Montréal’s Museum of Fine Arts is an accessible and beautifully updated oasis of art housed in architecturally striking buildings. A visit here is a must for art-lovers, with centuries' worth of paintings, sculpture, decorative arts, furniture, prints, drawings and photographs on display.
European heavyweights include Rembrandt, Picasso and Monet, but the museum really shines when it comes to Canadian art. Highlights include works by Prudence Heward and Paul Kane, landscapes by the Group of Seven and abstractions by Martha Townsend and Jean-Paul Riopelle. Temporary exhibits are often exceptional and have included a showcase on French fashion designer Thierry Mugler.
There is also a fair amount of Inuit and indigenous artifacts and lots of fancy decorative knickknacks, including Japanese incense boxes and Victorian chests.
The collection is housed in five pavilions. The beaux-arts, marble-covered Michal & Renata Hornstein Pavilion presents World Cultures – everything from ancient African to modern Japanese art.
Behind this building is the Liliane & David M Stewart Pavilion, where you'll find an eye-catching decorative-arts collection. Glass, ceramics, textiles, furniture and industrial-design pieces from around the globe have been assembled.
Adjacent to this building on Rue Bishop is the Michal & Renata Hornstein Pavilion for Peace (not to be confused with the similarly named pavilion mentioned above), which opened in 2017 and features 750 works from Old Masters to contemporary artists, and the new Michel de la Chenelière International Atelier for Education and Art Therapy.
Across Ave du Musée, the Claire & Marc Bourgie Pavilion is situated in a renovated 1894 church and displays some magnificent works of Canadian and Québécois art. Head to the top floor to delve into Inuit art and its cultural legacy. The church’s Bourgie Concert Hall features gorgeous Tiffany stained-glass windows and live shows.
The modern Moshe Safdie–designed annex across Sherbrooke is the Jean-Noël Desmarais Pavilion, home to the Old and Modern Masters, with paintings from the Middle Ages stretching through the Renaissance and classical eras up to contemporary works. It can be reached via an underground passage from the Hornstein Pavilion.
Underground tunnels connect different pavilions so there's no need to brave the elements between exhibitions. Individual Pavilions may be closed for reinstallation, so be sure to check in advance of your visit.
Tickets and other practicalities
Timed-tickets must be bought online in advance of your visit. These admit you to the Major Exhibition, Discovery Exhibitions, and the museum's collections. Outdoors guided tours on architecture and sculpture are available for an additional fee. Tickets are half price on Wednesdays after 5pm. Admission is cheaper for people under 30 and free for those under 20.
Plan in lots of breaks or multiple visits. There is lots of walking to be done so trying to see it all in one day can be tiring.