Things to do in Montréal – May 17 to 23, 2019
Spring is in full bloom in Montréal this week, from the city's many parks to downtown's Place des Festivals to open-air party Piknic Électronik. Brighten your trip even more with Cirque du Soleil's Alegria and more performances, art exhibitions like Thierry Mugler: Couturissime, the hoppy Festival Mondial de la bière, and all genres of live music.
Spring in the city
Mid-May is perfect timing for a long weekend to remember in Montréal. Downtown's Quartier des spectacles hums with activity and plenty of free things to do: along Sainte-Catherine Street you'll find Dans ma cour… ç’a du chien, a series of backyard scenes with lawn chairs made for public lounging, while further east in the Village, walk under a rainbow canopy of 180,000 resin balls designed by landscape architect Claude Cormier, kicking off summer-long cultural event Aires Libres. Make music on 21 Balançoires (21 Swings) along the Promenade des Artistes, part of the city's annual Montréal Digital Spring events, see the iconic spiral staircase of art installation Our DNA, and play a game on the giant chessboards too! After dark every Thursday to Sunday, look up to the facade of the President-Kennedy Pavilion to see projection art UQAM: 50 ans d'audace, while animated projection Synergie lights up the space outside Saint-Laurent metro station. Open-air dance party Piknic Électronik starts its 17th season in Parc Jean-Drapeau with two days of live electronic music: dance to the sounds of pop-tinged headliner Öona Dahl on May 19, followed on May 20 by Deep Dish veteran house and techno producer Dubfire and the colourful lo-fi beats of Baltra. Downtown, punk-minded Pouzza Fest welcomes everyone to free outdoor concerts all weekend, including a family-focused Saturday morning and evening shows with Andrew W.K., The Planet Smashers and Against Me!, plus hundreds more artists at venues downtown. A new outdoor music event for Montréal, Festival Metro Metro features two days of music at the Esplanade of the Olympic Park on May 18 and 19, with Snoop Dogg, Sean Paul, Cardi B, A$AP Ferg and more artists. And the eighth edition of creative business conference C2 Montréal not only features Spike Lee and top chef Marcus Samuelsson but gets everyone out of their comfort zones to think up new ideas from May 22 to 24.
Watch Montréal burst into spring from the top of Mount Royal Park, one of the most Instagrammable views in Montréal – walk up through the park and climb the stairs or get there by bus or car and stroll over to the lookout. For a 360º view of the city, take the funicular at the Montréal Tower at Olympic Park, look out from the Observatoire Place Ville Marie downtown and ride La Grande Roue de Montréal observation wheel in the Old Port. Walk the landscaped Promenade Fleuve-Montagne down from Mount Royal Park to the St. Lawrence River, stopping to see historic and artistic sights along the way. Stroll through the Montréal Botanical Garden and other parks and green spaces as the trees turn green and spring flowers bloom. In Old Montréal, visit Notre-Dame Basilica (one of Montréal's most famous icons) and see Moment Factory's immersive multimedia show AURA, while on Friday and Saturday nights you can search out the projections of Cité Mémoire on building facades. If spring showers send you indoors, keep your mind active with escape game adventures, go ice skating at Atrium Le 1000, relax at Montréal's best spas or catch the NHL and NBA playoffs at Montréal's best sports bars. Watch Major League Soccer team the Montréal Impact against New England Revolution on Saturday, May 18 at Stade Saputo. Get a thrill and a view too at La Ronde, the second largest amusement park in Canada, featuring new rollercoaster Chaos. Whether you're in Montréal by plane or train, solo or with family, plot your days and nights with My Official Montréal City Guide, a travel app that lets you experience the city like a Montrealer. And save on your next visit with the MTL Sweet Deal.
Food and drink
Festival season extends to food in Montréal too! This week, check out the Festival Mondial de la bière from May 22 to 25 at Windsor Station downtown, where you can sample local microbrews and international brews and take part in workshops too. Meanwhile, try exclusive festival cocktails, learn how to mix and muddle like a pro and more during Invasion Cocktail from May 20 to 31 at over 20 participating restaurants and bars. Enjoy tartare appetizers and wine pairings at TartareFest from April 18 to 28 at over 20 restaurants. This week you'll also witness the re-emergence of the city's fabulous food trucks and the re-opening of even more Montréal terrasses – among the many patio dining experiences, drop by Marcus Restaurant + Terrace at the Four Seasons Hotel and downtown's Foodlab for great food and DJs. Dine well at these top Montréal restaurants for the gourmet traveller, cheerful bring-your-own-wine eateries (including some in charming Little Italy), lovely romantic dining options, laid-back casual restaurants and our new restaurant picks. And if you're traveling solo, make the most of solo dining in Montréal. Let Montréal's design-trending restaurants and bars inspire a home makeover. 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 and most “Instagrammable” cafés. Later on, see what's hot at the city's new bars, relax with a perfect cocktail, or have a drink away from it all in a hidden bar, speakeasy or perfect date spot. For something light, seek out these health-conscious 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. Explore more of Montréal and its culinary delights on Montréal's best food tours. Let the good times roll along with great food at the Casino de Montréal's restaurants. If you're traveling with kids, check out our ideas for great places to eat with kids in Montréal.
