Things to do in Montréal - September 28 to October 4

Robyn Fadden

Autumn is truly in the Montréal air this week as the city celebrates its cultural creativity with Les Journées de la culture free activities, the final days of the World Press Photo exhibition, contemporary ballet Giselle, evening strolls through the Gardens of Light, late nights out at music festival POP Montréal and so much more.

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Free cultural activities

Among the many free things to do this fall in Montréal, this weekend's Les Journées de la culture offers a massive number of things to do for all ages at many of the city’s galleries, museums and cultural spaces – check the Journées de la culture Montréal programming for everything going on from September 28 to 30, including dance and music workshops in Espace culturel Georges-Émile-Lapalme in Place des Arts, impromptu theatre at the Monument-National, DJing workshops for kids at the SAT, and a free organ concert at Chapelle Notre-Dame de Bon Secours, presented by the Canadian International Organ Competition Festival. In Place des Festivals, get an eyeful of the colourful urban art by the sixteen 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. See new art at pop-up outdoor exhibition Artch in downtown's Dorchester Square from September 27 to 30, featuring art by 21 emerging contemporary artists. And there's music, performances, food and drink at the closing weekend of Jardins Gamelin near the Village, while the Old Port's Marché des Éclusiers continues until the end of October and Les Jardineries on the Esplanade Financière Sun Life at Olympic Park stays hopping with an OktoberFest weekend.

Major music festivals

The 17th edition of the POP Montréal International Music Festival international music and arts festival runs from September 26 to 30, with dozens of artists playing indie, rock, electronic, hip hop and more music every night, along with free Art POP exhibitions, the POP Symposium discussion series and Kids POP activities in the Rialto Theatre Complex on Parc Avenue, Film POP screenings, arts and crafts fair Puces POP this weekend and free outdoor shows at Jardins Gamelins (see Kallitechnis and Waahli on Friday) and daytime BBQs and shows in the Marché des Possibles. Among the many artists playing POP this weekend, catch The Charlatans UK, Bill Callahan, Odonis Odonis, Abdul Lateef and the Distraction Machine, Alanis Obomsawin and Ansley Simpson, Wolf Parade, Koriass, Thus Owls, Gaz Coombes, U.S. Girls, Blitzen Trapper, Electric Six, Gypsy Kumbia Orchestra and many more artists. Later in the week, the 19th edition of the OFF Festival de jazz de Montréal kicks off on Thursday with Ratchet Orchestra at Cabaret Lion d'Or and continues its program of eclectic jazz from October 4 to 13.

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Activities for all ages

Get into an autumnal state of mind and body with these fall harvest activities in and around Montréal. If you're spending a long weekend in Montréal this fall, don't miss seeing the colourful lanterns and lighting displays of annual exhibition Gardens of Light, up to October 31 in the Chinese, Japanese and First Nations gardens of the Montréal Botanical Garden. While there, take a guided tour, try Chinese pastries and see exhibitions Francis Hallé: A Botanist's Journal and Hiroshima, The Legacy of Life. For something a little different, discover the wild world of insects, from butterflies to ants, at the Montréal Insectarium right next to the Montréal Botanical Garden. Or visit the Ecomuseum Zoo conservation area to see 115 animal species from the St. Lawrence Valley, including otters, wolves and hawks. 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. Or relax indoors at some of Montréal's best spas. Olympic sports fans can experience an Olympian's journey in the Canadian Olympic Experience at Canadian Olympic Committee headquarters downtown. It's all about action sports as Travis Pastrana's Nitro Circus takes over the Bell Centre on Friday night. Or catch a CFL football game with the Montréal Alouettes and Saskatchewan Roughriders on September 30. 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 and October for refreshing beverages and free activities. 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, 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 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. Whether you're coming to Montréal solo or with family, arrive in the heart of the action by train on VIA Rail Canada.

Food and drink

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 as well as designer restaurants for those who love to eat in style. Or travel off the beaten path with these brand new restaurants in Montréal. Surround yourself in nature as you eat at Montréal's restaurants in parks, pick up your own picnic-ready food for the park or dine on a hidden terrasse. Wake up at Montréal's indie coffee shops – and if you're a real coffee fan, check out the tastings, talks and workshops at East Coast Coffee Madness on October 1 at the SAT. By mid-day, go out for a great brunch, try restaurants open from brunch to well past dinner or grab something quick at Montréal lunch counters. There's no need to change into fancy duds at these new casual restaurants and cheerful bring-your-own-wine eateries. And later on, relax with a perfect cocktail (or a pitcher of cocktails?) or have a drink away from it all in a hidden bar. 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. And while the warmish weather lasts, explore Montréal and its culinary delights on foot or by bike with Montréal's best food tours.

On stage

Discover Montréal's contemporary dance scene this season, beginning with South African choreographer Dada Masilo and The Dance Factory's modern and feminist reinterpretation of ballet Giselle presented by Danse Danse at Place des Arts from September 25 to 29. Follow that with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal's adaptation of Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence, from October 4 to 13 at Place des Arts. Agora de la danse features L'affadissement du merveilleux by Catherine Gaudet from September 26 to 29 and 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. A theatrical and audiovisual wonder featuring 70 thoroughbred horses, Cavalia Odysseo thrills until September 30 under the big top near the Jacques-Cartier Bridge. 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. Montréal's fall theatre season starts with Théâtre Passe Muraille's Sound of the Beast, starring Donna-Michelle St. Bernard and co-presented by Canada’s oldest professional Black theatre company Black Theatre Workshop at MAI Montréal, arts interculturels from October 3 to 14. And from September 28 to 30, David Fennario's bilingual theatre production Balconville returns as a staged reading to celebrate the 50th-anniversary season of the Centaur Theatre Company.

