Spend a fall long weekend in Montréal

A weekend in Montréal is nice, but three or four days lets you really get to know the city, especially in a quieter season like fall. Discover creative seasonal food (including for Canadian Thanksgiving on October 14), take a colourful stroll through the park and along cobblestone streets, have fun with family, and experience new art, international film and star-powered live music.

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Seasonal food and Thanksgiving dinners

Montréal satisfies the seasonal palate with classic and non-traditional dinners alike. Fine-dining luxuries and local delicacies make these Montréal meals worth writing home about – we've also selected some top Montréal restaurants for the gourmet traveller, several designer restaurants for those who love to eat in style and five restaurants with five amazing chefs – among them, try Le Club Chasse et Pêche Restaurant Bar Salon and Restaurant Leméac and wine bar Accords le Bistro. Find Parisian flair at these authentic French restaurants or tap into Montréal's DIY spirit at these cheerful bring-your-own-wine eateries.

For something a little different: enjoy live music while eating delicious food during the First Fridays food truck event at Olympic Park on October 4, or settle in for a dinner cruise along the St. Lawrence River, a meal surrounded by nature at Montréal's restaurants in the parks or dinner and live Motown music at classy Le Balcon. By day, go for an excellent brunch, pick up something sweet or savoury at Montréal's best bakeries and pastry shops, and visit Montréal’s public markets, including Jean-Talon Market and Atwater Market, for seasonal fruit and vegetables, meats and cheese and all manner of pies.

Night or day, sip the perfect latté at the city’s indie cafés. For Québécois classics follow our guides to the best poutine, the best Montréal bagels and the best smoked meat, Montréal's top chocolatières and more musts for foodies visiting Montréal. For something lighter, check out these health-conscious restaurants, great sushi restaurants and our ultimate guide to vegan eating in Montréal – on that note, check out the Montreal Vegan Festival from September 21 to 22 at the Montréal Convention Centre. Or get into the Sin City spirit at the Casino de Montréal's Welcome to Vegas weekend special, with dishes and drinks fit for the King, plus showgirls, drag queens, a wedding chapel and more until October 13. Put on your sparkliest outfit and get ready to boogie under the giant disco ball at We’ve got the funk at the Casino! event from November 7 to December 21 – enjoy a special three-course meal, bubbly cocktails and an incredible show by a variety of singers, dancers and musicians performing 50 years of funk and disco hits. 


City sights and sounds

With stunning city views, leafy forest paths and fresh air right in the middle of the city, Mount Royal Park is a must see. Nature also abounds in the city at beautiful Parc La Fontaine in the Plateau and Parc Jean-Drapeau on Île Sainte-Hélène. From Mount Royal Park's greenery through the city streets to the St. Lawrence River, the Promenade Fleuve-Montagne path features monuments, art installations and more along the way. For a bird's-eye view of the city take a slow ride on La Grande Roue de Montréal in the Old Port, discover hidden gem Observatoire Place Ville Marie downtown, and see more of the city and its Olympic history at the Montréal Tower at Olympic Park (while there, have coffee, cocktails or a snack with a panoramic view at MTL Bistro and take an audio tour).

Stroll through Montréal's Chinatown to see historic sights and have a great meal. Bike like a Montrealer with bike-sharing system BIXI or check out these three bike rides perfect for visitors (featuring a helpful list of bike rental options). At night, discover why Montréal is a city of lights too: see high-tech wonder AURA at Notre-Dame Basilica and spot Cité Mémoire projections. Learn more about the city's history and culture on a walking tour of Quartier des spectacles, from its Red Light era to recent transformations. And if you're here on Halloween weekend, get ready for citywide celebrations. Follow our guide to Montréal's most famous icons to see more of the city's major sights and architecture. Find all this and more at your fingertips with My Official Montréal City Guide, a travel app that lets you experience the city like a Montrealer.


