Things to do in Montréal - September 21 to 27

As summer wanes, Montréal's weather is perfect for strolling through the Gardens of Light and checking out the Oasis International Marathon de Montréal. Meanwhile, stay entertained indoors with festivals POP Montréal and Red Bull Music Festival Montréal, contemporary ballet Giselle, the World Press Photo exhibition and more events citywide.

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Free outdoor activities

In Place des Festivals this week, there are plenty of free things to do and see. Get an eyeful of the colourful urban art by the 16 artists of Surfaces, l'expo d'art urbain on the Promenade des Artistes, and make symphonic sounds with artist Étienne Paquette's 28-foot-high Wind Instrument installation outside Saint-Laurent metro station. At night, look up to the building facades in Place des Festivals to see Agora de la danse's architectural projections inspired by contemporary dance in EVE 2050 from September 19 to 22. Or get loud as you cheer on the thousands of runners in the Oasis International Marathon de Montréal from September 21 to 23, with headquarters in the Quartier des spectacles, starting with a free Health and Fitness Expo and ending with a major outdoor concert. See new art at pop-up outdoor exhibition Artch in downtown's Square Dorchester from September 27 to 30, featuring art by 21 emerging contemporary artists. And there's music, performances, food and drink at open-air markets Jardins Gamelin near the Village and the Aires Libres rainbow, the Old Port's Marché des Éclusiers and Les Jardineries on the Esplanade Financière Sun Life at Olympic Park, including their OktoberFest aux Jardineries on September 27.

Major music festivals

This year's POP Montréal music and arts festival runs from September 26 to 30, kicking off on Wednesday with a free opening party and shows by The Proclaimers, Zola Jesus, Bush Tetras, Kilo Kish, Oneohtrix Point Never and many more artists, followed on Thursday night by Venetian Snares and Daniel Lanois, Sophie, Elisapie, Wolf Parade, Molly Nilsson and many others. There's also free Art POP exhibitions and the POP Symposium discussion series in the Rialto Theatre Complex on Parc Avenue, Film POP programming, arts and crafts fair Puces POP, Kids POP programming, outdoor shows at Jardins Gamelins and the Marché des Possibles and more. Meanwhile, Red Bull Music Festival Montréal presents Ten Years of Arbutus Records at Arsenal gallery on Friday with Blue Hawaii, Tops, Marie Davidson and more, followed on September 22 by Ryan Hemsworth: Elsewhere at the Phi Centre and R&B show 463 Carats on September 25, and co-presents the Oneohtrix Point Never and Sophie show with POP Montréal.

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Activities for all ages

Colourful lanterns and lighting displays meet natural surroundings in annual exhibition Gardens of Light, up to October 31 in the Chinese, Japanese and First Nations gardens of the Montréal Botanical Garden. In the Old Port of Montréal, play on pirate ship ropes course Voiles en Voiles, the MTL Zipline, SOS Labyrinthe and high-tower experience Decalade.com. On the water, take a boat ride on the St. Lawrence River with Bateau-Mouche, Croisières AML, Le Petit Navire or Navark; speed it up with WET SET MTL, Saute-Moutons and Rafting Montréal or surf the rapids with KSF. Soak up the last of summer with our ultimate guide to Montréal's beaches and pools (or relax indoors at some of Montréal's best spas). Visit the Ecomuseum Zoo conservation area to see 115 animal species from the St. Lawrence Valley, including otters, wolves and hawks. Olympics sports fans can experience an Olympian's journey in the Canadian Olympic Experience at Canadian Olympic Committee headquarters downtown. In pro sports, watch the Montréal Canadiens in the NHL preseason on September 22 against the Ottawa Senators and on September 26 against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Bell Centre, and check out Major League Soccer team the Montréal Impact play New York City FC on September 22 at Saputo Stadium. 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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City sights

With city views, leafy forest paths and fresh air, a visit to Mount Royal is a must – stop by Café suspendu du mont Royal every weekend throughout September for refreshing beverages and free activities, including yoga and live music. Go from Mount Royal Park's greenery through city streets to the St. Lawrence River on the beautiful Promenade Fleuve-Montagne path, featuring monuments, art installations and more along the way. Bird's-eye views of the city also await in the comfort of the Observatoire Place Ville Marie downtown (featuring wine tasting event Bulles et Rosés on September 26), La Grande Roue de Montréal observation wheel in the Old Port or the Montréal Tower at Olympic Park – learn more about the city's Olympic history on a tour of the tower and Olympic Park while you're there! Stroll through Montréal's Chinatown to see historic sights and have a great meal. Bike like a Montrealer with bike-sharing system BIXI or explore further afield on these three bike rides perfect for visitors (featuring a helpful list of bike rental options). At night, see why Montréal is a city of lights too: see high-tech wonder AURA at Notre-Dame Basilica and spot Montréal en Histoires - Cité Memoire 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. Whether you're coming to Montréal solo or with family, arrive in the heart of the action by train on VIA Rail Canada.

