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 15, 2021.

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 performances, multimedia projections, and art installations right into October. Take a break, meet up with friends and catch impromptu performances at the urban oases of Les aventures du cœur de l’île until October 3. Or take a walk through downtown along the 15-kilometre Le sentier du cœur de l’île discovery route. Download the free Portrait Sonore app for a self-lead tour of Montréal’s modern architecture, public art, Expo 67 and more.

Meanwhile, see the photographed faces of Montrealers in Les Visages de Montréal, large-scale collages in Place des Arts, Complexe Desjardins and several other cultural venues. Also downtown, don’t miss outdoor performance Hip-Hopéra, Carmen, fusing hip-hop and Georges Bizet’s famous opera, in Place de la Paix from September 16 to 26. Art Souterrain’s CRÉER DES PONTS installs 60 new works of public art in storefronts and transparent “exhibition cubes” until October 15.

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. 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 foot of 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 – if the weather's agreeable, 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! Fitting somewhere between summer and fall this year, the Montréal International Jazz Festival aims to please with free shows in Place des Festivals from September 15 to 19: see Daniel Lanois, Charlotte Day Wilson, Shay Lia, Basia Bulat and many, many more artists. Outdoors on the Place des Arts esplanade, listen to music, learn to dance, join a circus workshop and more at the L'Art en soi Festival from September 16 to 26.

Keep your eye out for pop-up musical performances, panel discussions, free Kids POP activities in the park, art shows and more fun at POP Montréal International Music Festival, from September 22 to 26. While focused on film screenings, the Festival du nouveau cinéma, from October 6 to 17, and RIDM | Montréal International Documentary Festival, from November 10 to 21, also feature several free virtual and in-person activities and installations. Mundial Montréal shines the spotlight on world music in its hybrid edition, and includes a handful of free events, from November 16 to 19. And the Montréal Bach Festival celebrates the composer’s rich catalogue of works, including some free and online performances, from November 20 to December 12.

Art 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 24 to 26. Several of the cities museums and galleries host new exhibitions as part of the must-see MOMENTA Biennale de l’image from September 8 to October 24, also featuring an “augmented reality circuit in the public space” and an Indigenous-led outdoor garden.

At the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, free for ages 20 and under, see themed exhibition How long does it take for one voice to reach another?, solo exhibitions of work by Yousuf Karsh and Ragnar Kjartansson, Ecologies: A Song for Our Planet, Adrift on the corner of Sherbrooke Street West and Du Musée Avenue, and more. The Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal presents free online exhibitions like the immersive Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything, a recreation of the MAC’s 2017 monumental show. Stop by the McCord Museum's Urban Forest and photography exhibition All Together on McGill College Avenue. Delve into Québec’s history, art and culture at a discount any time with the Passeport MTL – families can take advantage of the fact that kids 12 and under get in for free at many of the city’s major museums and galleries.

Galleries and museums

Experience public art downtown and public art everywhere in the city, from open-air Galerie Blanc 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 Old Montréal’s Phi Foundation for Contemporary Art, explore large-scale, multidisciplinary exhibition Larry Achiampong’s Relic Traveller: Where You and I Come From, We Know That We Are Not Here Forever. 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 and 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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