Things to do in Montréal – August 16 to 22, 2019

As we near the end of summer, Montréal doesn't slow down: summer festivals continue this week with electronic music and arts festival MUTEK, the fabulous rainbow of Montréal Pride activities, the runway-ready Fashion & Design Festival, the JACKALOPE action sports weekend and more. See the city sights, visit museums and galleries, eat excellent food, listen to live music or simply sit back and have a drink on a sunny patio.

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Summer festivals

Montréal summer festivals keep going strong in the final weeks of August. Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, electronic music and digital arts festival MUTEK features six days and nights of live music and audiovisuals, talks and demos, free outdoor performances in Place des Festivals and an audiovisual and VR exhibition in Place des Arts – this week’s shows feature Monolake, Tim Hecker & Konoyo Ensemble, Matmos, Ash Koosha, Ryoichi Kurokawa, Jan Jelinek, Gudrun Gut, Circle of Live and many more artists.

The largest LGBTQ Pride festival in Canada, Montréal Pride shines from August 8 to 18: don't miss the Pride Parade on August 18 and Community Day on August 17, plus concerts and mega drag shows at Parc des Faubourgs, film screenings, club nights and more. Several Off-Pride events also entertain, including art exhibitions, House of Laureen's drag show Queer Pride at Café Cleopatra on August 17 and horror-comedy play Lesbian Speed Date From Hell! Get the inside scoop on where to see drag shows in Montréal during Pride and at any time of the year, and go for a walk under the rainbow in the Gay Village.

At action sports festival JACKALOPE, fans of all ages can watch top athletes in skateboarding, BMX, base jumping, bouldering, fixed gear riding and more at the Esplanade of the Olympic Park from August 16 to 18. See the latest designs from local and international fashion designers at the Fashion & Design Festival from August 19 to 24, including runway shows outdoors in the Quartier des spectacles, fashion workshops and presentations, live music and amazing shopping! Discover Italian art and culture in Canada at Montreal's Italian Week Festival this weekend along Saint-Laurent Boulevard in Little Italy, featuring live music, an opera performance, FIAT 500 car exhibition and, of course, great food! The free Orientalys Festival celebrates the cultural riches of North Africa, China, India, Iran and beyond with music, dance and more from August 22 to 25 in the Old Port of Montréal.

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More activities for all ages

Along with free festival entertainment, Montréal offers even more free things to do this summer. Show off your chess skills on the giant chessboards along pedestrian-only Sainte-Catherine Street in the Quartier des spectacles. Art, performances, music, surreal botanical gardens and more make a walk down Mont-Royal Avenue even more memorable from August 22 to 25. For outdoor entertainment and refreshments, head to Montréal's seasonal outdoor spaces, including Jardins Gamelin outside Berri-UQAM metro station, Village au Pied-du-Courant near the Jacques-Cartier Bridge and the Old Port’s Marché des Éclusiers. The Esplanade of the Olympic Park features green space and café Les Jardineries – if you're there at lunch hour, look for Halte 76, hosting different food trucks every week, while Sundays feature a fiesta of music and dancing.

While out and about, if you see people dressed up as anime characters, don't be alarmed: it's cosplay for Otakuthon, a convention that celebrates Japanese anime, manga and games from August 16 to 18. In the Old Port of Montréal, climb on high-ropes course Voiles en Voiles, ride the MTL Zipline, explore the SOS Labyrinthe and try other activities. The neighbourhood of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce hosts NDG Arts Week from August 19 to 25, with kids programming, live music, a biergarten and more in Parc NDG, not far from Vendôme metro station. And, just outside the city, over 100 hot air balloons take to the sky at International Balloon Festival of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, featuring free activities and performances by Serena Ryder, Walk Off the Earth, Loud and more artists this weekend.

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Food and drink

Dine, have a drink and socialize outdoors on Montréal terrasses – from green terrasses to the lively patios in the Gay Village. Discover what's in season, eat well and bring home locally made products at Jean-Talon Market and Atwater Market. Cool down with delicious locally made ice cream and frozen treats. Get a taste of Montréal at these five restaurants and five amazing chefs, crafting unique dishes, from classic French menus to ground-breaking Asian cuisine. Also eat well at these top Montréal restaurants for the gourmet traveller, cheerful bring-your-own-wine eateries, romantic dining options and casual restaurants. Or take a dinner cruise on the St. Lawrence River with Croisières AML or Bateau-Mouche.

