Things to do in Montréal - July 20 to 26

Robyn Fadden

The laugh riot's in full force in Montréal with comedy festival Just For Laughs alongside OFF-JFL and Zoofest. Hear a world of music at Festival International Nuits d'Afrique, catch a Fantasia film, watch world-class fireworks, eat delicious summer food and experience even more all week.

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Festival laughs and music

July festival season in Montréal continues to unfold with all kinds of entertainment this week filling downtown's Quartier des Spectacles. The ever-hilarious Just For Laughs comedy fest showcases top-names including the Will Forte Gala, the Ken Jeong Gala, the Brit(ish) show, the Stand Up Show with Katherine Ryan and solo shows by David Cross, Tig Notaro, Jimmy Carr, Tom Green, Dylan Moran, Russell Peters and Irish YouTuber Jacksepticeye. Meanwhile, The Ethnic Show at Club Soda and The Nasty Show at MTELUS keep us laughing almost every night of the week. And there's free comedy, music and circus performances, a family activity zone and more outside Place des Arts. Hand in hand with JFL comes Zoofest and OFF JFL, with English-language shows featuring Fortune Feimster, DeAnne Smith, Judah Friedlander, Neal Brennan, Janelle James and Tim Dillon, Colin Quinn, Sabrina Jalees, Mike Ward, Michael Ian Black and Nick Thune, Godfrey, Todd Glass, Tom Papa and more. Meanwhile, Festival International Nuits d'Afrique brings major music artists to Montréal from 35 countries, July 10 to 22, including free dance and percussion workshops and outdoor shows by Alioune Guissé, Tété, Wailing Trees, Degg J Force 3, HK L'Empire de Papier, Boogát and Sékouba Bambino – see our music section below for the fest's indoor shows. And Haiti on Fire! glows with Haitian music, film, theatre, dance and more, July 25 to 29 in Parc La Fontaine.

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Games, markets and fireworks

Summer's packed with all kinds of free things to do in Montréal. Downtown in the Quartier des spectacles from July 18 to 29, play board games, video games and more at family-friendly Mondial des Jeux Loto-Québec. Whether you're here for a weekend or a week, explore Montréal's ephemeral summertime spaces, including open-air markets and music venues Jardins Gamelin near the Village and the Aires Libres rainbow, Village au Pied-du-Courant near the Jacques-Cartier Bridge, the Old Port's Marché des Éclusiers, La Station F-MR along the Lachine Canal, and Les Jardineries on the Esplanade Financière Sun Life at Olympic Park. In Mile End, the Marché des Possibles celebrates its 5th anniversary every weekend this summer with music, activities for all ages, a market, food and more. On the other side of the shopping spectrum, shop local at Montréal designer boutiques, go antiquing along the Canal for unique treasures or gallery hop for unique works of art. Discover places to cool down and relax by the water in our ultimate guide to Montréal's beaches and pools (or relax indoors at some of Montréal's best spas.) And light up your life at night with fireworks competition L'International des Feux Loto-Québec, pyrotechnic performances set to music: on Saturday, July 21, the Philippines present Of Games and Thrones, inspired by film and video games and music. Get close to the action at La Ronde, on the Jacques-Cartier Bridge or from several other stellar spots to watch the fireworks.

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City sights and lights

See the city sights from above in the high-altitude comfort of the Observatoire Place Ville Marie downtown, La Grande Roue de Montréal observation wheel in the Old Port or the Montréal Tower at Olympic Stadium – learn more about the city's Olympic history on a tour of the tower and Olympic Park while you're there! Don't miss the view from the top of Mount Royal either, along with refreshing beverages, free activities and music at Café suspendu du mont Royal every Friday to Sunday. Or come down to earth at the Montréal Botanical Garden, where you'll spot plants from around the world in bloom. Fun-seekers of all ages head to the Old Port of Montréal's pirate ship ropes course Voiles en Voiles, the MTL Zipline, SOS Labyrinthe and high-tower experience Decalade.com – or take a ride on the St. Lawrence River with Bateau-Mouche, Croisières AML, Le Petit Navire, Navark and Saute-Moutons jet boats. (Pick up a Passeport MTL pass to save on a bundle of these activities, museums and more.) At night in Old Montréal, discover why Montréal is a city of lights too: see high-tech wonder AURA at Notre-Dame Basilica and spot Cité Mémoire projections on building facades. Follow our guide to Montréal's most famous icons to see more of the city's major sights and architecture. On July 26, the CFL's Montréal Alouettes take on Edmonton in a home game at Percival-Molson Memorial Stadium. And coming up, the world's greatest  tennis players face off in the Rogers Cup, with Montréal hosting the women's tournament from August 3 to 12 – get your court-side seats now! 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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Food and drink

