An Art Lover’s Guide to Montreal in 24 Hours

Montreal Summer Skyline | © FOTOimage Montreal / Shutterstock
Montreal Summer Skyline | © FOTOimage Montreal / Shutterstock
Photo of Emily Paskevics
25 October 2017

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.

Museum of Contemporary Art | Guilhem Vellut/ WikiCommons

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 | © Shinya Suzuki/ Flickr

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.

Old Montreal, a neighbourhood that hosts many of the city's private art galleries & shops | © Daniel Kuhn / Flickr

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.

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.

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.

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 | © Exile on Ontario St/ Flickr

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.

brb just opening portals with my bare hands, eyes wide⚡️#MTLstreetart

A post shared by emily paskev.🌿 (@epaskev) on

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.


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.

Hi! Our beautiful upstairs balcony seating is open on weeknights again!

A post shared by Agrikol 1844 Rue Amherst MTL (@agrikol_mtl) on

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