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 September 13, 2022.

Montréal in the fall is a beautiful sight no matter what your budget – free stuff to do abounds! Good 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. Take a break, meet up with friends and catch performances and events at the urban oases of Les moments du cœur de l’île until October 2. And explore downtown along the 15-kilometre Le sentier du cœur de l’île discovery route.  

Encounter Quebec history in new outdoor exhibition and video projection L'Espace René-Lévesque à Montréal : le parcours d'un homme d'exception on the Promenade des Artistes outside Place des Arts. Nearby, learn to dance with Festival L’Art en soi on the Esplanade of Place des Arts from September 15 to 24. You can also take a free walking tour of the Quartier des spectacles! Inside Place des Arts, don’t miss As Water Falls, an virtual interactive waterfall installation in the central exhibition space. 

In the Quartier des spectacles and in the Mile End neighbourhood, MAPP_MTL, Montréal’s international projection mapping festival, presents lively, light-filled digital projections and musical performances from September 21 to 25. Also outdoors, Montréal’s First Fridays gourmet food truck gathering on October 7 is all about the food, but entry is free and so is the entertainment outside Olympic Stadium. 

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. Satellite dishes have become public art in the neighbourhood of Parc-Extension: follow Art Extension's virtual map to discover them all. 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.  


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 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 28 to October 2. Experience vegan cuisine, cooking workshops and demos, and more at the Montreal Vegan Festival at Palais des Congrès on October 8 and 9. Digital arts festival <MTL> Connect is both an exhibition arena and a conference with some free events, from October 17 to 23. 

While focused on film screenings, the Festival du nouveau cinéma, from October 5 to 16, CINEMANIA, from November 2 to 13, and RIDM | Montréal International Documentary Festival, from November 17 to 27, 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 16 to 19, with both paid and free options. Mundial Montréal shines the spotlight on world music, and includes a handful of free events, from November 15 to 18. And the Montréal Bach Festival celebrates the composer’s rich catalogue of works, including some free and online performances, such as Night of the Choirs, from mid-November to mid-December. 


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 30 to October 2. At the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, free for ages 20 and under and free on the first Sunday of every month, see see L’heure mauve, by Swiss-born artist Nicolas Party until October 16, Shary Boyle: Outside the Palace of Me and Diane Arbus: Photographs, 1956-1971, plus collections exhibition Views of Within: Picturing the Spaces We Inhabit. Don’t miss the museum’s free outdoor works of art: mural Niamh by artist Dora, until October 23, and animated digital artwork Contre-espace by Sabrina Ratté, projected on the museum’s facade nightly until November 27. 

The Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal is free for ages 17 and under – see video installation and sculptural work by NYC-based Argentine artist Mika Rottenberg – and also presents free online exhibition Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything and comprehensive digital platform MACrépertoire. Stop by the McCord Stewart Museum's open-air Urban Forest and outdoor photography exhibition Eating Local on McGill College Avenue – museum exhibitions are also free to ages 17 and under. Delve into more of Québec’s history, art and culture at a discount until October 12 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. Watch for local artwork in vacant downtown commercial spaces as part of the Créer des Ponts project. 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. 

Old Montréal’s Phi Foundation for Contemporary Art celebrates its 15-year anniversary this year, so watch for exhibition announcements throughout the season and see Yayoi Kusama’s DANCING LIGHTS THAT FLEW UP TO THE UNIVERSE – tickets are free but go fast on the 15th of each month! At Galerie de l’UQAM see new group exhibition à corps perdu | sharing madness and video installation work by caroline pierret pirson Plus jamais silencieuses. 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 Daphne and Art Mûr on St. Hubert Street, Mile End galleries Centre CLARK, Dazibao, Simon Blais, and many more – there’s new art to see in every corner of 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.

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