Home / Travel Guides - Montreal / Cirque Du Soleil

Cirque du SoleilCirque du Soleil (Circus of the Sun) is like no circus you've ever seen. What began as a collection of street performers has evolved into a fast-moving, almost magical spectacle of lights, movement and music. There are jugglers, acrobats, contortionists and gymnasts, but absolutely no animal acts—a circus in a category all its own.

Guy Laliberté, one of Cirque du Soleil's founders, dropped out of school at 14 and honed his accordion-playing and fire-eating skills during teenage wanderings in Europe. After returning to his native Québec, he teamed up with a troupe of stilt walkers, jugglers, dancers and musicians in the early 1980s in the artists' colony of Baie-St-Paul. Laliberté and the group's founder, Gilles Ste-Croix, formed a street circus they called Le Club des Talons Hauts (The High Heels Club).

Adding Laliberté's school chum Daniel Gauthier to the partnership, the group was looking to spread its wings. After being rebuffed by some 50 lenders, Laliberté turned, in desperation, to the Québec government—which just happened to be looking for someone to stage a show for the 450th anniversary celebration of Jacques Cartier's discovery of Canada. The entrepreneurs presented an idea for a show they called Cirque du Soleil. Bankroll in hand, they took the performance throughout the province and, eventually, to cities all over Canada.

Laliberté then took a tremendous chance, risking the group's future on an opportunity to perform for the first time in the United States. An arts festival in Los Angeles offered them top billing, but no fee. It cost every penny the group had to get the performers and their equipment to Los Angeles, but “We Reinvent the Circus” was a huge success. And it's a good thing it was, since there otherwise would have been no money left for the trip home.

The rest is entertainment history. Cirque du Soleil moved on to tour additional U.S. cities. New productions crossed the Atlantic to Europe and the Pacific to Japan before Cirque established a foothold in Las Vegas, cementing a 10-year contract with Mirage Resorts to stage “Mystère” (now at home at Treasure Island). The show's packed performances were justification for a second production, “O” (think Cirque, but in water—eau, in French), now at Bellagio, followed by several other resident Vegas shows: the R-rated “Zumanity” at New York-New York, “The Beatles LOVE” at The Mirage, “Michael Jackson ONE” at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, “Criss Angel MINDFREAK LIVE!” at Luxor Hotel and Casino (tickets range from $59 to $99), and “KÀ” at MGM Grand. The shows are the hottest tickets in town, commanding prices of up to $250 per person. Another resident troupe performs “La Nouba” at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Shows are performed in Dubai as well.

The company's international headquarters is in Montréal. Still run by Laliberté, it is very much self-contained. A staff of hundreds creates the outlandish costumes and elaborate make-up, music, lighting and props that are Cirque du Soleil trademarks. Scouts scour the world looking for talented, creative entertainers and acrobats, and the chosen artists spend months training at the company's headquarters, where each production is created. Cirque's artists represent roughly 40 nationalities and converse in more than 25 languages.

Each new touring show has its première in Montréal, and the productions are as popular in Cirque's hometown as they are around the world. In keeping with its entrepreneurial spirit, the company chose a decaying part of town in which to build its contemporary corporate offices, spearheading an urban renewal effort.

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Montreal, QC

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Travel Information

City Population

1,649,519

Elevation

15 m/49 ft.

Sales Tax

Canada levies a 5 percent Goods and Service Tax. Québec's provincial sales tax is 9.975 percent on goods and services. The Montréal area hotel room occupancy tax is 3.5 percent per night.

Emergency

911

Police (non-emergency)

(514) 280-2000

Temperature

(514) 283-4006

Hospitals

Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital (Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont), (514) 252-3400; Montréal General Hospital (Hôpital général de Montréal), (514) 934-1934; St. Mary's Hospital Center (Centre hospitalier de St-Mary), (514) 345-3511. These can be reached at (514) 890-8000: Hôtel-Dieu, Notre-Dame Hospital (Hôpital Notre-Dame) and St. Luke's Hospital (Hôpital Saint-Luc).

Visitor Information

1255 rue Peel Montréal, QC H3A 3L8. Phone:(514)844-5400 or (877)266-5687

Air Travel

Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (YUL), formerly Montréal-Dorval Airport, 22 kilometres (14 mi.) west of downtown in Dorval, handles commercial flights.

Rental Cars

Nearly all major rental-car companies serve Montréal, and desks are inside airline terminals at the Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport.

Rail Service

Amtrak, (800) 872-7245, and VIA Rail Canada, (514) 989-2626, operate from Central Station, 895 de la Gauchetière beneath Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth hotel. Part of the underground city, Central Station is connected to the Métro subway and to Windsor Station at rues Peel and de la Gauchetière.

Buses

Greyhound Lines Inc. and Adirondacks Trailways run to New York City. Orléans Express operates inner-city service within Québec. The Gare d’autocars de Montréal (Montréal Coach Terminal), 1717 rue Berri, serves Canada and the U.S. Megabus buses link several Ontario cities, and connect to Buffalo, N.Y.

Taxis

Cabs are plentiful in Montréal; you should have no problem hailing one. Taxis are metered, and fares generally are fixed at $3.45 to start, plus $1.70 for each kilometre (.6 mi.) traveled as well as 63c for every waiting minute. Major companies are Diamond, (514) 273-6331; and Taxi Co-op, (514) 725-9885.

Public Transportation

Société de transport de Montréal (STM) provides bus, Métro (subway) and commuter train service throughout greater Montréal.

Boats

Large vessels put in at Montréal's docks. Port d'escale du Vieux-Port de Montréal (Bassin Jacques Cartier), 333 rue de la Commune Ouest, charges $18 for a minimum 3-hour stay, plus $6 per additional hour for vessels less than 18 metres (59 ft.) in length, or $66 for a minimum 3-hour stay, plus $22 per hour for vessels measuring 18 to 24 metres (59 to 79 ft.). Overnight rates $2.30-$4.15 per .3 metre (1 ft.) per day, depending on the season. Rates may increase on weekends, and there are discounts for stays of 7 or more days; phone (514) 283-5414 to verify pricing.

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