Things to do in Montréal March 2-8

Robyn Fadden

Spring is almost in the air in Montréal this week as winter festival MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE illuminates the city with art, entertainment, fabulous food and all-nighter Nuit Blanche, and Spring Break thrills families and adult-age friends alike. Read on for more activities, food and drink, art and film, theatre and dance, and lots of live music.

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Bright city lights

The wonders of winter festival extraordinaire MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE delight this weekend 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. March 3 marks the start of month-long Art Souterrain, turning Montréal’s Underground City into a 3-kilometre art gallery. Also 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. And Winter warms up even more with Montréal's all-night art party on March 3: Nuit Blanche features hundreds of free activities in the downtown core and neighbourhoods around the city, from free entry to many of the city's museums and games of all kinds on lower St-Denis Street to interactive performance hybris at DHC/ART and choirs at Saint Joseph’s Oratory.


Spring Break playtime

It's Spring Break this week for kids in Montréal and we've got all kinds of ways to keep families happy and entertained, including Disney on Ice March 7-11 at the Bell Centre, the Festival International du Film pour Enfants de Montréal, Jamie Adkins - A Fool’s Errand show at Place des Arts' Cinquieme Salle March 6-10, free activities for kids in Espace Culturel Georges-Émile-Lapalme and a marionette exhibition at Place des Arts too. 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. If the weather's wintery, go for these free things to do this winter and 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 old-fashioned curling and snowshoeing in the Stewart Museum's courtyard, 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. Enter the tropics at the Botanical Garden’s Butterflies Go Free event or, for parents, warm up all over at Bota Bota floating spa, one of Montréal's best spas. 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.


Food and drink

Depending on your mood, get a taste of the tropics in Montréal's sunniest restaurants, cafés and bars or indulge in the comfort of hot food for cold days, from spicy Indian food to big bowls of ramen, or classic Montréal-style traditional terroir, high tea and more gourmet meals. 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. Take it easy at these new casual restaurants in Montréal or grab a quick bite at Montréal lunch counters. If you're on the hunt for a favourite haunt, try these restaurants open from brunch to well past dinner. Sip some of the best hot chocolate in the city, incredible coffee at Montréal's indie coffee shops, Montréal's best bubble tea and great drinks at 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. 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. See what Montréal's brewing up at La Cuvée, a '50s speakeasy-style festival of microbrewed beer, whiskey, gin and local food to go with it plus live music and more, March 1-3 at Le Salon 1861. Taste the best of Québec's cider at Le Mondial des Cidres at Complex Desjardins March 2-4. Get ready to feast with our guide to sugar shack season. And if you're here with friends for Spring Break, indulge in all Montréal can offer when it comes to amazing food, sweet socializing and late-night fun.


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

This season's signature circus show Coups de Coeur thrills with performances by several circuses at La Tohu to March 4, followed by clown duo La Compagnia Baccalà in wild family-friendly romp Pss Pss March 6-10 and free March break activities. Montréal's winter-spring dance season this week includes choreographer Catherine Gaudet's Tout ce qui va revient, a trilogy of powerful solos performed by Clara Furey, Louise Bédard and Jolyane Langlois, March 7–15 at LaChapelle and Dominican-born dancer and choreographer Ligia Lewis's minor matter at the MAI March 2–3. 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; 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, and sometimes bawdy, puppet characters; and the city’s famed National Theatre School presents musical The Threepenny Opera at the Monument National to March 3.

On screen

New and celebrated Québec film shines at long-running film festival Les Rendez-Vous Québec Cinéma, Feb. 21 to March 3. 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 real-time music and visuals of the Les Planètes show by Yan Breuleux and Louise Bessette based on the music of Walter Boudreau to March 2 – then March 6 step into the impossible world of Liquid Architecture. Explore the cosmos in immersive films EXO and Space Next at the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium. Go on a wild ride in IMAX with Tiny Giants, Amazon 3D and Incredible Predators 3D at the Montréal Science Centre. And the International Festival of Films on Art opens March 8 with Megalodemocrat: The Public Art of Rafael Lozano-Hemmer and runs to March 18, featuring features, shorts, documentaries and events covering the wide world of art.

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 to March 3. 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. 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. Multi-artist exhibition The Material Turn focuses on contemporary textile practices in the digital age, at Galerie FOFA. 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 or go antiquing along the Canal for unique treasures. 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.



The MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE festival showcases a variety of excellent music this weekend. On Friday night, hear virtuoso guitarist Kim Churchill at Club Soda, classical music meets rock, stadium sound and a light show in Amplified Concert at the Bell Centre, synth-pop, indie folk and R&B merge in the music of Kae Sun at the Phi Centre, it's Lary Kidd with special guests Joe Rocca, Imposs and Karim Ouellet at L’Astral, the best of soul, Motown and jazz live at Le Balcon, and Osheaga presents a free concert by Eman X Vlooper at the outdoor site's Chalet Bell. On Nuit Blanche Saturday, have a gospel brunch at Le Balcon, hear American jazz singer Stacey Kent at Place des Arts, bluesy British singer-songwriter Jack Broadbent at L’Astral plus music at the outdoor site from Canailles, Toddy Flores and more. For more great festival shows, see the MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE music program.

More live music

On Friday, Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts the Orchestre Métropolitain with pianist Serhiy Salov at Maison symphonique, Swedish heavy metal band Sabaton with Kreator and CYHRA descend on MTelus, electronic musician Lane 8 brings his Little By Little Tour Théâtre Corona and Helena Deland sings up a storm at La Sala Rossa. On Saturday, Les Violons du Roy perform Handel and Haydn at Maison symphonique, singer-songwriter and former lead vocalist for Aventura Romeo Santos plays the Bell Centre, Rhye and Boulevards play their indie-R&B at Théâtre Corona, DJ duo Slander is joined by Justin Caruso for a night of “heaven trap” electro at New City Gas or enter the Mystic Realm at Newspeak. On Sunday, Chicago singer-songwriter Ezra Furman plays his style of queered Americana at Bar Le Ritz PDB with opener Weaves. Monday brings New Zealand singer-songwriter Marlon Williams and Tiny Ruins to Petit Campus. On Tuesday, March 6, experience the outer-rock sounds of Ought, Snail Mail and Common Holly at Théâtre Fairmount. The Orchestre symphonique de Montréal with pianist Jan Lisiecki performs Stravinski's The Firebird and more, March 6 and 8 at Maison symphonique. Satire meets wackiness as the legendary "Weird Al" Yankovic performs at Place des Arts on March 7, Canadian rock legends Our Lady Peace and Matthew Good play MTelus and the incredibly talented Tune-Yards and Xenia Rubinos play L’Astral. The great and wonderful Jonathan Richman comes to La Sala Rossa March 8-9, reggae band SOJA and Clay and Friends bring good vibes to Club Soda, and The Sheepdogs, Sam Coffey and The Iron Lungs whip up a rock 'n' roll time at Théâtre Corona while Nap Eyes rocks Casa del Popolo. 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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