Cirque du Soleil's stunning Alegria impresses and inspires with world-class circus arts performers, incredible costumes and beautiful design, with shows until June 30 under the blue-and-white big top in the Old Port of Montréal. Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal present Parlami d’Amore, a new program of contemporary ballet that captures the brightness of spring, at Place des Arts from May 16 to 25. Summer festival season begins to bloom this week too: the Chromatic Festival celebrates art that breaks with tradition, featuring exhibitions, performances and a closing party on May 17. Festival TransAmériques launches its 13th edition on May 22 with new contemporary dance and theatre that challenges conventions: this week see Wajdi Mouawad's play Tous des oiseaux, Daria Deflorian and Antonio Tagliarini's Quasi niente and Serge Aimé Coulibaly's Kalakuta Republik, a dance tribute to musician Fela Kuti. Festival Accès Asie showcases pan-Asian arts and culture – this week see Indian music fused with jazz and Kathak dance in Rhythm Rewritten, take a workshop on Tibetan cuisine and see Japanese dance and music performance Okuni. Montréal's winter-spring theatre season features riveting new play Indecent, dramatizing the events surrounding Sholem Asch's controversial 1906 play God of Vengeance, an explosive moment in theatrical and world history, at the Segal Centre for Performing Arts until May 19. Taking Place : A Celebration of Performance Art features international artists performing at MAI Montréal, arts interculturels from May 15 to 18. Tangente presents Nate Yaffe's colourful Terrien, an imaginative dance show-workshop for all ages, on May 18 and 19. Indie-opera company 23DegreeTheatre presents several operatic tales in contemporary opera night Expectations from May 19 to 22. Festival Vue sur la Relève showcases a variety of performing arts in shows by emerging Québec and international artists from May 6 to 18. And settle in for an evening of high-class creative burlesque at Scarlett James' Grande Revue Burlesque / Grand Burlesque Review at Corona Theatre on May 17.
Famous European paintings come to life in VR Museum at the Phi Centre's VR Cinema, in a collaboration with the Geneva International Film Festival. See immersive audiovisual triple-bill Origines in the Satosphere dome at the Society for Arts and Technology until May 25. Roam the cosmos in science-meets-multimedia shows Planet Nine, Secrets of Gravity, Continuum and Aurōrae as well as new films POLARIS and Passport to the Universe at the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium. The Montréal Science Centre features IMAX films Pandas 3D, Volcanoes 3D and Superpower Dogs 3D – along with hands-on science activities such as the Clic! zone (made specifically for kids ages 4 through 7) and a 3.8-billion-year-old moon rock! Among Montréal's great indie cinemas, Mile End's Cinéma Moderne screens art-house, Québécois and cult films every day plus family screenings on weekends, Cinémathèque québécoise shows films by more auteurs, while Cinéma du Musée and Cinéma du Parc also screen Canadian and international features and documentaries all week.
Art for all
A truly moving new exhibition, Yoko Ono: LIBERTÉ CONQUÉRANTE/GROWING FREEDOM explores how the art (and life!) of icon Yoko Ono has affected years of contemporary art practices, art reception and activism, at the Fondation Phi pour l’art contemporain in Old Montréal (and read more about how John and Yoko made an impact in Montréal 50 years ago). Enter the high-fashion art world of Thierry Mugler: Couturissime, featuring innovative ready-to-wear, haute couture and more wild creations by the French designer at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts – while there, also see Montreal Couture, showcasing inventive Québec designers, and more. Head to Mile-Ex for the edgy Never Apart spring exhibitions, where, on May 18, The Wiggle Festival 25 Year Anniversary features special guest Amanda Lepore, wearable art and performances. At the McCord Museum see exhibition SDING K’AWXANGS – Haida: Supernatural Stories, featuring contemporary artists alongside more than 100 rare objects from the museum’s rich Indigenous Cultures collection, as well as work by Kanien’kehá:ka artist Hannah Claus. Parisian Laundry presents Rose Marcus and Charles Harlan's Leavee, new works inspired by coastal urban living. See recent sculptural works by David Armstrong Six at Darling Foundry. As part of UQAM university's 50th anniversary, Galerie de l’UQAM launches two exhibitions: group show Over My Black Body, a social reflection and celebration of black life, and installation works by Maude Arès. In Speculations, Black, Indigenous and other artists reflect and speculate on their position in the universe, the world and society at Artexte. Jean-Paul Kelly's A sensation best described by another questions the limits of representation at VOX, centre de l'image contemporaine. See works by Indigenous women artists in Oubliées ou disparues : Akonessen, Zitya, Tina, Marie et les autres at Ashukan Cultural Space. SBC Gallery of Contemporary Art presents Loosely Assembled Cycle 2: Score for a Dialogue Between People. Le Montréaler presents An homage to the New Yorker at the Maison de la culture Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. Discover the complex and contemporary beadwork art of 11 Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists in exhibition BEADING NOW - contemporary beading, at La Guilde. And there's more art to discover while gallery hopping and antiquing in the city.