Eat local and very well at gourmet open-air village BOUFFONS!MTL, featuring food and drink from over 35 great restaurants, cafés and other vendors, from July 18 to 29 at the corner of de Bleury and Sainte-Catherine West downtown. Stay cool in the July heat with the best ice cream and frozen treats in Montréal, along with iced coffee at Montréal's indie coffee shops, your favourite new beer at Montréal microbreweries or that perfect summer cocktail – if you're with a group, why not make it a pitcher of cocktails? Enjoy the summer weather while picnicking like a Montrealer in the park or explore Montréal and its culinary delights on foot or by bike with Montréal's best food tours. Discover Montréal's many brunch options and the many restaurants open from brunch to well past dinner. For lunch, try these lunch counters in Montréal or new casual restaurants. From creatively casual to classically French, these restaurants let you bring your own wine. If you're looking for local food and 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 light to eat, check out these health-conscious restaurants and the many vegan options in our ultimate guide to vegan eating in Montréal. For some of the best baked goods around, peruse our updated list of Montréal's new bakeries and pastry shops. Or get your comfort-food fix at this week's Le Grand MacFest in the Old Port from July 24 to 29, featuring some of the city's best mac and cheese.

Stage and screen

See new horror, thriller, action, anime and other genre films – often with directors on hand – and catch some classics too at the Fantasia International Film Festival, July 12 to August 2, featuring Shinsuke Sato's Bleach, Inuyashiki and I Am Hero, Mick Garris's Nightmare Cinema, Takashi Miike's Laplace's Witch, Daniel Roby's Dans la brume, David Robert Mitchell's Under The Silver Lake, Akiko Ohku's Tremble All You Want and so much more.  Feast your eyes on 70 horses and their riders, circus acrobatics, fantastical theatrics and spectacular audiovisuals in Cavalia Odysseo under the big top near the Jacques-Cartier Bridge from July 25 to August 19. Repercussion Theatre stages gender-bending Romeo & Juliet: Love is Love for its annual Shakespeare-in-the-Park performances – see it in NDG Park on July 20, outside the Canadian Centre for Architecture on July 21 and in Parc Lafontaine on July 25, at 7 p.m. Watch films under the stars with CINEMANIA (presenting Justine Triet's Victoria in Parc La Fontaine on July 24), Le Cinéma sous les étoiles and the SAT's Downtown screenings under the stars at Parc de la Paix downtown (presenting Robin Aubert's Les affamés on July 24). Roam the cosmos in science-meets-multimedia creations EXO, The Blind Man with Starry Eyes, Continuum and Aurōrae at the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium. Go on a wild ride in IMAX at the Montréal Science Centre with Tiny Giants 3D and America's Musical Journey. Visit the Montréal Science Centre to see 400 original art objects and drawings in DreamWorks Animation: The Exhibition. And at the Phi Centre in Old Montréal, immersive VR experience Particles of Existence lets you travel through the universe at a non-human scale while exploring crucial global concerns. 

