Free things to do this fall in Montréal
This article was updated on August 29, 2019.
Montréal in the fall is a beautiful sight no matter what your budget – free stuff to do abounds! Good weather lasts through September and October, meaning outdoor activities are plentiful, while indoor no-cost entertainment continues through November and right into winter.
Montréal sights and sounds
With city views, leafy forest paths and fresh air, a visit to Mount Royal is a must – stop by Café suspendu du mont Royal every weekend throughout September and into October for refreshing beverages and free activities including yoga and live music. Take the beautiful Promenade Fleuve-Montagne path, from the mountain to the St. Lawrence River, featuring monuments, art installations and more along the way. Explore more of Montréal's parks and green spaces, including beautiful Parc La Fontaine in the Plateau and Parc Jean-Drapeau on Île Sainte-Hélène, where you'll also find the Stewart Museum, free for kids 12 and under, and Biosphère, Environment Museum, free for youth 17 and under. Peace and quiet also awaits in Montréal's many churches and sacred sites, from Old Montréal and downtown churches to Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal in Côte-des-Neiges.
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. Get into the Halloween spirit with thousands of zombies at the annual Montréal Zombie Walk in late October. Find all this and more at your fingertips with the free My Official Montréal City Guide, a travel app that lets you experience the city like a Montrealer.
Discover some of Montréal's liveliest neighbourhoods through live music, activities, food and drink throughout September and into October at ephemeral open-air spaces Jardins Gamelin near the Village, the Old Port's Marché des Éclusiers and Les Jardineries on the Esplanade of the Olympic Park. Montréal’s public markets, including Jean Talon Market and Atwater Market, always make for colourful browsing – if the weather's agreeable, pick up something seasonal to eat and go for a picnic in the park. The Montreal Vegan Festival features food, workshops, films and more from September 21 to 22 at the Montréal Convention Centre. Get there and everywhere on transit, by foot or by bike – check out our guide to bike paths, bicycle rentals, BIXI and all things biking in Montréal.
Free music, dance and more
Alongside its ticketed shows, long-running POP Montréal International Music Festival features all kinds of free programming, including outdoor concerts, BBQs, panel discussions and Q&As with artists and music industry pros, activities for kids and more from September 25 to 29. Enjoy live music while eating delicious food during the First Fridays food truck event at Olympic Park on October 4 – the final one of the year! And on September 22, families can participate in dance workshops at Fête famille - Les danses tricotées-serrées at Place des Arts.
The CIOC Festival features free concerts on Sundays at Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal and the Grand Séminaire in October. The Montreal Bach Festival, taking place from November 22 to December 7, includes free concerts at Saint Joseph’s Oratory and St. Andrew and St. Paul's Church. M for Montréal music festival, from November 20 to 23, often features free afternoon showcases and more pop, electro and hip hop shows and events. World music festival and conference Mundial Montréal invites everyone to free afternoon shows too from November 19 to 22. The Arab World Festival of Montreal, from October 25 to November 17, showcases Arabic and Western culture and features several free events, including dance, film, art and live music.
Expertly curated international film festivals bring hundreds of films to Montréal along with directors and actors, a selection of talks and performances and parties with free entry: Festival du nouveau cinéma features new films and cult classics from October 9 to 20, the Montreal International Documentary Festival focuses on documentary features and shorts from November 14 to 24 and CINEMANIA Francophone Film Festival puts films in the spotlight (with English subtitles) from November 7 to 17.
Outdoor art lines the streets of Montréal in September and October. After dark, look for the historic multimedia tableaux projections of Cité Mémoire in Old Montréal. Stop by pop-up outdoor gallery Artch in downtown's Square Dorchester from September 12 to 15, to see art by 23 emerging contemporary artists. In the Quartier des spectacles until October 14, watch your voice become illuminated in the electronic wavelengths of art installation Spectrum in Place de la Paix, let the Compassion Machine scan you for altruism on the corner of Bleury and Sainte-Catherine Streets, and create symphonic ambient sounds on artist Étienne Paquette's 28-foot-high Wind Instrument.
See the McCord Museum's historic Montréal at work photography exhibition along McGill College Avenue, while the museum's Urban Forest hosts music and events next to the museum on Victoria Street until October 13 (a visit to the museum itself is free for kids 12 and under.) And spot Montréal's murals of Leonard Cohen on Crescent Street near the Sir Winston Churchill Pub and on Saint-Laurent Boulevard at Napoleon Street not far from Schwartz's.
Galleries and museums
During Les Journées de la culture, from September 27 to 29, most of the city’s galleries, major museums and cultural spaces open their doors for free and offer activities for all ages, including workshops, guided tours and performances. Place des Arts' exhibition space hosts Corps et Âmes by Mikaël Theimer, exploring dance as a powerful art form for marginalized people. Galerie de l'UQAM, VOX and several other venues host the MOMENTA | Biennale de l’image exhibitions, workshops and events – this year under the theme “The Life of Things” - until October 13.
The Montréal Museum of Fine Arts main collections are free to anyone 30 and under, as are weekend art workshops for families: see Egyptian Mummies: Exploring Ancient Lives, a touring exhibition produced by the British Museum, Omar Ba: Same Dream, a monograph dedicated to the influential African artist, and much more this fall. The Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal is free for kids 12 and under and half-price on Wednesday evenings – the museum hosts a MOMENTA | Biennale de l’image exhibition by Francis Alÿs as well as career-spanning shows by Rebecca Belmore and Janet Werner.
Explore fashion history in Barbie form at the free Barbie Expo. And go gallery hopping around the city: drop by the many galleries along the cobblestone streets of Old Montréal and in the Belgo Building on Sainte-Catherine Street such as Galerie Hugues Charbonneau and SBC Gallery of Contemporary Art, and check out Parisian Laundry in Saint-Henri, Arsenal near Griffintown, Mile End galleries Centre CLARK, Dazibao and more on de Gaspé Avenue, and Never Apart in Mile-Ex.
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.