Things to do in Montréal February 23 to March 1

Robyn Fadden

Montréal welcomes March with the bright lights, dazzling entertainment and amazing food of winter festival MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE along with even more to do this week, from The Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg's Requiem to an outdoor symphony. Read on for more winter activities, food and drink, art and film, theatre and dance, and lots of live music.

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Montréal, city of light

The wonders of winter festival extraordinaire MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE delight this week with everything from local and international fine dining from top chefs, all kinds of live music, dance and theatre, and a free, family-friendly outdoor site at Place des Festivals – ride the Ferris wheel and the zip-line, go ice sliding, have a drink and a bite to eat, and interact with the high-tech ILLUMINART projections. See some of Montréal's high-tech wonders and flagship legacy 375th anniversary projects in Old Montréal (such as the historic tableaux projections of Cité Memoire and multimedia wonder AURA at Notre-Dame Basilica) and take in the city sights from the comfort of the La Grande Roue de Montréal observation wheel, the Observatoire Place Ville Marie downtown or the Montréal Tower at Olympic Stadium. Enter the tropical climate of the Botanical Garden’s Butterflies Go Free event, starting Feb. 22. Warm up all over at Bota Bota floating spa, one of Montréal's best spas. And nearby on Feb. 25 at 1:30 pm, experience the Port Symphony with Herman Kolgen, featuring a new original composition by the artist and the sounds of trains and boats moored in the Port of Montréal.

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Winter playtime

Among the many free things to do this winter in Montréal, spend more time outdoors with these classic Montréal winter activities, from sledding on the Mountain to bird watching at the Botanical Garden. Follow our ultimate guide to ice skating in Montréal, including refrigerated rinks at Olympic Park's V Winter Village and Old Montréal's Natrel Skating Rink, open no matter what the weather. For something different, try snowshoeing after dark on Mount Royal Feb. 23-24, old-fashioned curling and snowshoeing in the Stewart Museum's courtyard and vintage board games in the Hall of Games, a visit to see the animals in their winter habitats at the Ecomuseum Zoo, or get together indoors to solve the mysteries of Montréal's Escape Games. Play video games, board games and more in a fun atmosphere during festival Montréal Joue, in the Quartier des Spectacles and in the city's libraries Feb. 24 to March 11. Discover Montréal hockey history in exhibition Passion: Hockey at Pointe-à-Callière museum and follow our guide to Montréal's most famous icons to see the city's famed architecture and other unique sights, including the Buckminster Fuller-designed Biosphère. On the ice in NHL action, see the Montréal Canadiens take on the LIghtning on Feb. 24, the Flyers on Feb. 26 and the Islanders on Feb. 28 – get your tickets from secure Canadiens-authorized site Ticket Vault. And cheer for the Winter Olympic Games in comfort and with company at the best sports bars in Montréal.

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Food and drink

Winter weather calls for just the right hot food for cold days, from spicy Indian food to big bowls of ramen. Yet even in the middle of winter, you can still taste the tropics in Montréal's sunniest restaurants, cafés and bars. For tried-and-true Québécois classic dishes, follow our guides to the best poutine, the best Montréal bagels and the best smoked meat, along with more musts for foodies visiting Montréal and where to go shopping for foodies too. Warm up in classic Montréal style with traditional terroir, high tea and more gourmet meals. Take it easy at these new casual restaurants in Montréal or grab a quick bite at Montréal lunch counters. Try some of the best hot chocolate in the city, incredible coffee at Montréal's indie coffee shops, Montréal's best bubble tea or indulge at the city's most creative cocktail bars. Or discover a wide world of health-conscious food in Montréal along with vegan options in our ultimate guide to vegan eating in Montréal. And whether your tipple is fine wine, creative cocktails or micro-brewed beer, spend some time sampling it in the mood lighting of Montréal's new bars and brasseries.

