Fall 2021: Montréal’s fun for you and your sweetheart

Laure Juilliard

Laure is a writer, community manager and the founder of the blog Une Parisienne à Montréal. She’s also an epicurean globetrotter who’s always on the hunt for innovative concepts and must-try restaurants. In 2016, she co-founded Slow Journeys, a webzine that focuses on ecotourism and design.

Please note that as of September 1, 2021, Public Health authorities have introduced a mandatory vaccination passport for visitors age 13 and over.  

This year, Montréal has been pulling out all to the stops to make sure you enjoy safe access to its very many attractions. The goal? To spend unforgettable moments with your sweetheart in fall’s flamboyant colours and soak up the city’s many cultural events, which are finally back to the absolute max! Check out the guide, reserve your activities in advance and respect the health measures. Now, say hello to your autumnal adventure…  

Old Port and Old Montréal

With its postcard-perfect setting, immersing yourself in the beautiful cobblestone streets of Old Montréal and strolling along the banks of the St. Lawrence River is an absolute no-brainer. Get your caffeine fix and a fresh croissant at Tommy Café or Crew Collective & Café, and revel in its exquisite architecture. Pick up a delicious pastry from Maison Christian Faure or Olive + Gourmando, two hotspots that draw discerning crowds.

Next, head to Saint-Paul Street where creative designers, curated brands and cool art galleries await. Especially detour-worthy is the magnificent Maison Pepin boutique, a creative lab and wellness retreat, and SSENSE, the amazing concept boutique whose concrete design and sublime café boast oodles of wow factor. Stroll over to Swell & Ginger and OFF THE HOOK and discover the cream of the crop of Québec's top luxury designers at Denis Gagnon, Michel Brisson, Rad Hourani and Sarah Pacini and Philippe Dubuc.

Experience upward mobility in a Grande Roue de Montréal gondola, which promises your peepers a 28-kilometre view in clear weather. Your ticket to a colour-saturated sunset! Next, kick back and relax on a floating boat with spa, otherwise known Bota Bota, anchored in the St. Lawrence River, and get your senses tingling with its reinvigorating water circuit, sumptuous gardens and lunch at the brand-new restaurant La Traversée. From there, you can take it to the PHI Centre for avant-garde exhibitions, visit the Pointe-à-Callière Archaeology and History Complex, and for a more in-depth look at the neighbourhood, delve into our guide to Montréal's French roots.

Come cocktail hour, enjoy a glass of wine with some Italian appetizers for two inside the lovely Italian buvette Un po di Più (interior design by Zébulon Perron), then check out the neighbourhood’s trendy restaurants—Babacool, Bazart, Pincette and Sauvage—for colourful seasonal dishes that dazzle.

Make your way back to your hotel, a cocoon of luxury comfort inside old stone walls. Book a room at Hôtel William GrayHôtel GaultHôtel Place d’Armes or Le Petit Hôtel, all absolute gems of Old Montréal.

Downtown, Quartier des spectacles and the Village

Fall is synonymous with cultural renewal, so enjoy it while it lasts! Reserve tickets for exhibitions at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the McCord Museum. While you wait for the opening of the Musée d’art contemporain at Place Ville Marie, take a look at its digital programming. Check out the immersive experiences currently on at OASIS immersion at the Palais des congrès de Montréal.

Craving some retail therapy? You’re in the right city. Head below to the underground boutiques and connect to major shopping malls like the Centre Eaton, Place Montréal Trust, Cours Mont-Royal, Place Ville Marie or the Complexe Desjardins. Prefer browsing outdoors? You’ll find a treasure trove of shops along Sainte-Catherine Street, which also connect you to most commercial centres. A design hub that celebrates Montréal creativity, the SOUK HABITAT is an absolute jewel box of beauty on the 20th floor of Place Ville Marie (on your mark, get set, reserve your spot!). Indulge in a little luxury at the recently-renovated Holt Renfrew Ogilvy, a chic must-see.

Feeling hungry or thirsty? Reserve a table at Renoir, on the hidden rooftop patio of the Labo culinaire - Foodlab, in the sublime decor of Bar George, at the delicious French brasserie Le Pois Penché, at the swanky perch of Les Enfants Terribles (au sommet de la Place Ville-Marie) and at the very delectable JatobaNacarat and Marcus.

This fall features a cornucopia of cultural and culinary events too. In Chinatown, the Asian Night Market, a project by La Pépinière in collobaration with the Quartier des Spectacles Partnership takes place over eight weekends until October 3, and boasts a wide array of gourmet food choices.

For music lovers, the Francos de Montréal will be making a major splash when it returns with its superb programming of francophone music from September 9 to 12 at Place des Festivals. Right after, from September 15 to 19, the Quartier des spectacles transforms into a giant jazz club with more than 500 shows headlining 41st edition of the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal.

Been forever since you’ve seen a movie? We totally agree. Lucky for you the Montréal International Black Film Festival will be back from September 22 to October 3, the Festival du nouveau cinéma from October 6 to 17, and the Montréal International Documentary Festival (RIDM) from November 10 to 21. The Festival international de littérature (FIL) will also be taking place from September 24 to October 3. You can sate your culture cravings at Place des Arts, which features a rich programming of danse, theatre, opera and music this fall. Book your tickets now!

Quartiers du Canal and Pôle des Rapides

Head to Montréal’s very dynamic southwest district for some fun steps away from the St. Lawrence River. Kick off your tour with a trip to Promenade Wellington, a charming street in Verdun, that is chock full of cool spots and well-kept secrets (though, not as many as before!). Order a delicious glass of natural wine at Verdun Beach and enjoy seasonal dishes, or classic neighbourhood fare at Palco and the Bénélux microbrewery.

