The 13 Best Museums In Montreal
Montreal is the largest city in Canada's Quebec province. You can find it on an island in the Saint Lawrence River and is named after Mont-Royal, the mountain in the middle of the city. Although there are 19 different neighborhoods in Montreal, the main historical area is Old Montreal. Here you can find many attractions like the Montreal Science Center, Notre-Dame Basilica, Pointe-a-Calliere Museum, and the Old Port of Montreal.
Architectural wonders and cobblestone streets make up most of Old Montreal and there are 50 places on the National Historic Sites in Canada, which is more than any other city in North America. So, you do not even have to visit a museum to learn about the history of the city as well as Canada as a whole. However, there are over 40 museums from art galleries to zoological centers to explore.
Whether you are into contemporary art, fine arts, decorative arts, or any other type of art, Montreal features 16 art museums boasting permanent exhibitions as well as temporary exhibitions, allowing you to get a taste of both Canadian art and international art. Whether you visit a private museum, art gallery, or a public museum dedicated to art, you will see a lot of talent.
Besides art museums, Montreal also lauds a dozen history museums from the Centre Histoire de Montreal that features over 4,000 artifacts of Canadian history in their permanent collection to the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre dedicated to those living in Montreal. You can also find several natural history, military, and medical museums as well as two zoological establishments.
The Chateau Ramezay Historic Site and Museum of Montreal is a special place with over 500 years of history inside and outside in the Governor's Garden of New France. Also, the Space for Life is a whole museum district in Montreal, Canada. It features four museums including the Biodome, Planetarium, Insectarium, and the Montreal Botanical Garden. Leave your large bags and extra belongings at a luggage storage site in Montreal and go explore.
Canadian Centre for Architecture
In the neighborhood of Shaughnessy Village, a quaint part of Montreal, the Canadian Centre for Architecture is found in a historic house, the Shaughnessy House, built in 1874. Inside, there are over 130 thousand square feet of exhibit halls including a permanent exhibition of its permanent collection as well as temporary exhibitions.
You will also find laboratories, a study area, a library, a bookstore, and the Paul Desmarais Theatre. Outside, the CCA sculpture garden is filled with native flora as well as sculptures. Since 1973, the mansion that the museum is in has been one of the National Historic Sites of Canada.
In an old metal foundry in the Multimedia district of Montreal, this contemporary art museum was named an exceptional heritage value building. This is one of the Montreal museums that bring people from all over to see with such a special building constructed in 1880 that employed most of the neighborhood's residents at one time or another.
An arts organization that buys old warehouses and other industrial buildings bought the Foundry in 2002 and it is now a popular contemporary art museum. Although the gallery has its own small collection, the temporary exhibitions are what most people visit for. Some of these include works by artists such as Barb Steinman, Ulla von Brandenburgh, Shilpa Gupta, and Mark Lewis.
Museum of Contemporary Art of Montreal
Also known as the MAC, this contemporary art museum is found in the largest cultural complex in Canada at the Place des Arts in downtown Montreal. With a large permanent collection, the fairly small building rotates its masterpieces in four rooms. It is also the home of the largest collection of art by Quebec artists in the world.
The other four rooms are dedicated to temporary exhibits of contemporary art with work done by Canadian and international artists. This gives guests a way to see local art and allows the artists to showcase their work in a museum. One unique permanent collection can be found on the roof. It is a closeup of a pair of lips done by Genevieve Cadieux.
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
The largest and the oldest art museum in Canada, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts can be found on Sherbrooke Street and has been open to the public since 1860. It boasts over 140,000 square feet of exhibition space. The museum's collection started with a group of art lovers and the Anglican bishop Francis Fulford and today it boasts about 44,000 pieces in five connected pavilions.
There are seven permanent collections including Quebec and Canadian Art, Arts of One World, International Contemporary Arts, the Sculpture Garden, Early to Modern International Art, Decorative Arts and Design, and Photography and Graphic Arts. Besides all of this, the museum presents exhibitions from European masters as well as Canadian artists year-round.
Stewart Hall Art Gallery
Just a few minutes' drive from Downtown Montreal, this 1963 contemporary art gallery features art not just inside but outside as well. The exterior of the historic house was built from locally found limestone bricks and has a symmetrical design with 35 rooms. The art gallery boasts eight unique exhibitions per year with a variety of mediums, approaches, and themes.
Over the past four decades, the gallery has shown a vast array of contemporary artworks and exhibitions done by professionals as well as young local talent. Besides the art collection, the gallery also lauds special events like craft fairs, culture days, workshops, and concerts.
