With summer in full swing, the city of Montreal in the Québec province of Canada comes to life in August with plenty of free events, activities, and celebrations around the city. From orchestras performing outdoor concertos to big screens popping up all over town for movie nights under the stars, you're sure to find something to enjoy this year.
While you can always spend a few dollars at one of Montreal's numerous sidewalk sales or rent a bicycle to explore one of the best cycling destinations around the city, many of the events and activities offered in Montreal have no cost to attend. Check out yoga classes, the Barbie exhibit at Cours Mont-Royal, or take a trip to one of Montreal's beaches that stay open throughout most of August.
Located just north of downtown Montreal in the borough of Le Plateau-Mont-Royal, Parc La Fontaine hosts several free cultural activities throughout the summer. Free events last through late August or early September and include "Brazilian Tuesdays," and "Sunday Brunch in Music" at the Espace La Fontaine Chalet-Restaurant Bistro, as well as many cultural performances at the open-air Théâtre de Verdure. Also, check out Festival Haiti en Folie (Haiti on Fire!), which explores Haiti through dance, music, art, food, and more.
Each year, the Repercussion Theatre of Montreal brings Shakespeare-in-the-Park plays to all ages in various parks across the city. This professional production company will perform the dark comedy "Measure for Measure" from July to August in Westmount Park and Mont Royal Cemetery. Admission to each show is free, but performances may also be canceled or moved indoors in the event of rain.
For several days in early August, Montreal First Peoples Festival will return to the Place des Festivals with a series of local and international film screenings, concert performances, cultural events, and seminars as well as showcases of traditional crafts and visual and media arts. This celebration includes aboriginal art, history, and culture with no admission cost, though some special events will entail a small fee.
Each year for many days in mid-August, a group of community organizers in the LGBT community put together what's known as Pervers/cité (Pervert City) and Pride, which considers itself "the underside of pride," an expression of radical queerness including a series of panel discussions, events, workshops, and actions that are free to attend.
Known as "Les Premiers Vendredis" in French Canada, First Fridays is Montreal's festive food truck gathering held at the Olympic Park every month of spring and summer. You can count on some of the best street foods in the city, accompanied by live music from local artists. The event is free to attend, but the food and drinks will cost extra. It's always good to confirm event details before heading out for some fun.
For 10 days in August, La Petite Patrie's Little Italy and other boroughs in Montreal and Laval will host the annual Montreal Italian Week presented by Mastro and San Danielle. The festivities at this cultural event celebrating all things Italian include: classical and popular music concerts, a FIAT 500 cars exhibit, an outdoor opera, a fashion show under the stars, Italian films, and more. Italians and people from other cultures will all unite to have fun and, of course, dine on some world-famous delicious Italian cuisine.
The ambiance in the Jean-Talon Market in the Little Italy district is unbeatable this time of year, so even if you don't spend any money checking out the more than 300 vendors on-site, you're sure to enjoy the scene. Buskers, happy kids, and lots of food and drink—including numerous fresh fruit and vegetable vendors—converge on this indoor-outdoor market. If it's especially hot, you can grab a handmade ice cream or a pink grapefruit cassis half and half sorbet at the market's Havre-aux-Glaces. If you aren't in the mood for the masses, you may want to attend the market either on the weekend mornings or a weekday.
The entire month of August is dedicated to archaeology in Quebec, and almost 50 places in the city of Montreal will host a variety of more than 80 free events to celebrate the history of Canada. The month-long schedule includes archaeological digs, conferences, exhibits, guided tours, animations, and much more.
Movies in the Parks
When it comes to free events in Montreal, catching a film at one of the city's parks is one of the most popular ways to enjoy a summer evening, and there are many to choose from. The Fantasia International Film Festival downtown features imaginative cinema from over 30 countries and provides some free outdoor screenings. Cinéma sous les étoiles shows social and political documentaries all around the city from June through August, and The Cin'Hoch is back with summer outdoor movies from late June to mid-August on Friday nights in the Dairy Queen parking lot on Saint Catherine East. On Tuesdays from late June to September, Cinéma Urban at the Place de la Paix offers several open-air movies at Peace Square, with live music performances and discussions with the filmmakers.
As many of these films are not in English or are played with French subtitles, you should always check the fine print before heading out, especially if you aren't so fluent in French.