Fall for families

Along with playing in the city's many parks, colourful lanterns and lighting displays delight in natural surroundings at the Gardens of Light exhibition, from September 6 to October 31 in the Chinese, Japanese and First Nations gardens of the Montréal Botanical Garden, while the Great Pumpkin Ball entertains with performances, art activities and Halloween fun for kids throughout October. Visit the Ecomuseum Zoo conservation area to see 115 animal species from the St. Lawrence Valley, including otters, wolves and hawks.

Among Montréal's kid-friendly indoor activities: check out the Montréal Science Centre's creative and fascinating hands-on activities, IMAX films, and a 3.8-billion-year-old moon rock; roam the cosmos in immersive multimedia experiences at the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium; and even see Barbie in high-fashion, decades-spanning glory at the free Barbie Expo. Experience high-tech multimedia exhibition Generations MTL, cabinet of curiosities Into the Wonder Room and more at Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Archaeology and History Complex, while celebrities and historical figures are rendered lifelike at wax museum Grévin MONTRÉAL. Climb aboard trains and vintage street cars at the Exporail / The Canadian Railway Museum or discover Montréal's friendly-skies history at the Montréal Aviation Museum.

In sports, cheer on the Montréal Canadiens in the NHL preseason and regular season at the Bell Centre, catch a CFL football game with the Montréal Alouettes on September 21 and October 5, 18 and 26 at Percival-Molson Memorial Stadium, or check out Major League Soccer team the Montréal Impact on September 29 and October 6. Whether you're coming to Montréal with family or solo, arrive in the heart of the action by train on VIA Rail Canada.


Art everywhere

While the trees provide their own colourful display, Montréal’s museums, galleries, stages and screens pop with bright offerings as well. Explore the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts, including  Egyptian Mummies: Exploring Ancient Lives, a touring exhibition produced by the British Museum, Omar Ba: Same Dream, a monograph dedicated to the influential African artist, and much more. See Rebecca Belmore: Facing the Monumental, a poignant and timely career-spanning exhibition of installation and performance art at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal until October 6, followed by a survey of the work of painter Janet Werner. The MAC, Galerie de l'UQAM, McCord Museum and several more venues also host the MOMENTA | Biennale de l’image exhibitions – this year under the theme “The Life of Things” until October 13.

The Fondation Phi pour l’art contemporain in Old Montréal presents a new exhibition in late October. See the world and its people in new light at the 2019 World Press Photo exhibition, until September 29 at Marché Bonsecours. The McCord Museum presents SDING K’AWXANGS – Haida: Supernatural Stories and historic photography exhibition Montréal at work along McGill College Avenue, as well as Jean-Claude Poitras: Fashion and Inspiration starting October 24.

Immerse yourself in four nocturnal worlds by four renowned Québec writers in the Stewart Museum's Nights exhibition. The Musée de Lachine presents history and archeology from the times of fur trade and New France alongside contemporary art. The Canadian Centre for Architecture explores measures of happiness in Our Happy Life. Speaking of historical detail, pick up one-of-a-kind goods with our ultimate guide to vintage shopping in Montréal. Bring something beautiful home with you while gallery hopping and antiquing, and even pick up arts and crafts at these cool (no, really) souvenir shops.


On screen and on stage

Experience the Phi Centre's virtual reality exhibition >HUM(AI)N – Being human in the age of technology, a 360° view of human nature and evolution in nine immersive VR works, and VR Cinema: Short Films on Canvas, until September 29, plus immersive digital stage show Jeff Koons by director Dillon Orr from November 20 to 23. See hundreds of feature films and shorts from around the world at expertly curated film festivals this fall, including the Montréal International Black Film Festival from September 24 to 29, the Festival du nouveau cinéma from October 9 to 20, Montreal International Documentary Festival from November 14 to 24, and CINEMANIA Francophone Film Festival (with English subtitles!) from November 7 to 17.