Next head to the Lachine Canal to enjoy its green spaces by bike, pleasure boat or on foot. Don’t forget, you still have time to reserve your watercraft with H2O Adventures. At Arsenal in Griffintown, immerse yourself in L’infini, a work inspired by NASA missions, the world’s biggest multisensory and interactive virtual reality experience created by the PHI Centre and Felix & Paul Studios. This is one spectacular voyage into space.  

Stop off for lunch in the bohemian ambiance of the Atwater Market, then head to Notre-Dame Street West to check out its mouth-watering gourmet boutiques. Have a bite to eat at the delicious Vin PapillonLiverpool HouseJoe Beef, Marché Le Richmond, Patrice Pâtissier, Nora Gray, Candide or Perles et Paddock restaurants.

Plateau, Mile-End and Outremont

With its charming houses, green back alleys that turn gold, orange and red in fall and unique vibe, these Montréal neighbourhoods are worth the detour. And what links all three? Mount Royal, or the “lungs” of the city, which affords spectacular views of the city and extra heaping helpings of fresh air.

On the Plateau, discover typical Montréal urban art when you book a guided tour with Spade & Palacio. You’re guaranteed a mesmerizing, open-air visit along Saint-Laurent Boulevard that teems with history and colour.

In the dynamic Mile-End neighbourhood, be sure to check out the Foire des petits éditeurs Expozine (small-press fair) on September 11 and 12 and get your hands of some “très Montréal” limited edition posters. Puces Pop, the designer, crafter and artist marketplace brings its wondrous wares to us several weekends in September. We cannot wait! Independent music will be titillating your tympans during the POP Montréal International Music Festival, which will be celebrating its 20th anniversary in several concert halls across the neighbourhood and some still top-secret venues from September 22 to 26.

For brunch, lunch, supper or a to-go coffee, the choices are endless. Recommendations on this list abound, but you can kick off your foodie foray at AlmaBloomfieldRumiRouge GorgeSantropolOlimpico or Buvette chez Simone, and let us know how it went.

Little Italy and Villeray

Without a doubt, the star of this neighbourhood is the magnificent Jean-Talon Market. Grab a coffee and wander dreamily among colourful stands that will make you want to scoop up everything in sight. Next, check out the recently revamped Plaza St-Hubert for its refreshing mix of on-trend and traditional boutiques that certainly switches up the shopping experience. Be sure to stop by Montreal Restaurant Plaza, a trend-setting Montréal brewery that offers delicious dinners for two. Those in the know know that Little Italy and Villeray has a bounty of culinary delights on tucked-away terraces. You’ll love restaurants like Vin Mon LapinImpastoPastagaLou (Gus), ManitobaTandemMesón and Tapeo. Next walk up to the tony perch of Taverne Atlantic, Vices&Versa’s hidden outdoor patio or relax in the lush greenery and scenery of Bar Cicchetti. Call it a night with a leisurely stroll around the lovely pond at Parc Jarry to digest your delicious meal, then catch a poetic circus show at TOHU.

Hochelaga-Maisonneuve and Est de l’Île

Go to the Space for Life’s newly renovated Biodôme for an enthralling trip through the ecosystems of the Americas that includes the tropical forest, Laurentian sugarbush, Gulf of St. Lawrence, Labrador coasts and the subantarctic islands. For an open-air experience that soothes the soul, the Botanical Garden envelops you in a romantic oasis of lush countryside greenery. Don’t miss the magical illuminations at the Gardens of Light, until October 31. Later, enjoy a meal neighbourhood restaurant like Les Canailles, Hélicoptère, Le Flamant, the Heirloom pizzeria or the brand-new and dog-friendly Café Élice.

Parc Jean-Drapeau

Straddling two islands in the St. Lawrence River, this verdant park is just a five-minute jaunt from downtown. It offers sports enthusiasts, walkers and nature lovers 25 kilometres of multipurpose trails to explore. Wander to your heart’s content along paths dotted with some of the city’s most celebrated artworks, including Calder’s Man stabile. Download free podcast documentaries on the mobile app Portrait Sonore to learn more about 15 public artworks around Île Sainte-Hélène and Île Notre-Dame.

Music lovers will rejoice at the return of the latest and greatest new electronic beats during the îLESONIQ REDUX festival, which takes over Espace 67 September 24 to 26. On its heels will be the much-anticipated Osheaga from October 1 to 3 with the Osheaga Get Together, an event featuring Canadian artists onstage. Everybody, let’s dance!  

Across Montréal

Fall’s calendar is chock full of festivals, concerts, shows, films, theatre, dance and exhibitions.  Check out our Things to do in Montréal this September 2021 and guide to fall 2021's best festivals for more inspiration. To get the best snapshots of the city, go here and here to find Montréal’s most Instagrammable locations.

If you’re looking for a romantic getaway, check out this post of the best spas, personalized tours or where to go to tap into Montréal’s creativity. With this curated list, you’ll also find restaurant suggestions for romantic dinners for two that go easy on your wallet. Whatever the neighbourhood or area you and your sweetheart decide to explore, the MTLàTABLE Off-Trail Edition tempts your palate with new flavours from the city’s dynamic food scene until October 11. It’s the perfect opportunity to discover a new neighbourhood, reserve a table downtown or in Old Montréal or order take-out picnics for the park. Concurrently, Le Burger Week is running two weekends from September 1  to 14, with original and decadent recipes developed by participating restaurants. Yum!

Have fun with your sweetheart!

Laure Juilliard

Laure is a writer, community manager and the founder of the blog Une Parisienne à Montréal. She’s also an epicurean globetrotter who’s always on the hunt for innovative concepts and must-try restaurants. In 2016, she co-founded Slow Journeys, a webzine that focuses on ecotourism and design.

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