Montreal turns 375 years old on May 17. Say bonne fête to Quebec’s largest city by soaking up local history and culture at one of its many museums. Plus, May 28 is Montreal Museums Day, which means free admission to more than 30 of the city’s best. Many museums are hosting special exhibits in honour of the 50th anniversary of Montreal’s Expo 67, the 1967 world fair that aimed to showcase a forward-thinking view of art, technology and fashion.
The Biodôme (meaning “house of life”) houses five ecosystems including Sub-Antarctic Islands and Tropical Rainforest. It’s also home to animals such as penguins, piranhas and anacondas that typically unhabit these climate zones. When it opened in Olympic Park in 1992, the repurposed indoor cycling and judo venue was the first museum of its kind anywhere in the world.
Must-see exhibit: Until May 22, check out Springtime Awakening, a temporary habitat for amphibians and reptiles such as turtles, toads and salamanders.
The McCord Museum is dedicated to showcasing the history of life in Montreal with exhibits that focus on prominent Montrealers including Montreal Gazette cartoonist Aislin and the clothing of the area’s indigenous people. The museum has been open for nearly 100 years and is conveniently located across from McGill University in the shadow of Mount Royal.
Must-see exhibit: At the Fashioning Expo 67 exhibit (on until October 1), see the era’s fashion trends through drawings, photographs and film footage.
Located downtown, just off René-Lévesque Boulevard, the provincially owned contemporary art museum promotes contemporary Quebec art through its many temporary exhibitions. These exhibits often feature works from the museum’s extensive collection, including musical instruments.
Must-see exhibit: Until November 19, make sure to take in the State of the World exhibit that covers topics such as the fall of communism, globalization and the digital age.
In Parc Jean-Drapeau on Saint Helen’s Island, the Stewart Museum promotes Quebec heritage in its permanent exhibit, History and Memory. The exhibit showcases the history of New France and the influence of European civilization on what would eventually become known as North America. Artifacts such as rare books and navigation tools take visitors back over five centuries to the first settlement on Saint Helen’s Island.
Must-see exhibit: At Expo 67: A World of Dreams (on until October 8), learn about the technological advances and utopian nature of the fair. You’ll also get a look into the geopolitical context of the time and experience virtual reality and video mapping.
Did the kids tag along on your trip to Montreal? No worries. Take them to the Montréal Science Centre in the heart of the city’s Old Port. They’ll learn about the human body and evolution at the interactive and permanent exhibit, Human. Afterwards, catch the film Humpback Whales 3D on the big screen at the IMAX theatre. Fun and educational.
Must-see exhibit: Until September 4, forensic medicine and DNA analysis allow kids to investigate a crime scene at CSI: The Experience.
10 Reasons to Visit Montreal for its 375th Birthday
Montreal turns 375 on May 17, but the celebration lasts all year long. See the In Search of Expo 67 exhibition (it's the 50th anniversary) at Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, attend the country's first national Pride festival, visit a kilometre-long open-air museum and more.