Updated February 17, 2014
The official Montreal museums website gives details on the three-day Montreal museum pass.
Montreal Museums is a free iPhone app that displays local museums by name or proximity, suggests what's hot, proposes cultural walks, and allows you to select permanent or temporary exhibits. Recommended.
Montreal Museums Day takes place in late May and offers free access to 29 participating museums along five free special bus routes.
Our major museums are:
Also see our historical museums page
Musées de Montréal's photos of the 38 museums in Montreal
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 above at left – now known as the Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion – dates from 1912, and the Jean-Noël Desmarais pavilion, facing it across Sherbrooke St., a Moshe Safdie design, from 1991. The pavilions are connected by an underground passage. A new pavilion, the Claire and Marc Bourgie pavilion, has recently been opened inside the old Erskine and American Church which adjoins the museum, to contain the museum's extensive collection of Quebec and Canadian art.
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.
An exhibit of the paintings of Peter Doig is open till May 4, 2014.
Café and boutique on the premises.
Admission to the permanent displays is free.
Montreal's contemporary art museum, the Musée d'art contemporain, moved into its present home by Place des Arts at Jeanne-Mance and Ste-Catherine in 1992, and is now part of the growing Quartier des Spectacles neighbourhood .
Specializing in works dating from 1940 onwards, the museum hosts shows in all media used by contemporary artists. Admission is $12; Wednesday evenings are free.
There's a boutique and restaurant on the premises.
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 facing Baile Street (one of downtown's most modest thoroughfares), shown above, is as aloof as modern architecture can be.
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 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 presents exhibits related to architecture, but also a major study centre for the discipline. It also has a bookstore that will tempt anyone with an interest in the design arts, and there are lectures, movie screenings and other events. Adult admission is $10 and Thursday evenings are free.
The current exhibit is Casablanca Chandigarh, closing April 20, 2014.
Next: History museums