Free things to do this summer in Montréal
This article was updated on June 10, 2019.
Enjoy Montréal's sunny days and warm nights at all kinds of free summer events: music festivals, high-flying circus shows, spectacular fireworks displays, outdoor markets, parades, fashion shows and many more free activities across the city.
Major music festivals
Montréal’s many summer festivals feature free outdoor performances downtown in the Quartier des spectacles and across the city. Celebrating its 40th edition, the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal entertains day and night from June 26 to July 6, with hundreds of jazz, blues, rock, hip hop and pop concerts on several stages downtown and on a new stage in the Verdun neighbourhood. Festival International Nuits D’Afrique brings the best of African and African-influenced music to Montréal from July 9 to 21, with major music concerts, instrument demos, dance and storytelling outdoors. The largest multidisciplinary festival outside of Haiti entirely dedicated to Haitian culture, Haiti on Fire! glows with music, film, theatre, dance and more, from July 22 to 28 in Parc La Fontaine. Indigenous cultures gather from Canada and around the world at the Montréal First Peoples festival, from August 6 to 14, featuring performances outdoors, film screenings, presentations and more. Electronic music and digital arts festival MUTEK wows with audiovisual innovation and late-night parties from August 20 to 25 and features free shows under the sun outside Place des Arts. Get to know the downtown festival area and its history on official free walking tours of the Quartier des spectacles.
Circus, comedy and theatre
The city fills with laughter and circus antics this summer too! Multidisciplinary circus spectacles delight all ages as circus festival MONTRÉAL COMPLÈTEMENT CiRQUE takes to the streets downtown and in parks city-wide with outdoor performances by world-renowned Québécois and international circus companies, from July 4 to 14. Let your sense of humour loose at the world's largest comedy fest: Just For Laughs has us rolling in comedy-venue aisles and outdoors in Place des Festivals with entertainers, a playful kids zone, a street festival and a parade, from July 10 to 28. For its 30th season, Repercussion Theatre's Shakespeare-in-the-Park stages dark and provocative comedy Measure for Measure, from July 11 to August 11 in city parks, including July 16 and 17 in Westmount Park and August 2 at Mont Royal Cemetery. And Théâtre La Roulotte's children's theatre-in-the-park show Cache-Cache is on from June 26 to August 16.
Join the province's birthday celebrations for the 183rd Fête nationale du Québec à Montréal, including live music, activities for kids and more at the Grand Spectacle on June 23 and a parade along Sainte-Catherine Street on June 24, along with celebrations in every neighbourhood. Celebrate Canada Day on July 1 with fireworks and live music in the Old Port of Montréal. The sky also lights up this summer for L’International des Feux Loto-Québec fireworks competition, on Wednesday and Saturday nights from June 29 to July 27 – a sight to behold (with music to match!) from La Ronde amusement park, the Old Port or a downtown rooftop patio.
Enjoy Bach, Beethoven and the music of many more composers, legendary and new, in free classic concerts. Downtown, the Montréal Baroque Festival takes us back in time from June 20 to 23, with free concerts in Square Phillips and other venues. The Orchestre Métropolitain, under conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin, inaugurates Espace 67 at Parc Jean-Drapeau on June 27 and performs annual concert The OM Alfresco at the foot of Mount Royal Park on July 25 at 8 p.m. The Orchestre symphonique de Montréal throws its annual Classical Spree event from August 7 to 11: don't miss grand opening concert Verdi’s Great Requiem on August 7 at the Esplanade of the Olympic Park, and over a dozen free performances outside Place des Arts and in Complexe Desjardins, including the Montréal Video Game Orchestra and the Classical Spree Symphony.
Parades, pride and fashion
High-energy, creative, community-driven initiatives give us all something to cheer about this summer. Experience the colourful costumes and Caribbean music of one of Montréal’s most exciting parades, Carifiesta, on July 6 plus music, food and family activities at the Taste of the Caribbean festival from July 11 to 14. Free concerts, dance, drag superstars, the Pride Parade on August 18 and more make Montréal Pride sparkle from August 8 to 18 in the Village and beyond. And look fabulous during the Fashion & Design Festival, from August 19 to 24, hosting catwalk fashion shows outdoors, music to groove to, film screenings, a conference and all kinds of pop-up events.
Art for all
Art enlivens every corner of the city, from public art to free exhibitions. Among the abundance of high-tech artistry in Montréal, check out the Living Connections light show on the Jacques-Cartier Bridge and see the historic tableaux projections of Old Montréal's Cité Mémoire – follow our guide to Montréal's most famous icons to see more of the city's major sights and architecture. View art installations and more at the Aires Libres rainbow in the Village, and discover over 600 public art works throughout the city in self-led tours. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts’ Collections and Discovery Exhibitions are free of charge the last Sunday of every month, and at all times for those aged 30 and younger. And at the Fondation Phi pour l’art contemporain in Old Montréal, see Yoko Ono: LIBERTÉ CONQUÉRANTE/GROWING FREEDOM, a look at how the art and life of icon Yoko Ono has affected contemporary art practices, art reception and activism. For more places to see art for free in the city, check out our guide to gallery hopping in Montréal.
Film and games
See the world on screen and under the stars this summer. Film fans rejoice every year for the sci-fi, horror, fantasy and other genre films at the Fantasia International Film Festival, from July 11 to August 1, including free outdoor screenings. The RIDM and CINEMANIA Francophone Film Festival both screen films in parks citywide all summer and the Film Noir au Canal cult crime film fest screens classic movies on the banks of the Lachine Canal. And free for kids under 10 and inexpensive for teens and adults, JACKALOPE at the Esplanade of the Olympic Park entertains with action sports, live music, food trucks and more, from August 16 to 18. And the Esplanade of the Olympic Park also hosts Fiesta Olympica every Sunday evening, free parties that combine dancing, food and Latin beats.
Parks, picnics and markets
All summer long, Montréal's parks and seasonal outdoor markets and ephemeral spaces offer outdoor entertainment, food, drinks and family-friendly activities, including at Jardins Gamelin outside Berri-UQAM metro station, Village au Pied-du-Courant near the Jacques-Cartier Bridge, the Old Port’s Marché des Éclusiers and Pop Montréal’s Marché des Possibles in Mile End. The Urban Forest at the McCord Museum beckons with music, food and a breezy place to rest downtown. Take a walk (or a bus) to the top of Mount Royal Park for one of the best views of downtown and beyond. Picnic and play in Parc La Fontaine in the Plateau and see cultural performances at the park’s open-air Théâtre de Verdure. And escape the city entirely in Parc Jean-Drapeau, a short metro ride away from downtown – celebrate Montréal’s cultural diversity during music, dance, food and fun event Week-ends du monde, from July 6 to 7 and 13 to 14. Hop on your bike or rent one to discover Montréal via its numerous cycling paths. Find all this and more at your fingertips with My Official Montréal City Guide, a travel app that lets you experience the city like a Montrealer.
Robyn Fadden, blogger
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.