Things to do in Montréal – August 23 to 29, 2019

Even at the end of August, Montréal summer festival season keeps on shining: this week with electronic music and arts festival MUTEK, the runway-ready Fashion & Design Festival, and the music of Orientalys Festival and MEG Montréal Festival. Visit markets, parks, public art, street fairs and restaurant patios under the sun, while indoor inspiration arrives at museums, galleries, theatres and music venues.

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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 – see shows this weekend by Loscil, Gaika, Sinjin Hawke & Zora Jones, TM404, Blawan, Rashad Becker, Jlin, Nicola Cruz, Wajatta, Octave One and many more artists.

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! 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. And the 21st edition of MEG Montréal Festival brings together emerging and established electronic, hip-hop and indie artists from August 29 to September 2, kicking off with house duo Mood II Swing, rap duo Ärsenik, techno producer Airod and more.

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Street life

Along with free festival entertainment, Montréal offers even more free things to do this summer. In the Quartier des spectacles, show off your chess skills on the giant chessboards and snap photos with the colourful dogs of Dans ma cour… ç’a du chien! backyard scenes along pedestrian-only Sainte-Catherine Street, watch your voice become illuminated in the electronic wavelengths of interactive art installation Spectrum in Place de la Paix, and Wind Instrument (next to Saint-Laurent metro station) amplifies the ambient sounds of the city. Art, performances, music, surreal botanical gardens and more make a walk down Mont-Royal Avenue even more memorable from August 22 to 25. Saint-Laurent Boulevard street fair BLVD closes the main avenue from August 29 to September 1, featuring activities, shopping, restaurant patios and more.

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More activities for all ages

For more 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. And the Grand Quai du Port de Montréal hosts a family-friendly nautical picnic in its green spaces on August 25.

At the Montréal Botanical Garden on August 24 and 25, Monarch Fiesta lets everyone discover the world of the monarch butterfly with activities and games, workshops and gardening tips, along with live music. In the Old Port of Montréal, climb on high-ropes course Voiles en Voiles, ride the MTL Zipline, explore the SOS Labyrinthe and try peddle-boating and other activities. Nearby, the Montréal Science Centre presents exhibition Spiders – From Fear to Fascination as well as IMAX films and hands-on science 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.

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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 and the Alexandraplatz Night Market on August 24. 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. Or go for 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. 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 and several other activities on the mountain – for picnics, natural sights and quiet moments explore the city's many other parks and green spaces too. 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

Watch the Psicobloc Open Series extreme free-climbing competition, taking place on a 55-foot wall overhanging the diving pool at Aquatic Complex at parc Jean-Drapeau from August 22 to 25 – the family-friendly event also features public swim times, a slackline over the water, food trucks and more. Cheer on Major League Soccer team the Montréal Impact as they play FC Dallas at Saputo Stadium 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. Camp along the Lachine Canal at the oTENTik cabins. You can also camp in a cabin-like tent with Huttopia on nearby 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. Take a day trip to orchard Verger Labonté to find your way through the massive galaxy-themed corn labyrinths or head to the Laurentians, where the town of Tremblant hosts a weekend of music from August 23 to 25 with The Franklin Electric and more bands.

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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. Nearby, 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. Innu artist Natasha Kanapé Fontaine adapts her powerful poetry for the stage in TSHISHIKUSHKUEU, d’après Bleuets et Abricots at Théâtre La Chapelle from August 26 to September 7. Get the inside scoop on where to see drag shows in Montréal, and go for a walk under the rainbow in the Gay Village. Passion, fashion and kink-themed late-night parties entice during Montreal Fetish Weekend in the Gay Village.

Downtown screenings under the stars and Cinéclub Film Society present a 1930s-themed evening of film, cocktails and music culminating in an outdoor screening of Poor Little Rich Girl, starring Shirley Temple, at Place de la Paix downtown on August 27, while Cinéma sous les étoiles presents films in several parks on August 26 and 27. 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. 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

The high-fashion catwalk meets art in 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 more. 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, and the immersive 360º ISM Hexadome audiovisual experience. Interactive and documentary exhibition Yoko Ono: LIBERTÉ CONQUÉRANTE/GROWING FREEDOM explores how Yoko Ono's work affected contemporary art practices and activism, at Fondation Phi pour l’art contemporain in Old Montréal – on August 28, Chœur Maha performs choral concert Music to Give Peace a Chance.

See the world and its people in a new light through the eyes of international press photographers at the 2019 World Press Photo exhibition, opening on August 28 and running until September 29 at Marché Bonsecours. 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 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. And there's more art to discover while gallery hopping and antiquing in the city.

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History near and far

Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Archaeology and History Complex hosts its annual 18th-century Public Market outdoors on August 24 and 25, a free event re-enacting what life was like in New France. Indoors, experience multimedia exhibition Generations MTL, cabinet of curiosities Into the Wonder Room and food-related royal history show Dinner is served! French Gastronomy at its Best – join in Family Sundays activities and hear live music every Thursday at noon.

Among the city's other family-friendly museums, 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 and Orientalys Festival, several shows add their sound to Montréal. On Friday, August 23, Dutch trance-house producer Mark Sixma brings the party to Newspeak and Switzerland's Croatia Squad sets the electronic tone to deep house at New City Gas. On August 24, spend an evening with Mark Knopfler and his band at Place des Arts, dance to the melodically detailed funk-house sounds of producer Seth Schwarz (live) and Fassi & Davian at Newspeak, or dance to the beat of Canicule Tropicale DJs at Sala, and fun-loving Swedish DJ duo Dada Life at New City Gas. On the afternoon of Sunday, August 25, MUTEK curates outdoor dance party Piknic Électronik, featuring a live set by Octave One, Mike Shannon, Aleksandir and more artists, plus a Petit Piknic kids activities area.

Hear the jazz-funk inflected electronic grooves of producer Flying Lotus and opener Brandon Coleman Spacetalker on Monday, August 26 at Corona Theatre, while King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Stonefield and Orb rock L'Olympia. On Tuesday, August 27, Swiss post-industrial band The Young Gods plays Ritz P.D.B. British musician Scarlxrd melds rap, trap and metal into his own style on Tuesday, August 27 at L’Astral. And Russian folk metal band Arkona and Estonian heavy metal band Metsatöll on Wednesday, August 28 at Foufounes Electriques. 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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