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Montreal's Best Museums: Explore a Wide Variety of Interests



Montreal offers visitors outstanding attractions including world class museums. Since Montreal is one of North America's oldest cities, it's only natural that a fair number of her museums focus on history and these are often found in downtown Montreal or in Old Montreal, the birthplace of this wonderful city.

But the Montreal museum story doesn't end there. Top art, nature and science museums can all be found in this tourist - friendly mecca too. All of Montreal's museums offer something of interest to every member of the family from young children to grandparents too. Whether it's architecture, history, art, science or nature you're interested in, you'll find it all in Montreal's outstanding museums. Montreal's state of the art museums focus on multimedia and other digital learning tools.

Museum passes are available also to make sure you get the best deal for your vacation dollar. Several art museums also offer free admission on certain days - be sure to check museum websites before you venture out. It's also a good idea to plan your museum visits by location as several are often found in close proximity to one another. Many Montreal museums are conveniently located near metro station stops making it easy and budget friendly to visit these Montreal treasures.


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Planétarium de Montréal
Photo courtesy of Mikayla Taylor

The Montreal Planetarium brings astronomy to Montrealers and visitors alike who appreciate the clear, light-pollution-free skies and the chance to handle samples of meteorites. The permanent exhibitions include "Mars Rocks" and "Our Quest for Life in the Universe" and "Astro Kids" providing information and tools for observing all things space. The displays focus primarily on new events and discoveries from the past 40 years, especially in Quebec skies. Temporary exhibitions focus on such topics as "Cosmic Collisions", Planet 9" and "The Secrets of Gravity." Multimedia shows vary and include such topics as, "Our Galaxy: The Milky Way" and "The Quest for Galactium" explore the Milky Way as an adventurous mission and allows participants to explore the sun, planets, star clusters, star nurseries and gas clouds.

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Insectarium de Montréal

Begun with two donated collections of insects from more than 100 countries, the Montreal Insectarium today maintains about 144,000 specimens. Along with an amazing variety of mounted insects the museum has 75 vivariums, displays of live critters such as honeybees, leaf cutter ants, water beetles, scorpions, walking sticks and spiders. A fascinating place to spend a couple of hours, especially if you're a kid! The Insectarium is known for its expertise in entomology. These scientific collections of naturalized specimens, which are of high quality and great significance, are valuable tools to help better understand nature and how it is impacted by human activities.

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named for the sugar baron who generously supported the museum, The Redpath has been around since 1882.This museum on the campus of McGill University features a wide range of fossils (including dinosaurs!), skeletons of rare and extinct animals, rocks and minerals, and a fine collection of Egyptian antiquities. Courses offered by the McCord Museum include Science Writing and a new museum studies course, Science and Museums, which focuses on the history of research and management of natural history collections. At the graduate level, students wanting to study biosystematics and evolutionary biology can find several supervisors working on a variety of topics.

Recommended for Museums because: It's an important natural history museum wiht a focus on teaching.

Sherel's expert tip: While admission is free a five dollar donation is the norm.

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The McCord Museum houses historic artifacts and visual art from the 18th and 19th centuries. Fun exhibitions like the toy collection allow older visitors to revisit their favorites from childhood while younger visitors can enjoy special school holiday camps. Evening art and cultural based activities add to the appeal of this original teaching museum that offers an impressive online collection. The museum provides much information dealing with the art, culture and history of Native Canadians. Visitors can view native furs, carvings, embroidery, beadwork and 10,000 costumes. Also on display are the Notman Archives, a photography collection containing over 700,000 prints.

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Le Musée du Château Dufresne
Photo courtesy of Courtesy of Musee du Chateau Dufresne

Built between 1915 and 1918, the Chateau Dufresne is a beaux arts-style private mansion which was owned by the Dufresne brothers, two important members of the Montreal French Bourgeoisie. Today, it houses the museum, dedicated to Montreal's East End history, which is today a predominantly French neighborhood. The studio features cardboard mock-ups of finished artworks as well as an ancient stove and explanations of stained glass production techniques. The studio highlights the inspiration of Italian - Canadian artist Nincheri whose murals, painted in the 1920s are found in Catholic churches across North America. Stained-glass windows, marble floors and Italian Renaissance ceilings and beautiful furnishings are on display year-round.

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The Chateau Ramezay, dating back to 1705, is one of the oldest buildings in North America. It was the site of Benjamin Franklin's attempt to persuade Montreal to become the 14th state of the United States. The permanent exhibition allows visitors to take a tour through time from prehistory through the early 20th century. At the garden level on the bottom level,re-enactors show how life was led during the 1700s. Outside, the garden proper is laid out in traditional 18th-century style with many species close to those that existed in Ramezay's day.Best to call eh museum beforehand to see if there are any school groups booked in.

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Montreal's Biodome is the only one of its kind in the world with over 4,500 animals from 250 different species and 500 plant species, all under one roof. The Biodome features four distinct ecosystems recreated in the former 1976 Olympic Games Velodrome. The museum was created to showcase the four most beautiful habitats found in North, Central and South America. Mammals, birds and plant life thrive in mini-habitats so that visitors, especially children, will enjoy all four environments. A favorite activity with adults and children alike centers on the penguin feeding times. Day camps for children aged seven to 14 are particularly popular.

Recommended for Museums because: It is the only museum of its kind to be found anywhere.

Sherel's expert tip: Purchase a Nature Package for entrance into the Biodome, the Botanical Garden and the Insectarium for big savings.

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The Musee des Beaux Arts, founded in 1860, is Canada's oldest museum and boasts some of the finest paintings in the country. Among its permanent holdings are artworks from Canadian artists and those created by European masters. The museum also features native Canadian artifacts and a collection of period furnishings, along with drawings, engravings, silverware and works of art from ancient Asia, Egypt, Greece and South America. More contemporary exhibitions include an examination of Andy Warhol's advertising, the images of local photographers as well as a look at art as a means to social and environmental change. An on-site restaurant offers light fare.

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Housed in the cultural complex, Montreal's Place des Arts on Sainte-Catherine St West downtown, the museum is home to both permanent and traveling contemporary art exhibitions, with a strong focus on Quebec art post 1940's. The permanent collection contains more than 7,000 pieces, including the largest collection of art by Quebec artist, Paul-�mile Borduas. The museum seeks to connect visitors to Quebec, Canadian and international contemporary art by showcasing performance art, new dance, experimental theatre, contemporary music, video and film along with painting and sculpture and an extensive contemporary art library. The Montreal Museums card is honored here and the chic cafe is well worth a visit too.

Recommended for Museums because: It is one of the top contemporary art museums in Canada.

Sherel's expert tip: Admission is half price on Wednesday evenings from 5 pm until 9 pm but it's closed Mondays.

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Housed in an award-winning building, as might be expected for an architecture museum, the Centre for Canadian Architecture is dedicated to architecture, urban planning and landscape design. To that effect, it exhibits the works of prominent architects and also displays its own collection of prints and drawings which number more than 65,000. The museum also maintains a library and gardens. In addition, the facility incorporates the historic Shaughnessy House into its construction, a circa-1874 home that has been converted to reception rooms and administrative offices.The CCA Bookstore specializes in contemporary architectural practice, architectural history and theory, city planning, landscape and garden history, photography and historical preservation.

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Meet Sherel Purcell

Sherel Purcell is a travel writer who specializes in golf, Montreal and Quebec, contemporary art, cycling and food and wine. Her articles appear on USA Today's 10Best, About.com, Aol, Matador,...  More About Sherel

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