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Art for all

In keeping with festival season, Osheaga presents their Music on Paper poster exhibition at Station 16, while up the street at MainLine Gallery the Greenland Productions: Since 1993 exhibition gives us 25 years of Montréal concerts in posters and photographs. Among the blockbuster Montréal museum exhibitions this summer, visit the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts to see how From Africa to the Americas: Face-to-Face Picasso, Past and Present tackles the complex question of “primitivism” in art history, works by Canadian artists of African origin in Here We Are Here: Black Canadian Contemporary Art, solo exhibition Motion – Emotion of works by French artist Jean-Michel Othoniel and much more. Outside the museum, the sun glints off gorgeous glass sculpture Chihuly's Sun. Immerse yourself in architectural “anti-monuments” and other large-scale, participatory installations of artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer in major exhibition Unstable Presence at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal. At DHC/ART, Bharti Kher: Points de départ, points qui lient explores hybridity, the female body and the nonphysical in the material world in works woven through with the artist's signature use of the bindi. In Mile Ex, stop by gallery Never Apart to see thought-provoking and diverse summer exhibitions. And the high-tech artistry of the International Digital Art Biennial (BIAN) continues until August 5 at Arsenal gallery, featuring art under the theme AUTOMATA: Sing the Body Electric.

Local history and beyond

The past comes alive at the McCord Museum, featuring Balenciaga – Master of Couture, a haute couture retrospective of the legendary Spanish fashion designer Cristóbal Balenciaga, as well as Shalom Montreal – Stories and Contributions of the Jewish Community, outdoor photography of Montréal's retail past along McGill College Avenue and the Urban Forest outside the museum, featuring Klezmer music on Wednesdays at 12:30 p.m. The Stewart Museum exhibition Paris on Display: 18th-Century Boutiques gives us a glimpse of the City of Light in the 18th century. The Musée de Lachine presents history and archeology from the times of fur trade and New France alongside contemporary art – and on July 22, Wapikoni mobile presents films and a workshop. Exporail, the Canadian Railway Museum, harkens back to a time of vintage railroads and streetcars, while the Montréal Aviation Museum recaps our local history flying the friendly skies. Or travel way, way back in time to discover just how royally the Queens of Egypt lived in a blockbuster exhibition at Pointe-à-Callière. Lab Cult at the Canadian Centre for Architecture addresses interchanges between science and architecture while Utopie Radicali: Florence 1966–1976 explores the Italian radical movement's utopian architectural visions. And if you're a baseball fan, peek into the world's biggest collection of Montréal Expos memorabilia.

Live music

Montréal pulses with the diverse sounds of Festival International Nuits d'Afrique this week outdoors and on indoor stages too: on Friday, July 20, see La Nuit de la Kora concert with 21-string kora master Prince Diabate and Diely Mori Tounkara at Le Gesù and check out Soirée Future Tribe with AfrotroniX at Le Ministère; Saturday brings Soirée Afrohouse with Poirier, Mr. Touré and Yaya to Le Ministère; and on Sunday, see Burkinabe reggae artist Kabey Konate and Brazil's Forró Brasa at Club Balattou. Get ready to dance on Saturday night with Icelandic electronic producer Bjarki at Newspeak with opener EOD, the Dômesicle partys - Édition estivale in the Society for Arts and Technology's 360-degree dome and the beat of Croatia Squad at New City Gas. Spend Sunday afternoon in the open air at electronic dance party Piknic Électronik at Parc Jean-Drapeau, featuring the sounds of Palms Trax, Solar, Zenker Brothers and more, along with Petit Piknic family activities. On Sunday night, adult-contemporary star Yanni lightens up the Bell Centre and Chicago house changemaker Felix Da Housecat shows up with sweet vibes at Bar Datcha.

Monday night's no Plain Jane when NYC rapper A$AP Ferg rolls his Mad Man Tour into New City Gas. The alt-folk sounds of This is the Kit and Woodpigeon make L'Escogriffe the place to be on Tuesday, July 24. Indie-folk band Fleet Foxes returns with new songs and older favourites on July 25 at Corona Theatre with opener Nilüfer Yanya, while British post-punk director and dub-reggae DJ Don Letts and Sud West DJ's - Poirier & Ghostbeard bring their party to Le Belmont sur le Boulevard. Metal band Deafheaven descends on Théâtre Fairmount on July 26 with Drab Majesty and Uniform. In a '77 Montréal pre-party on Thursday, July 26, Damian Abraham (of band F*cked Up) presents a live recording session of his podcast Turned Out a Punk with guest Zach Blair of Rise Against at Le Ministère, followed by a rare screening of Don Letts film Two Sevens Clash! For more live 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.

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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