Free things to do this fall in Montréal

Robyn Fadden

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.

This article was updated on August 22, 2023.

Montréal in the fall is a beautiful sight no matter what your budget – free stuff to do abounds! Mild weather lasts throughout September and October, meaning outdoor activities and entertainment are plentiful, while indoor and outdoor no-cost activities, from art gallery visits to walks on the Mountain, continue through November and right into winter.

Montréal sights and sounds

In the heart of downtown Montréal, the Quartier des spectacles continues to surprise passers-by with spontaneous outdoor events, multimedia projections, and art installations throughout the year. Explore the area on a luminous pathway of video projections and lighting installations, including on the esplanade of Place des Arts, where you’ll see Montréal’s cultural institutions in a new light in Insitu, a visual poem projected on the facade of Maison symphonique.

Take a break for live music and theatrical performances (and even a snack and a drink too) at Esplanade Tranquille at the corner of Clark and Sainte-Catherine Street and at Jardins Gamelin near Berri-UQAM metro, open until September 17. And get out on the open-air dancefloor with professional dance instructors during TEMPÉO, Dance and Music Festival, on the Esplanade of Place des Arts from September 14 to 16 and 21 to 23.

See incredible street dance performances – and learn a few moves too! – at several free activities during the JOAT Festival international de street dance, until September 4 in the Quartier des Spectacles. Cheer at 3X3 basketball games, check out rap performances, graffiti and at urban sports and arts festival DISTRIX from September 1 to 3 in the Quartier des spectacles. Find your way around and learn more about the area on a free walking tour of the Quartier des spectacles.

The Martinique Gourmand Festival shares Martinique food and culture from September 12 to 24, including a free Creole Market with tastings, demonstrations and more on September 16 and 17 at the Grand Quay of the Old Port. Enjoy Ukrainian performances, art and cuisine at the family-friendly Montreal Ukrainian Festival on September 9 at Parc Maisonneuve.

Watch some of the world’s best cyclists compete in the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal on September 10 in Mount Royal Park, and stop by the fans village in Parc Jeanne-Mance at the foot of Mount Royal. And catch short, family-friendly alleyway performances during Le FAR Festival des arts de ruelle from August 28 to September 10.

 

 

MAPP_MTL, Montréal’s international projection mapping festival, presents lively, light-filled digital projections and musical performances from September 27 to 30 at the Van Horne Skate Park in the Mile End. 

See the city’s gorgeous murals on the sides of buildings, in parks and every neighbourhood thanks to MURAL, LNDMRK, MU and other expert Montréal mural artists and collectives. Meanwhile, downtown alleyways get a bright boost with the Murelles project’s incredible new mural art. Stroll the Old Port of Montréal riverside boardwalk, explore the history and beauty of Old Montréal by day, and at night use your smartphone to search out the historic projections of Montréal en Histoires Cité Mémoire. And go to downtown’s Place Ville Marie after sunset to stand under massive, glowing art installation The Ring.

 

Autumn views and leafy walks

With city views, leafy forest paths and fresh air, a visit to Mount Royal is a must – look out on the city from the Kondiaronk Belvedere and the Mount Royal Chalet, and walk a little further for a closer look at the Mountain's illuminated cross. From the Mountain, follow the beautiful Promenade Fleuve-Montagne path into downtown and all the way 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, expansive Parc Jean-Drapeau on Île Sainte-Hélène, Frédéric-Back Park in Saint-Michel, and other green spaces (seasonally decked out in fall colours) in Montréal's liveliest neighbourhoods.

Peace and quiet also awaits in Montréal's many churches and sacred sites, from Old Montréal and downtown churches to Saint Joseph’s Oratory in Côte-des-Neiges. Discover more of the city with the free My Official Montréal City Guide, a travel app that lets you experience the city like a Montrealer.

