Free and Cheap Things to Do in Montreal

Skating on sunny winter day
Linda Raymond / Getty Images

Montreal is the largest city in the Canadian province of Quebec and the second-most populous city in Canada. Despite being such a large city so rich in history, it's not hard to find plenty to do and enjoy without spending a lot of money.

01 of 09

Hike, Bike or Drive Mont-Royal (Mount Royal)

Canada, Québec, Montréal, Skyline from Mount Royal
Simeone Huber/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images
Address
Ville-Marie, Montreal, QC H2W 1S8, Canada

The fairly easy 6 to 7-kilometer walk to the summit of Mont Royal takes about an hour. Alternately you can bike or drive to the summit, where you'll have a great panoramic view of Montreal. Other attractions on Mont-Royal include the Smith House, a heritage house where you can learn about the mountain; Beaver Lake (Lac aux Castors) featuring a playground and ice skating in winter; and the Tam Tams, an outdoor drum jam taking place on Sundays in the warmer season. You'll find Tam Tams at the east base of Mont Royal, around the monument to Sir George-Étienne Cartier.

02 of 09

Take a Self-Guided Walking Tour

Montreal Basilica
L. Toshio Kishiyama / Getty Images

Montreal, especially the historic part, is a city best discovered on foot. There are walking tours visitors can download ahead of time, print out and follow.

  • Frommer's has Montreal walking tours online that are great to download and easy to follow. They include Vieux-Montréal, Downtown, and Parc du Mont-Royal.
  • The Old Montréal website features a comprehensive Old Montreal walking tour, complete with a map and descriptions and pictures of 20 points of interest.
03 of 09

See Art for Free in Montreal

Museum of Contemporary Art
Museum of Contemporary Art. Nat Gorry

Art museums, most of which offer a day or time when entry is free to the public, have exhibits ranging from the historic to contemporary.

  • The Museum of Contemporary Art (in French, Musée d’Art Contemporain) is free Wednesday evenings 6 - 9 p.m. A free tour is offered at 6:30 p.m.
  • The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts permanent collection is free at all times. Other, temporary exhibitions are by admission only.
  • The Centre of Design at the Université du Québec à Montréal presents works from Québec and international designers. Admission is free. Hours are Wednesday to Sunday, noon to 6 p.m.
  • On Thursday nights after 5:30 - 9 p.m., the Centre Canadien d'Architecture is free.
  • On the last Sunday of May, some 30 Montreal museums open their doors to the public for free, while six bus routes offer free transportation.
04 of 09

Visit One of Montreal's Public Markets

Marche Jean-Talon market
Marche Jean-Talon market. Pgiam / Getty Images

Montreal is famous for its food and visitors will find local fare fresh and more affordable at one of the city's public markets. Jean Talon Market, Maisonneuve and Atwater Market are three of the most famous.

The Jean-Talon Market is one of North America's largest farmers' markets and features the most extensive selection of produce and homemade goods in the city. La Fromagerie Atwater, a mainstay at Atwater Market, serves up fresh medium gouda samples.

So go with an appetite and taste exquisite cheeses, meats, bread, and much more. These markets truly offer an authentic experience of a great city.

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05 of 09

Go to Montreal during a Festival

Montreal High Lights
Montreal High Lights. alphtran / Getty Images

Montreal is a vibrant city at any time, but the city is really abuzz several times a year with major festivals, all of which offer oodles of free events.
The Montreal High Lights Festival at the end of February features a free ice slide, ice skating, fireworks, and live music. The Montreal All-Nighter, where the city stays up all night to attend galleries, theaters, dance, and skate and then cap it all off with a free breakfast at 4 a.m., takes place in three districts and is linked by a shuttle service, allowing festival-goers to move easily and quickly from one district to another.
The Montréal Just for Laughs Festival is also a great opportunity for free activities as is the Montreal International Jazz Festival, which offers more than 350 free outdoor concerts.

06 of 09

Free Ice Skating in Winter

People skating on ice rink in Old port of Montreal
People skating on ice rink in Old port of Montreal. Linda Raymond / Getty Images

Might as well don your skates and enjoy the cold if you visit Montreal in the winter. There are plenty of opportunities to skate. Parc La Fontaine in the Plateau has a skating pond when weather permits, as does Parc Maisonneuve, which is near Montreal's Biodome, a fantastic family outing, though not free.

Other free rinks around the city include Lac aux Castors, Beaver Lake, at Parc Mont Royal, the Quays of the Old Port of Montréal, and Parc Jeanne-Mance, closer to the city center.

07 of 09

Enjoy the Music at Notre Dame Cathedral

Interior of the Notre Dame Basilica of Vieux Montreal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Notre Dame Basilica. Image provided by Felipe Mulè / Getty Images
Address
110 Rue Notre-Dame Ouest, Montréal, QC H2Y 1T2, Canada
Phone
+1 514-842-2925

Delight the senses by visiting Notre-Dame Basilica, built between 1824 and 1829, for the 11 a.m. high mass on Sunday morning. Mass is accompanied by the Notre-Dame Basilica Choir of 25 voices and the Casavant pipe organ. Other Masses on Saturday and Sunday are accompanied solely by the beautiful organ.

08 of 09

Get a Free Tour of Montreal's City Hall

City Hall at dusk, Montreal
City Hall at dusk. Patrick Donovan / Getty Images
Address
275 Rue Notre-Dame Est, Montréal, QC H2Y 1C6, Canada
Phone
+1 514-872-0311

From May through October, the Hôtel de Ville, Montreal's majestic City Hall, built between 1872 and 1878, offers a free 45-minute guided tour.

During the summer tourist season, guided tours are offered on a fixed schedule, without prior reservation. Tours are available in French and in English from Monday to Friday. The rest of the year, tours are offered on Fridays.

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09 of 09

Learn to Dance

Tango dancers
Willy GS / Getty Images

On Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday nights throughout the summer, dance instructors lead free ballroom dancing lessons in Parc Jean Drapeau.

In addition, Tango Libre is a popular dance school that offers free trial classes and introductory lessons throughout the city.