Things to do in Montréal – September 13 to 19, 2019

It's mid-September but it still feels a bit like summer in Montréal. Eat well and become a master of the culinary arts at food Festival YUL EAT, explore the world through images at the World Press Photo and MOMENTA | Biennale de l'image exhibitions, wander through gorgeous Gardens of Light and watch athletes ride in the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal. Also explore markets, parks and museums, see dance, theatre and immersive media creations, and stay out late for live music and dancing.

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Urban outdoor activities

An annual event always worth attending for its magical beauty, Gardens of Light fills the Montréal Botanical Garden with glittering hand-made lanterns and multimedia creations. Traditional Chinese lanterns also meet Montréal’s signature magic at new event Feux Follets, an immersive journey through Parc Jean-Drapeau, featuring holograms, shadow art, 3D animation and even dancing drones from September 13 to October 31. Also at Parc Jean-Drapeau, the ECOSPHERE Fair: Montréal Edition showcases environmental challenges and offers sustainable solutions for reducing your ecological footprint, featuring exhibitors, conferences and workshops for all ages this weekend.

Meanwhile, art brightens downtown's pedestrian-only Sainte-Catherine Street in the Quartier des spectacles, where you can show off your chess skills on the giant chessboards and snap photos with the colourful dogs of Dans ma cour… ç’a du chien! Nearby, watch your voice turn to light in the electronic wavelengths of interactive art installation Spectrum in Place de la Paix, while nearby Wind Instrument (next to Saint-Laurent metro station) amplifies the ambient sounds of the city. Stop by pop-up gallery Artch in downtown's Square Dorchester from September 12 to 15 to see art by emerging contemporary artists. And there are only two weeks left to see the rainbow of plastic balls that is 18 Shades of Gay along Sainte-Catherine Street in the Village – after that Claude Cormier's public art installation will be dismantled.

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Food and drink

Montréal is one of North America’s major food destinations and this week's Festival YUL EAT shows us exactly why: the festival celebrates the city's creative gastronomy with expert-led masterclasses at several restaurants, the Parcours Gourmand gourmet tasting experience at the Society for Arts and Technology, and all kinds of food and culinary demonstrations outdoors in the Quartier des spectacle's Parterre green space from September 13 to 15. And sample even more Montréal dishes and local food products at the L'Avenue Gourmande event on Mont-Royal Avenue from September 12 to 15.

Montréal's seasonal outdoor spaces feature food and entertainment through September, including Jardins Gamelin outside Berri-UQAM metro station (walk east from there under the rainbow in the Gay Village), Village au Pied-du-Courant near the Jacques-Cartier Bridge, and the Old Port’s Marché des Éclusiers. The Esplanade of the Olympic Park also 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. Discover what's in season, eat well and bring home locally made products at Jean-Talon Market and Atwater Market. Or get into the Sin City spirit at Welcome to Vegas at the Casino de Montréal, with special cocktails and dishes fit for the King, plus showgirls, drag queens, a wedding chapel and more from September 9 to October 13. Explore more of Montréal and its culinary delights on Montréal's best food tours.

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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. Follow the landscaped Promenade Fleuve-Montagne from Mount Royal Park, through the Golden Square Mile and down through Old Montréal to the St. Lawrence River. For an incredible 360º view of the city, visit the Observatoire Place Ville Marie downtown, ride La Grande Roue de Montréal in the Old Port, and ascend 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). Or get Zen this weekend with a view of the St. Lawrence River at Yoga Brunch with friends at Bota Bota, spa-sur-l'eau on September 15.

Be sure to see the 2019 World Press Photo exhibition at Marché Bonsecours in Old Montréal, featuring hundreds of photographs of the world and its people by international press photographers, running until September 29. Visit Notre-Dame Basilica to see multimedia show AURA and explore iconic Saint Joseph's Oratory of Mount Royal. At night in Old Montréal, search out the projections of Cité Mémoire on building facades. In the Old Port of Montréal, climb on high-ropes course Voiles en Voiles, ride the MTL Zipline and try many other activities. Nearby, the Montréal Science Centre presents exhibition Spiders: From Fear to Fascination, as well as IMAX films and hands-on science activities. Whether you're coming by plane or train, solo or with family, plot your days and nights with My Official Montréal City Guide. Save on your visit with the MTL Sweet Deal.  

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Sports and outdoor adventures

The Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal brings international top cyclists to the city in a white-knuckle urban race – watch them climb Mount Royal and nearby city streets on September 14 and 15. Supercross makes a roaring return to Montréal at Olympic Stadium on September 14 – see high-caliber international motocross action featuring some of the top riders in North America. The famed Montréal Canadiens start their NHL preseason this week with games against the New Jersey Devils on September 16 and the Florida Panthers on September 19, plus a Sunday scrimmage. Cheer on Major League Soccer team the Montréal Impact as they play FC Cincinnati on September 14 and Toronto FC on September 18 at Saputo Stadium.

Go camping along the Lachine Canal at the oTENTik cabins until September 15. You can also camp in a cabin-like tent with Huttopia on nearby island 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. Head to Saint-Sauveur and Mont Tremblant in the Laurentian Mountains with Express du Nord's affordable trips. And take a day trip to orchard Verger Labonté to find your way through its massive galaxy-themed corn labyrinths.

