Things to do in Montréal this May 2021

Robyn Fadden

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.

Springtime in Montréal gloriously unfolds with warm days and all kinds of new things to do in May. Take a walk through Mount Royal Park, the Botanical Garden or explore another neighbourhood to see spring flowers in bloom and even do a little springtime shopping. Order Mother’s Day brunch or book a long-weekend staycation at a hotel with restaurant meals to match. Explore art and history at museums and galleries or attend a classic music concert online. Expand your worldview with performances at Festival TransAmériques, Festival Acèss Asie and SAT Fest 2021.

Spring activities

Warm May days call for exploring the city: see spring blossoms bloom at Saint Joseph’s Oratory and in every neighbourhood. Or search out gorgeous murals full of colourful flowers throughout the city. On any weekend in May, take a mini “spring break” with Montréal activities that get you out and about as a family, a couple; and solo in the city. Explore different parts of Montréal, learn about the city’s unique history, culture and more on private walking tours with knowledgeable local companies. Take yourself on a Portrait Sonore sound walk downtown and on the Mountain, or on a tour of the city’s murals. And hunt for more public art everywhere in the city.

Take your pick of outdoor activities in Montréal's many parks and green spaces. See incredible city views in Mount Royal Park and even take a stroll through Mount Royal Cemetery, especially picturesque at this time of year. Another amazing place to see spring flowers and reconnect with nature is the Montréal Botanical Garden. Nearby, kids of all ages can see penguins, lynx and more in the Space for Life Biodôme's five ecosystems or explore the universe in the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium’s immersive films and exhibitions (purchase fixed-time tickets online ahead of time). And for something different, join La Ronde’s dance-party drive-in experience La Fréquence on Saturday, May 8, with DJs on a huge sound system accompanied by wild visuals on three giant screens.  

Food and drink

As the weather warms, Montréal’s food trucks bring local treats to the streets! Troughout the spring and summer, you’ll see food trucks in parks, on downtown streets, Old Montréal squares and neighbourhood corners serving up restaurant-quality dishes. Montréal’s many restaurants and cafés are set to satisfy all springtime cravings with special Montréal take-out and delivery offers – browse our updated list of Montréal restaurants open for take-out and delivery for the latest, including some of the best Chinese food in Montréal. Wander through the Jean-Talon Market and Atwater Market to find ready-to-eat dishes and all the ingredients to make your own winter feasts. 

For Mother’s Day, order a special weekend brunch from these favourite brunch restaurants, cook up something great for Mother’s Day with gourmet meal kits from the Fairmont the Queen Elizabeth and Marché Artisans, available from May 6 to 10, or book a springtime staycation with restaurant meals to match. Get your caffeine fix at Montréal's indie coffee shops. Warm up with perfectly brewed tea from Montréal tea houses or a cup of the best hot chocolate in the city. Get a pastry to go with it at Montréal's best bakeries and pastry shops or get fresh-baked doughnuts! Sample chocolate creations at the best chocolate shops, indulge your sweet tooth at local candy shops or pick up other musts for foodies visiting Montréal. By night, mix cocktails at home with gin, vodka, rum and more specialty spirits from these Montréal specialty alcohol and spirit makers. Or for the beer lovers, pick up a unique six pack for take out (or even delivery) from inventive Montréal microbreweries.

Local retail therapy

Springtime calls for sprucing up your wardrobe and your home with some quality Montréal shopping for all styles tastes. Relax and recenter with these self-care staples or redecorate with these home decor musts. Buy that perfect piece of jewelry for your loved one – or yourself! – at the coolest Montréal jewelry stores. Shop local and eco-friendly at the most fabulous vintage boutiques in the city. Go shopping for clothing, specialty food and more in the boutiques along Mont Royal Avenue or shop at the new Holt Renfrew downtown and in the underground city. And fill your home with Montréal-focused books from Montréal’s bookstores and music from Montréal's excellent vinyl stores.

Spring city sights

No matter what the April weather has in store, Montréal celebrates the spring equinox season with all kinds of activities and events. The sights in Old Montréal and the Old Port of Montréal always shine, where you can see the city from above on the Observation Wheel, relax with a massage and a water circuit experience at Bota Bota, spa sur l’eau and other world-class spas. Climb high in the Voiles en Voiles adventure park, find your way through the SOS Labyrinthe, explore the river by peddle boat, and even zip over the the port on the Tyrolienne MTL Zipline on Saturdays and Sundays! 

