about the audio experience as it is the visuals, with its steel and ice décor, video and lighting projections and elaborately architected stages.

It’s the overall ambience of Igloofest that makes it nothing like your typical outdoor electronic music festival. The thousands of people donned in neon snowsuits dancing closely to keep warm, mini-bonfires for marshmallow roasting, ice carvings so incredible it’s a shame they will one day melt. If you’ve never been to Igloofest, it truly is a unique experience.

It’s no wonder why the event has grown to be one of the most anticipated festivals in Montreal amongst EDM lovers and the people who just go to party every year. But there are some things you should know before attending. It can get pretty hairy down there with so many people.

Don’t you worry, though. Just plan ahead and take in a few of these pointers to ensure your Igloofest experience is one free of both hassle and frostbite. If you know anyone planning to visit Igloofest for the first time, share this post to let them know what to expect and how to prepare for an unforgettable time in Old Montreal.

Avoid the Lines

The first thing you need to know is that Igloofest is slammed – as in there are people everywhere and the event is a bit notorious for its long entry lines. If you want to get in for the beginning of the event, get there early to nab a spot in line that’s not too far back from the entry gates. If you don’t care about getting through the gates as soon as Igloofest starts, show up a bit later in the evening once the majority of people have already been let in so you’re not freezing your ass off while waiting.

Photo by Miguel Legault

Keep Warm

You probably don’t need to be told this but, yes, winter in Montreal is friggin’ cold.

Temperatures can drop anywhere from -5°C to -20°C or lower in January, so unless you’re some sort of yeti or sasquatch-like creature you’ll want to bundle up.

One-piece snowsuits are encouraged at Igloofest - the kitschier and more ‘80s neon the better. In fact, there’s an entire contest dedicated to the absolute tackiest one-pieces held in Igloo Village where guests can win prizes like winter getaways and things of that nature.

You’ll want to bring layers, share body warmth with a significant other (or someone you just met), and indulge in as many hot adult beverages as it takes. Oh, and three words: hot pads, baby! Put ‘em in your mitts. Put ‘em in your shoes. Put ‘em in your pants. They’re a good time.

But the truth about Igloofest is the cold doesn’t really last long. As the night progresses you might find that you’ll need to shed some layers as the sheer amount of people crammed together and going apeshit to the music creates a natural warmth and energy that give Igloofest its atmosphere. But trust me when I say you’ll be glad you brought plenty of clothing to stay warm – especially when it’s time to leave and you may have a chilly walk to get to where you’re going.

Photo by Léa Lacroix

Eating & Drinking

There are plenty of ice bars at Igloofest serving your standard drinks and wintery-themed ones like mulled wine to warm the soul. If you find yourself a little parched, snack bars serve up the type of food you’d expect: hot dogs, poutine and whatnot.

Make sure you bring cash with you to Igloofest. There are ATMs inside, but there are lines for pretty much everything here so put on your thinking toque and bring cash to avoid having to grab more once inside and paying stupid service fees.

Getting to Igloofest

If you’re traveling from within Montreal, public transit is definitely your easiest option for getting there.

Igloofest is held at Jacques Cartier Pier, which is a five-minute walk from both the Champ de Mars and Place d’Armes Metro stations.

If you plan on driving there, I’d suggest don’t. Traffic is a headache and finding nearby parking isn’t always easy. There are parking lots Clocktower Quay and King Edward Quay, which are both located on either side of Jacques Cartier Pier where you can just walk on over to Igloofest. Warning you though: plan early if you absolutely must drive. Traffic's a bitch in Montreal at any time, let alone when tens of thousands of people are all headed to the same area.

Each night of Igloofest ends at 12am, giving you plenty of time to hit up any other Montreal nightclubs and bars hosting afterparties for the event. Always prepare for a safe route to wherever you plan on going.

Find more Igloofest travel information here.

Getting Your Igloofest Tickets

Photo by Miguel Legault

There are different types of tickets to Igloofest available each year, all priced based on what events you want to be part of. If you plan on making the most of it, Igloopass is your one-stop shop to get you into all Igloofest events for that year, while Iglooweekend passes get you in for any weekend you’d like to attend, and Individual Tickets are for one-night only.

Ordering Igloofest tickets online is strongly advised to save you time, stress and to ensure availability.

Just download a photo for each pass at the time of purchase and pick them up at either Igloofest on the day of the event or in advance at the Iglooboutique, which is the central box office located at 4523 St. Denis Street. Open daily from 12pm – 6pm, the cash-only Iglooboutique sells Igloopasses, Iglooweekend passes, Individual Tickets, and souvenirs like Igloofest toques and sweatshirts. If you don’t have cash on you, there is an ATM onsite. I must say, try to avoid getting your tickets at the Iglooboutique if you can and just head right to Igloofest to save time and hassle.

Check out Igloofest ticket options and order online here.

Booking Igloofest Hotel Packages

If you’re visiting Montreal from out of town and in need of somewhere to rest your raved-out little brain after a night of partying, there are several hotels near Igloofest and Jacques Cartier Pier. A few Montreal hotels offer Igloofest travel packages that combine accommodations and tickets to the event including W Montreal, Auberge du Vieux Port and ZERO1 who've all been known to participate.

Check with hotels directly to see which offer combined room and ticket packages so you can attend the event and not worry about where you’ll be spending the night – all while saving a bit of cash in the end. That’s what we call a “win-win.”

Photo by Élise Apap

Happening Gourmand & Igloofest

Happening Gourmand is an annual Montreal food festival, which also happens to coincide with Igloofest each year. Happening Gourmand allows tourists and Montrealers alike to experience some of the most popular restaurants in Old Montreal at a fraction of the price as they offer prix fixe lunch and dinner menus for a limited time.

These restaurants are within walking distance to and from Jacques Cartier Pier and Igloofest, making it an awesome opportunity to experience two Montreal events while in the area.

Happening Gourmand works with Igloofest and some participating restaurants include discounts on Igloofest tickets with the purchase of a prix fixe meal.

Check here for more about Happening Gourmand as well as which Montreal restaurants offer an Igloofest package.

What Not to Bring to Igloofest

Items not permitted include drugs, paraphernalia, fireworks, animals, any object that can cause bodily harm, and alcoholic beverages not purchased onsite. Don’t try to sneak any booze in, either. The security is generally pretty thorough with searching at Igloofest all the while being friendly and ensuring the best possible time for everyone. If you must pre-drink, at least polish it off discreetly before entering.

The Nitty Gritty

  • Igloofest is an 18+ event. Don’t forget your valid photo I.D.
  • Get there early or arrive later in the evening to avoid the lines
  • Order tickets in advance for faster entry
  • Avoid driving if possible and plan for a safe travel route home
  • Wear plenty of layers (one-piece snowsuits preferred)
  • Bring cash for food and drinks
  • Don’t attempt to bring any items not allowed inside Igloofest
Pete Richards
Author
Pete Richards

If Star Wars and Van Damme had a baby, it would be me.