Montreal Museum of Fine Arts - new pavilion

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

1379-1380 Sherbrooke West - 514-285-1600
Metro Guy-Concordia or Bus 24

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal) is the grande dame of the Canadian museum world. Founded in 1860, the original pavilion, shown at right - now known as the Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion - dates from 1912, and the Jean-Noêl Desmarais pavilion, facing it across Sherbrooke St., a Moshe Safdie design, from 1991. The pavilions are connected by an underground passage.

The museum has a large collection of decorative and ethnographic objects, 19th-century paintings, and Canadian paintings, prints and drawings, only a small fraction of which can be displayed at a time. It also hosts major travelling shows. Café and boutique on the premises.

Admission to the permanent displays is free.

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts  - old pavilion    

Musée d'art contemporain

185 Ste-Catherine West - 514-847-6626
Metro Place-des-Arts or Bus 15, 80, 129

Montreal's modern art museum, the Musée d'art contemporain, once housed in Cité du Havre, acquired its permanent home by Place des Arts at Jeanne-Mance and Ste-Catherine in 1992. Specializing in works dating from 1940 onwards, the museum hosts shows in all media used by contemporary artists. Admission is $8; Wednesday evenings are free.

Musée d'art contemporain Montréal

Musée d'art contemporain - detail    
Canadian Centre for Architecture - front gate

Canadian Centre for Architecture

1920 Baile Street - 514-939-7026
Metro Guy-Concordia or Bus 150

The Centre canadien de l'architecture opened in 1989. An interestingly schizoid building, the façade facing René-Lévesque is the grand old Shaughnessy mansion, which came very close to demolition before the museum plan saved it; the façade with the entrance - the gate shown on left - facing Baile Street (one of downtown's most modest thoroughfares) is as aloof as modern architecture can be. Inside, the mated buildings are superbly well finished.

It's worth exploring the exterior of the building as part of your visit: the Shaughnessy façade is partially mirrored across René-Lévesque by a spooky sculpture (far right) which leads to an entirely surreal sculpture garden with a view over the Ville-Marie Expressway of the lower parts of town.

The CCA is not only a museum that hosts shows of all kinds related to architecture, but also a major study centre for the discipline. Has a bookstore that will tempt anyone with an interest in the design arts. Adult admission is $10 and Thursday evenings are free.

Canadian Centre for Architecture Canadian Centre for Architecture - sculpture garden
Centre d'histoire de Montréal

Historical museums in Old Montreal

Centre d'histoire de Montréal, 335 Place Youville - 872-3207
Musée d'archéologie Pointe-à-Callière, 350 Place Royale - 514-872-9150
Metro Place d'Armes or Square-Victoria

The Centre d'histoire de Montréal, shown at left, built inside the old fire hall on Place Youville, is a deliberately tactile and multimedia experience of what Montreal has been like at different eras of its history - elements like lamp posts, fireboxes, a streetcar ride, are brought together to give a sense of the layered history of the city.

Place Royale, home of the Pointe-à-Callière museum, shown at right, is the location of the very first European settlement in Montreal. The museum includes the 1992 building in the photo as well as several others nearby, including the old Customs House on the square. A visit to the museum includes a 20-minute multimedia presentation encapsulating Montreal's history, and a visit to the archaeological dig beneath the museum, which goes back to the very origins of the city. Temporary exhibits are headlined from time to time.

These two museums are a five-minute walk from each other along beautifully landscaped Place Youville, where you can also see the granite obelisk dating from 1894 that honours the city's founders.

Musée d'archéologie Pointe-à-Callière Musée d'archéologie Pointe-à-Callière - detail

Additional historical museums in Montreal include:

The McCord Museum of Canadian History, 690 Sherbrooke West - 514-398-7100
The David M. Stewart Museum, 20 chemin Tour-de-l'Isle (the Old Fort), Île Sainte-Hélène - 514-861-6701