Things to do in Montréal - April 12 to 18, 2019

The spring season arrives in Montréal with Cirque du Soleil's Alegria under the big top, the music-making 21 Balançoires (21 Swings) downtown, butterflies at the Montréal Botanical Garden, pro soccer with the Montréal Impact, great meals at cabanes à sucre, the artistry of Thierry Mugler: Couturissime and even more inspiring art, theatre, dance, film and live music.

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Spring sights and sounds

A major part of the city's annual Montréal Digital Spring events and a highlight of this spring's free things to do, 21 Balançoires (21 Swings) brightens the Promenade des Artistes in the Quartier des spectacles: the art-meets-technology installation lets everyone make music together just by swinging. Nearby, the spiral staircase of art installation Our DNA embodies the architectural and cultural heritage of Montréal's unique neighbourhoods. And animated projection art Synergie lights up the space outside Saint-Laurent metro station every Thursday to Sunday evening. Watch butterflies flit by you at the fascinating and beautiful Butterflies Go Free event at the Montréal Botanical Garden greenhouse. Take in the view of Montréal's changing seasons from the Mount Royal Park lookout, one of the most Instagrammable views in Montréal, or walk the landscaped Promenade Fleuve-Montagne from Mount Royal Park to the St. Lawrence River. You can also get amazing bird's-eye views of Montréal in the climate-controlled comfort of La Grande Roue de Montréal observation wheel, the Montréal Tower at Olympic Park and the Observatoire Place Ville Marie. On Friday and Saturday nights, use your smartphone to search for the projections of Cité Mémoire on building facades throughout Old Montréal. If spring showers send you indoors, keep your mind active with escape game adventures, get moving at indoor ice skating rink Atrium Le 1000 or just relax at Montréal's best spas. In pro sports, cheer on Major League Soccer team the Montréal Impact in its first home game of the season against the Columbus Crew SC on April 13 at Stade Saputo. Whether you're in Montréal for spring break, by plane or train, solo or with family, plot your days and nights with My Official Montréal City Guide, a travel app that lets you experience the city like a Montrealer. And save on your next visit with the MTL Sweet Deal.

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Food and drink

It's still “sugaring off” time in Québec, so feel free to indulge in hearty Québécois meals, maple syrup taffy on snow and more at cabanes à sucre (sugar shacks) in the city and countryside, including at Un Chef à l'érable in the Old Port of Montréal until April 14, Verses Bistro in Old Montréal, during the Complètement Sucres food fair on April 13 in Parc Morgan, and at the Labonté de la Pomme Maple Apple Shack in Oka until April 28. If you're looking for other Québécois classics, follow our guides to the best poutine, bagels and smoked meat, plus Montréal's top chocolatières, excellent Montréal meals worth writing home about and more musts for foodies. Grab a few spring home décor ideas from these design-trending restaurants and bars. And if the weather turns, warm up at Montréal restaurants with fireplaces or with hot food for cold days in Montréal, whether you've got a fondness for pho, ramen or vindaloo (try these 14 great Indian restaurants). Dine well at these top Montréal restaurants for the gourmet traveller, cheerful bring-your-own-wine eateries (including some in Little Italy), charming romantic dining options, lovely laid-back casual restaurants and our new restaurant picks. And make the most of solo dining in Montréal – these restaurants know how to treat you right! Do lunch like a Montrealer at these ten great lunch spots and any time of day grab a pick-me-up at Montréal's indie coffee shops and most “Instagrammable” cafés. Later on, cheer on your favourite team at these Montréal sports bars, see what's hot at the city's new bars, relax with a perfect cocktail, or have a drink away from it all in a hidden bar, speakeasy or perfect date spot. For something light, seek out these health-conscious restaurants and great sushi restaurants and peruse our ultimate guide to vegan eating in Montréal. Or indulge your sweet tooth at Montréal's best bakeries and pastry shops. Explore more of Montréal and its culinary delights on Montréal's best food tours. Let the good times roll along with great food at the Casino de Montréal's restaurants. If you're traveling with kids, check out our ideas for great places to eat with kids in Montréal. And for the adventurous, there's a street food party: Salada Market hosts local gourmet food trucks and gets a dancefloor going on the evenings of April 12 and 13.