Space for Life (Montreal Botanical Garden/Biosphere/Biodome/Planetarium, Insectarium)
Space for Life is a group of museums in Montreal, which includes the five most important natural museums. The Biodome, Biosphere, Botanical Garden, Insectarium, and the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium are all on Sherbrooke Street creating the largest natural science museum complex in the country. However, the Planetarium has been going through major renovations.
The Botanical Garden has 20 thematic gardens and 10 greenhouses. The Planetarium lauds two theaters with laser projectors for HD movies. The Montreal Insectarium has the largest insect collection in North America. The Biodome is home to over 4,500 animals in four distinct ecosystems. And the Biosphere is an environmental museum with rotating temporary exhibits about the natural world.
Centre d'histoire de Montreal
Also known as the Center for Montreal History, this museum is located in a former firehouse built in 1903 in Old Montreal. The facade is impressive, made of brick and sandstone with a magnificent example of Flemish style. The skylight and tower are also unique features. The building features a large exhibit on the ground floor with a collection of maps, art, photos, and objects of things that made history.
The permanent exhibit on the ground floor is made up of 4,000 items from the 1900s including items from Expo 67 and other historic exhibitions. The upper floors feature temporary exhibits of history including anything that made a major impact on Montreal. Visitors can even listen to songs or stories or watch old film clips.
Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre
After WWII, many Jewish immigrants ended up in Montreal, which made it one of the biggest populations of Holocaust survivors in the world. The museum is the only one in Canada dedicated to the Holocaust survivors and boasts almost 13 thousand artifacts. Most were donated by survivors of the holocaust.
The permanent exhibition features 372 photos and 418 artifacts donated to help educate the public on the atrocity of the Holocaust. In addition, you can find the largest oral history collection from Holocaust survivors in the world with more than 800 recorded oral histories and stories.
Pointe-a-Calliere Montreal Museum of Archaeology and History
The city's largest archaeology museum in Canada and most visited in Montreal is located in the walkable area of Old Montreal on the historic site where the city was founded in 1642. There are three sites, the Pointe-a-Calliere, Place d'Youville, and the Place Royal. Most of the collection is made up of artifacts from the First Nations Indigenous Peoples including old weapons, pottery, and even some documents.
The first dig site features the city's first settlement in the 1600s, with the museum itself built on pilings to protect the exposed findings. Permanent exhibits include 1701, Building Montreal, and Where Montreal Began to name a few. Temporary exhibitions of both local and international archaeological items are also hosted annually.
A social history museum, the McCord Museum was opened in 1921 and is dedicated to the past and present times in Montreal with more than 1.5 million objects. It was named after David McCord, who has donated much of the family collection, some of it including works of art.
What used to be part of McGill University is now home to the McCord Museum and its family collection of items. Some of these include ethnology, costumes, photos, paintings, decorative arts, and texts. The 39,000 decorative arts pieces include toys, folk art, sports and hunting equipment, and sculptures. The painting collection boasts almost 70,000 pieces as well.
Redpath Museum of Natural History
Named after its commissioner, Peter Redpath, this natural history museum at McGill University is also an architectural jewel of Greek Revival style. It opened in 1882 and has a permanent collection that boasts almost three million items like Ancient Egyptian mummies, a spectacular minke whale skeleton, and a Charles Darwin exhibition.
The museum is devoted to ethnology, zoology, paleontology, and mineralogy with more than 14 thousand invertebrates and 10 thousand vertebrates. These include bones, fossils, skins, and shells. You can even see a passenger pigeon, a Carolina parakeet, and the bones of Steller's sea cow, which is now extinct.
Montreal Science Center
Devoted to teaching the public how science and technology shape our lives, the Montreal Science Center is packed with history as well as futuristic items. Even adults love to learn at the Montreal Science Center with its permanent interactive exhibitions.
Discover the science that creates and changes matter, water, light, air, and motion or head to the Creativity Factory to make your own inventions. The Great Bear Rainforest 3D is a popular spot with its realistic scenes and the Sea Lions 3D is a popular exhibit as well featuring Australian sea lions.
This historic house dates back to 1705, making it one of the oldest buildings in North America. It was also the first building in Quebec to be listed as a historic monument. It was the Canadian headquarters for the American Revolutionary Army in 1775 and where Benjamin Franklin stayed when he tried to get Montreal to be the 14th state in the US in 1776.
In 1849, the Ramezay historic house went back to being the personal residence of the governor and you can visit during a reenactment to see the actors show how things were done in the 18th century. The garden is a favorite spot for many with its style from the 1700s.
Museums in Montreal
Even with this extensive list of Montreal museums, we still did not even come close to covering them all. For example, the Bank of Montreal Museum was founded in 1817 and is the oldest bank in Canada. The Canadian Aviation Heritage Center boasts five real aircraft and the history of each one. There is even a craft museum and a video game museum.