Montreal is a great town for art. Local artists show their work regularly in galleries. There is a fine arts museum and a contemporary one. Plus, street art abounds. But, art isn’t everyone’s jam. (It really could be your jam, but that’s another post). Montreal abounds with museums of all sorts. Here are the five you really shouldn’t miss
Pointe-à-Callière | Montréal Archaeology and History Complex
This enormous museum is on the site of actual archeological sites. It starts with a multimedia show projected upon building ruins. Don’t try to skip this. They won’t let you. You can ask in English. You can ask in French. They won’t. The pictures, or my verbal description, don’t nearly do this justice. I know it sounds bizarre. But, it is actually wonderful. My daughter, who listened to the audio in Chinese, loved this introduction to the history of Montreal. My daughter doesn’t speak Chinese.
After this required show, you can wander through the museum, traipsing over archeological digs, looking at the detritus pulled out of the earth right where you are now standing. This is a very evocative space. You are walking down roads that are four-hundred-year-old. You are immersed in real, tangible (though only touch the parts you are allowed to) history. Even the non-history buff will feel sucked in.
This is an institution geared for people of all ages, with long texts for adults and hands on experiences for kids. There are also immerse experiences for families. We particularly loved the pirate ship despite learning we not strong enough to hoist the line or nimble enough to sleep in a dodgy hammock. The pirate ship was a temporary exhibit, but given its quality, I expect all the family installations would be equally enjoyable.
Centre d’Histoire de Montreal
This is a teeny, veeny museum set amongst hip restaurants and shops. This one takes the history of Montreal from the point of view of its citizens. I put this one on the list, because our daughters really enjoyed it. There was a family guide and an audiotour in English. In about 30 minutes, we got caught up on who and how Montreal came to be the city it was. Not nearly as evocative as Pointe-a-Calliere, but enjoyable.
Plus, there was a person working on a scale model of the city. She sits in the entry carving tiny little buildings and setting small trees. It was so incredibly magical that we stayed there a long while gazing on her labors.
That said, if you were picking between the two, pick this for its convenience and succinctness or pick the archeology museum for its depth and vastness.
This private museum, just over the bridge from Montreal, has interesting exhibitions. Last summer, in one exhibit, visitors can open colored doors only to find strange assortments of artifacts. Another exhibit was a hands-on exhibit of games. The permanent exhibit is equally hands-on, with a chance to dress as historical inhabitants of the town.
This odd little museum is ideal if you don’t think of yourself as a museum person. There isn’t too much to see, and everything is presented in an accessible manner. The staff offered interesting additional information, in English and French.
My daughters don’t love bugs. Actually, they really dislike bugs. Yet, this space compelled us. Bugs are displayed like jewelry. Scores and scores of the most amazing creatures. Even the living ones on display, handled by the staff don’t seem so bad in this setting.
This space is not nearly as large as the biodome, which is why I recommend it. On a warm summer day, it is an ideal cool respite from the Botanical Gardens. A quick dive in, and then you can go back to the great outdoors.
Musee du costume et du textile du Quebec
I love an odd museum. Something so specialized and weird. This one is ideal for my family. We love clothes. Oh, and shoes, oh glorious shoes. In scale, this is the opposite of the archeology museum. A good hour is all you need. But for that wonderful hour, we got to imagine ourselves wearing the most fabulous shoes and clothes.