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Leonard Cohen's Montréal

Montréal celebrates Leonard Cohen and his legacy with international exhibition Leonard Cohen – A Crack in Everything at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, featuring work by 40 artists from 10 countries, inspired by Leonard Cohen's life, music and writing – an absolute must-see. While there, also explore That's How the Light Gets In, a collections exhibition that frames art in terms of the fundamental aspect of light (visibility, reflection, representation, perception), and The Gaze Listens, an auditory contemplation of art. Dancer-choreographer Clara Furey's dance cycle When Even Then, inspired by the poems of Cohen, also graces the Musée this week. See building-sized murals of Leonard Cohen on Crescent Street downtown near the Sir Winston Churchill Pub and on Saint-Laurent Boulevard at Napoleon Street not far from Schwartz's. Nearby, stop by The Museum of Jewish Montréal to see new immersive installation Scintillements | 1001 Lights by award-winning filmmakers Marlene Millar and Philip Szporer.

On stage

An unforgettable night of gorgeous dance awaits as The Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg and Les Grands Ballets presents Requiem, with one program set to Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 8 and the other to Mozart’s unfinished work, at Place des Arts Feb. 21-25. We're in for a true contemporary dance treat as the Martha Graham Dance Company performs pieces by Graham as well as new works in Répertoire, presented by Danse Danse at Place des Arts Feb. 22-24. This season's signature circus show Coups de Coeur thrills Feb. 22 to March 4 at La Tohu circus centre. There's even more to see this week in Montréal's winter-spring dance season including the world-class flamenco of Compañía Eva Yerbabuena's AY! at Place des Arts on Feb. 28 as part of MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE. In this season's English-language theatre calendar, see Marjorie Prime, a Pulitzer Prize Finalist play about an aging woman who shares her memories with a companion robot in the image of her late husband, at the Segal Centre, Feb. 25 to March 18, while Canadian puppet mastermind Ronnie Burkett is a must-see at Centaur Theatre Feb. 20 to March 24 as he brings The Daisy Theatre to life, a wild one-man show populated by 40 lively puppet characters. Also at the Centaur on Feb. 24, kids theatre show Totally Red! holds everyone's attention by performing fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood in multiple styles.

On screen

New and celebrated Québec film shines at long-running film festival Les Rendez-Vous Québec Cinéma, Feb. 21 to March 3, including a 15th anniversary for the Prends Ça Court short films program on Feb. 27. Old Montréal's Phi Centre hosts the Virtual Reality Garden to March 10 and photojournalist Karim Ben Khelifa's virtual reality installation The Enemy / Ennemi, revealing the human side of global conflicts. In the 360-degree multimedia dome of the Society for Arts and Technology, immerse yourself in the incredible audiovisual creativity of Hidden Dimensions and NAscent to Feb. 23 and the real-time music and visuals of the Les Planètes show by Yan Breuleux and Louise Bessette based on the music of Walter Boudreau, Feb. 27 to March 2. Explore the cosmos in immersive films EXO and Space Next at the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium. And go on a wild ride in IMAX with Tiny Giants, Amazon 3D and Incredible Predators 3D at the Montréal Science Centre.

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Gallery hopping

From major museums to commercial galleries, original art abounds in Montréal – don't miss these must-see winter and spring exhibitions while you're here. Delve into Prince's musical and cultural legacy in exhibition Prince: His Purple Majesty, curated by musicologist Duke Eatmon, to March 3 at Place des Arts as part of Montréal's Black History Month. At the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts don't miss major exhibition Napoleon: Art and Court Life in the Imperial Palace, along with installation Kushapetshekan / Kosapitcikan and Nadia Myre's Tout ce qui reste – Scattered Remains. Always a must-visit in Old Montréal, DHC/ART celebrates its 10th anniversary with dynamic group exhibition The Gift/L'Offre alongside the pioneering video art and installation work of Bill Viola: Naissance à rebours. Peer into the city's past through photography exhibitions Gabor Szilasi: Le monde de l’art à Montréal, 1960-1980 and Michel Campeau: Life Before Digital at the McCord Museum. Artist Maria Hupfield explores memory and family through felt objects and performance-based works in exhibition The One Who Keeps On Giving at Galerie de l'UQAM while the UQAM Centre de Design presents an exhibition on design firm Foster + Partners. The Montréal Science Centre presents Indigenous Ingenuity: Timeless Inventions alongside photo exhibition Regalia: Native Pride. In Mile-Ex, Never Apart's Winter 2018 Exhibition features artwork by 10 international and local multimedia artists. Artist Hanna Abd El Nour's Utopie(s) tackles questions of identity, memory and collective imaginary, featuring a chorus of 15 performers in life tableau performances, to March 10 at Arsenal. See more than 50 masterpieces from the Musée d’art de Joliette in a visiting exhibition at the Maison de la culture Claude-Léveillée. Experience fashion as art by following Montréal's high-end designers guide to find classic and edgy ready-to-wear and unique accessories for all tastes. And if you're looking for that perfect piece of art to bring home with you, check out our guide to where to buy art in Montréal.

