By KAT TANCOCK
Travelling can get expensive, but you don’t have to spend on everything. Here are 50 free activities, festivals, tours and more in Montreal so you can save your cash for dinner and drinks.
1. Visit the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts—all but a few special exhibitions and concerts are free to all visitors, at all times.
2. During the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, held every summer, take advantage of hundreds of free outdoor concerts.
3. Celebrate the written word at the Blue Metropolis International Literary Festival in April (and the accompanying Children’s Festival). Some seminars, workshops and readings require paid tickets, but others are free.
4. Take a self-guided walking tour of Mount Royal Cemetery from a historical viewpoint; also pick up the tree brochure detailing the cemetery’s arboretum with more than 100 species of tree on 165 acres. (Keep an eye out for the more than 145 bird species, too.)
5. In warm weather, take in free dance, music and film performances at Parc Lafontaine. In winter, it’s a popular ice skating destination.
6. Sign up for free talks at the Segal Centre for Performing Arts, including Sundays @ The Segal (11 am on the first Sunday of each performance run) and Place à l’Opéra, lectures from the Opéra de Montréal.
7. Go ice skating at Parc Maisonneuve, near the Biodome and Olympic Stadium.
8. Like to laugh? The Montreal Just for Laughs Festival in July includes more than 1,500 free performances.
9. Learn to tango from one of Tango Libre’s free summertime intro classes in Montreal parks. (In winter, take your free intro class in their studio.)
10. Thursdays after 5:30 (and all the time for students and children), get free admission to the Canadian Centre for Architecture and its exhibits on architecture as a public concern, such as Imperfect Health: The Medicalization of Architecture, running until April 15, 2012.
11. In addition to paid concerts, the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique in late July offers a selection of free events, workshops and shows for kids and adults – think dancing, drumming, arts and exhibits.
[RELATED: 50 Things to Do With Kids in Montreal]
12. Take in one of the free concerts offered during Les FrancoFolies de Montréal, the world’s largest French-speaking music festival.
13. Saturday nights in December through early January, visit Old Montreal for the Telus Fire on Ice musical fireworks show and accompanying activities.
15. Admission prices for the summertime Montreal International Fireworks Competition start at $32.99, but you can enjoy the show for free from the Jacques-Cartier Bridge.
16. In mid-February, celebrate a true Canadian winter at the Montreal En Lumière festival. Enjoy free cooking demos at Jean-Talon Market and a free outdoor site; closing the festival, take part in mostly-free all-night activities during Nuit Blanche.
17. Espace Création, presented by Loto-Quebec, presents exhibits supporting upcoming and established artists from Quebec.
18. Take a free one-hour guided tour of Montreal City Hall, including the council chamber with its stained-glass windows (but excluding the mayor’s office).
19. Learn how to recognize counterfeit money and view historical items and documents that “bring 19th-century banking to life” from Canada’s oldest bank at the Bank of Montreal Museum.
20. On summer Sundays from noon till sunset, make your way to Mount Royal Park for drumming and dance performances by Les Tam-Tams du Mont Royal.
21. Visit the Lachine Canal National Historic Site for free tours and events, such as the Montreal Classic Boat Festival and a 90-minute tour of Silo No. 5, with huge importance in the history of the Canadian grain economy (it was the first structure in Montreal able to store one million bushels).
22. After getting your fill of history, walk or bike the 14.5-km Lachine Canal Multipurpose Path, which extends the length of the canal. (Bike rentals are available.)
23. Celebrate Sunday mass at 11 am at Notre-Dame Basilica to hear a 25-person choir accompanied by the organ.
24. Pay what you can at a performance of Repercussion Theatre’s Shakespeare in the Park in July.
25. Avoid bad weather by exploring the twists and turns of Montreal’s Underground Pedestrian Network, the largest in the world with over 32 km of tunnels spread over more than 12 square kilometres.
26. Make use of free Wi-Fi to take the self-guided Five Generations, One Port tour and learn about the history of the Quays of the Old Port.
