The Getaway
10 Free Things to do in Montreal

Montreal, a city renowned for its vibrant culture, rich history, and stunning natural beauty, offers a wealth of experiences for visitors to enjoy. But did you know that you can explore the best of Montreal without spending a dime? That's right – from outdoor adventures in lush green spaces to immersive cultural experiences in historic neighborhoods, Montreal has something for everyone, and it won't cost you a penny.

Imagine strolling through the charming cobblestone streets of Old Montreal, admiring centuries-old architecture and soaking up the atmosphere of this enchanting district. Or picture yourself hiking through the tranquil trails of Mount Royal Park, taking in breathtaking views of the city skyline. Whether you're a nature lover, a history buff, or an art enthusiast, Montreal's diverse array of free activities and attractions will leave you spoilt for choice.

So, if you're ready to discover the magic of Montreal without breaking the bank, read on to uncover the top 10 free things to do in this captivating city.

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01 Visit Mount Royal Park

Located in the center of Montreal, Mount Royal Park is a vast city park that provides an ideal getaway from the city's busy life. Designed by renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who also created New York City's Central Park, this green haven boasts an extensive network of hiking and biking trails that wind through lush forests and open meadows.

As you explore the park, be sure to make your way to the lookout point, where you'll be rewarded with breathtaking panoramic views of the city skyline and the St. Lawrence River. The lookout is a popular spot for picnics, photography, and simply taking in the stunning vistas.

Throughout the year, Mount Royal Park hosts various free events, such as outdoor concerts and guided nature walks, providing ample opportunities to immerse yourself in the park's natural beauty and vibrant community atmosphere. Whether you're seeking a peaceful retreat or an invigorating outdoor adventure, Mount Royal Park is a must-visit destination that showcases the best of Montreal's urban green spaces.

Mount Royal Park Derek Robbins / Shutterstock.com

02 Explore Old Montreal

Old town Montreal at famous Cobbled streets at twilight in Canada

Step back in time as you wander through the enchanting cobblestone streets of Old Montreal, where centuries-old buildings and historic landmarks transport you to a bygone era. This charming district is a collection of architectural marvels, including the impressive Notre-Dame Basilica and the well-maintained Old Port.

Enjoy free entry to the Notre-Dame Basilica for prayer or mass attendance, and admire the beautiful interior featuring detailed wood carvings, colorful stained glass windows, and a grand pipe organ. Afterward, head to the Old Port, where you can enjoy a variety of free activities depending on the season, such as ice skating on the free rink in winter or soaking up the sun on the free beach in summer.

Many of Old Montreal's museums, like the Pointe-à-Callière Museum, offer free admission on specific days or during certain hours, allowing you to learn more about the city's rich history without spending a dime. As you explore this captivating district, be sure to take your time and soak up the atmosphere, from the quaint cafes and boutiques to the lively street performers and artists.

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03 Stroll through the Botanical Garden

Montreal Botanical Garden

The Montreal Botanical Garden is a true gem, offering visitors a chance to immerse themselves in a world of natural beauty without spending a dime. As one of the largest and most diverse botanical gardens in the world, it features an impressive array of themed sections, such as the serene Japanese Garden and the fascinating First Nations Garden, which showcases the rich horticultural heritage of indigenous peoples.

Visitors can explore the outdoor gardens free of charge, taking in the vibrant colors, fragrances, and textures of the meticulously maintained plant collections. For a small fee, you can also venture into the greenhouse complex, which houses an incredible variety of exotic plant species from around the globe.

Throughout the year, the Botanical Garden hosts free events, such as the Great Gardening Weekend in May, where you can learn valuable gardening tips and techniques from experts. And if you're looking for a peaceful spot to enjoy a picnic, the garden's expansive grounds provide the perfect setting for a relaxing afternoon surrounded by nature's splendor.

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04 Visit the Jean-Talon Market

Immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of the Jean-Talon Market, one of North America's largest and oldest public markets. As you stroll through the bustling stalls, you'll be greeted by a kaleidoscope of colors and aromas from the wide array of fresh produce, baked goods, and artisanal products on display.

Take your time browsing the market's offerings, and don't hesitate to sample some of the delectable treats available, such as juicy fruits, artisanal cheeses, and freshly baked bread. Many vendors offer free tastings, allowing you to discover new flavors and find your favorite local specialties.

In addition to the numerous food stalls, the market also features various eateries and food stands where you can grab a bite to eat while soaking up the lively atmosphere. Whether you're in the mood for a quick snack or a full meal, you'll find plenty of options to satisfy your cravings.

Open year-round with both indoor and outdoor sections, the Jean-Talon Market is a fantastic destination for people-watching and immersing yourself in the local culture. Strike up a conversation with friendly vendors, learn about the history and production of the products on offer, and enjoy the vibrant energy of this iconic Montreal institution.

The market Kiev.Victor / Shutterstock.com

05 Attend the Tam-Tams at Mount Royal Park

Every Sunday during the summer months, Mount Royal Park comes alive with the pulsating rhythms of the Tam-Tams, a free drum circle that attracts a diverse crowd of locals and tourists alike. This vibrant gathering, which has been a beloved Montreal tradition since the 1970s, is centered around the Sir George-Étienne Cartier monument, where drummers, percussionists, and dancers converge to create an electrifying atmosphere of music and merriment.

