Visitors to this fine city are often heard praising its old-world charm while simultaneously celebrating its cosmopolitan vibe. Indeed, there’s something for everyone and every budget in Montréal, thanks to the abundance of free cultural events, guided tours, and beautiful outdoor spots just right for spending an afternoon’s lull. Here are a few of our favorite free things to do in Canada’s second largest city.
- Get a bird’s-eye view.
- See the work of local artists.
- Spend an afternoon basking in the sun riverside.
- Window-shop and people-watch along Rue St-Denis.
- Tango under the stars at the Vieux-Port-de-Montréal.
- Attend a choir concert.
- Catch a free play or watch men at play in Parc Lafontaine.
- Participate in the festivities.
- Take a self-guided tour of the city’s grandest residences.
- Move to your own beat at the foot of Mont Royal.
Designed by the co-creator of New York City’s Central Park, Frederick Law Olmsted, Parc du Mont-Royal remains a year-round escape for Montréal’s city dwellers. In the park, the Chalet du Mont-Royal affords views of the entire city.
“The park on top of Mont Royal is a nice place to relax (once you get there), and there’s an incomparable view of the city and the St. Lawrence.” (more)
Montréal is filled with art galleries that present work by local luminaries as well as international artists. The downtown area has a wide choice; Vieux-Montréal is also rich in galleries, most of which specialize in Québecois and First Nations work.
“In Old Montreal, there is a strip of particularly nice galleries between St. Sulpice and St. Laurent street, on St. Paul…” (more)
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Stretching across two islands in the middle of the St. Lawrence River, Parc Jean-Drapeau includes a major amusement park, flower gardens, and a beach.
“I appreciate the park because you can see the force of the St. Lawrence River up-close with its strong current.” (more) Photo by Andre Pichette.
Lined with some of the city’s trendiest restaurants and shops, Rue St. Denis is a pleasant place to sit and enjoy the bustle.
“Montréal is stylish, and to my eye the styles are less influenced by the neighbor to the south than in Toronto.” (more)
On any given summer night, Montréal’s Old Port is a bevy of activity—locals and visitors alike take advantage of the site’s varied free programming, which includes dance lessons and live music.
“One thing that makes this city special is that when you go out, a whopping majority of Montrealers *love* to dance. ” (more)
Carillon, choral, and organ concerts are held weekly in summer at Oratoire St-Joseph (St. Joseph’s Oratory), a large church high on a ridge of Mont-Royal.
“Check out St. Joseph’s Oratory—a beautiful, huge church that can be seen from anywhere in town. You’ll have a wonderful view of the city from there.” (more)
This popular park houses two artificial lakes with paddleboats, an open-air theater, bowling greens, and a large skating rink.
“Also, a stroll in Parc Lafontaine is a must. Make sure to go near the South East entrance to see Italian men playing “pétanque” while drinking home-made wine! A great show. ” (more)
In the summer, Montréal’s many festivals turn the city’s streets into a real scene, and many performances are free. If you happen to be in the city in July you’re in luck—the Montréal International Jazz Festival and the Just For Laughs Festival keep everyone entertained. For a full listing of events year-round, see the tourism board’s calendar.
“You must go to the Jazz Festival. It is a superb, world class event. Lots of outdoor concerts, and the music is not all jazz (if you are not a fan).” (more)
Several of the palatial stone homes of the city’s wealthy merchant class circa 1900 remain on the Golden Square Mile.
Peace-loving drum players create merry music while onlookers soak up the sun and good tunes on this public green.
“If the weather is nice, be sure on Sunday to go to the Tamtam. Lots of different people gather there, right below the Mountain on avenue du Parc (just follow the drum sounds). People dance, play percussions, and celebrate the return of nice weather!” (more)