On screen

The Montréal International Black Film Festival presents feature films, shorts and events from September 25 to 30, including this weekend's Black Market film industry presentations, a youth program on September 30 at Cinéma du Parc and closing film Dead Women Walking by Hagar Ben-Asher. See over 300 feature films and shorts from Canada and around the world at the 47th Festival du nouveau cinéma from October 3 to 14, as well as panel discussions and presentations, industry events, kids programming, parties and more – the FNC opens this year with Barry Jenkins's new film If Beale Street Could Talk. Experience the universe's timeless vibrations in new virtual reality exhibition Echo: The Sound of Space, opening on September 25 at the Phi Centre, featuring VR films that let us travel the world and beyond. See incredible 360-degree multimedia creation Human Instrument, melding the human voice with high-tech images, September 25 to 29 in the SAT's Satosphere dome. 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 a 3.8-billion-year-old moon rock. And Mile End's new cinema, Cinéma Moderne, features 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, only until September 30 at Marché Bonsecours in Old Montréal. Among this season's must-see museum exhibitions, 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: A Para-fiction of Transcendence 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. Daily after sunset, see Bettina Hoffmann's Choreography of Movement dance-related art exhibition in the Goethe-Institut Kanada’s windows at the corner of Saintt-Laurent Boulevard and Ontario Street. The Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal's SéminArts program on art collection includes an English-language series, starting on October 3 at Galerie Simon Blais. 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. 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, images created using antiquated photographic processes, and OBORO presents collective exhibition Où sommes-nous with Judith Albert, Dana Claxton, Nik Forrest and Katrin Freisager. See painter David Farsi's monumental artwork La comédie du monde, ombres et lumières at La TOHU and explore nature's wonders in Frédéric-Back Park next door. And there's even more art to discover while gallery hopping and antiquing.

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History near and far

Queens of Egypt transports us 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. Haute couture fashion wows at the McCord Museum's Balenciaga – Master of Couture exhibition, while Shalom Montreal – Stories and Contributions of the Jewish Community and photography exhibition Montréal Storefronts on McGill College Avenue provide insight into Montréal's past. See the City of Light circa the 18th century in the Stewart Museum's Paris on Display: 18th-Century Boutiques exhibition. Based in research spanning three Québec universities, the Écomusée du fier monde's InterReconnaissance – Une mémoire citoyenne se raconte gathers voices and traces from 50 years of mobilizing for the rights of minority groups in Québec. 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 Poli at the Canadian Centre for Architecture. See celebrities and historical figures rendered in lifelike wax figures at Grévin MONTRÉAL. If you're a Barbie fan, see her many incarnations over the years at the impressive and free Barbie Expo downtown. And take more recent history home with you with our ultimate guide to vintage shopping in Montréal.

Live music

Among the fall season's classical concerts, musicians of the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal perform Schubert's Octet at Bourgie Concert Hall on Friday and Les Violons du Roy welcome operatic countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo in concert Anthony Roth Costanzo chante Handel et Glass at Maison symphonique on September 29. Also on Friday night, hear the soulful sounds of Leon Bridges at Place des Arts, spend an evening with Simple Minds at MTELUS, and go for DIY punk at festival A Varning From MTL this weekend at COOP KATACOMBES with a weekend of bands including Sunshine Ward, Apärä and Bloodsuckers. Saturday night features The Music of Cream 50th Anniversary Tour at Corona Theatre, indie-blues-rock band Reignwolf at L’Astral and British trance producer Gareth Emery presiding over the dancefloor at New City Gas. On Sunday afternoon, it's the final Piknic Électronik of the season at Parc Jean-Drapeau, welcoming electronic music producers Henrik Schwarz, Anti-Anti, Nymra & Sofisticated, Monsieurlouis and more on two stages. And on Sunday night see Dutch metal band Carach Angren at Petit Campus and country music singer-songwriter Brett Kissel at Corona Theatre.

Monday brings the 88Rising Head in the Clouds tour to MTELUS with Rich Brian and more artists. On Tuesday, see Rainbow Kitten Surprise and Caroline Rose at Corona Theatre, English electronic music duo Honne at Théâtre Fairmount and electro musician and singer Zhu and Tokimonsta at New City Gas. The Orchestre symphonique de Montréal and NYC-based conductor James Feddeck present Rimski-Korsakov's Scheherazade at Maison symphonique from October 2 to 3. Hear classic songs from the '60s to today as The Singing Pianos perform at Place des Arts on October 3, while SG Lewis performs live at Théâtre Fairmount with opener Yoshi Flower, Chicago-based multi-instrumentalist and singer-rapper Nnamdi Ogbonnaya plays Ritz P.D.B. and bluesman Eric Bibb presents Migration Blues at Bourgie Hall. On October 4, the one and only Elton John comes to the Bell Centre and Can Con legends Grapes of Wrath return to play Théâtre Fairmount, while French cold wave band Trisomie 21 plays Ritz P.D.B. and the Orchestre Métropolitain with pianist Nicholas Angelich performs concert The Faces of Rachmaninoff at Maison symphonique. 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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