Things to do in Montréal – September 20 to 26, 2019

As summer turns to fall this week, the POP Montréal International Music Festival kicks off, entertaining and enlightening with music, film, art, family activities and more. Explore the world through images at the World Press Photo and MOMENTA | Biennale de l'image exhibitions, wander through gorgeous Gardens of Light, watch marathon runners, explore parks and museums, see theatre and film, and stay out late for live music and dancing.

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Major Montréal events

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 Pokémon GO Safari Zone event gathers thousands of players together to play, learn more about the game, meet Pokémon stars and more from September 20 to 22.

Cheer on the thousands of runners in the Oasis International Marathon & 1/2 Marathon de Montréal on September 21 and 22, headquartered in downtown's Quartier des spectacles, with a free Health and Fitness Expo and major outdoor concerts by Marie-Mai on Saturday morning and The Brooks on Sunday morning. Meanwhile, the 2019 World Press Photo exhibition brings a wide world of photographs to Marché Bonsecours in Old Montréal.

Long-running POP Montréal International Music Festival celebrates its 18th year with hundreds of indoor and outdoor concerts, including this Wednesday and Thursday's performances by Laurie Anderson and Colin Stetson, Safia Nolin, Yamantaka // Sonic Titan, Zaki Ibrahim, Fink, Kokoko!, Moor Mother, Kedr Livanskiy, Ex Eye, Tirzah, Blinker the Star, Shonen Knife and many more artists – listen to the POP Montréal 2019 mixtape. Also check out exhibitions for Art POP and film screenings at Film POP, Q&As with artists and music industry pros, activities for kids at Kids POP, excellent designer craft fair Puces POP, a record fair and more from September 25 to 29.

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City sights and activities

Art brightens downtown's Quartier des spectacles: 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. And you only have until September 23 to see 18 Shades of Gay, the rainbow of plastic balls that hovers above Sainte-Catherine Street in the Village.

See the city from the Mount Royal Park lookout and enjoy several activities on the mountain. For picnics, natural sights and quiet moments explore the city's many other parks and green spaces too. 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).

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. On Saturday, September 21, watch Les acrobates du ciel, a show of birds of prey in flight at Boisé-Est in Frédéric-Back Park at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., presented by La TOHU. On September 22, participate in dance workshops at Family Fest on the Esplanade of Place des Arts and get dancing this weekend at Place des Arts' family-friendly Hors les murs event, with workshops on Bollywood and Latin dancing, plus art and music workshops. 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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Food and drink

The Montréal Vegan Festival features all kinds of great plant-based food and drink, special guests, workshops, films and more on September 21 and 22 at the Montréal Convention Centre – and discover more local vegan delights with our guide to vegan eating in Montréal. A few of 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) and the Old Port’s Marché des Éclusiers. The Esplanade of the Olympic Park also features green space and café Les Jardineries – join Sunday evening's fiesta of music and dancing or go for OktoberFest from September 26 to 28, featuring a biergarten, sausages, sauerkraut, seasonal music and activities for all ages. And celebrate the turn of the seasons in Montréal with fall harvest activities.

Get a taste of Montréal at these five restaurants with five amazing chefs, crafting unique dishes, from classic French menus to ground-breaking Asian cuisine. Discover what's in season, eat well and bring home locally made products at Jean-Talon Market and Atwater Market. Go for a dinner cruise on the St. Lawrence River with Croisières AML or Bateau-Mouche! 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 12. And explore more of Montréal and its culinary delights on Montréal's best food tours.

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Sports and outdoor adventures

The Montréal Canadiens continue their NHL preseason this week with a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on September 23 at the Bell Centre. Or catch a CFL football game with the Montréal Alouettes against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on September 21 at Percival-Molson Memorial Stadium. Take a bike ride through city streets and parks – consult our guide to bike paths, bicycle rentals, BIXI and all things biking in Montréal. You can camp in a cabin-like tent with Huttopia in nearby 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.

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On stage

The Opéra de Montréal stages Tchaikovsky’s sublime Eugene Onegin, an opera of lost love and bitter regret, featuring artists Étienne Dupuis and Nicole Car at Place des Arts until September 22. 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. Also at the Centaur, circus centre La TOHU presents Nicolás Poggi and Luciano Rosso's Un Poyo Rojo, comedic faux-macho circus theatre all the way from Argentina.