Ephemeral open-air market spaces Jardins Gamelin in the Village and the Old Port's Marché des Éclusiers feature live music, activities, food and drink throughout September and into October, while Montréal’s public markets, including Jean Talon Market and Atwater Market, always make for colourful browsing – pick up something seasonal to eat and go for a picnic in the park. 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 festival entertainment

Montréal is known for its high-energy summer festivals, while its fall festivals highlight the city’s arts and culture variety – and feature free activities too! Keep your eye out for pop-up musical performances, panel discussions, free Kids POP activities, art shows and more fun at POP Montréal International Music Festival, from September 27 to October 1. Experience vegan cuisine, cooking workshops and demos, and more at the Montreal Vegan Festival at Palais des Congrès on September 30 and October 1. Digital arts festival <MTL> Connect is both an exhibition arena and a conference with some free events, from October 10 to 13.

While focused on film screenings, the Festival du nouveau cinéma, from October 4 to 15, CINEMANIA, from November 1 to 12, and RIDM | Montréal International Documentary Festival, from November 15 to 26, also feature several free virtual and in-person activities and installations. Urban music festival M for Montréal is back in person and virtually from November 15 to 18, with both paid and free options. Mundial Montréal shines the spotlight on world music, and includes a handful of free events, from November 14 to 17. And the Montréal Bach Festival celebrates the composer’s rich catalogue of works, including some free performances, from November 17 to December 3.

Museums for everyone

Autumn art is all new at Montréal’s many museums and art galleries. Annual event Journées de la culture is one way to experience art for free in person and online, visit studios, join workshops and more from September 29 to October 1. Momenta Biennale de l’image showcases cutting-edge artists from around the world at 15 of Montreal’s leading museums and galleries, including the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery, Galerie de l’UQAM, Vox and more, with many venues offering free entry from September 7 to October 22.

At the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, free for ages 20 and under and free on the first Sunday of every month, see Portable Universe: Thought and Splendour of Indigenous Colombia, award-winning master carver creations in Wolves: The Art of Dempsey Bob, new collections exhibition The Pop of Life! Pop Art in the Collection of the MMFA, touring show Marisol: A Retrospective, and opening November 1, recent paintings by Françoise Sullivan – plus the colourful Inflorescence fresco just outside on Du Musée Avenue.

The Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal is free for ages 17 and under – along with MOMENTA Biennale exhibition SocialSim, populated by 3D avatars, see Anna Binta Diallo’s Fluid fossils and Cyprien Gaillard’s 3D film Nightlife, plus online exhibition Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything and comprehensive digital platform MACrépertoire.

Stop by the McCord Stewart Museum's open-air Urban Forest for entertainment and see historic photography exhibition Building Montreal outdoors on McGill College Avenue – museum exhibitions Becoming Montreal: The 1800s Painted by Duncan as well as Indigenous Voices of Today: Knowledge, Trauma, Resilience and more are also free to ages 17 and under. Delve into more of Québec’s history, art and culture at a discount with the Passeport MTL.

 

Galeries and public art

Experience public art downtown and public art everywhere in the city, from open-air projection art downtown to 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. Wait until nightfall to watch the Living Connections light show on the Jacques-Cartier Bridge. Go on your own self-guided tour of Montréal's hundreds of public art works throughout the city. And follow our guide to Montréal's most famous icons to see more of the city's major sights and architecture.

At the Phi Foundation in Old Montreal, see multidisciplinary new solo exhibition Moridja Kitenge Banza: Inhabiting the Imaginary, painting, photography, video, drawing and installation work by award-winning Congolese Montréal-based artist, until September 3, followed by a new exhibition later in the fall. At the nearby Phi Centre, check out the seasonal digital installation Chromatic Myriad in the building’s windows and facade. And watch for all kinds of free art, performances and other cultural activities at Montréal’s Maisons de la culture art centres.

Discover more of Montréal’s amazing art galleries in our Montréal guide to gallery hopping: drop by galleries along the cobblestone streets of Old Montréal and in the Belgo Building on Ste-Catherine Street such as Galerie Hugues Charbonneau, Skol, B-312 and SBC Gallery, check out Bradley Ertaskiran in St. Henri, visit Art Mûr on St. Hubert Street, Mile End galleries Centre CLARK, Dazibao, Optica, Daphne, Simon Blais, and many more – there’s new art to see in every corner of Montréal!

 

From fall festivals to outdoor activities and gallery excursions, Montréal’s free activities offer unique ways to explore the city this season.

 

Robyn Fadden

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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