Christmas is a beautiful time to visit Montreal but doing so can be rather expensive since more tourists come to the city in November and December. While there are loads of activities happening during the holidays, finding free things to do in Montreal at Christmas time can go a long way in saving money on your vacation.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to celebrate Christmas in the city that are completely free to do. From window shopping at holiday markets to cheering for Santa Claus while he marches in a holiday parade, you're sure to find something you'll enjoy that won't break the bank on your trip to Montreal this holiday season.
Although you may be inclined to spend more money doing this fun activity, window shopping in one of Montreal's many shopping districts and holiday markets is a great way to spend the day this Christmas season.
From La Grande Dégustation, Montreal's biggest wine show of the year in early November, to Old Montreal's Christmas Market at Place Jacques-Cartier in late December, there are plenty of places to browse through thousands of hand-crafted gifts this year.
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 early December 2018.
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 2018, the Santa Claus Parade will take place between Du Fort and Saint-Urbain streets on Sainte-Catherine West on Saturday, November 17 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 on December 15, 22, and 29, 2018, and January 5, 2019, starting at 8 p.m.
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 shoes. These free public skating rinks are a great way to enjoy the outdoors, get a little exercise, and stay warm on your trip.
Every January and February, 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.
Just across the street, Complexe Desjardins will be home to Santa's Kingdom from November 17 to December 31, 2018, which features a series of free family programming, entertainment, and events including orchestral performances, dance troupe recitals, and visits with Santa Claus himself.
If you're traveling to Montreal with children 12 years and under who enjoy hands-on activities and attractions, you can head to the McCord Museum in Montreal for a special interactive exhibit on display from December 16, 2018, to March 17, 2019.
Free for guests under 13, "Treasures in the Attic" was designed with younger children in mind and encourages kids to follow clues to discover the fascinating history of toys made from 1880 to today. While you're there, you can also check out some of the permanent exhibits, which were also designed for children to explore hands-on.
Speaking of museums, you can also enjoy a free family weekend at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, which offers free art workshops throughout the holiday season this year.
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 various dates in December of 2018.
La Chapelle de Notre-Dame-du-Bonsecours, Montreal's oldest chapel, makes a point to feature free choir concerts every December. In 2018, Les Choralies are held every weekend afternoon at 1:30 p.m. and again at 3 p.m. from December 1 through 23.
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.
From December 1 to December 25, 2018, 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 Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year's Eve and Day this year.