On stage

Festival Quartiers Danses brings contemporary dance to unexpected places from September 6 to 15, with performances in Place des Arts, outdoor performances and dance film screenings – this week, see free performances outside Place des Arts in the afternoons and evenings, and indoor shows by Focus Cia de Dança, Vivus James Viveiros, Rebecca Margolick, Trip The Light Fantastic, Focus Danse Bach and more. Get dancing yourself this weekend at Place des Arts' family-friendly Hors les Murs event, with workshops on swing and country, plus art and music workshops. Also in dance, see Katie Wards’ dreamlike ImaginationReality at Théâtre La Chapelle from September 16 to 20.

The Segal Centre for Performing Arts opens its season from September 8 to 29 with The Pianist of Willesden Lane, based on the true story of Jewish musical prodigy Lisa Jura who escaped Nazi-ruled Vienna. See Rabiah Hussain's Spun, the compelling story of best friends from working-class British Pakistani families, at the Centaur Theatre from September 19 to 28. Audrey-Anne Bouchard's immersive multi-sensory Camille : Un rendez-vous au-delà du visuel circumvents our sense of sight to lead us through an emotional landscape at MAI Montréal, arts interculturels from September 4 to 22. Meanwhile, several Gay Village stages light up with world-class drag shows in Montréal.

On screen

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.

In the Society for Arts and Technology's 360° dome, see immersive work Remote Sense, an exploration of the “shamanic/artistic process of entoptic phenomena” by artists Jonny Knox and Darien Brito. 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 multi-venue MOMENTA | Biennale de l'image event presents exhibitions, workshops and events under this year's theme of “The Life of Things” until October 13, including Alinka Echeverría's Simulacra at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Francis Alÿs: Children's Games at the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, Celia Perrin Sidarous: The Archivist at the McCord Museum and multi-artist exhibitions at Galerie de l'UQAM, VOX and several other venues. And stay out late with art, music and more at the Nocturnes du MAC event on September 13.

Also at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the British Museum exhibition Egyptian Mummies: Exploring Ancient Lives makes its North American premiere from September 14 to February 2, reconstructing the lives of six Egyptians who lived along the Nile from about 900 BC to AD 180. Also 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. Interactive and documentary exhibition Yoko Ono: LIBERTÉ CONQUÉRANTE/GROWING FREEDOM explores how Yoko Ono's work affected contemporary art practices and activism, at the Fondation Phi pour l’art contemporain in Old Montréal only until September 15.

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. At the Phi Centre catch the Goodee Pop-up Studio until the end of the month, putting sustainable brands and humanist e-commerce in the spotlight. M3/ Mode masculine Montréal, Canada’s only men’s fashion festival, features designers and industry leaders in conferences and workshops, plus fashion show entertainment glam evenings from September 13 to 15. And there's more art to discover while gallery hopping and antiquing in the city. 

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History near and far

At Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Archaeology and History Complex, 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. 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. 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.

Live music

On Friday night, get heavy with the doom metal sounds of Sleep and Boris at MTELUS, while local metal legends Voivod play Corona Theatre with Revocation and Psycroptic. The New World Men: Rush Hommage takes you deep into Canadian prog-land at L’Astral. If you're a disco fan, get your dancing shoes on and head to Crescent Street for Disco Capitale 2019, Montréal's first international disco festival, on September 13 and 14. Hear all kinds of fuzzed out garage rock sounds at the Fuzztival music fest at La Vitrola this weekend. Saturday night also highlights the long-awaited Massive Attack show at the Bell Centre

and Rainbow Kitten Surprise and Illiterate Light at Corona Theatre, plus Australian electronic hip hop duo Hermitude at Le Belmont. Electronic dance music singer-songwriter Emma Hewitt returns to New City Gas with support from Sheridan Grout, Karl K-Otik and Tomacat.

On the afternoon of Sunday, you can dance in the open air at Piknic Électronik in Parc Jean-Drapeau, featuring electronic music producers Blond:ish, Sama', Ankh and more. Sunday also brings Black Pumas and Villages to Petit Campus and the first of two nights with beloved British singer-songwriter Mika and opener Kiesza at Corona Theatre. On Monday, September 16 legendary jazz percussionist Hamid Drake performs in duos with bagpiper Erwan Keravec and dancer Kimberley de Jong at La Sala Rossa, and Matador Records-signed indie singer-songwriter Lucy Dacus and Quinn Christopherson play at L’Astral. On September 17 and 18, the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal opens its season with Kent Nagano conducting Shostakovich's “Babi Yar” Symphony at the Maison symphonique de Montréal. Also on September 17, Australian indie rock-folk band Boy & Bear come to L’Astral with opener Stu Larsen and NYC-based Bailen harmonize at Ritz P.D.B.

On Wednesday, September 18, British band Bastille and Joywave play MTELUS, while British shoegaze legends Ride and openers Spirit Of The Beehive come to Théâtre Fairmount, and punk band Masked Intruder and Direct Hit thrash at Foufounes Électriques. And on Thursday, September 19, hear English rockers The Struts and Des Rocs at MTELUS, Mongolian metal band The Hu and Al Lover at L’Astral and Australian blues singer-songwriter and guitarist C.W. Stoneking at Ritz P.D.B. 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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