Start the day with an excellent brunch or do lunch like a Montrealer at these 10 great lunch spots. Any time of day grab a pick-me-up at Montréal's indie coffee shops, local coffee roasters and most “Instagrammable” cafés. By night, relax with a cocktail at one of Montréal's award-winning bars, lift a pint at the city's Irish pubs, taste what's in season at the city's microbreweries (check out the Passeport en fût app deal) or have a drink away from it all in a hidden bar, speakeasy or perfect date spot. If you're a fan of rum, check out #Yulrumfest on August 16 and 17. The Casino de Montréal hosts sci-fi-themed food and entertainment event Futuristik Nights until August 24. 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.

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City sights

See the city from the Mount Royal Park lookout, also where you'll find Café suspendu. Among the other activities on the mountain, go on a guided nature walk or row around Beaver Lake. In the city's parks and green spaces, discover vegetation from Québec and around the world as well as live music on Sundays at the Montréal Botanical Garden. For a 360º view of the city, look out from the Observatoire Place Ville Marie downtown, ride La Grande Roue de Montréal in the Old Port, and go to the observatory at the top of the Montréal Tower at Olympic Park – while there, have coffee, cocktails or a snack with a panoramic view at MTL Bistro and take an audio tour around Olympic Park (get the code for the free app at the Montréal Tower ticket booth).

In Old Montréal, visit Notre-Dame Basilica to see multimedia show AURA and at night search out the projections of Cité Mémoire on building facades. Visit iconic Saint Joseph's Oratory of Mount Royal and hear live music by organist Willy Ippolito on August 18 and an outdoor concert by the Group Tango ensemble on August 21. Follow the landscaped Promenade Fleuve-Montagne from Mount Royal Park, through the Golden Square Mile and down to the St. Lawrence River. Relax at Montréal's best spas, enjoy outdoor yoga at the Clock Tower Beach at the Old Port of Montréal on Tuesday nights or go for a dip at Montréal's outdoor pools and beaches. Whether you're coming by plane or train, solo or with family, plot your days and nights with My Official Montréal City Guide. And save on your visit with the MTL Sweet Deal.  

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Sports and outdoor adventures

Along with JACKALOPE's action sports, watch the Psicobloc Open Series extreme free-climbing competition, taking place on a 55-foot wall overhanging the diving pool at the Aquatic Complex at parc Jean-Drapeau, from August 22 to 25. Cheer on Major League Soccer team the Montréal Impact as they play FC Dallas at Saputo Stadium on August 17. Or relax with hundreds of other people as you practice yoga – dressed all in white – in Parc Jean-Drapeau for the Lolë White Tour on August 17.

Skateboarders can check out Skate Jam and BBQ on Tuesday evenings in Place de la Paix or try the new Vans skatepark on the Esplanade of the Olympic Park. Within the city limits, learn to camp with Parks Canada along the Lachine Canal on August 17 or camp along the Lachine Canal at the oTENTik cabins. You can also camp in a cabin-like tent with Huttopia on nearby island Parc national des Îles-de-Boucherville. Go hiking, canoeing or fishing on an adventure with nature guides Bonjour Nature – their day trips take you outside Montréal to the Lanaudière region and beyond. Or take a day trip to Verger Labonté to find your way through the massive galaxy-themed corn labyrinths.

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On screen and stage

Go on a multi-sensory trip through time and space in Through the Echoes at immersive entertainment space PY1 – look for the pyramid in the Old Port of Montréal. By night, dress up for themed PY1 Nights and dance among lasers, live performances and wild visuals. Step into the Phi Centre's virtual reality exhibition >HUM(AI)N – Being human in the age of technology, a 360° view of human nature and evolution in nine immersive VR works – the centre also highlights five famous paintings in VR Cinema: Short Films on Canvas. A collective theatrical creation about riot, protest, crowd psychology and our longing to be a part of something, The Riot Ballet involves audiences in an investigation of social and political engagement from August 21 to 25 at Concordia’s Molson Building.

Downtown screenings under the stars present an outdoor cine-concert featuring Buster Keaton and Clyde Bruckman's The General with live music by pianist Roman Zavada at Place de la Paix downtown on August 20, while Cinéma sous les étoiles presents films all week in parks around the city. Explore the universe at the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium, featuring science-meets-multimedia shows Planet Nine, Secrets of Gravity, Continuum and Aurōrae as well as Mice and the Moon for little kids. The Montréal Science Centre presents exhibition Spiders: From Fear to Fascination as well as IMAX films and hands-on science activities such as the Clic! zone (made specifically for kids ages 4 through 7). Among Montréal's great indie cinemas, see art-house, documentaries, Québécois, cult films and more at Mile End's Cinéma Moderne, the Cinémathèque québécoise, Cinéma du Musée at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and long-running Cinéma du Parc.

