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Montreal is one of Canada’s most bustling metropolises. The city is full of amazing historical sites, museums, markets, and parks. Montreal is also famous for its festivals, with over 100 festivals taking place in the city each year.
Montreal can be a city that drains your wallet. Delicious foods from thousands of restaurants, drinks at bars and speakeasy’s, and partying the night away at one of the cities many dance and night clubs.
But that’s not to say Montreal isn’t also full of lots of free things to do. The city is known as a university city. A massive student population most of which are student poor.
Here is a list of the top free things to do in Montreal.
- Mount Royal
- Tam-Tams Drum Circle
- Belgo Building
- Street Art/Urban Art
- Mural Hunting
- Old Town
- Old Port
- Cool Neighborhoods
- Architecture Hunting
- The Underground City
- Open-Air Markets
- The Lachine Canal
- Jean Drapeau Park
- Parc La Fontaine
- Ice Skating
- Public Pools
- Village au Pied-du-Courant
- BAnQ-La Grande Bibliotheque
- Saint Joseph’s Oratory
- Outdoor Concerts
- Watch the Sunrise/Sunset
One of the best free things to do in Montreal is to head to the top of Mont Royal. Mont Royal is the city’s most iconic feature. Situated right in the center of Montreal, the park overlooks the whole city and has some of the best views you can get all for free.
Check out the lookout points on Google Maps:
Mount Royal, is one of the largest green spaces in the city, with many trails and paths, as well as open green spaces. It makes for the perfect free day out.
- City Views
- Bike Rides
Grab some food for a picnic or get some exercise with a nice jog or stroll through the park. Hangout in some of the park’s green spaces or get lost in the forest. Mont Royal offers some of the best views of the city.
The park was originally designed by the same man who designed New York’s Central Park.
TAM-TAMS DRUM CIRCLE
Tam-Tams Sunday drum circle is a weekly event at the base of Mont Royal. It’s one of the best free things to do in Montreal for music lovers.
Loved by visitors and Montrealers alike, this Sunday ritual runs from May to the end of September.
There is a 420 gathering as well on April 20th for those looking to partake or avoid the smoke clouds.
Montreal is the artsiest city in Canada with street art and murals as well as many other forms of urban art throughout the whole city. Montreal also has some of the best museums in Canada.
There is one day of the year where all of the museums are free, it’s called Montreal Museums Day. It is typically in May and the exact day changed year to year. The free museum day for 2020 was meant to be May 31st, however, it was canceled due to Covid-19.
Many of the cities museums also have one day a week where it is free for guests to visit. And lots of museums offer free entry on the first Sunday of every month.
- McCord Museum – Free every Wednesday evening and the first Sunday of every month
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts – Free for people aged 0-20 and the first Sunday of every month
Centre de Design de l’UQAM – Always Free
Redpath Museum – Always free (a $10 donation is the usual norm)
Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal – Free on the first Sunday of the month for Quebec residents and Wednesday nights are half off.
- Musée de Lachine – Always Free
Montreal has lots of amazing street art, wonderful museums, and lots of urban art exhibitions. The city also has lots of local homegrown art.
One of the best ways to experience the local art scene is to visit the Belgo Building a building that is dedicated to local artists and is home to lots of local art galleries, all of which are free to walk through.
This is a good way to spend your time without spending any money. The Belgo is a six-story building in the center of the city in the Quartier des Spectacles district of Montreal.
The Belgo Building is all about the arts, with more than 25 art galleries, some dance studios, and even art workshops for those looking to learn more about art and create something cool.
Tip: Start at the top of the building and work your way down.
STREET ART/URBAN ART
Montreal is the street art capital of Canada. The city lives and breathes art. Colorful murals, sculptures, statues, and art installations can be found throughout the city. One of the best free things to do in the city is to go out and look for amazing street art.
Here are some examples of the art installations throughout the city to go check out:
- The pink hippos off Saint Laurent Blvd on Guilbault E.
- The dog sculpture by Place Des Arts
- Les Lecons Singulaires Part 2 at Parc La Fontaine
- Renee-Levesque Parc has multiple art installations
- Beaver Lake has multiple art installations
Walk down Sherbrooke and you are sure to find more urban art installations.
