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 fireworks displays, outdoor markets, parades, fashion shows and many more free activities.

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Montréal celebrates

Summer's even hotter this year in Montréal with major celebrations for the city’s 375th birthday and Canada’s 150th anniversary. Add to that the 181st Fête Nationale du Québec city-wide festivities on June 23-24, including a huge party in the Quartier des Spectacles, a parade along Ste-Catherine Street, the Fête nationale Latin Quarter celebration and more. Celebrate Canada Day on July 1 with fireworks and live music in the Old Port and at the Jazz Fest's open-air discotheque, featuring Carly Rae Jepsen, Men Without Hats, Radio Radio and more at Place des Festivals. And all summer long, join the 375th celebrations in every neighbourhood. Plus the sky lights up this summer for L’International des Feux Loto-Québec fireworks competition, July 1 to August 5 – a sight to behold from La Ronde, the Old Port or a rooftop patio.

Music festivals

Montréal’s many summer festivals feature free outdoor performances, especially when it comes to live music in the Quartier des Spectacles. The Montréal International Jazz FestivalJune 28 to July 8, entertains day and night with hundreds of jazz, blues, rock, hip hop and pop concerts on several stages, including a major 375th anniversary concert on June 28, a Canada Day party on July 1, Walk Off the Earth on July 4, Anderson .Paak on July 8, and many, many more. Festival International Nuits D’Afriquebrings the best of African and African-influenced music to Montréal July 11-23, 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 24-30. Indigenous cultures from around the world at the Montréal First Peoples Festival, August 2-9. Electronic music and digital arts festival MUTEK wows August 22-27 and features electronic music under the sun every evening outside Place des Arts. Or listen to country music and line dance at Nomad Fest Urban Rodeo in the Old Port, August 24-27. 

Circus and comedy

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 in parks city-wide outdoor performances by world-renowned Québécois and international companies, July 6-16. Let your sense of humour loose at the world's largest comedy fest: Just For Laughs has us rolling in the aisles and outdoors in Place des Festivals with entertainers, a playful kids zone, a street festival and a parade, July 12-31. And Repercussion Theatre stages Shakespeare's love-addled comedy Much Ado About Nothing in the parks this summer.

Classical concerts

Enjoy Bach, Beethoven and the music of many more composers, legendary and new, in free classic concerts. The Montréal Symphony Orchestra throws its annual Classical Spree event August 10-13, with over a dozen free performances outside Place des Arts and a major orchestra concert at the Olympic Park Esplanade on August 10. In Old Montréal, the Montréal Baroque Festival takes us back in time June 22-25, with free concerts at Place Jacques Cartier in Old Montréal, Square Phillips, in the McCord Museum’s Urban Forest and other venues. And the Concerts Campbell series brings classical, jazz and more music to the city’s parks all summer.

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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, July 8, with a Junior Carnival on July 1. Free concerts, dance, drag and more performances, a parade and more make Montréal’s Pride Festival Fierté Montréal sparkle August 10-20. And look fabulous during the Fashion and Design Festival, August 21-26, 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. Watch Montréal history come to life on the Saint Lawrence River in spectacular, free multimedia show Montréal Avudo in the Old Port – from there check out the lights on the Jacques-Cartier Bridge and see the historic tableaux projections of Old Montréal's Cité Memoire. Amble through the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts Open-Air Museum on Sherbrooke Street, along McGill College Avenue to view the large-scale photographs of Expo 67: The Place to Be and in the Quartier des Spectacles during outdoor public art event KM3 at the end of August. View art installations and more at the Aires Libres public art event in the Gay Village and discover over 600 public art works throughout the city in self-lead tours. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts Museum’s Collections and Discovery Exhibitions are accessible free of charge the last Sunday of every month, and at all times for those aged 30 and younger. Experience whole new worlds at the Phi Centre’s Virtual Reality Garden, plus Ed Atkins video art exhibition Modern Piano Music at nearby DHC-ART.

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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 13 to August 2, including free outdoor screenings. The SAT’s cinema under the stars series screens features, shorts and documentaries in Place de la Paix downtown all summer, and the RIDM documentary festival screens films in parks citywide. And the Mondial des Jeux festival of free games challenges players of all ages in video games, board games, physically challenging activities and more, July 15-30. And free for kids under 10 and inexpensive for teens and adults, it's fun times at the Jackalope weekend at Olympic Park Esplanade, with action sports, live music, hammocks, food trucks and more, August 18-20.

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Parks, picnics and markets

All summer long, Montréal's parks 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 hosts music performances, dance classes, family activities and more. Head to the Village au Pied du Courrant next to the Jacques Cartier Bridge, Pop Montréal’s Marché des Possibles and Old Montréal's Marché des Éclusiers for music, food 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 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, July 8-9 and 15-16. And bring your bike to discover Montréal by following its numerous cycling paths.

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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