27. Browse (and maybe buy from) stalls from more than 100 artists over a kilometre of Sainte-Catherine Street in eastern Canada’s largest open-air art market, the Festival International Montréal en Arts, held over five days at the end of June.
28. August’s FestiBlues International de Montréal brings blues to the mainstream, with five days of musical acts to discover. Free events are available, though the main festival itself is close to free, with a nightly pass priced at just $7 (free for children under 12).
29. In August, bring the kids to a weekend of fun during the Fête des enfants de Montréal, the Montreal Children’s Festival. In 2011, free activities included singing, dancing and music as well as sports and crafts.
30. Sunday mornings at 10 am, join Yoga on the Park for a community-guided meditation practice. No payment is required but a suggested donation of $5 goes to charities.
31. After dark, take a self-guided Old Montreal walking tour (click Official Map and Evening Tour for a PDF you can print) to view historical buildings artfully lit up for visitors’ enjoyment.
32. In August, the Montreal First Peoples’ Festival features concerts, films, performances and other activities on themes surrounding the experiences of Canada’s First Nations.
33. Wednesdays from 5 to 9 pm, visit the Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal for free, including a tour at 6:30 pm.
[RELATED: 6 Best Montreal Wine Bars]
34. Also on Wednesday nights from 5 to 9 pm, the McCord Museum offers free admission to its collection of 1.4 million objects reflecting the history and culture of Montreal, Quebec and Canada.
36. Take in year-round outdoor activities at Parc Jean-Drapeau; in winter, free activities include access to cross-country ski and showshoe trails, weekend activities at the Biosphère Environment Museum, human-scale foosball and an introduction to downhill skiing for young children.
37. Also at Parc Jean-Drapeau, but best in summer, visit the Floralies Gardens to view the perennials, trees and shrubs plus tens of thousands of annuals.
38. In mid-August, join the party at the Montreal Pride Festival.
39. On the last Friday of September and the following weekend, the Journées de la culture celebrate and promote culture—and access to it—across the province, for all Quebeckers. Free activities include art, dance, theatre, music and writing performances and workshops, special events and open doors to city galleries and museums.
40. In Old Montreal, DHC/Art offers contemporary art exhibitions for free; from January 19 through May 13, 2012, for instance, drop by for Chronicles of a Disappearance, a “thematic group show” exploring notions of mourning, absence and loss.
41. Enjoy free sights, sounds and samples at Jean-Talon Market while you shop for a picnic lunch in the park. (Don’t miss the delicious range of Quebec-made cheese.)
42. In late November, get in the spirit of Christmas at the annual Santa Claus Parade, held along Sainte-Catherine Street starting at 11 am.
43. Learn about ancient and modern organisms, minerals and world culture at the Redpath Museum at McGill University. Sunday afternoons, hear a bilingual, kid-friendly introduction to the museum’s dinosaur collection.
44. Many performances at McGill University’s Schulich School of Music are free of charge; many are given by students completing degree requirements in instruments or singing.
45. The MEG Montreal Festival (it stands for Montréal Electronic Groove) at the end of July celebrates emerging and urban music in genres including hip-hop, electronic, rock and pop, with free events in addition to paid concerts.
46. Music lovers will also enjoy the Pop Montreal festival in September, with both free and paid access to concerts, events, workshops, exhibits and a crafts and record fair.
47. Visit Montreal performing arts centre Place des Arts for a variety of free activities including Bal du Dimanche, a monthly learn-to-dance event with a changing theme (in February 2012, it’s country).
48. If you’re in town at the end of May, take advantage of Montreal Museums Day (May 27 in 2012), when dozens of museums offer free admission to the public. Free buses travel circuits that will get you from museum to museum as efficiently as possible.
49. In April, celebrate accessible contemporary art at the Papier Art Fair, with an exhibit of art works for all budgets (more than 1,200 in 2011), as well as free educational activities including guided tours and a printed guide.
50. Pack a picnic lunch and wander through Mount Royal Park in the heart of the city. Take advantage of free activities all year, such as ice skating (skate rental is extra) and bird-watching tours—and a spectacular view of the city.