Contemporary dance fans are never at a loss for shows in Montréal: this fall, see internationally touring performances presented by Danse Danse (including incredible shows by BJM - Les Ballets Jazz De Montréal, Bangarra Dance Theatre and La Otra Orilla), as well as cutting-edge contemporary dance at Agora de la danse, Tangente and Danse-Cité. Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal present Carmina Burana & Stabat MATER, choreographed by Edward Clug, from October 3 to 19 at Place des Arts, while Théâtre La Chapelle spotlights an array of dance, theatre and multidisciplinary performances all season. See Opéra de Montréal's production of Beethoven's Fedelio with conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Orchestre Métropolitain on October 25 and 27, followed in November by Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor starring opera superstar Albina Shagimuratova. .

Let Cirque Alfonse's bold show Tabarnak and Circa's acclaimed Humans astound you with acrobats and poignant tales  at circus centre La TOHU. In late September Old Montréal's Centaur Theatre presents Un Poyo Rojo, a powerful blend of dance and theatre, followed in October by Alice and the World We Live In by Alexandria Haber, and a November presentation of puppet master Ronnie Burkett's Little Dickens. The Segal Centre for Performing Arts unleashes new pop/rock musical Mythic in late October. Newfoundland-based musical Come From Away hits the Place des Arts stage from November 26 to December 1. A live animated graphic novel, Kid Koala: The Storyville Mosquito comes to Place des Arts from November 27 to December 8. The ritzy Montréal Burlesque Festival shakes and shimmies in sequins on October 18 and 19, while RuPaul's Drag Race struts into Place des Arts on October 20. And the Arab World Festival of Montreal showcases Arabic and Western culture in dance, film, art, live music and more from October 25 to November 17. Indulge in the comedy of Cheech & Chong on September 23 at Place des Arts. Stop by box office La Vitrine, cultural hub at the corner of Saint-Laurent Boulevard and Sainte-Catherine Street for a complete calendar of the city's cultural activities.


Music in the air

Among this fall's music-focused festivals, check out the music, film, arts and cultural programming (plus craft fair Puces POP) at city-spanning festival POP Montréal International Music Festival from September 25 to 29, featuring Mavis Staples, Laurie Anderson, Colin Stetson, Tirzah, Weyes Blood, Shonen Knife and many more artists. L'OFF Festival de jazz de Montréal showcases eclectic jazz artists from October 3 to 12, M for Montréal features more pop, electro and hip hop shows from November 20 to 23, while Mundial Montréal shines the spotlight on world music from November 19 to 22. On a classical note, the CIOC Festival features concerts throughout October, while the Montreal Bach Festival celebrates the composer from November 22 to December 7. The Orchestre symphonique de Montréal and Orchestre Métropolitain delight in performances all season at the gorgeous Maison symphonique de Montréal, while Bourgie Concert Hall at the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts explores a diversity of classical styles and the McGill Symphony Orchestra and several ensembles perform affordable concerts at the renowned university. And from September 30 to October 14, legendary Québécois poet-musician Gilles Vigneault performs at Place des Arts.

Montréal's fall music concert lineup stands out for its star power, with many concerts falling on or around the weekend – among them, Detroit house producer Theo Parrish at the Phi Centre on September 21, Nick Cave at St-Jean-Baptiste Church on September 27, Céline Dion in a run of shows including October 4 and 5 at the Bell Centre, The Head and the Heart at MTELUS on October 19 and other well-known artists as well as dozens of indie-rock, hip hop, electronic and underground artists at venues city-wide. If you're in the mood to dance late into the night, let loose at these dance clubs or at the Black & Blue Festival on Thanksgiving weekend. For all kinds of live music all season, check out our picks on how to get your nightlife on in Montréal, where to hear live music in Montréal, 10 great places to see indie bands, Montréal's best jazz and blues clubs and our guide to electronic music in Montréal.

Coming by train with VIA Rail Canada is a no-fuss way to get to Montréal for a long weekend.

Robyn Fadden

Robyn Fadden, blogger

Robyn Fadden is a Montréal-based writer and editor who searches out city secrets, new bands, life-changing art and things to do with her perpetually active kid. Robyn has covered major events for HOUR, MUTEK, ARTINFO, CKUT 90.3FM and more.

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