Take a springtime walk through downtown – especially along the pedestrian-only zone of Sainte-Catherine Street in the Village – and explore some of Montréal’s distinct neighbourhoods, from Hochelega and Rosemont in the east to Outremont and Westmount in the west. When the weather’s right, see the city from two wheels, whether on your own bike, a rental bike, with a bike tour, or on a BIXI shared bike – the BIXI network features 725 new electric BIXIs and 83 new electric stations, as well as a new variable pricing model. Explore Montréal on these bucket-list bike rides.  Bike over to Parc Jean-Drapeau to ride around the 4,361-metre Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve bike path and the Route Verte. Or visit downtown’s Quartier des spectacles to see new interactive art and multimedia projections, like ATSA, Quand l'Art passe à l’Action’s Cuisine ta ville: LE GRAND VOYAGE from May 13 to 16.

May art exhibitions

Museums and many art galleries have officially reopened! Visit the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts to see special exhibition Riopelle: The Call of Northern Landscapes and Indigenous Cultures, collections exhibitions Ecologies: A Song for Our Planet and GRAFIK! Five Centuries of German and Austrian Graphics, as well as new contemporary exhibitions Yann Pocreau: Impermanencies and Caroline Monnet: Ninga Mìnèh, while online join art workshopsvirtual tours and webinars. At the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal see new digital art exhibition Don’t Tell Anybody What We Do When I Get Lonely by Montréal artists Miryam Charles, Francisco Gonzalez-Rosas and Sophie Latouche, recent acquisitions exhibition Des horizons d’attente and immerse yourself in virtual exhibition Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything, an incredible recreation of the MAC’s 2017 monumental show.

Visit the PHI Foundation for Contemporary Art in Old Montréal to see the Canadian premier of solo exhibition Lee Bae: UNION or go online for a guided visit, virtual workshops, and a video program. Walk over to the Phi Centre to experience the multidimensional and mysterious worlds of Three Movements in Virtual Reality and installation by artists such as Alexandra Stréliski, Daniel Bélanger, Dominique Fils-Aimé and Vincent Morisset. PHI also presents a unique immersive experience: Alejandro G. Iñárritu's Oscar® award-winning virtual reality installation CARNE y ARENA (Virtually present, Physically invisible) at Arsenal Contemporary Art gallery from March 17 to June 20, exploring the human condition of immigrants and refugees and the blurred lines between subject and bystander. The Montréal Comic Arts Festival brings Québec artists and their art to Parc La Fontaine every year, though may go virtual in 2021, with free activities for all ages, from May 28 to 30.

Step inside the wild worlds of the OASIS immersion experience at Palais des congrès all month. See Janet Werners’s solo painting exhibition There There and Stephanie Temma Hier’s Soft Options, Hard Edges at Bradley Ertaskiran. Online, dive into Galerie UQAM’s Anthropocene-themed virtual exhibition DEEP TIMES and see the Musée des metiers d’art du Québec virtual exhibitionVibrations sur fibres 21, Retrospective Paulette-Marie Sauvé.

And explore more of Montréal’s amazing art galleries in our Montréal guide to gallery hopping and these affordable places to buy contemporary art – many galleries have reopened and are welcoming visitors in limited numbers to see new exhibitions.

History past and present

Montréal's history museums reopen their doors and continue with online activities this month! The inaugural edition of the Montréal History Festival (Festival d’histoire de Montréal) brings the past to life with over 40 thematic activities for all ages, presented online online and in person by 14 Montréal history museums, from May 14 to 16. And Montréal Museums Day goes hybrid this year on Sunday, May 30, with free online activities, like museum tours and workshops, for everyone. Among the museums to visit this spring.

History buffs of all ages will love Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Archaeology and History Complex whether in person or online: see new exhibitions A Railroad to Dreams and Italian Montréal, tracing the journey of Italo-Montrealers from the early 20th century, interactive display Come Aboard! Pirates or Privateers? and more. At the McCord Museum don’t miss Christian Dior featuring over 50 classic designs as well as Chapleau and online urban tours of Montréal.

See new exhibition The Things Around Us: 51N4E and Rural Urban Framework and more at the Canadian Centre for Architecture. Step into the neon glow and cabarets of virtual exhibition Scandal! Vice, crime and morality in Montréal, 1940-1960. Or go back in time with the Château Ramezay exhibition 1812: Objects to Discover. Known for historic walking tours, the Museum of Jewish Montreal launches live-on-Zoom virtual tour Making Their Mark: A Virtual Tour of Historic Jewish Montreal, guiding visitors through the city’s historic Jewish quarter – also check out the museum’s first-ever Instagram exhibition To build tiny monuments is to gather what’s there with artist Lauren Prousky.

