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 9, 2022.

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 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 and online.

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 all the way from festival-central in Place des Festivals 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.

Take yourself on a tour of the city’s murals and even see 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. MURAL FESTIVAL returns with live painting, high-energy live music and more outdoor events from June 9 to 19. Downtown gets into the Formula 1 - Grand Prix mood with free events and music to dance to from June 17 to 19.           

By night, look to the skies above to the city to see the incredible L'International des Feux Loto-Québec fireworks competition on Wednesday and Saturday nights from June 25 to August 6. In the Quartiers des spectacles at night, see 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

Catch incredible performances at Festival TransAmériques, some offered for free outdoors (like Holoscenes, a giant aquarium on the new Esplanade Tranquille) from May 25 to June 9. See surprising theatre, dance, comedy and circus at St-Ambroise Montréal Fringe Festival, with free entertainment outdoors at the Fringe Tent on Saint-Laurent Boulevard from May 30 to June 19.

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 30 to July 9, boasting a program of free outdoor shows on several stages. Discover a wide world of francophone music at Les Francos de Montréal in the Quartier des spectacles from June 10 to 18. While the Eureka! Festival celebrates science in all its forms – families can take part in activities from June 10 to 12.

And July gets wild with the antics of Montréal Complètement Cirque from July 7 to 17, featuring circus shows of all kinds, with outdoor performances downtown alongside 3GIANTS: three 50-foot-tall acrobatic archways in the shape of giant people!

Laugh with some of the best comedians in Montreal and the world at Just For Laughs, featuring several free comedy and musical performance in the Quartier des Spectacles, from July 13 to 31. 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. Montreal Italian Week Festival celebrates from August 5 to 21, 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 in mid-August 12. Festival Présence autochtone presents Indigenous culture and creativity from Canada and around the world from August 9 to 18. And digital creativity and electronic music festival MUTEK returns from August 23 to 28 – watch for free events 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 and more. Take a musical sound walk using the Portrait Sonore app, featuring modern architecture, public art, Expo 67 and more. Downtown near McGill University, walk through the McCord Museum's Urban Forest an outdoor art installation and quiet rest stop downtown.

While you're exploring, look out for Montréal’s food trucks, where you’ll find local meals and summer treats. Stop for take-out at one of your favourites or a new restaurant, or pick up locally-grown and made food at Jean Talon Market and other public markets. And cool off with the city’s best ice cream, iced coffee or an ice-cold locally brewed beer.

 

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 and DIY rock climbing on two giant granite blocks. 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, reopening for the season with health measures in place. For more outdoor adventures, spend time at Montréal's large nature parks.

 

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. Festival Art Souterrain fills Montréal's underground pedestrian network with new artwork by over 50 artists from around the world – explore the walkways and tunnels on your own or take a guided tour from April 2 to June 30. 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.

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts offers free admission for ages 20 and under, and the permanent collections are free on the first Sunday of each month – visit the museum’s outdoor space too for ephemeral art and performances. While in the process of renovation, the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal's temporary exhibitions at Place Ville Marie are free to children 12 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 – 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.

After an extensive makeover, Théâtre de Verdure, nestled in the greenery of Parc La Fontaine, is finally reopening this summer! From June 29 to August 26, we’ll delight in attending film projections, along with music, dance and circus shows for free. Among others, Ballets Jazz Montréal, Orchestre Métropolitain and Martha Wainwright will be gracing this outdoor stage. What a treat!

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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