While New York City and London are often perceived as the museum capitals of the world, they’re far from the only cities with a wide variety of interesting exhibits and installations. In Montreal’s museums, you’ll find a little bit of everything on display: fine art, historical accounts, quirky collectibles, the science of sound. The city’s museums make Montreal a great stop for people who want to learn more about various subjects as they travel the world.
With that in mind, here are six of our favorite museums from Montreal.
There’s no museum quite like Montreal’s Barbie Expo. Featuring more than 1,000 dolls, the Expo is the largest permanent exhibition of Barbies in the world, but it’s much more than an interesting stop for toy collectors.
If you’re a fashionista or a pop culture fan, the Barbie Expo is definitely worth your time. Many of the dolls are dressed in outfits designed by Christian Dior, Oscar de la Renta, Ralph Lauren, Vera Wang, Zac Posen, and other major fashion houses. Other dolls look like characters from popular movies and TV shows, including “The Wizard of Oz,” “I Love Lucy,” and even “Pirates of the Caribbean,” while still others represent famous women throughout history such as Marie Antoinette, Audrey Hepburn, and Beyoncé.
The museum also houses a collection of dolls representative of other cultures, and it even has a large pink box that visitors can climb into for a Barbie-themed photo op. Admission is free, but the museum accepts donations on behalf of Make-A-Wish Quebec.
Hours: Open every day at 10 a.m.; closing times vary
Address: 1455 rue Peel, Montreal
Museum of Fine Arts
Montreal’s Museum of Fine Arts owns a huge collection of 43,000 works — paintings, sculptures, photographs, decorative objects, and more — from around the world. Some of the pieces date back to Greek and Roman times, while modern artists created others, but all are well worth your attention.
The museum also hosts a number of temporary exhibits each year, with recent ones centered around artists like Pablo Picasso and Alexander Calder (the American sculptor who invented the mobile). Between the permanent collections and temporary exhibits, you’ll have a hard time seeing everything in just one visit.
As if that wasn’t impressive enough, the museum also emphasizes the importance of art therapy and wellness. It collaborates closely with university professors and medical professionals, and the museum’s programming includes workshops and prescribed visits for people living with mental health issues, autism, eating disorders, and more.
Hours: Open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (9 p.m. on Wednesday)
Address: 1380 rue Sherbrooke Ouest, Montreal
Admission: $23 (31 and up), $15 (13-30), $11.50 (on Wednesdays)
Museum of Sound
Listen up! Montreal’s Museum of Sound — also known as the Musée des Ondes Emile Berliner — is dedicated to all things sound production. The museum’s original collection only consisted of 100 artifacts, but today, visitors can find more than 30,000 on the premises. Keep an eye out for items like turntables, early radios, and recording equipment.
The institution is named after Emile Berliner, a German-born immigrant who invented an early microphone and patented the world’s first gramophone. During his career, he founded companies that produced gramophones in several nations around the world, and the Museum of Sound is actually located in a building once owned by his Montreal-based company.
The museum is a fascinating exhibit that brings the history of audio production and music recording to life. Make sure that you stop by before leaving Montreal!
Hours: Open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Guided tours available on Saturday and Sunday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Address: 1001 rue Lenoir, room E-206, Montreal
Admission: $5 (adults), $3 (students)
This kid-friendly museum boasts the distinction of being located on the grounds where Montreal was established in 1642. To celebrate this, Pointe-à-Callière showcases the city’s history through multimedia and archaeological exhibits, with permanent collections dedicated to Montreal’s origins, the city’s pirate legacy, and more.
Tickets are fairly expensive, but young adults, teenagers, children, and seniors are eligible for sizable discounts. And since Pointe-à-Callière is Canada’s largest archaeological museum, a national historic site, and the best place to learn about Montreal’s history, it’s well worth a visit.
Hours: Open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. (11 a.m. on weekends) to 5 p.m.
Address: 350 Place Royale, Montreal
Admission: $22 (31 and up), $19 (senior), $15 (18-30), $13 (13-17), $8 (5-12)
Montreal Holocaust Museum
Easily the most sobering museum in the city, this institution memorializes one of the darkest periods of human history. At the Montreal Holocaust Museum, you’ll experience the pre-war period, Nazi Era, Holocaust, and post-war rebuilding phase through the eyes of a survivor.
It’s often difficult to understand how the Holocaust could have happened, but this museum makes the subject approachable by focusing on the experiences of survivors who later immigrated to Montreal. Throughout the exhibits, you’ll find their personal belongings and photos, and you’ll have a chance to see them retell their stories through video installations.
The museum also addresses anti-Semitism in Quebec and throughout Canada — a topic that hopefully helps visitors understand, and learn to confront, the pervasive nature of prejudice. The experience ends in a quiet room dedicated to the victims’ memory, letting visitors pay homage, gather their thoughts, and find ways to uproot prejudice from their own lives and communities.
Hours: Open Sunday through Friday from 10 a.m.; closing times vary
Address: 5151 chemin de la Côte-Sainte-Catherine, Montreal
Admission: $8 (adults), $5 (students, children, seniors)
Even in a city full of unique museums, the Biosphere manages to stand out. For one thing, it’s housed in a giant geodesic dome — a steel-latticed, honeycomb-patterned structure that was originally designed for Expo 67, the world fair hosted in Montreal more than 50 years ago.
But the museum’s purpose is even more interesting than its design. The Biosphere is the only environmental museum in North America, and its exhibits are dedicated to topics like climate change, biodiversity, sustainable development, meteorology, and air and water quality. The museum is interactive, educational, and (above all else) really fun.
So, if you’d like to learn more about going green during your time in Montreal, you know where to go! Biosphere tickets cost $15 for adults ($12 for seniors, $10 for students).
Hours: Open every day in summer from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; open Wednesday through Sunday in winter, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Address: Parc Jean-Drapeau, Montreal
Admission: $15 (adults), $12 (seniors), $10 (students)
Did we miss any of your favorite Montreal museums? Let us know in the comments below!