Visitors are welcome to bring their own drums or percussion instruments and join in the fun or simply sit back and enjoy the lively performances. The event showcases Montreal's thriving arts and culture scene, with participants from all walks of life coming together to celebrate the power of rhythm and movement. Whether you're an experienced drummer or a curious onlooker, the Tam-Tams offer a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the city's vibrant community spirit and experience the joy of spontaneous musical collaboration.

06 Explore the Lachine Canal

As you explore the Lachine Canal, you'll discover a picturesque waterway that seamlessly blends Montreal's rich history with modern-day outdoor recreation. The canal path stretches for over 13 kilometers, providing ample space for walking, biking, or rollerblading while taking in stunning views of the city and the water.

Along the way, you'll encounter various parks and green spaces that offer perfect spots for picnics or simply relaxing in nature. Don't miss the opportunity to stop at the Atwater Market, a historic public market situated along the canal, where you can browse local produce, artisanal goods, and grab a bite to eat.

The Lachine Canal's history dates back to the 1800s when it was built to bypass the treacherous Lachine Rapids on the St. Lawrence River, playing a vital role in the city's industrial development. Now, it serves as a reminder of Montreal's history and offers a peaceful retreat from the active city environment.

View of the Lachine Canal, near the Lachine Canal Historical Site, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. EQRoy / Shutterstock.com

07 Visit the Redpath Museum

Located on the beautiful campus of McGill University, the Redpath Museum is a secret treasure that provides visitors with an engaging exploration of natural history. With free admission for all, this museum is a must-visit for anyone interested in exploring the wonders of the natural world.

The museum's impressive collection boasts over 3 million specimens, ranging from dinosaur fossils to ancient Egyptian artifacts and Canadian wildlife displays. Visitors can marvel at the diverse exhibits and gain a deeper understanding of the Earth's history and the incredible creatures that have inhabited it.

The Redpath Museum's building itself is a historic landmark, dating back to the late 1800s. Its stunning architecture and rich history add to the overall experience, transporting visitors to a bygone era of scientific exploration and discovery.

To make the most of your visit, take advantage of the free guided tours offered regularly by the museum's knowledgeable staff. These tours provide valuable insights into the exhibits and the stories behind the specimens, enhancing your appreciation for the natural world and the museum's role in preserving its history.

08 Attend a free festival

Montreal is renowned for its vibrant festival scene, offering a wide array of free events throughout the year that celebrate the city's diverse culture, music, and arts. From the world-famous Montreal International Jazz Festival to the side-splitting Just for Laughs comedy festival, there's something for everyone to enjoy without spending a dime.

The Montreal International Jazz Festival, the largest jazz festival in the world, attracts over 2 million visitors each year. This iconic event features a mix of free outdoor performances and ticketed indoor shows, showcasing both established and emerging jazz artists from around the globe. Visitors can immerse themselves in the lively atmosphere, enjoying the soulful sounds of jazz against the backdrop of Montreal's stunning architecture.

For those who love to laugh, the Just for Laughs festival is a must-attend event. As the largest comedy festival in the world, it offers a blend of free and ticketed shows featuring top comedic talents from Canada and beyond. Visitors can enjoy free street performances and outdoor shows and even join in interactive comedy activities.

Additional free festivals include the Montreal Cirque Festival, which introduces the excitement of circus arts to the city's streets, and the Montreal Mural Festival, which turns the city into an outdoor art gallery with beautiful murals and live painting events.

To fully enjoy these free festival opportunities, visitors should look up the event schedules ahead of time and plan their visits. With so many incredible free festivals to choose from, Montreal offers a truly unforgettable experience for all.

Circus Vincent JIANG / Shutterstock.com

09 Visit the Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel

Explore the rich history and beautiful design of the Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel, a hidden treasure in the center of Old Montreal. This 17th-century chapel, known as the "Sailors' Church" due to its proximity to the Old Port, offers visitors a glimpse into the city's fascinating past.

As you step inside the chapel, you'll be captivated by the intricate woodwork and beautiful stained glass windows that adorn the interior. Take a moment to appreciate the craftsmanship and the serene atmosphere that envelops the space.

To delve deeper into the chapel's history, be sure to visit the small on-site museum, which offers free admission. Here, you'll learn about the chapel's origins, its significance to the local community, and its role in serving as a place of worship for sailors throughout the centuries.

For a truly breathtaking experience, consider climbing to the top of the chapel's tower for a small fee. From this vantage point, you'll be treated to stunning panoramic views of Old Montreal and the St. Lawrence River, providing a unique perspective on the city's historic landscape.

The church Shanshan0312 / Shutterstock.com

10 Take a self-guided street art tour

Start an exciting trip around Montreal's lively street art by going on a self-guided tour to see the city's most amazing murals and public artworks. Armed with online resources such as the Montreal Mural Map, you can easily navigate your way through the city's artistic hotspots, including the Plateau-Mont-Royal neighborhood and Saint-Laurent Boulevard.

As you explore these areas, keep an eye out for the stunning works created through the Montreal Mural Arts Program, an initiative aimed at beautifying the city and supporting local artists. The annual Montreal Mural Festival, held each June, is another fantastic opportunity to witness the incredible talent of both local and international street artists.

Take your time to appreciate the intricate details, bold colors, and thought-provoking messages conveyed through these larger-than-life artworks. From whimsical characters to powerful social commentary, Montreal's street art scene offers a diverse range of styles and themes that are sure to leave a lasting impression.

By embarking on a self-guided street art tour, you can explore the city at your own pace, discovering hidden gems and gaining a deeper appreciation for Montreal's thriving arts community – all without spending a dime.

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