Free things to do this summer in Montréal

Robyn Fadden

Make the most of Montréal's sunny days and warm nights at free festival concerts, high-flying circus performances, spectacular firework displays, outdoor markets, parades, fashion shows and many more free activities.

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Montréal celebrates

Join in on the birthday celebrations for the 182nd Fête Nationale du Québec from June 23 to 24, including a huge party in the Quartier des Spectacles, a parade downtown, the Fête de quartier dans le Quartier Latin celebration and activities in every neighbourhood. Celebrate Canada Day on July 1 with fireworks and live music in the Old Port. Plus the sky lights up this summer for L’International des Feux Loto-Québec fireworks competition, July 7 to August 8 – a sight to behold from La Ronde, the Old Port or a rooftop patio.

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Montréal music festivals

Montréal’s many summer festivals feature free outdoor performances downtown in the Quartier des Spectacles and across the city. The Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, June 28 to July 7, entertains day and night with hundreds of jazz, blues, rock, hip hop and pop concerts on several stages, including open-air shows by Spanish Harlem Orchestra, Jessica Reyes, !!!, Nomadic Massive and The War on Drugs, who close the festival on July 7. Festival International Nuits D’Afrique brings the best of African and African-influenced music to Montréal from July 10 to 22, 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, July 25 to 29 in Parc La Fontaine. Indigenous cultures gather from Canada and around the world at the Montréal First Peoples Festival, August 7 to 15, 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 22 to 28 and features electronic music under the sun outside Place des Arts.

Circus, comedy and theatre

The city fills with laughter and circus antics this summer too! Multidisciplinary circus spectacles delight all ages as MONTRÉAL COMPLÈTEMENT CiRQUE takes to the streets downtown and parks city-wide for outdoor performances by world-renowned Québécois and international circus companies, July 5 to 15. 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, July 11 to 29. For its 30th season, Repercussion Theatre's Shakespeare-in-the-Park stages a gender-bent take on romantic tragedy with Romeo and Juliet: Love Is Love, starting on July 6 in Mount Royal Cemetery and running throughout the summer in city parks. And Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's classic book Le Petit Prince becomes French-language play Astéroïde B 612, opening on June 26 in Parc La Fontaine and closing on July 11 in Parc Jarry.

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Classical concerts

Enjoy Bach, Beethoven and the music of many more composers, legendary and new, in free classical concerts. In Old Montréal, the Montréal Baroque Festival takes us back in time from June 21 to 24, with free concerts in Square Phillips and other venues. The Orchestre Métropolitain, under conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin, perform Tchaikovsky outside the Mount Royal chalet on the night of July 27. The Orchestre symphonique de Montréal throws its annual Classical Spree event from August 29 to September 1, with over a dozen free performances outside Place des Arts as well as major outdoor concert Shéhérazade at the Esplanade Financière Sun Life on August 29 – Maestro Kent Nagano conducts the OSM while circus artists from Cirque Éloize perform amazing feats.

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Parades, pride and fashion

High-energy, creative, community-driven initiatives give us all something to cheer about this summer. Free concerts, dance, drag, the Pride Parade on August 19 and more make Montréal Pride sparkle from August 9 to 19 in the Village and beyond. Experience the colourful costumes and Caribbean music of one of Montréal’s most exciting parades, Carifiesta, on July 7. And look fabulous during the Fashion & Design Festival, August 21 to 26, hosting dozens of catwalk fashion shows outdoors, music to groove to, film screenings, a conference and all kinds of pop-up events.

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Art for all

Art enlivens every corner of the city, from open-air art exhibitions to late-night film screenings under the stars. Among the abundance of new 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 Memoire – 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 under 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 accessible free of charge the last Sunday of every month, and always for those aged 30 and younger. And at DHC/ART in Old Montréal, see Bharti Kher: Points de départ, points qui lient, exploring hybridity, the female body and the nonphysical in the material world in works woven through with the artist's signature use of the bindi.

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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, July 12 to August 1, including free outdoor screenings. The RIDM documentary festival 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 from July 15 to August 19. The Phi Centre celebrates the 10th anniversary of Denis Villeneuve's spectacular short film Next Floor with a free art installation and screenings. The Mondial des Jeux Loto-Québec festival of free games challenges players of all ages in video games, board games, physically challenging activities and more, July 18 to 29. And free for kids under 10 and inexpensive for teens and adults, it's fun times at the JACKALOPE weekend at Esplanade Financière Sun Life, with action sports, live music, hammocks, food trucks and more, August 17 to 19.

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Parks, picnics and markets

All summer long, Montréal's parks, ephemeral summertime spaces and seasonal outdoor markets offer a cool, green place to relax, listen to music, and eat and drink local. Urban green space, outdoor eatery and bar in the heart of downtown, Les Jardins Gamelin host music performances, dance classes, family activities and more. The Urban Forest beckons with music, food and a breezy place to rest downtown. Head to the Village au Pied-du-Courant next to the Jacques Cartier Bridge, Pop Montréal’s Marché des Possibles, the Old Port's Marché des Éclusiers and La Station F-MR for food, shopping, music and socializing. 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 on 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, July 7 to 8 and 14 to 15. 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

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.

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