Every week, drummers, dancers, musicians, and free-spirited folks of all ages and ethnicities gather at Parc Mont-Royal for the drum circle known as the Montreal Tam-Tams. Everyone is encouraged to join in on the fun, whether as a dancer or drummer, but you can watch comfortably from the sidelines and no one will judge you. The surrounding park is also a great place to have a picnic with a great view of the city or purchase a treat from one of the food trucks. The Tam-Tams meet on Fletcher’s Field around the George-Étienne Cartier Monument in Parc Mont-Royal on Sundays.
Les Jardin Gamelin (Gamelin Gardens) returns to the Quartier des Spectacles, Montreal's principal cultural district, from May through September, with a special lineup of community-driven cultural activities, events, and workshops. Free events take place daily at Place Émilie-Gamelin and include a range from live DJ music and jazz shows to meditation and yoga practice to dance classes, and many other engaging activities.
If you're a fan of muscle cars and classic roadsters, the Gibeau Orange Julep diner hosts a cruise night every Wednesday night all summer. Featuring custom cars, hot rods, and a one-of-a-kind beverage at the restaurant, "Hot Summer Nights" is a great way to spend the evening with your family—especially if it's full of car enthusiasts.
Orcheste Symphonique de Montréal Le Virée Classique Festival (Classic Spree) is an annual gathering of musical performances that runs in early August, including a large opening concert of Verdi’s Requiem at the esplanade of the Olympic Park performed by maestro Kent Nagano, four soloists, and a chorus and orchestra. The festival also includes several free performances in Complexe Desjardins and outside Place des Arts, like the Montréal Video Game Orchestra and the Classical Spree Symphony.
If you're in the mood for a fiery circus act, the best place in town is TOHU, which is located at the Cité des arts du Cirque. This creative performance and circus space will feature live world music, clown acts, stunts, and a variety of activities for the whole family at the annual FALLA Saint-Michel celebration, which goes for two days in August. FALLA Saint-Michel entails the burning of a work of art collectively made over several weeks by young artists.
The Matsuri Japon Festival
The Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre of Montreal's annual Matsuri Japon Festival in early August features martial arts demonstrations, dance performances, Taiko drummers, and Japanese food. Kids will enjoy taking part in traditional Japanese activities like yo-yo fishing, origami crafting, sumo wrestling, and Daruma otoshi (doll-making). Both adults and children can experience Kyudo (Japanese archery), Taiko (Japanese drumming), and Bon Odiri, a big dance event held during Obon to show gratitude for ancestors.
For over 20 years, artists from around the globe have gathered in Montreal to celebrate the annual Under Pressure International Graffiti Convention. The event takes place in August and is run by volunteers devoted to the culture of hip-hop music. Dozens of organizers, street artists, graffiti writers, DJs, emcees, and urban dancers are expected to gather, create, and celebrate for four full days of events.
A celebration of the LBGTQ community of Canada comes to Montreal for Pride Week in August. Known as Fierté Montreal, Montreal Gay Pride has as its outdoor venue Parc des Faubourgs in the Village, where many talented local artists perform and parties take place. You also won't want to miss the Montreal Pride Parade, starting at Metcalfe Street and ending on Alexandre-DeSève Street, or the L March, which is one of the largest political demonstrations in the country for women of the sexual and gender diverse communities.
The Notre-Dame-de-Grâce (NDG) Arts Week is back, running several days in late August with lots of free events and activities including live opera, tango, and comedy spread out across various parks and landmarks in the NDG neighborhood. Founded in 2009, this annual event is a celebration of the thriving arts, music, and creative community of NDG, with over 10,000 participants expected each year.
For six days in August, the Montreal Fashion and Design Festival features outdoor catwalks at Place des Festivals, an adjacent shopping and exhibitor section, urban art, music and dance, and special conferences. The event, with top international labels and famed designers, draws huge crowds each year. The Montréal Fashion & Design Festival is said to be the biggest fashion and design outdoor event in North America.
Musical Events and Concerts
From classical music concerts to modern electronic festivals, August really heats up when it comes to catching some music in Montreal. Among those you can check out this month in the city, you can attend these for free:
Free Adventures Indoors and Out
No matter where you're staying in Montreal, you're sure to find some outdoor adventure or indoor activity you can do at no cost this August. You can wander fresh flowers, herbs, and other exotic plants at the Verdun Greenhouses or witness the site of thousands of miracles at St. Joseph's Oratory, which is free to visit at any time.
Parc Jean-Drapeau's Jean-Doré Beach and Aquatic Complex both propose Free Wednesdays for swimming all summer long for ages 12 and under with the purchase of one adult ticket. The Lachine Canal is one of Montreal's crowning jewels, which you can roam around without paying anything.