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Food and drink

If you're looking for the latest and greatest restaurants in the city, we've got the goods on new restaurant openings in Montréal. Explore Montréal and its culinary delights on foot or by bike with Montréal's best food tours. 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 some designer restaurants for those who love to eat in style. Surround yourself in nature as you eat at Montréal's restaurants in parks, pick up your own picnic-ready food for the park, dine in style on a hidden terrasse or have a drink away from it all in a hidden bar. Wake up at Montréal's indie coffee shops or chill out with a perfect cocktail (or a pitcher of cocktails). Enjoy Montréal's many brunch options and the many restaurants open from brunch to well past dinner. Try these lunch counters in Montréal, new casual restaurants and cheerful bring-your-own-wine eateries. 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 lighter, check out these health-conscious restaurants, great sushi restaurants and our ultimate guide to vegan eating in Montréal. Or indulge your sweet tooth with our guide to Montréal's best bakeries and pastry shops and the best ice cream and frozen treats in Montréal.

On stage

Danse Danse presents South African choreographer Dada Masilo and The Dance Factory's modern and feminist reinterpretation of ballet Giselle at Place des Arts from September 25 to 29. A theatrical and audiovisual wonder featuring 70 thoroughbred horses, Cavalia Odysseo thrills until September 30 under the big top near the Jacques-Cartier Bridge. Agora de la danse features installation and performance van grimde corps secrets from September 19 to 22 and l'affadissement du merveilleux by Catherine Gaudet from September 26 to 29. Tangente presents Sarah Dell'ava's Or extended movement performance from September 14 to 22. Ensemble Projets hybris presents Youngnesse, a dance and theatre performance reflecting on the political energy of youth unleashed by the 2012 student strike, September 24 to 28 at Théâtre La Chapelle. Choreographer and live artist Dana Michel and poet and editor Michael Nardone discuss their performance writing residency and score-in-progress So So Silky Silky Silk: Scoring Yellow Towel on September 27 at SBC Gallery of Contemporary Art. Laugh along to local performers' tall tales at cabaret fundraiser Kiss My Urban Tales! on September 21 at Centaur Theatre. And the Casino de Montréal’s It’s Country nights entertain and delight with music and dance stage shows, country-inspired cocktails and food, a mechanical bull and more.

On screen

The Montréal International Black Film Festival presents feature films, shorts and events from September 25 to 30, including opening film Obey by writer-director Jamie Jones and an evening with Spike Lee on September 26. Experience the universe's timeless vibrations in new virtual reality exhibition Echo: The Sound of Space opening September 25 at the Phi Centre, featuring short VR films that let us travel the world and beyond. See the incredible 360-degree films by Jérémie Bellot & Nan[O], A Metabolist Utopia, and Nanotak, Versus, in the SAT's Satosphere up to September 22, followed by Human Instrument, a melding of the human voice with high-tech images, September 25 to 29. 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, Oceans 3D and America's Musical Journey 3D – also see 400 original art objects and drawings in DreamWorks Animation: The Exhibition and a 3.8-billion-year-old moon rock. The Canada China International Film Festival focuses on current and future filmmaking practices, with screenings and industry events from September 21 to 25. And Mile End's new cinema, Cinéma Moderne, opens this week with a roster of art-house and cult films from around the world – the cinema also joins POP Montréal's venues this year to present the Film POP program.

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Art for all

See the world and its people in eye-opening professional photography exhibition World Press Photo, August 29 to September 30 at Marché Bonsecours in Old Montréal. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts presents Alexander Calder: Radical Inventor, the first Canadian retrospective of the American modern art giant, with over 150 paintings, sculptures, jewelry and other graphic works on display. The museum also features solo exhibition Motion – Emotion by French artist Jean-Michel Othoniel, video installation Liminals by Jeremy Shaw and Resplendent Illuminations: Books of Hours from the 13th to the 16th Century in Quebec Collections. Galerie de l'UQAM and Cinémathèque québécoise explore themes of rebellion, revolt and revolution in cross-disciplinary exhibition and film program Uprisings, while the Centre de design de l'UQAM presents poster exhibition Non conforme - L’univers underground d’Elzo Durt et de Sébastien Lépine. Visit Mile End galleries Atelier Circulaire, Centre CLARK, Dazibao, Diagonale, Occurrence, Optica, Perte De Signal and Topo in the 5400 block of de Gaspé Avenue in Mile End to see their newest art exhibitions. This weekend's What the Pop! event features art work, music and more by emerging artists in three different venues, from Old Montréal to Mile Ex. Stop by Parisian Laundry in Saint-Henri to see intriguing new exhibitions Instances by Marie-Michelle Deschamps and Going Together by Alexandre David, while Galerie D'Este in the Plateau presents Fiona Annis's The light that was never was, atmospheric landscapes and other images created using antiquated photographic processes, and OBORO presents collective exhibition Où sommes-nous with Judith Albert, Dana Claxton, Nik Forrest and Katrin Freisager. And there's even more art to discover while gallery hopping and antiquing.

