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Photo courtesy of Viola Ng

This post is part of Matador’s partnership with Canada, where journalists show how to explore Canada like a local.

LAST WEEKEND, I took a mid-afternoon break from the Montreal Jazz Festival and decided to hide out inside to give my sunburned arms and face a chance to cool down. After a quick search on my phone, I came up with this list of museums with free admission, most of which were in walking distance of downtown.

1. McCord Museum of Canadian History

690 Sherbrooke Street West

FREE: Every Wednesday from 5pm to 9pm, every first Saturday of the month from 10am to 5pm

Also free: the museum’s app, which includes pics and video of the exhibitions to help you plan your trip.

The McCord looks fairly small from the outside, but inside are nearly 1.5 million artifacts and photos of Canadian history. Objects include aboriginal tools, baskets, and weaponry, 18th-century costumes and quilts, 19th-century photos and photography equipment, and nearly 70,000 paintings, maps, and portraits.

2. Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

1380, rue Sherbrooke Ouest

FREE: The permanent collection is always free

I’ll get right to the point, since this museum is massive (three buildings). What you need to do is go inside the main building and head downstairs to the permanent contemporary exhibit. It’s like reading Dr. Seuss on hallucinogenics. Fluorescent colors, rhinestones, armless clowns, sculptures of starved monkeys brutally attacking their fat companion, a pitch-black room you’re instructed to walk around clockwise while wearing 3D glasses — it’s a trip, to say the least. One of the best modern art museums I’ve ever visited.

3. Cinematheque Quebecoise

335 De Maisonneuve Blvd East

FREE: Exhibits are always free.

This film conservatory shows over 500 international films and videos a year. While viewings do have an admission fee, the exhibitions, which include historical equipment, scripts, stills, photos, props, and costumes, are always free. Currently, the “Do Not Adjust Your Set!” exhibit features nearly 100 vintage television sets, while “Forms in Motion” visually demonstrates how movement is created through stop-motion animation.

4. Musée de Lachine

1 chemin du Musée, Lachine

FREE: Always

A short drive from downtown Montreal, but worth it for the archaeology displays. The 17th-century Maison LeBer-LeMoyne contains over 400 archaeological artifacts. There’s also an outdoor contemporary sculpture garden, as well as temporary exhibits, the most current of which focuses on drawing and sketches.

5. Musée du Sault-au-Récollet

10897 du Pont Street

FREE: Always

This museum focuses on three centuries of local history. Located in northern Montreal, the grounds are home to a cider mill house, miller’s house, and mill site dating back to 1726. While it’s always free to visit, the museum is closed from November to April.

6. Redpath Museum

859 Sherbrooke Street West

FREE: Always

Redpath is part museum, part classroom. Located on the McGill University campus, it houses both ancient and modern artifacts, fossils, and minerals. Exhibits include marine vertebrates with terrestrial ancestors (i.e., whales, sea turtles, seals) and dinosaur specimens, including the skulls of a triceratops and a T-rex.

About The Author

Michelle Schusterman

Michelle is a musician, writer, and teacher just trying to see the world while doing what she loves for a living. She's taught ESL in Salvador, Brazil and kindergarten in Suwon, Korea, and now she's a full-time freelance writer living in Seattle (just to keep the city alliteration going). She'll try pretty much any food once and believes coffee is its own food group.

  • Carrie Joyce

    very helpful, thank you!

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