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On stage

An artistic circus show like no other, the iconic Cirque du Soleil production Alegria returns to Montréal with reinvigorated design, incredible costumes and world-class performers, from April 18 to June 30 in the Old Port of Montréal. Beauty, love, madness and deception drive classic, romantic ballet Giselle, performed in traditional costume and en pointe by Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal from April 11 to 14 at Place des Arts. Through dance, live music and original texts, choreographer Helen Simard's Requiem Pop explores the recent works and life of rock icon Iggy Pop, at Agora de la danse from April 10 to 13. Montréal's winter-spring theatre season features Centaur Theatre season closer Blind Date, an improvised, absolutely hilarious and often quite poignant play by Rebecca Northan, in which a cast member goes on a “date” with a different audience member each night, from April 9 to 28. A unique, provocative and moving documentary-theatre experience, Intersections brings together five artists in five different cities via online video to tell their lived stories of citizen-driven uprisings, at Théâtre La Chapelle from April 3 to 13. The MAI Montréal, arts interculturels' Black Art Empowerment series features Séancers by Nigerian-American poet and artist Jaamil Olawale Kosoko with guest dancer Dana Michel on April 12 and 13, and $ELFIE$ by marikiscrycrycry on April 17 and 18. And on April 17, Jacob Wren of PME Art turns the typical artist talk inside out in performance A User’s Guide to Authenticity Is a Feeling at Théâtre La Chapelle, while award-winning poet and LGBTQ+ activist Andrea Gibson performs at La Sala Rossa.

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On screen

Experience artist Dana Gingras's immersive film Chute libre (Free Fall), a visceral reminder of the pull of gravity on our bodies, in the Satosphere dome at the Society for Arts and Technology from April 2 to 27 – and on Saturday afternoons, see a family screening of multimedia show Lamparium. Sure to be unlike anything you've experienced before in a VR setting, the Phi Centre presents visceral virtual reality theatre The Horrifically Real Virtuality, a comedic homage to filmmaker Ed Wood, starring Bela Lugosi. Meanwhile, at the Phi Centre's VR Cinema, famous paintings come to life in a collaboration with the Geneva International Film Festival. Also in Old Montréal, visit Notre-Dame Basilica (one of Montréal's most famous icons) to see Moment Factory's immersive multimedia show AURA. Roam the cosmos in science-meets-multimedia shows Planet Nine, Secrets of Gravity, Continuum and Aurōrae as well as new films POLARIS and Passport to the Universe at the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium. The Montréal Science Centre features IMAX films Oceans 3D, Pandas 3D, Volcanoes 3D and new feature Superpower Dogs 3D – along with hands-on science activities such as the Clic! zone (made specifically for kids ages 4 through 7) and a 3.8-billion-year-old moon rock! Among Montréal's great indie cinemas, Mile End's Cinéma Moderne screens art-house, Québécois and cult films every day, Cinémathèque québécoise shows films by more auteurs, while Cinéma du Musée and Cinéma du Parc also screen Canadian and international features and documentaries throughout the week.

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Art for all

Enter the high-fashion art world of Thierry Mugler: Couturissime, an exhibition that features innovative ready-to-wear, haute couture and more wild creations by the French designer, at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts – while there, also see Montreal Couture, showcasing inventive Québec designers, close to 100 iconic photographs in Of Individuals and Places – Photographs from the Lazare Collection and more. Toronto-based Cree artist Kent Monkman critically illuminates the history of Indigenous people in Canada in must-see exhibition Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience at the McCord Museum –  Descendants, a selection of gender-bending films by Indigenous artists, screens on April 17. Swedish photographer Johan Bävman's Papas / Swedish Dads portrays men on parental leave with their children at the Place des Arts Salle d'exposition. At Galerie de l’UQAM, Salle des maquettes brings together works from the gallery’s collections in a timely tracing of the creative process until April 13. Parisian Laundry presents Rose Marcus and Charles Harlan's Leavee, new works inspired by coastal urban living. See recent sculptural works by David Armstrong Six in former factory space the Darling Foundry. At the Phi Centre, watch collaborative video work Speculating Futures, based on present environmental and geopolitical climates and visions of the future. Explore five decades of work by Austrian conceptual artist, performer and filmmaker Valie Export at VOX. Discover new creations in contemporary printed arts at the Montreal Printed Art Festival until April 14 at several locations. See Canada's natural landscape through a researcher's critical lens in Inside/Outside: Images of the Land in Artexte's Collection at Artexte and works by seven Indigenous women artists in exhibition Oubliées ou disparues : Akonessen, Zitya, Tina, Marie et les autres at Ashukan Cultural Space. Marigold Santos' exhibition Malaginto centres on her interpretation of the supernatural being Asuangs as self-awareness, transformation and empowerment, at MAI Montréal, arts interculturels. Don't miss the edgy Never Apart Spring Exhibitions, opening April 18 with art by Age Union artists, Damian Siqueiros and Terra Sapiens Collective, and more. Le Montréaler presents An homage to the New Yorker at the Maison de la culture Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. And there's more art to discover while gallery hopping and antiquing in the city.

