Free Things to Do in Montreal in May 2018

Montreal, Ile Sainte Helene and the St. Lawrence River

RENAULT Philippe / Images 

Quebec's southern city of Montreal comes alive each May with the start of summer by offering tons of free events and attractions including concerts, museum and art gallery visits, and even cultural festivals.

The weather in May is rather perfect for outdoor adventures and travel, which is especially great since so many free things are happening this month. The temperature's not too warm and the air's not humid like it is late summer; it doesn't rain that often, so you most likely won't have to worry about a festival or concert being canceled unexpectedly.

From the Tam Tams drum and dance on Mont-Royal to free days at the Montreal Botanical Gardens and the annual blossoming of the cherry trees, there's plenty to do on your vacation to this southern Quebec city this May.

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    Free things to do in Montreal June 2016 include the Tam Tams
    Photo by Flickr user Gerry Lauzon (CC BY 2.0)

    A popular drum and dance activity with locals and a hit with tourists, anyone can join in the fun with the Tam Tams every Sunday at noon from May 6 through September 30. Whether you're a musician, onlooker, or tribal beat dancer, this free festival is a great way to meet locals. Plus, its location near the monument to Sir George-Étienne Cartier in Mount Royal Park makes it an ideal start to your Sunday in the city. May is one of the best times of the year to go for a walk on the mountain to catch some great views of Montreal.

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    Montreal festivals in May 2016 include Accès Asie.
    Photo courtesy of Festival Accès Asie

    Although admission varies by event at the Festival Accès Asie, some are completely free of charge including photo exhibits, talks, and the festival's opening cocktail on May 1, 2018. This celebration of Asian culture features films, art, food, and discussions on various days from May 1 through May 27, 2018. There are also a number of musical performances and dance recitals as well as literary events and new media displays throughout the month.

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    Free things to do in Montreal this May 2016 include checking out art expo and sale Virée des Ateliers.
    Photo courtesy of Virée des Ateliers

    Roughly translated to "The Open Studio Spree" in English, La Virée des Ateliers is an annual event at the Grover Building, a former textile mill that's been transformed into five floors of artist studios. During the three-day event, these studios will open their doors to the public giving a behind-the-scenes look at the day-to-day creative processes of painters, sculptors, fashion designers, and metalworkers. You can also buy most of the work on display on the spot, but admission to the event itself is free. The 11th edition of La Virée des Ateliers will take place on May 3 to 6, 2018. 

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    Free things to do May 2916 in Montreal include free comic book day.
    Tim Graham / Getty Images

    On Saturday, May 5, 2018, comic book stores around the world will celebrate Free Comic Book Day by distributing free editions of select comics. Many independent and commercially-owned comic book stores in Montreal will be participating this year, including Comic Hunter, Librairie Crossover Comics, and 1,000,000 Comix. While most shops will feature the same deals on special Comic Book Day comics they get on May 5, some smaller shops will also be giving out copies of local artists' work as well. 

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    Free things to do in Montreal this May 2017 include catching Vue sur la Relève's free performances.
    Photo courtesy of Vue sur la Relève © Marie-Ève Dion

    From May 8 through 19, 2018, Festival Vue sur la Relève returns to Montreal with performances by some of the country's top emerging artists in the recording and performance industries. Vue sur la Relève is a festival featuring young, local, emerging talent in music, theater, and dance as well as costuming and stagecraft with public performances often free of charge.

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    Free things to do in Montreal? Attend a free Oasis Musicale concert at Christchurch Cathedral.
    Philippe Renault / Getty Images

    L’Oasis Musicale is the name of Christ Church Cathedral's free Saturday afternoon classical music concerts. Sandwiched between downtown Montreal's malls, the cathedral itself is a five-minute walk from Place des Festivals and an even shorter stroll from one of the best pizza joints in Montreal.

    Consider grabbing a bite to eat before or after the concerts, which start at 4:30 p.m. Donations in the range of $5 to $10 are welcomed to help support performing artists as well as fund ongoing building repairs and maintenance. Given how popular the free concerts have been at Christ Church, St. George's Church added on its own series of concerts, this time on Sundays at 2 p.m. featuring classical, jazz, and popular tunes performed by emerging artists.

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    Free things to do in Montreal in May 2016 include attending Porchfest NDG.
    Photo courtesy of Porchfest

    Although the first "Porchfest" was held in Ithaca, New York, this tradition of playing music from porches quickly spread across the United States and into Montreal. Started in 2015, this local event is more like a musical walking tour than an official festival, offering a great chance to meet area residents and enjoy some local talent. Balconfête (Porchfest) Notre-Dame-de-Grace will return to the namesake neighborhood on Saturday and Sunday, May 19 and 20, 2018.

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    Montreal festivals in May 2016 include Festival de BD de Montréal.
    Photo courtesy of Festival de BD de Montréal

    The Comic Arts Festival of Montreal, also known as Festival BD de Montréal, is completely free to attend and takes place on May 25 through 27, 2018. The festival offers residents and visitors the opportunity to meet with French and Canadian comic book artists and participate in on-theme activities at  Parc La Fontaine. Guests will also have the opportunity to meet with more than 150 artists and 50 exhibitors or see dozens of original exhibitions and roundtable discussions.

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  • 09 of 12
    Festival TransAmériques 2017 features both dance and theatrical presentations.
    Photo courtesy of Eszter Salamon

    Every year since its 2007 inception, Festival TransAmériques features free theatrical and dance performances at outdoor venues across the city. From May 23 to June 7, 2018, you can catch a number of free and pay-for-admission concerts and performances from artists around the world. Venues for 2018 include Agora de la danse, Cabaret Mado, Cente du Théâtre d'Aujourd'hui, and the Cinémathèque québécoise.

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    Free things to do in Montreal this May 2016 include the Anarchist Book Fair.
    Image courtesy of the Anarchist Book Fair

    Montreal's annual Anarchist Book Fair proposes folks “come learn more about anarchist ideas and practice." With workshops, theme rooms, films, art, and readings, and tons of independent and commercial literature, the Anarchist Book Fair isn't like the typical school variety. In 2018, the Anarchist Book Fair will take place on May 26 and 27 at ​buildings across from one another in Parc Vinet.

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    Cherry Blossoms at the Montreal Botanical Gardens

    Mother's day activities in Montreal? Go for a spring stroll, like at the Montreal Botanical Garden.
    RENAULT Philippe / Getty Images

    Although the cherry blossoms begin blooming later in Montreal than they do in Washington, D.C., you'll likely still get a chance to see them for free at the Montreal Botanical Gardens this May. Free days at the Gardens last until May 15, 2018, but you'll still have to pay to get into the greenhouses. You can also get free access to the Gardens year-round with an Accès Montreal card.

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    Montreal Museums Day 2018 features 40 museums opening their doors to the public free of charge.
    George Rose / Getty Images

    From taste-testing honey produced in Montreal's urban beehives to observing Parc La Fontaine's aquatic life under a microscope, several medical facilities, academic departments, and museums across Montreal propose science workshops over a 24-hour period during 24 Hours of Science on May 11 and 12, 2018.

    Additionally, you can explore many of Montreal's museums free of charge for one-day only on Montreal Museums Day, which will feature city-wide free shuttle bus service between over 40 museums on May 28, 2018.

    You can get free access to the galleries and film screenings at the Canadian Centre for Architecture every Thursday after 5:30 p.m. On the other hand, the Redpath Museum is always free, as is a visit to the replica of Rome's St. Peter's Basilica in the heart of downtown Montreal.