Spend an autumn long weekend in Montréal

Robyn Fadden

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 the fall. Discover creative seasonal food (including for Canadian Thanksgiving on October 8), 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 and several designer restaurants for those who love to eat in style – among them, Old Montreal’s cozy L’Orignal for a chalet-like experience, Le Club Chasse et Pêche, 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 5, or settle in for a dinner cruise along the St. Lawrence River, a meal surrounded by nature at Montréal's restaurants in parks, dinner and live Motown music at classy Balcon Cabaret Music-Hall or country music, line dancing and way-out-west feasts and cocktails at the Casino de Montréal this fall. By day, go for an excellent brunch, pick up something sweet or savory at Montréal's best bakeries and pastry shops, and visit Montréal’s public markets, including Jean-Talon Market and Atwater Market, to taste seasonal fruit and vegetables, meats and cheese and all manner of pies. Night or day, take a food tour around the city or 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 October 20 to 21.

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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 features monuments, art installations and more along the way. For a bird's-eye views 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. 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 Montréal en Histoires - Cité Mémoire projections. Learn more about the city's history and culture on a walking tour of the Quartier des spectacles, from its Red Light era to recent transformations. 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.

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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 7 to October 31 in the Chinese, Japanese and First Nations gardens of the Montréal Botanical Garden, while the Great Pumpkin Ball entertains with performances and art activities 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 hands-on activities, IMAX films, DreamWorks Animation: The Exhibition and a 3.8-billion-year-old moon rock, roam the cosmos at the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium (also where you can dance outdoors at event Choreographies with Humans and Stars, starting November 1) and see Barbie in high-fashion glory at the free Barbie Expo. Ancient history comes to life in blockbuster exhibition Queens of Egypt at Pointe-à-Callière, while celebrities and historical figures are rendered lifelike at wax museum Grévin MONTREAL. Climb aboard trains and vintage street cars at Exporail / The Canadian Railway Museum or discover Montréal's friendly-skies history at the Montréal Aviation Museum. In sports, watch 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 30, October 8 and October 28, check out Major League Soccer team the Montréal Impact on October 6 and 21, or if you're here mid-week see the Toronto Raptors vs. Brooklyn Nets game on October 10 at the Bell Centre. Whether you're coming to Montréal with family or solo, VIA Rail Canada allows you to relax, enjoy the view and enjoy your weekend.

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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 new exhibitions Alexander Calder – Radical Inventor and Resplendent Illuminations, featuring 50 works from illuminated religious manuscripts of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. See German artist Julian Rosefeldt's 13-channel video installation Manifesto and a retrospective exhibition of works by Françoise Sullivan at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal. DHC/ART Foundation for Contemporary Art, in Old Montréal, presents Jasmina Cibic: Everything That You Desire and Nothing That You Fear, opening on October 25, a critical and immersive look at the production of national culture, drawing on the planning stages of Expo 67. Galerie de l'UQAM and Cinémathèque québécoise explore themes of rebellion, revolt and revolution in cross-disciplinary exhibition and film program Uprisings. See Balenciaga – Master of Couture exhibition alongside Shalom Montreal – Stories and Contributions of the Jewish Community at the McCord Museum. Discover the City of Light circa the 18th century in the Stewart Museum's Paris on Display: 18th-Century Boutiques 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 features Utopie Radicali: Florence 1966–1976 and Scripts for a new world: Film storyboards by Alessandro Poli this fall. 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 universe's timeless vibrations in new virtual reality exhibition Echo: The Sound of Space at the Phi Centre this fall, featuring short VR films that let us travel the world and beyond. 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 26 to 30, the Festival du nouveau cinéma, from October 3 to 14, Montreal International Documentary Festival (RIDM) documentary festival, from November 8 to 18, and CINEMANIA Francophone Festival (with English subtitles!), from November 1 to 11. Contemporary dance fans are never at a loss for shows in Montréal: this fall, see performances presented by Danse Danse (including incredible shows by Dada Masilo and Gauthier Dance), Agora de la danse, Tangente and Danse-Cité. Les Grands Ballets Canadiens present Lady Chatterley's Lover, choreographed by Cathy Marston, from October 4 to 13 at Place des Arts, while Théâtre La Chapelle spotlights an array of dance, theatre and multidisciplinary performances all season. In mid-November, see Opéra de Montréal's production of Das Rheingold by Wagner and Cirque Éloize's acrobatic and poetic Hotel. There's more circus for all ages at circus centre La TOHU. Old Montréal's Centaur Theatre Company opens its 50th season on October 9 with choir boy, written by Tarell Alvin McCraney, the Oscar-winning writer of Moonlight. The Segal Centre for Performing Arts takes us to the Irish streets in Tony-award-winning musical Once, opening on October 7. The ritzy Montréal Burlesque Festival shakes and shimmies in sequins from October 18 to 20. All-around classic entertainers Steve Martin & Martin Short grace us with their comedy stylings at Place des Arts on October 21. And the Arab World Festival of Montreal showcases Arabic and Western culture in dance, film, art, live music and more from October 26 to November 11. Stop by box office La Vitrine, cultural hub at the corner of Saint-Laurent and Sainte-Catherine for a complete calendar of the city's cultural activities.

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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 from September 26 to 30, featuring Wanda Jackson, Daniel Lanois, Venetian Snares, Bill Callahan and many more artists. The OFF Festival de jazz de Montréal showcases eclectic jazz artists from October 4 to 13, M for Montréal features more pop, electro and hip hop shows from November 14 to 17, while Mundial Montréal shines the spotlight on world music from November 13 to 16. On a classical note, the Canadian International Organ Competition features concerts from October 7 to 30, while the Montreal Bach Festival celebrates the composer from November 4 to December 7. The Orchestre symphonique de Montréal and Orchestre Métropolitan 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.

Montréal's fall music concert lineup stands out for its star power, with many concerts falling on or around the weekend – among them, none other than Paul McCartney, Elton John, J. Cole, Gorillaz, Andrea Bocelli, Phil Collins, The Proclaimers, Liz Phair, Violent Femmes, Thievery Corporation, Chilly Gonzales, Iron & Wine, Serena Ryder 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.

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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