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History near and far

Ancient history comes to life in exhibition Queens of Egypt, transporting us way back in time to discover royal lifestyles through preserved ancient objects, at Pointe-à-Callière, also where multimedia exhibitions let you step into local history. See the fabulous haute couture retrospective of the legendary Spanish fashion designer Cristóbal Balenciaga at the McCord Museum's Balenciaga – Master of Couture exhibition, alongside Shalom Montreal – Stories and Contributions of the Jewish Community. Based in research spanning three Québec universities, InterReconnaissance – Une mémoire citoyenne se raconte gathers voices and traces from 50 years of mobilizing for the rights of minority groups in Québec at the Écomusée du fier monde. See 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. 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. Check out Utopie Radicali: Florence 1966–1976, about the Italian radical movement's utopian architectural visions, and Scripts for a new world: Film storyboards by Alessandro Poliat the Canadian Centre for Architecture. If you're a Barbie fan, see her many incarnations over the years at the impressive and free Barbie Expo downtown. See celebrities and historical figures rendered in lifelike wax figures at Grévin MONTRÉAL. And, speaking of pieces of history, pick up one-of-a-kind goods with our ultimate guide to vintage shopping in Montréal.

Live music

On Friday night, X Factor finalist Katie Markham performs concert production Someone Like You - The Adele Songbook at Place des Arts, while La Force (members of Broken Social Scene) and opener Murray A. Lightburn (of the Dears) perform at the Phi Centre, rapper-singer-songwriter Orelsan and Shirazee come to MTELUS, Coheed and Cambria and Protest The Hero are at L'Olympia, dreamy sounds and distortion meet in Grouper at La Sala Rossa, We Were Promised Jetpacks flies into Ritz P.D.B., and Dutch DJ and producer Joris Voorn plays L’Astral. On Saturday night, Orelsan plays his second show at MTELUS, brass-rock band Streetlight Manifesto and Mephiskapheles roll into L'Olympia, Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls and Sam Coffey and The Iron Lungs stomp up a good time at Corona Theatre, while The Sadies and openers Lil Andy and Mike Begin and The Professionals whoop it up at La Sala Rossa, electronic dance music producer Jauz gets us dancing at New City Gas, and Never Apart hosts Equinox, a music and art event, featuring electronic music by Octo Octa, Eris Drew, Ciel, Dust-e-1 and softcoresoft at Bloc 66 plus a daytime discussion series at the gallery. On Sunday afternoon, dance outdoors at weekly electronic music party Piknic Électronik at Parc Jean-Drapeau, with producers Omar S, Chaos In The CBD and Akufen laying down the beats at this season's penultimate Piknic. Sunday night brings “Barbie Girl” originators AQUA to MTELUS, The Cadillac Three and Black Mountain Whiskey Rebellion to Petit Campus, Alina Baraz and Cautious Clay to Corona Theatre and Paul De Jong (of folktronica duo The Books) with Jennifer Cavanaugh and openers Platitudes, Joni Void & Maya Kuroki to La Sala Rossa.

Chris de Burgh returns to Montréal for two solo shows at Théâtre St-Denis on September 24 and 25. On Tuesday, hear Dutch violinist and conductor André Rieu at the Bell Centre and Snoh Aalegra at Le Belmont. On Wednesday night, POP Montréal presents The Proclaimers and Siobhan Wilson at Corona Theatre, Saint Sister and Shotty Horroh at Petit Campus, experimental rockers Palm and openers Rapport and Look Vibrant play Ritz P.D.B., along with several other shows. And on Thursday, bask in the sounds of the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal as they play concert Beethoven’s “Eroica” and the brilliance of Mozart at Maison symphonique de Montréal on September 27, featuring violinist Andrew Wan and conductor Rafael Payare. DIY punk music festival A Varning From MTL starts on September 27 at Coop Katacombes with a weekend of bands including Sunshine Ward, Apärä and Bloodsuckers. For even 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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