Free things to do this spring in Montréal

There’s always something going on in Montréal in spring, whether the snow is falling or melting under the sun. Outdoor shows, musical swings, festivals and more, we’ve got you covered for things to do in Montréal for free with friends, kids or on your own – from the first day of spring to the last.

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Free outdoor activities

Energetic kids and adults alike can swing and make music at the same time on the 21 Swings musical art installation right outside Place des Arts starting April 9. Go for a scenic walk along the Old Port boardwalk next to the Saint-Lawrence River with views of the city, iconic Habitat 67 and the Biosphère. Continue on through Old Montréal, where you can check a map or restaurant reviews online via free MtlWiFi network and see some of Montréal's public art, high-tech wonders and flagship legacy 375th anniversary projects, such as the historic tableaux projections of Cité Memoire. A stroll up Saint-Laurent Boulevard any time is colourful, but even more so during Mural Fest June 7-17, when you can watch artists paint new works on buildings’ walls – and don't miss spotting 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. Go to the top of Mount Royal for one of the best views of downtown, stroll around the fountain and picnickers in Parc La Fontaine, and escape the city entirely in beautiful Parc Jean-Drapeau. And in early June, Go Bike Montréal's massive Tour de l'Île de Montréal and Tour la Nuit bike rides across the city are free for kids 12 and under – and as free to watch as any parade.

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Free museums and more

If you’re here on May 29, Museums Day means that almost all museums and galleries are free for everyone! Delve into Québec’s history, art and culture at a discount any time with the Passeport MTL Culture – 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, including the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (where admission to the permanent collections is also free on the last Sunday of every month and always free for people 30 and under), the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (hosting exhibition Leonard Cohen – A Crack in Everything until April 9), local history troves the McCord Museum, the Stewart Museum and the Centre d'histoire de Montréal, McGill’s Redpath Museum (see whale and dinosaur bones!), the Canadian Centre for Architecture and more. If you’ve got a baby, toddler or pre-schooler, thrill them with the antics of monkeys, capybaras, penguins, sloths and more wildlife at the Space for Life Biôdome – kids 4 and under are free. Barbie fans of all ages can see her through the decades and dressed in hundreds of high-fashion names at the free Barbie Expo. The Blue Metropolis literature festival features several free readings, discussions and storytelling events for all ages, April 20-29. And the science-centred Eurêka Festival engages curious minds of all ages with over 100 thought-provoking demonstrations, workshops and performances June 8-10.

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Free performances

Starting May 17, watch for live performances, music, karaoke, yoga and more entertainment, plus great food and drink, at the Jardins Gamelin outside Berri-UQAM metro station downtown. See world-class dance and theatre at Festival Transamériques, including in open-air art installations and performances May 23 to June 7, while even more boundary-pushing emerging artists at OFFTA. Watch the outdoor stage downtown at the Formula 1 Grand Prix not only to for appearances by drivers but for live music too, June 8-10. Also in early June, take in all kinds of DIY shows at the Montréal St-Ambroise Fringe Festival including several free performances – theatre, live music and drag queens to name a few – on the outdoor stage at the corner of St-Laurent and Rachel.

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Free music

The biggest urban lumberjack party around, Cabane Panache et bois rond, kicks off spring with live Québécois music, dancing, maple syrup and more, March 22-25 along Wellington Street in Verdun. Community-minded punk rock festival Pouzza Fest takes over in the Quartier des Spectacles May 18 to 20 with outdoor shows, food trucks and barbecues. Hear classical music and jazz recitals for free as the school year winds down at McGill’s Schulich School of Music, while Christ Church Cathedral holds a variety of by-donation concerts every week, Saint Joseph's Oratory hosts sacred music concerts for organ and more events, and the Montréal Chamber Music Festival presents several free concerts June 1-17. Festival Accès Asie features several free performances and events exploring the cultural richness of Canadians of Asian origins, May 1-27. Place des Festivals starts hopping with free outdoor concerts during one of the world's biggest Francophone music festivals, Les Francofolies, June 8-16. And spread out a picnic blanket along the the historic Lachine Canal while talented local and visiting musicians play outdoors in the sun as the Montreal Folk Festival on the Canal in June 14-17.

Free art

Citywide arts events Montréal Digital Spring showcases technological creativity in its many forms, March 21 to June 21. Art fair Papier gathers dozens of the city’s art galleries in a massive exhibition and sale of contemporary art on paper, at Arsenal gallery April 19-22. MUTEK_IMG hosts a free conference on art and new technologies, including interactive screenings and VR, April 11-13 at the Phi Centre. Printemps Nordiques showcases the art and culture of Nordic countries in several performances and free exhibitions at Place des Arts April 4-29. Chromatic Festival celebrates local art and creativity with exhibitions, kids activities and late-night parties May 26 to June 2 at Ancienne École des beaux-arts. In late May, the Montréal Comic Arts Festival brings Québec artists and their art to Parc La Fontaine along with free activities for all ages. And you'll definitely know that spring has officially sprung when public art event Aires Libres drapes hundreds of pink balls above Sainte-Catherine Street in the Village.

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Free galleries

Make a visit to DHC/ART a priority when in Old Montréal – see the foundation's spring-summer exhibition Bharti Kher: Points de départ, points qui lient. Nearby, step into new worlds of creative art and virtual reality at the Phi Centre. Discover more galleries and artist-run centres throughout the city, including five floors of art in downtown’s Belgo Building (home to SBC Gallery of Contemporary Art, SKOL, Galerie Dominique Bouffard, Projet Pangée, Les Territoires, Visual Voice and more), and at downtown's Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery, Galerie de l'UQAM and Fresh Paint Gallery, as well as at St-Henri’s Parisian Laundry, Griffintown's Arsenal and Division, Old Montréal's Galerie MX, Galerie Bloom, Matthew Namour Gallery, Darling Foundry (by donation) and L'Affichiste Vintage Poster Gallery, Mile End’s Galerie Simon Blais, Centre Clark, Optica and Monastiraki, and Little Italy/Mile-Ex’s Never Apart, Galerie Yves Laroche, Battat Contemporary and Eastern Bloc. Wherever you look, there’s something entertaining and easy on the wallet in Montréal.

 

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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