Montreal is such a rich, historical city that it is not hard to find plenty to do and enjoy without spending much money.
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Walking to the summit of Mont Royal is a gentle grade 6 - 7 km, approximately 45 min walk. 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 educate yourself about the mountain; Beaver Lake (Lac aux Castors) features a play pavillion and ice skating in winter; and the Tam Tams, an outdoors drum jam on Sunday mornings, weather permitting, from about May - October at the east base of Mont Royal, around the monument to Sir George-Étienne Cartier.
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Montreal, especially the old part, is a city best discovered on foot. Here are a few walking tours visitors can download ahead of time, print out and follow. Frommer's has four Montreal walking tours online that are great to download and easy to follow. The Old Montréal website features a comprehensive Old Montreal walking tour, complete with a map and descriptions and pictures of each stop.
3. See Art for Free in Montreal
Photo credit: Nat Gorry
The Museum of Contemporary Art (in French, Musée d’Art Contemporain) is free Wed. evenings 6 - 9 pm, and even a free tour at 6:30. 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, Canada and international designers. Admission is free. Hours are Wed to Sun, noon to 6 p.m. On Thursday nights after 5:30 - 9pm, the Centre Canadien d'Architecture is free. The last Sunday of May, some 30 Montreal museums open their doors to the public for free, while six bus routes offer free transportation.
4. Visit One of Montreal's Public Markets
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Montreal is famous for its food and visitors will find it 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. Go with an appetite and taste exquisite cheeses, meats, breads, and much more. These markets truly offer an authentic experience of a great city.
5. Go to Montreal during a Festival
Courtesy Tourisme Montreal
Montreal is a vibrant city at any time, but the city is really abuzz several times a year for its 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, live music and the Montreal All-Nighter, where the city stays up all night to attend galleries, theaters, dance and skate and cap it off with a free breakfast at 4 am.
The Montréal Just for Laughs Festival
is also great for free activities as is the Montreal International Jazz Festival
, which offers more than 350 free outdoor concerts.
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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 Maisonneve, 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.
Photograph by David Sanger / David Sanger
Delight the senses by visiting Notre-Dame Basilica - built between 1824 and 1829 - for the 11:00 am high mass on Sunday morning. Mass is sung by a choir of 25 voices accompanied by the Casavant pipe organ.
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From May through October, the Hôtel de Ville, Montreal's majestic City Hall, built 1872 - 1878, offers a free 45-minute guided tour.
9. Learn to Dance
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On Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday nights throughout the summer, dance instructors lead free ballroom dancing lessons in Parc Jean Drapeau. Tango Libre is a popular dance school that offers free trial classes and introductory lessons throughout the city.
10. Instant Karma
On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 12:15 to 12:45 p.m., the Centre Bouddhiste Kankala
offers free guided meditations (Méditations guidées gratuites).