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History near and far

Among the city's several family-friendly museums, archaeology and history complex Pointe-à-Callière brings Montréal's past to life in multimedia exhibitions and illuminates an international cabinet of curiosities in new exhibition Into the Wonder Room. Nature and climate comes into full view at the geodesic Biosphère, Environment Museum in Parc Jean-Drapeau. Watch kids' eyes light up when they see the dinosaur skeletons, fossils and more at the Redpath Museum. Wax museum Grévin MONTRÉAL features Québécois and international celebrities past and present. The Canadian Railway Museum Exporail hosts the Circus Train exhibition along with circus acts until April 28. History museum Château Ramezay features World War I exhibition WAR Flowers alongside rooms full of local history. At the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Scripts for a new world: Film storyboards by Alessandro Poli explores elements of film that helped Poli form his language for architecture, while Second Life takes us away from it all in real, imagined and virtual spaces outside of ordinary time and space. Learn more about Jewish culture in Montréal at the Museum of Jewish Montreal, featuring Russian-Jewish artist Yuula Benivolski’s photography installation L'océan entre nous // The Ocean Between Us until May 5. The city's Irish roots also run deep – discover Irish Montréal through landmarks and more. The Musée de Lachine presents history and archeology from the times of fur trade and New France alongside contemporary art. See Barbie's high-fashion transformations through the decades at the free Barbie Expo downtown. Read all about jazz in Montréal, from the Roaring Twenties to today, featuring local history and jazz clubs still hopping to this day. And pick up some historic and present-day facts about Montréal that even some locals might not know.

Live music

Friday night's entertainment features music for all tastes: legendary artist Engelbert Humperdinck performs hits from his long career at Place des Arts, Jordan de Souza conducts the Orchestre Métropolitain in concert Schumann’s Spring, featuring cello soloist Maximilian Hornung at Maison symphonique, and it's time to let loose with The Tea Party at MTELUS, South African singer-songwriter Jeremy Loops and Hollow Coves at Corona Theatre, indie rock band Telekinesis and Sontalk at Ritz P.D.B., and at local indie-promotors' party Black Neon with DJ sets by electronic producers CRi, Choses Sauvages and Blue Hawaii at Théâtre Fairmount. On Saturday, try something different with pianist Maria João Pires and Matthieu Ricard's meditation concert featuring music by Bach and Schubert at Maison symphonique, while on Saturday night spend an evening floating in space with Spiritualized at Corona Theatre, rock out with Laura Jane Grace and the Devouring Mothers at Foufounes Électriques, live it up with rapper Action Bronson at the Society for Arts and Technology, groove to New Zealand indie-pop band Broods at Théâtre Fairmount, British indie-jazz makers Tennyson at Petit Campus or singer-songwriter Natalie Prass at Ritz P.D.B., and dance it out with electro producers Two Friends and Autograf at New City Gas. Sunday brings singer-songwriter Chris Cohen (formerly of Deerhoof) and opener Common Holly to Le Ministère, pop band Against The Current to L’Astral, retro rockers The Cactus Blossoms and Jack Klatt to Petit Campus, rapper and artist Tommy Genesis to Le Belmont and garage punks The Coathangers to Ritz P.D.B.

On Monday, Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason's Saucerful of Secrets features Mason, Spandau Ballet guitarist Gary Kemp, Pink Floyd touring bassist Guy Pratt, guitarist Lee Harris and keyboardist Dom Beken playing early Pink Floyd at Place des Arts. The Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, conducted by Hervé Niquet and featuring soprano Heather Newhouse, presents The Mozart Requiem on April 16, 18 and 19 at Maison symphonique, while on April 17, conductor Bernard Labadie leads the orchestra and French pianist Alexandre Tharaud in Mozart’s Concerto no. 21 and more. On Wednesday, April 16, don't miss indie rockers Tokyo Police Club at Petit Campus and Japanese heavy psych-rock band Acid Mothers Temple at Ritz P.D.B. Start the day of April 18 with the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal's Mozart’s A Little Night Music, conducted by Bernard Labadie at Maison symphonique. And later on Thursday, check out electronic producers Jai Wolf and Melvv at Théâtre Fairmount, singer-songwriter Alec Benjamin and opener Alexander 23 at L’Astral and French rapper Naza at L'Olympia. For even more music throughout the week, 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. And if you want to bring the music home with you, go record shopping at Montréal's excellent vinyl stores.

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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