Along with the hundreds of art installation throughout the city, there are also thousands of murals painted around Montreal. Mural hunting is made easy in Montreal, thanks to their two big annual festivals, Under Pressure and Mural Fest.
Each and every neighborhood has its own murals, which makes walking through the entire city enjoyable. As the host of the annual Mural Fest, Saint Laurent Blvd is a hot spot for murals. But you can find them everywhere throughout the city.
No matter where you are in the city you are never more than a block or two from a cool mural or graffiti art.
Montreal is known for having tons of festivals every year. The city plays host to some 100 different festivals each year and there is at least one festival every month of the year. Montrealers are always ready to celebrate rain, shine, or snow.
There are tons of festivals in Montreal year-round. All of which have a little something different to offer to residents and visitors.
Some of the most notable festivals include:
- Igloo Fest (January)
- Montreal en Lumiere (February)
- Art Souterrain/The Underground Art Festival (March)
- Sketch Fest (April-May)
- Beer Fest (May)
- Museum Day (May)
- Mural Fest (June)
- International Jazz Festival (June-July)
- Montreal Fireworks (July)
- Just For Laughs (July)
- Pride Festival (August)
- Lantern Festival (September)
- Montreal World Film Festival (September)
- Halloween at the Museum (October)
- FEZtival of Trees (November)
- Noel dans le parc (December)
Old Montreal is like taking a scene right out of medieval France. When people refer to Montreal reminding them of Europe, this is the part of the city that they are talking about.
With cobblestone roads, narrow streets, and stone architecture this is where you can find Montreal’s famous Notre-Dame Basilica, one of the top sites in the city.
Walking through old town, boutique window shopping, and taking a break outside the cathedral make for a good day.
Located right next to old town, is the old port. With views of the Saint-Laurent River, boutique shops, upscale restaurants, and souvenir shopping a plenty. There’s a lot to take in in this little part of the city.
Enjoy scenes of the water, look across the river to Jean Drapeau Parc, or take a walk along the canal, there’s plenty of sights to see.
Montreal has tons of great neighborhoods to get lost in and take in the sights.
Here are some notable neighborhoods to check out:
- The Plateau – A trendy area in Montreal, full of murals and considered by manythe heart of the city.
- Verdun – Ranked one of the coolest neighborhoods in the world by Time Out Magazine here.
- Mile End – Where you can find the best bagel shops in town!
- Saint Henri – An up and coming area right next to the Lachine Canal.
- China Town – Find the best Asian food in the city as well as Asian inspired street art.
- Quartier des Spectacles – Hotspot for festivals and a major cultural scene
- Gay Village – A friendly, open, and inclusive part of the city.
- Downtown – Where you can find a lot of entertainment: museums, nightclubs, restaurants, and adult entertainment.
One of the most fun, cool, and free things to do in the city is to walk around and look at the different styles of architecture. From British influences to French, old and new, the city is full of amazing buildings both big and small. From the skyscrapers of downtown to the three-story walkups in the Plateau to the old stone mansions in Westmount.
The city is full of incredibly cool buildings for you to discover. Each neighborhood and street has it’s own character.
THE UNDERGROUND CITY
With half of the year sitting at below freezing temperatures, Montreal has a network of underground pathways for people to explore in the winter months to stay out of the elements. The underground city spans for a total of 33km.
You can spend hours, if not days, wandering around the underground city, exploring everything it has to offer, from museums to art exhibits, to shopping.
No stop to Montreal is complete without stopping at one of the city’s famous open-air markets.
Each market has a little something different to offer. Jean-Talon is one of the largest markets in the city, full of food vendors, people watching, art, and boutiques.
The Atwater market has great fresh produce vendors, delis, a bakery, and small grocery shops.
Notable other markets to check out in Montreal:
- Maisonneuve Market
- Lachine Market
- Quartier Market
- Solidaires Market
Besides the notable Mont Royal, Montreal is full of amazing parks to visit and spend the day. From Parc La Fontaine to Angrignon to city squares such as Dorchester and Saint-Louis. The city’s parks offer a chance to sit down, hang out, and relax with friends or solo on a patch of green space.
Check out Montreal’s top 19 parks to visit here.