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. Montréal playwright Vittorio Rossi’s 1988 play The Chain follows the lives of a first-generation Italian immigrant family in Montréal. See it at Moyse Hall Theatre until October 6. Laugh about life with the clowns of the Festival des Clowns de Montréal, where theatre, circus and comedy meet at MainLine Theatre from September 18 to 22. Or indulge in the comedy of Cheech & Chong on September 23 at Place des Arts. VIVA! Art Action performance art festival highlights a multitude of live and undisciplined performance practices and public artistry from September 25 to 28. Meanwhile, several Gay Village stages light up with world-class drag shows in Montréal.

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On screen

Film festival season arrives in Montréal this week! See new and classic stop-motion animation films, meet the creators, enjoy free family activities and more at the 11th edition of the Festival Stop Motion Montréal from September 16 to 22. And watch hundreds of feature films and shorts from around the world at the Montréal International Black Film Festival, Canada's largest film event entirely dedicated to Black cinema, from September 24 to 29. 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.

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, and starting September 24 see Harmonielehre, an immersive film featuring Orchestre symphonique de Montréal conductor Kent Nagano and the music of composer John Adams. Explore the universe at the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium, featuring science-meets-multimedia shows Planet Nine, Secrets of Gravity, EXO, POLARIS, Planet Nine, Continuum and Aurōrae as well as Mice and the Moon for younger kids.

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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.

One of this fall's major exhibitions, the British Museum's Egyptian Mummies: Exploring Ancient Lives makes its North American premiere at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts from September 14 to February 2, reconstructing the lives of six Egyptians who lived along the Nile from about 900 BC to AD 180, while Untamed Colour: Celebrating Jean McEwen pays homage to the Montréal painter. Also at the Musée d'art contemporain, see Rebecca Belmore: Facing the Monumental, a poignant and timely career-spanning exhibition of installation and performance art. At the McCord Museum 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. 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. At the Museum of Jewish Montreal see multimedia exhibition Iraqi Jewish Voices. 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, the Red Bull Music Festival presents electronic artist extraordinaire Marie Davidson and more artists at Studio Notre-Dame and follows that up on Saturday with a live show by Montréal's Moonshine collective and more. Also on Friday, September 20, see French hip-hop duo Big Flo and Oli at MTELUS, Swedish punks No Fun at All at Foufounes Électriques, indie singer-songwriter Frankie Cosmos at L’Astral and Fly Pan Am, Wreckage With Stick and Myriam Bleau at Bar Le Ritz PDB. On Saturday, Kent Nagano conducts the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal in Mahler’s Fifth Symphony at Maison symphonique de Montréal. That night, catch indie rock legends Built to Spill at Corona Theatre and alt-rockers Bad Suns at Le Ministère. Go Saturday night dancing at NVA Equinox 2019 with Avalon Emerson, Cashu, Pelada and more, at New City Gas with French electronic dance music production duo Amine Edge and DANCE, or at the Phi Centre with legendary Detroit DJ and producer Theo Parrish all night long.

Boiler Room x Piknic Électronik Montréal is happening in Parc Jean-Drapeau on Saturday from 2 p.m. onwards into the night, while on Sunday afternoon, you can dance in the open air at Piknic Électronik in Parc Jean-Drapeau, featuring electronic music producers Ellen Allien, Due Diligence, Flamingosis, Dead Horse Beats and more. Monday, September 23 brings Sigrid and Raffaela to Corona Theatre and Mac DeMarco with openers Dustin Wong & Takako Minekawa to MTELUS. The Orchestre symphonique de Montréal presents violin queen Anne-Sophie Mutter performing Beethoven's Violin Concerto at the Maison symphonique de Montréal on September 24 and 25, and Cristian Măcelaru leads the OSM in Shoenberg’s orchestration of Brahms’ Quartet on the morning of September 25.

On Thursday, September 26, the one and only Céline Dion performs the first of six spectacular, post-Vegas-era nights at the Bell Centre, Xavier Rudd and Bobby Alu perform at MTELUS, and London based cross-genre electronic producer and DJ Peach gets dancers bouncing 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

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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