The Christmas season is a beautiful time to visit Montreal, but given its popularity, a holiday-themed trip to Montreal can get expensive. However, the city offers a lot of activities to enjoy at Christmas time and finding the free ones to attend can save you money on your vacation.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to celebrate Christmas in Montreal that are completely free of charge. From shopping at holiday markets, choirs, and cheering for Santa Claus when he marches in a holiday parade, it's easy to enjoy the holiday season in Montreal without breaking the bank.
Although you may be inclined to spend more money at the market, shopping in one of Montreal's many shopping districts or holiday markets is a great way to spend a day this Christmas season.
One of the best events for last-minute holiday shopping, which is also completely free to attend, is the Salon des Métiers d'art, a giant expo of artisan crafts coming to Montreal in mid-November 2019.
Alternatively, you can shop at Le Grand Marché de Noël de Montréal, a Christmas market at Place des Arts' esplanade that features live choirs, foodie goods, mulled wine, whiskey tastings, and free entertainment, including a karaoke igloo.
Montreal's biggest parade of the year, the Montreal Santa Claus Parade, typically heralds the beginning of the holiday shopping season in the city.
In 2019, the Santa Claus Parade will take place between Du Fort and Saint-Urbain streets on Sainte-Catherine West on Saturday, November 23 beginning at 11 a.m. Along with an appearance by Santa Claus, the parade will also feature a variety of musical performances, floats presented by local organizations, and hundreds of costumed revelers marching down the streets of downtown Montreal.
You can enjoy an evening of fireworks over Old Port's Natrel ice rink on four nights this holiday season during the annual "Fire On Ice" event, which will take place at 8 p.m. every Saturday from December 14, 2019 to January 4, 2020.
Although accessing the ice rink will cost extra, you can find a cozy spot nearby to view the pyrotechnics show for free. However, you should stay close if you want to enjoy the full effect; the fireworks display will be choreographed to live vocalists that will be performing on a stage overlooking the rink.
Speaking of ice skating, there are a few places in Montreal where you won't have to pay to use freshly smoothed ice—as long as you have your own skates. These free public skating rinks are a great way to enjoy the outdoors, get a little exercise, and stay warm on your trip.
Every year when it starts to get cold, Place des Festivals is transformed into a winter wonderland during an event called Luminothérapie, which uses light therapy to put visitors in a happy, holiday mood throughout the Christmas season. This year, you'll find the display lit up from November 28, 2019 to January 26, 2020.
Just across the street, Complexe Desjardins will be home to Santa's Kingdom during December, which features a series of free family programming, entertainment, and events including orchestral performances, dance troupe recitals, and visits with Santa Claus himself.
Discover Treasures in the Attic at the McCord Museum
If you're traveling to Montreal with young children, you can head to the McCord Museum in Montreal for a special interactive exhibit on display this December. Free for guests under 13, this year's exhibit is "Enchanted Worlds," which explores the classic display's of Montreal's historic Ogilvy department store. These mechanical displays were novel at the time and enchanted children with their mechanical animals.
Stand up for the CBC Sing-In
The CBC Sing-In welcomes over 1,500 participants each year and has become a favorite for Montreal residents and visitors alike. Hosted by CBC personalities and featuring special guest artists performing holiday classics, the CBC Sing-In will take place on December 8, 2019.
La Chapelle de Notre-Dame-du-Bonsecours, Montreal's oldest chapel, makes a point to feature free choir concerts every December. In 2019, Les Choralies are held every weekend afternoon at 1:30 p.m. and again at 3 p.m. from December 7 to 22
Performances last about 45 minutes and feature a different choir group every weekend of the month. The church will also be hosting several other musical events throughout the holiday season, many of which do charge an admission fee, so be sure to check out the Choralies website for more information on the full schedule and ticket pricing.
Celebrate Christmas in the Park
From November 30 to December 24, 2019, you can catch over 100 free musical performances at Noël dans le Parc ("Christmas in the Park"), which takes place in three of Montreal's biggest public outdoor spaces.
Sipping on hot cocoa and roast marshmallows by a bonfire while you enjoy local musicians at Parc Lahaie in the Plateau, Parc des Compagnons-de-Saint-Laurent, or Place Émilie-Gamelin near the Gay Village. While Parc Lahaie will serve as the main hub for the event, the Place Émilie-Gamelin will host most of the family-friendly activities this year.
Visiting one of Montreal's Catholic cathedrals is particularly enchanting when you factor in how grandiose some of the ornate interiors of the city's basilicas and churches are, harkening back to a time when the Church practically controlled the government in Quebec.
With few exceptions, aside from donations made to the church during services, Mass is free to attend. Several churches around Montreal—St. Joseph's Oratory, Notre-Dame Basilica, Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours, and the Mary Queen of the World Basilica—will be hosting free holiday services on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year's Eve and Day this year.