THE LACHINE CANAL
The Lachine Canal goes for miles and is a historical site in the city of Montreal as well as Canada. It has been converted from an old industrial canal to a beautiful green urban space with kilometers of bike and walking paths cutting through multiple neighborhoods.
Each neighborhood offers its own feel to the canal.
The Lachine Canal is the perfect place for a long walk, run, a bike ride, roller blading, or skateboarding.
JEAN DRAPEAU PARK
Jean Drapeau Park is a massive park on its own two islands just off the main island of Montreal. Connected by the metro, bike paths, and bridges it’s easily accessible for the average person. The park is home to one of Montreal’s most iconic buildings, the Biodome, built for Expo 67. The island hosted the Expo in 1967.
The island is also home to many large festivals that take place every year as well as the Montreal Formula 1 Grand Prix track and 6 Flag’s La Rhonde. The park is full of lakes, paths, nature, and sights to see.
PARC LA FONTAINE
One of the most famous parks in the city with a huge green open space. This park has a big pond with paths that weave in and around the park. There is an off-leash dog park, a kids parks, multiple sports fields still with space left over for hundreds to come and enjoy their own piece of green earth to relax on for the day.
There are also multiple statues and art installations throughout the park, as well as an amphitheater to catch a show during the summer months.
Ice skating is a favorite winter pass time in Montreal and Canada. When winter falls on Montreal the ice skates come out and the ice rinks open to the public.
Here are a few notable free ice rinks in Montreal.
- Beaver Lake (Mont Royal)
- Parc La Fontaine
- Jarry Park
- Jean Drapeau Parc
- Jean Meance
- Old Port
With temperatures in the summer reaching into the ’30s (celsius) Montreal has many public pools, most of which are open to the public for free. Some are only free for residents. Most of the pools are outdoors and are only open during the warmer months of the year.
Free public pools:
- Sir Wilfred Laurier Pool (free on weekdays)
- Jarry Parc Pool
- Baldwin Pool (free on weekdays)
- Confederation Pool
- Kent Park Pool
Wintertime is not the best time for outdoor pools.
Montreal is an island city at the mouth of the Saint-Laurent River. These fresh water beaches offer relief from the hot sun in the summer and can be found on various parts of the island.
The urban, artificial, beach near the clock tower in Old Port is a popular spot for people not wanting to go far from the city center.
The Verdun beach offers great views of Nun’s Island, it’s a small popular family beach that locals enjoy.
Oka is off-island but considered the best beach in the Montreal area.
VILLAGE AU PIED-DU-COURANT
This 72,000 square foot public space is open from June to September and has an artificial beach with sitting areas, food stalls, public open-air concerts, and movie screenings. You can even bring your doggo, just make sure he is kept on a leash at all times.
It is located on the shore of the St Laurent River near the Jacques-Cartier Bridge.
BANQ – THE GRANDE BIBLOTHEQUE
The largest public library in the city offers cool architecture as well as hundreds of thousands of book titles. The majority of the books are in french, however, over 25% of the books are in English.
It’s a great way to spend a cold rainy day cuddled up with a good book. Or practice your French (or English) with one of the many books this library has to offer.
Here are Montreal’s most notable Parades:
- St Patrick’s Day Parade
- Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day (June 24)
- Canada Day
- Zombie Walk (October)
- Gay Pride (August)
- Santa Claus Parade (December)
SAINT JOSEPH’S ORATORY
This massive catholic church is located on the southwest side of Mont-Royal and can be seen from all over the city. It is a national historical site of Canada. It’s also Canada’s largest church.
The church itself is spectacular and the views of the city from the grounds make it even more of a worthwhile visit.
Montreal offers a variety of free open-air concerts throughout the festival season. The largest free annual concert being the International Jazz Festival taking place in June through July of each year.
Throughout the many parks and borrows of the city, there are many pop up concerts happening at any given time.
WATCH THE SUNSET/SUNRISE
The city has a few notable viewpoints to capture the beauty of the sunsets and sunrises.
The way the buildings reflect and capture the light in the downtown core is absolutely stunning. While taking a trip to the viewpoints on Mont-Royal also offers an incredible view of the sun rising and falling behind the city. And the view from Saint Joseph’s Oratory is unlike any other.
Read more about Montreal, QC here.