Music at MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE

The MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE festival showcases a variety of excellent music, starting on Friday night with jazz singer Gregory Porter at Maison symphonique, The Franklin Electric and Dan San at MTelus, see lead singer of Great Big Sea Alan Doyle and Fortunate Ones at Théâtre Corona, and more. Celebrate 30 years of the fun French pop and Caribbean rhythms of La Compagnie Créole at Théâtre St-Denis on Friday and Saturday night. Also on Saturday, go for a Gospel music brunch at Le Balcon, hear the Bach Cantatas with Ensemble Stradivaria at Bourgie Hall and Montreal alt-pop-jazz-electro trio Raveen at the Phi Centre. On Feb. 25, listen deeply to the New Path by Essaie Pas on vinyl for the DIE POD DIE listening session at the Phi Centre. Charismatic opera singer Marie-Josée Lord and l'Orchestre symphonique de Laval perform Puccini, Verdi, Massenet and more at Place des Arts on Feb. 27. And on March 1, singer Isabelle Boulay performs at Place des Arts, party with Random Recipe at Club Soda, and artists Jane/Kin, Maxime Corbeil, Line Katcho and Karl Lemieux mix avant-garde music and visuals for the Kohlenstoff A/V_Experience at the Phi Centre. For more great festival shows, see the MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE music program.

More live music

On Friday, groove to the sounds of Detroit pop singer-songwriter Quinn XCII and Chelsea Cutler at Théâtre Fairmount, Swedish black metal band Watain shakes up Le National, former Bran Van 3000 singer Stephane Moraille launches her album Daïva at the Phi Centre, and experimental electronic artist Elysia Crampton performs at the MAI. Conductor Edo de Waart leads the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal and pianist Christian Zacharias in a concert of Mozart and Beethoven at Maison symphonique Feb. 21-25. On Saturday, electronic producers Big Wild and Daktyl take over at Le Belmont, while the Dômesicle party has us dancing in the dome with CRi, Ouri and Tommy Kruise at the Société des arts technologiques and Belgian house producers Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike own the dancefloor at New City Gas. On Monday, Feb. 26, bask in the beautiful post-rock sounds of Brighton, England band yndi halda at La Vitrola with openers Staghorn and Year of Glad. On Tuesday, it's R&B duo DVSN at MTelus and Phoebe Bridgers and Loïc April at Le Belmont. On Feb. 28, indie-folk band The Wooden Sky, Twist and Heart Beach play Bar Le Ritz PDB, and hear the psych-punk of Brooklyn's Acid Dad at Casa del Popolo. Québécois star Bruno Pelletier gets carte blanche at Maison symphonique Feb. 27-28 with hand-picked artists like Daniel Boucher, Sylvain Cossette and Jonas. On Thursday, London-based singer-songwriter Bruno Major shows his talent at Petit Campus, jam to post-punk rockers Frigs and Fountain at Bar Le Ritz PDB, and dance to the bass music of west coast producer The Librarian and Bevvy Swift at Newspeak. For more live music throughout the week, check out our picks for where to hear live music in Montréal, Montréal's best jazz and blues clubs and our insider 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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