Free things to do this summer 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 June 20, 2023.

Make the most of Montréal's glorious sunny days and warm nights with all kinds of free things to do this summer, including summer festivals! Explore Montréal's parks, outdoor activity spaces and markets, rediscover different neighbourhoods on foot and by bike, happen upon activities and performances, experience bold new art and more free things to do across the city.

Let Montréal’s streets surprise you

Expect fun and surprises downtown and in the Quartier des spectacles all summer on pedestrian-only Sainte-Catherine Street and festival-central to live music and theatrical performances at Esplanade Tranquille, to Jardins Gamelin, a great downtown rest stop for music and entertainment, along with great food and drink in the The Village. Check out other pedestrian-only avenues throughout the city too this summer, from Wellington St. in Verdun to Saint-Laurent Blvd. and Mont-Royal Ave., where you’ll find open-air dining, impromptu entertainment and other activities, like Mont-Royal Ave.’s urban gardening workshops.

Discover summer markets and pop-up entertainment throughout the city, including urban oases like the Old Port’s Marché des Éclusiers, Village au Pied-du-Courant and POP Montréal’s Marché des Possibles on the weekends, with live music, kid-friendly free activities, local food and drink.   

By night, look to the skies above to the city to see the incredible L'International des Feux Loto-Québec fireworks competition from June 29 to August 10, thrilling with themed pyrotechnics displays set to music. In the Quartiers des spectacles at night, see digital projection artwork illuminating the facades of the Grande Bibliothèque, UQAM's Pavillon President-Kennedy and the St-Laurent metro station. And at night in Old Montréal, use your smartphone to search out the historic projections of Montréal en Histoires Cité Mémoire.


Get into the summer-festival spirit

Free entertainment and activities abound at summer festivals. Take yourself on a tour of the city’s murals anytime and see seasonally apropos murals full of colourful flowers on the sides of buildings, in parks and every neighbourhood thanks to MURAL, LNDMRK, MU and expert Montréal mural artists and collectives.

The always incredible Festival International de Jazz de Montréal returns in fine form this year to Place des Festivals and several other venues from June 29 to July 8, boasting a program of free outdoor shows on several stages. And dance to the beat of Festival International Nuits d’Afrique from July 11 to 23, with free stages right downtown.

And July gets wild with the antics of Montréal Complètement Cirque from July 6 to 16, featuring circus shows of all kinds, with outdoor performances downtown alongside Le GÉANT: a 50-foot-tall acrobatic archway in the shape of a giant person – watch for performances on the structure, located under massive art installation The Ring on Esplanade Place Ville Marie.

In the Village, open-air art festival MTL en Arts showcases artwork for sale and art activities from June 28 to July 2, and it’s one big community party as Montréal Pride returns to celebrate in the Village from August 1 to 7, with live music, art exhibitions and community day, drag performances, parties and more.

Festival Haiti en Folie presents concerts and culture in late July. ItalFestMTL celebrates Italian culture in Montréal from August 4 to 20, with live concerts, performances and more cultural activities for all ages. Catch short, family-friendly alleyway performances during Le FAR Festival des arts de ruelle from August 28 to September 10. The Montreal First Peoples Festival presents Indigenous culture and creativity from Canada and around the world from August 8 to 17. And digital creativity and electronic music festival MUTEK returns from August 22 to 27 – watch for free events in the Quartier des spectacles or pick up a reasonably priced passport.


Rediscover the city

Whether you're visiting or a Montréaler, this summer is a great time to experience Montréal in a new light. Explore the history and beauty of Old Montréal, where pedestrianized streets and squares accommodate visitors and the area's popular terrasses are open again, along with the Marché des Éclusiers market. Stroll the Old Port of Montréal boardwalk to see the St-Lawrence River, iconic Habitat 67, the Biosphère and more.

In the Quartier des spectacles along Sainte-Catherine Street, in the Quartier Latin and at Philipps Square, catch pop-up entertainment for all ages, from theatre and dance to circus and live music. Take a musical sound walk using the Portrait Sonore app, featuring modern architecture, public art, Expo 67 and more. Or walk the landscaped Promenade Fleuve-Montagne, stretching from the St. Lawrence River to Mount Royal Park. Downtown near McGill University, walk through the McCord Stewart Museum's Urban Forest an outdoor art installation and entertaining rest stop downtown, and see free history exhibitions such as Building Montréal, a photography exhibition on McGill College Avenue.


Explore Montréal's green spaces

Whether you’re visiting the Montréal Botanical Garden or not, Parc Maisonneuve next door is a beautiful place for a bike ride or a picnic. Not far from there, the esplanade of Olympic Park, while not too green, is the place to be for skateboarding at Vans Skatepark (one of many cool skateparks in the city) and rock climbing on two giant granite blocks (or for a fee on Nomad Bloc’s supervised routes). Meanwhile, not far from downtown, the leafy forest paths and views of the city from Mount Royal Park never get old – go at sunset or sunrise for a truly stunning sight.

Bring a picnic and spend the afternoon at Parc La Fontaine and many other welcoming Montréal parks and green spaces. Explore the open spaces and spaceship-like domes of Frédéric-Back Park and head across the St. Lawrence River for the nature of Parc Jean-Drapeau. Ride your bike (or rent one) to explore different neighbourhoods, head further afield, and even hit high speeds on the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve racetrack! Hop in the water to cool down at city pools and beaches. For more outdoor adventures, spend time at Montréal's large nature parks.

Music will be in the air in neighbourhood parks this summer when the Orchestre Métropolitain will offer a series of free concerts under the direction of orchestra conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin or Canadian conductor Naomi Woo, including a free concert at the foot of Mount Royal on August 2.


Experience art everywhere!

Public art and incredible art galleries are abundant in Montréal and there's no time like this summer to let it all inspire you. 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 or take a free walking tour of the Quartier des spectacles to explore the heart of downtown. And follow our guide to Montréal's most famous icons to see more of the city's major sights and architecture.

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts offers free admission for ages 20 and under– see Portable Universe: Thought and Splendour of Indigenous Colombia and Wolves, the Art of Dempsey Bob this summer and visit the museum’s free outdoor space too for ephemeral art and performances. The Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal's exhibition, Lili Reynaud-Dewar’s I Want All of the Above to Be the Sun, at Place Ville Marie is free to people 18 and under – and you can still immerse yourself in free virtual exhibition Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything, an incredible recreation of the MAC’s 2017 monumental show.

Visit the PHI Foundation for Contemporary Art in Old Montréal to see expertly curated solo and group exhibitions by acclaimed international and local artists, such as summer group exhibition Terms of Use, new works exploring the impact of technologies. – just reserve your free tickets in advance. Watch for art in the Darling Foundry's Place Publique, transforming the street outside the gallery into an art space. 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. And explore more of Montréal’s amazing art galleries in our Montréal guide to gallery hopping, from downtown’s Belgo building to Mile End’s galleries.

After an extensive makeover, Théâtre de Verdure, nestled in the greenery of Parc La Fontaine, celebrates its second summer program, featuring 34 free music, dance and circus shows as well as film screenings, from June 28 to August 26. Among the shows, catch the Jireh Gospel Choir, Gypsy Kumbia Orchestra, Orchestre Classique de Montréal, dance by Compagnie Marie Chouinard and more. What a treat!

Wherever you look, there’s something entertaining and easy on the wallet 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.

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