Montréal music

The Orchestre symphonique de Montréal presents The OSM and James Ehnes: From Darkness to Light at Maison symphonique on May 4 and 5 and online starting May 25, webcast concerts Barber and Grant Still: American Sounds until May 4, Northern Lights: Dalia Stasevska Conducts Tchaikovsky and Sibeliu to May 11, plus a webcast of a sold-out performance by the Les Cowboys Fringants and the OSM, from May 11 to 25. Watch the Orchestre Métropolitain performing From Piano to Podium: Mozart and Brahms with Yannick Nézet-Séguin online to May 9 and Symphonic Brahms: A Triumphant Finale from May 21 to May 30. The Montréal Bach Festival presents Le Gala Bach, a virtual concert of the best moments from the 2020 festival, screening May 2.

Watch the free webcast of the 19th edition of the Concours musical international de Montréal, where 26 of the world’s finest young pianists compete from April 26 to May 14. See Les 9, for 8 cellos and a double bass, at Maison symphonique on May 23. Orchestra FILMharmonique performs OPENWORLD, a concert of video game music from the ‘90s to present day on May 30 at Place des Arts. Hear incredible chamber music all month in person at Bourgie Hall and online in their virtual classical concerts, as well as in Pro Musica’s presentation of the latest Les Mélodînes concert, featuring pianist Viktor Lazarov. Watch more live music with Suoni per il Popolo’s online concerts. And read all about Montréal’s own queens of jazz, soul and blues.

On stage

While many performance venues reopen their doors for live performances in April, with physical distancing, masks and other safety measures in place, many productions can be watched from home. For families, Geordie Theatre explores sibling relationships, creativity and mental health in new play Virginia Wolf, from May 7 to 16. The Segal Centre for Performing Arts welcomes back audiences to the theatre with inspiring play Every Brilliant Thing by Duncan Macmillan, from May 1 to 16. See intriguing performances on stage at La Chapelle, including Jacob Wren’s A User’s Guide To Authenticity Is a Feeling on May 17 and 18. The Blue Metropolis International Literary Festival opens its virtual doors from April 24 to May 2 with over 100 national and international invitees, such as David Grossman and Souleymane Bachir Diagne, addressing the theme “challenges of our times” in inspiring online events, as well as a children’s program.

Festival Accès Asie launches its 26th edition on May 6 with an online cocktail party and performances by Samian and more artists – throughout the month, the festival presents performances, talks and more, from immersive gallery performances and online collective coast-to-coast programming to a shadow theatre workshop for kids. For kids under 5, the Petits bonheurs Festival features workshops and performances outdoors at TOHU from May 9 to 16.

The incomparable Festival TransAmériques returns to stages and screens from May 26 to June 12, featuring new works by Québec artists Louise Lecavalier, Marie Brassard, Mélanie Demers, 2Fik and Rhodnie Désir, as well as Lara Kramer’s Them Voices and more. Meanwhile there are even more cutting-edge performances to see at parallel festival OFFTA from May 28 to June 6. Agora de la Danse presents a webcast of Estelle Clareton’s solo Bouleversement from May 7 to 14, live performances of On the Matter of Flowers from May 4 to 8 and online May 14 to 21, and live performances of Catherine Gaudet’s Se dissoudre from May 11 to 15. Tangente presents a webcast performance of Polymorphic Microbe Bodies by Hanna Sybille and Erin Müller Robinsong to May 2 and Sébastien Provencher and Mathieu Leroux’s Bones & Wires from May 8 to 16.

On screen

Immerse yourself in new digital worlds at the Society for Art and Technology’s SAT Fest 2021, screening eight new films by local and international artists in the SAT’s 360-degree dome from April 27 to June 19. Cinéma Moderne launches Cinéma Public, a new online program of feature films, family-friendly animated features, documentaries and more, including Oscar nominee Quo vadis, Aida? by Jasmila Žbanić, About Endlessness by Roy Andersson, Fait vivir by Oscar Ruiz Navia about Montréal’s Gypsy Kumbia Orchestra, a retrospective of Canadian filmmaker Kazik Radwanski, and much more.

Now streaming online, The Pop Movie lets us step back in time to see POP Montréal’s 2009 edition, from live performances to office antics, through the eyes of Montréal filmmaker Andi State. Discover new art house films and more from Montréal indie cinemas' programming, including in-person and virtual screenings from Cinéma du ParcCinéma du Musée and Cinémathèque québécoise. Watch cinematic nature documentaries for the whole family thanks to the Montréal Science Centre’s online programming. Explore the city from a cinematic distance in these Hollywood movies made in Montréal. And the PHI Centre's VR TO GO delivers world-class VR content (and headsets) to your door.

Robyn Fadden

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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