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Art for everyone

Among summer's must-see exhibitions, discover the high-fashion art world of Thierry Mugler: Couturissime at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts – also see Montreal Couture, showcasing inventive Québec designers, Omar Ba: Same Dream, a monograph dedicated to the influential African artist, Alanis Obomsawin, Printmaker and Dale Chihuly sculpture The Sun. At the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal see Rebecca Belmore: Facing the Monumental, a poignant and timely career-spanning exhibition of installation and performance art. Interactive and documentary exhibition Yoko Ono: LIBERTÉ CONQUÉRANTE/GROWING FREEDOM explores how Yoko Ono's work affected contemporary art practices and activism, at the Fondation Phi pour l’art contemporain in Old Montréal – participate in family art workshops on August 18.

The McCord Museum's The Polaroid Project – At the Intersection of Art and Technology highlights the artistic and scientific creativity of Polaroid photography through the work of 20th-century artists – while there, also see SDING K’AWXANGS – Haida: Supernatural Stories, work by Kanien’kehá:ka artist Hannah Claus and historic photography exhibition Montréal at work along McGill College Avenue. Look for art in store windows downtown as part of the Vitrine sur l'art project. In exhibition Nehirowisidigital, artist Meky Ottawa presents illustrations inspired by her Atikamekw culture and heritage, feminist perspective and everyday urban life at La Guilde. At the Phi Centre catch This Light Never Goes Out: Political Cartoons by Jim Carrey as well as the Goodee Pop-up Studio, putting sustainable brands and humanist e-commerce in the spotlight. Head to Mile-Ex for the edgy Never Apart summer exhibitions, covering themes aligned with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. The Go Somewhere! Japanese Art Tour features work by five prominent female Japanese artists at Galerie Roger Bellemare/Galerie Christian Lambert, BBAM! Gallery and McKiernan Luncheonette from August 15 to 17. 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 many family-friendly museums, Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Archaeology and History Complex features high-tech multimedia show Generations MTL, cabinet of curiosities Into the Wonder Room and food-related royal history exhibition Dinner is served! French Gastronomy at its Best – join in Family Sundays activities and hear live music every Thursday at noon. The Musée de Lachine illuminates 350 years of history, wax museum Grévin MONTRÉAL features Québécois and international celebrities past and present, and the free Barbie Expo shows off Barbie's fashion transformations through the decades. Explore the old fort that houses the Stewart Museum and five centuries of day-to-day life in New France in exhibition History and Memory. And Château Ramezay features summer activities as well as World War I exhibition WAR Flowers.

At the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Our Happy Life looks at measurements of happiness. Witness Montréal underground art and culture of the 1970s and '80s in a retrospective of Zïlon and other Montréal artists at the Écomusée du fier monde. Edward Hillel's photography installation Chambre Noire/Darkroom draws on his book The Main: Portrait of a Neighbourhood at the Museum of Jewish Montreal. The city's Irish roots also run deep – discover Irish Montréal through landmarks and more. Read all about jazz in Montréal, from the Roaring Twenties to today. And pick up some historic and present-day facts about Montréal that even some locals might not know.

More live music

Along with this week's festival music at MUTEK, Montréal Pride and Orientalys, several shows add their sound to Montréal. On Friday, August 16 see none other than KISS at the Bell Centre, British punk legends The Adicts and heavy-pop-punk opener Boids at L’Astral. On Saturday night, check out industrial-electro-rock musician Debby Friday at La Vitrola, and go dancing at Dômesicle party #6 in the Society for Arts and Technology's Satosphère dome with electronic music from Atroxx, Alex Borzych, Ginger Leigh, Sean C. and more, at the Future Sound of Egypt UV Afterparty at Newspeak, or hop over to New City Gas for a sweet night on the dancefloor with producer Shaun Frank.

On the afternoon of Sunday, August 18, head over to outdoor dance party Piknic Électronik for UK house producer Denis Sulta, DJ Stingray, 00:AM DJs and more, including a Petit Piknic kids activities area. On Sunday night, see California rockers Rival Sons and Crown Lands at Corona Theatre, indie-rock band WHY? and opener Barrie in an all-ages show at Le Ministère and underground-R&B singer-songwriter Van Hunt performs at Ritz P.D.B. And Shawn Mendes comes to Montréal's Bell Centre for two nights – see the summer pop hitmaker and opener Alessia Cara on August 20 and 21. 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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