As summer arrives in Quebec's southern city of Montreal each May, the city comes alive with tons of free events and attractions including concerts, museum and art gallery visits, and even cultural festivals that are fun for the whole family.
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, and 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 Canadian city this May.
Due to persistent closures and precautions in Montreal, many of these events have been canceled or postponed for this year—please check the official websites or local news for updated information about each.
Known locally as Les Tam-Tams du Mont Royal, this popular drum and dance activity is a hit with locals and tourists alike. Anyone can join in the fun with the Tam-Tams every Sunday at noon from May 5 through September 29, 2019.
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, so even if you don't make it for the noon dance event on Sunday, you can still enjoy Mont Royal Park any day of the week.
This celebration of Asian culture features films, art, food, and discussions on various days from May 1 through May 30, 2019.
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. There are also a number of musical performances and dance recitals as well as literary events and new media displays throughout the month.
In 2019, you won't want to miss the free opening reception on May 1, the double exhibition of "Exil - Peuples d'ici et d'ailleurs" and "Bridges of Hope" at the Musée des maîtres et artisans du Québec on May 3, and the interactive installation " Handshack" by artist Marites Carino at the Oboro gallery on Saturday, May 11 from 1 to 5 p.m. at Oboro.
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 12th edition of La Virée des Ateliers will take place on May 2 to 5, 2019; the studios will be open starting at 11 a.m. each day of the event.
On Saturday, May 4, 2019, comic book stores around the world will celebrate Free Comic Book Day by distributing free editions of select comics.
While most shops will feature the same deals on Comic Book Day comics, some smaller shops will also be giving out copies of local artists' work as well.
Festival Vue sur la Relève returns to Montreal from May 6 to 18, 2019, with performances by some of the country's top emerging artists in the recording and performance industries. Vue sur la Relève features young, local, emerging talent in music, theater, and dance—as well as costuming and stagecraft—with public performances often free of charge.
Performances in 2019 include Yonkersvidal at Jarry Park; Theater of Fox and Alexandre Lang at the HQ Studio of the Monument-National; Gramofaune, Lila, Vendou, and Funk Lion at ministry; and Ariel & the Va-Nu-Feet at Place des Festivals.
L’Oasis Musicale is the name of Christ Church Cathedral's free Saturday afternoon classical music concerts, which take place every month of the year. 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.
Additionally, given how popular the free concerts have been at Christ Church, St. George's Church added its own series of concerts, this time on Sundays at 2 p.m. featuring classical, jazz, and popular tunes performed by emerging artists.
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 18 and 19, 2019.
The Comic Arts Festival of Montreal, also known as Festival BD de Montréal, is completely free to attend and takes place on May 24 through 26, 2019.
The festival offers residents and visitors alike 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 displays and roundtable discussions.
Every year since its 2007 inception, Festival TransAmériques features free theatrical and dance performances at outdoor venues across the city. From May 22 to June 4, 2019, you can catch a number of free and pay-for-admission concerts and performances from artists around the world.
Venues for 2019 include Agora de la danse, Cabaret Mado, Cente du Théâtre d'Aujourd'hui, and the Cinémathèque québécoise. Performances include "Kalakuta Republik," "Quasi niente," "Fantasia," "May He Rise and Smell the Fragance," and "Rather a Ditch."
Montreal's annual Anarchist Book Fair proposes folks “come learn more about anarchist ideas and practices." With workshops, theme rooms, films, art, readings, and tons of independent and commercial literature, the Anarchist Book Fair offers something for everyone.
In 2019, the Anarchist Book Fair will take place on May 25 and 26 at buildings across from one another in Parc Vinet. The fair will be open both days from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is completely free to attend. However, you may wind up spending a lot of money supporting local and international anarchist writers by buying their books.
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, 2019, 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.
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 10 and 11, 2019.
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 26, 2019.
You can also 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.