An Art Lover’s Guide to Montreal in 24 Hours

Montreal Summer Skyline
Montreal Summer Skyline | © FOTOimage Montreal / Shutterstock

Montreal has long been recognized as one of the most creative cities in North America, a reputation that extends through the tremendous output of music, visual arts, dance, and literature that emerges from the city. From galleries and museums to street art and artsy cafés, here are some of Montreal’s creative highlights that you won’t want to miss—even if you’ve only got a limited amount of time in the city.

Must-visit museums

Contemporary Art Museum of Montreal

The Musée d’art contemporain (MAC), which lies in the Quartier des Spectacles, has been exhibiting some of the best international contemporary art since opening in 1964. MAC offers a variety of digital and sound pieces, installations, ephemeral works, paintings, sculptures, and more. Visitors will also find performances and other festive events throughout the year at MAC.

Insider Tip: If you can, plan your trip around one of MAC’s popular Nocturne events—you won’t regret it! The concept of the Nocturnes is to open the museum’s doors past midnight so that visitors can explore the exhibitions, watch live performances, enjoy some drinks with friends, and more—well into the night.

Contemporary Art Museum, 185 Saint-Catherine St W, Montreal, QC, Canada, +1 514 847 6226

Museum of Contemporary Art

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Musée des Beaux-Arts) is often referred to as the city’s most prestigious museum. A group of local art collectors and patrons created it in 1860, and today, the museum holds over 41,000 works that range from antiquity to the present day, including paintings, graphic arts, sculptures, photographs, and decorative art.

Insider Tip: To avoid potentially long entrance lines (especially for new visiting exhibitions), be sure to order your tickets online through the museum’s website.

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 1380 Sherbrooke St W, Montreal, QC, Canada, +1 514 285 2000

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

Artistic cafés

Café des Arts / Galerie MAM

Located in the Bonsecours Market in the Old Port, Café des Arts offers different fresh and often local menu items, baked goods, and seasonal treats such as ice cream, in addition to strong, artisanal and fair-trade coffee. The café blends seamlessly with the gallery space, which presents contemporary creative work by local artists, especially young and emerging artists.

Café des Arts, 350 St Paul St E, Montreal, QC, Canada, +1 514 439 5353

Old Montreal, a neighborhood that hosts many of the city’s private art galleries & shops

Arts Café

Arts Café in the Mile End is probably best known for its brunch offerings, in addition to its coffee. With vintage décor details and a trendy vibe, this space is also used to host arts-related events throughout the year. It’s a great place to stop by during a long day of exploring Montreal’s artistic hot spots.

Arts Café, 201 Avenue Fairmount O, Montreal, QC, Canada, +1 514 274 0919

Must-visit galleries

Montreal Art Centre

The Montreal Art Centre is a hub of the visual arts located in Griffintown, offering a space for up to 100 resident artists who work there in 65 studio spaces. The artists create and exhibit their work from these open personal studios, as well as in the Centre’s two public galleries: the Griffintown Gallery on the second floor and the William Street Gallery on the first floor.

Montreal Art Centre, 1844 William St, Montreal, QC, Canada, +1 514 667 2270

La Guilde

La Guilde is a non-profit historical gallery and museum of Canadian art that has been preserving, promoting, and encouraging the creation of fine crafts for over a century. With an emphasis on contemporary art, the Guilde specializes in Inuit, Métis, and First Nations creations that will give you insight into the diversity of Canadian crafts and artwork.

La Guilde, 1356 rue Sherbrooke Ouest, Montreal, QC, Canada, +1 514 849 6091

Interact with local art

Visit the Mural Festival

Montreal is celebrated for the diversity of its street art, which visitors can admire through many of its neighbourhoods—from downtown through the Plateau, Mile End, Rosemont, and beyond. The city hosts an annual international public art festival that focuses on murals and mural-making. During this week-long celebration, Boulevard Saint-Laurent becomes an open-air gallery where local and international artists can showcase their creative talents. In 2016, the festival drew over one million visitors.

A mural in Montreal’s Chinatown, by Gene Pendon & Bryan Beyung

Take a street art tour

Even if you don’t visit Montreal during the Mural Festival, you can enjoy the city’s impressive displays of street art through a street art tour that will take you through the trendy Plateau-Mont-Royal neighborhood with a professional guide. Gaining insight into the process and stories behind each mural will lend depth to the vivid colors and designs of these enormous works of public art.

Artsy restaurants


Located in Outremont, Rumi is a Middle Eastern restaurant with a creative edge. This cozy spot is tucked away from the main routes and features an interior layout that is similar to Turkish restaurants (namely low tables with cushioned seating). Its décor is a combination of Arabic, Persian and Turkish influences, reflecting the intricacies of pattern and design in traditional Islamic art.

After dinner, consider heading just across the street to La Croissanterie Figaro, a café/bakery that also has a creative Art Deco interior and cheesecake that can’t be missed.

Rumi, 5198 Hutchison St, Outremont, QC, Canada, +1 514 490 1999

La Croissanterie Figaro, 5200 Hutchison St, Outremont, QC, Canada, +1 514 278 6567


Haitian-themed restaurant Agrikol marks Montreal band Arcade Fire’s foray into the restaurant world, a project jointly created with top Toronto restaurateurs Jen Agg and Roland Jean. With its colorful décor, which includes sculptures and art pieces brought from Haiti by the owners, this two-story space serves delicious rum-based cocktails and Haitian plates such as rice and plantains, griot or oxtail. This vivid restaurant is a great place to have a meal at after a long day of exploring Montreal’s art scene, adding color and drawing from the city’s diversity.

Agrikol, 1844 Amherst St, Montreal, QC, Canada, +1 514 903 6575

Culture Trips launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes places and communities so special.

Our immersive trips, led by Local Insiders, are once-in-a-lifetime experiences and an invitation to travel the world with like-minded explorers. Our Travel Experts are on hand to help you make perfect memories. All our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.?>

All our travel guides are curated by the Culture Trip team working in tandem with local experts. From unique experiences to essential tips on how to make the most of your future travels, we’ve got you covered.

Culture Trip Spring Sale

Save up to $1,656 on our unique small-group trips! Limited spots.

Edit article