History near and far
Among the city's several family-friendly museums, archaeology and history complex Pointe-à-Callière brings Montréal's past to life in high-tech multimedia exhibitions such as the brand new Generations MTL and illuminates an international cabinet of curiosities in new exhibition Into the Wonder Room. Watch kids' eyes light up when they see the dinosaur skeletons, fossils and more at the Redpath Museum. Wax museum Grévin MONTRÉAL features Québécois and international celebrities past and present. Nature and climate come into full view at the geodesic Biosphère, Environment Museum in Parc Jean-Drapeau. Climb aboard Canadian Pacific’s steam locomotive No. 2850 this month at the Canadian Railway museum Exporail. History museum Château Ramezay features touching and beautiful World War I exhibition WAR Flowers alongside rooms full of local history. The Musée de Lachine presents history and archeology from the times of fur trade and New France alongside contemporary art. At the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Scripts for a new world: Film storyboards by Alessandro Poli explores elements of film that helped Poli form his language for architecture, while Second Life takes us away from it all in real, imagined and virtual spaces outside of ordinary time and space, and Our Happy Life: Architecture and Well-Being in the Age of Emotional Capitalism looks at measurements of happiness. Learn more about Jewish culture in Montréal at the Museum of Jewish Montreal exhibitions. The city's Irish roots also run deep – discover Irish Montréal through landmarks and more. See Barbie's high-fashion transformations through the decades at the free Barbie Expo downtown. Read all about jazz in Montréal, from the Roaring Twenties to today, featuring local history and jazz clubs still hopping to this day. And pick up some historic and present-day facts about Montréal that even some locals might not know.
Along with this week's music festivals, there's even more live music every day of the week. Pop star P!nk thrills fans at the Bell Centre on May 17 and 18. Discover local musicians as they perform on neighbourhood front porches at Porchfest NDG on May 18 and 19. The Orchestre symphonique de Montréal presents Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov playing Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto at Maison symphonique on May 17. Also on Friday, see May 17, Japanese instrumental psych-rock band Mono at Théâtre Fairmount, avant-pop creator Mary Ocher + Your Government at Quai des Brumes and traditional Cuban music with Carlos Placeres at Balcon Cabaret Music-Hall. On May 18 hear concert Musique des Amériques at Bon Pasteur Historical Chapel. On Saturday, May 18, The Musical Box performs classics by Genesis on vintage equipment at Place des Arts, indie-rockers The Dove & the Wolf come to Ritz P.D.B., techno producer Be Svendsen gets Newspeak dancing while rapper-producer Lil Jon returns to New City Gas. On Sunday, May 19 keep the Piknic Électronik party going at night with German house producer Oliver Koletzki and Simon Doty at Théâtre Fairmount or with Black Coffee at New City Gas. Broken Social Scene and The Besnard Lakes please fans with shows on both May 21 and May 22 at Corona Theatre.
Also on May 21, the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal performs Mahler’s Seventh Symphony at Maison symphonique, choir Voces Boreales performs concert XL à L at Église du Gesù, British metalcore band Architects gets heavy at MTELUS and London alt-country/indie folk band Bear's Den plays L’Astral. Wednesday, May 22 brings Twenty Øne Piløts and Bear Hands to the Bell Centre and beloved singer-songwriter-composer Rufus Wainwright and opener Rachel Eckroth to Place des Arts, plus soulful singer-songwriter Omar Apollo to Théâtre Fairmount. The Orchestre symphonique de Montréal presents conductor Michael Tilson Thomas and piano prodigy George Li performing Liszt’s First Piano Concerto and Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra at Maison symphonique on May 22 and 23. Also on Thursday, May 23, catch L.A. indie-pop band LANY and Fletcher at Corona Theatre, local faves Plants and Animals at l'Escogriffe Bar Spectacle, metal bands Inner Turmoil, Penny for the Selfless and more at Coop Katacombes, Avantasia German metal rock opera at MTELUS, and modern pop singer-songwriter Laurence Nerbonne (of rock band Hôtel Morphée) at the Phi Centre. 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, 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.