Montreal’s Museum Mile

Cultural institutions give the Golden Square Mile neighborhood its heady buzz, but travelers are never far from the city’s wilder side. Montreal Museum of Fine Art head curator Nathalie Bondil gave AFAR her top Montreal picks in the November/December 2014 issue.

1228 Sherbrooke St W, Montreal, Quebec H3G 1H6, Canada
This hotel is on our list of The 10 Best Hotels in Canada.

First opened for business in 1912, the iconic Ritz-Carlton Montreal—known as “the grande dame of Sherbrooke Street"—began a $200 million facelift in 2008, opening its doors again in 2012. Quebec’s most luxurious and historic hotel could tell endless celebrity secrets but is, of course, far too discreet to utter a word. It’s no secret, though, that Elizabeth Taylor married Richard Burton here, that the Rolling Stones rented the entire sixth floor in 1972, and that a who’s who of world leaders, movie stars, and royalty are still regular guests. Situated in the downtown culture and shopping hub that is the Golden Square Mile, the hotel oozes money-is-no-object luxury from every pore: from the ornate duck pond and immaculately manicured garden and terrace to the 100-year-old chandeliers, the sweeping staircases, and the belle époque golden glow of the lobby and palm court. Rooms have a white-and-gray minimalist palette with splashes of signature purple. Antiques and original features blend with ultra high-tech design such as Japanese Toto toilets in all bathrooms, heated floors, and motion-sensor lighting.
Montreal, QC, Canada
You might not think that Canadian history is a topic that would sustain your interest for too long, but a visit to the McCord Museum will likely change that preconception. With a tagline of “Our People, Our Stories,” the museum is committed to covering the various communities of Canada, and especially the city of Montréal, in all their diversity. Temporary exhibitions focus on the art and culture of anglophone, francophone, First Nations, immigrant, and other populations in Canada, usually from specific points of view, say, late 19th-century Canadian circus posters or a photographer who captured the 1960s art scene in Montréal. A permanent exhibit, “Wearing Our Identity,” includes both traditional and contemporary First Nations costumes. The museum is decidedly kid-friendly, with special events as well as souvenir backpacks and “game cards” designed to bring the exhibitions to life as young visitors search for animals, geometric shapes, and other clues in the works on display.
2081 Rue de la Montagne, Montréal, QC H3G 1Z8, Canada
“She’s an original yet timeless Québec fashion designer—a rare combination. Marie Saint Pierre is known for using unusual fabrics with soft colors as well as black and white. Her designs feel really classic. I stop in when I need something chic and comfortable,” says Nathalie Bondil, head curator at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
859 Rue Sherbrooke Ouest
Opened in 1880 as Canada‘s first natural history museum, the Redpath Museum has a charmingly old-school Victorian quality to it. The collection of artifacts assembled by intrepid explorers ranges from taxidermy and Egyptian mummies to geological samples and—one of its most prized possessions—a handwritten letter from Charles Darwin. The museum is located at the heart of McGill University, long one of Canada‘s most important institutions of higher learning. Most of the buildings on campus, all in a handsome gray stone on a lovely bit of green in downtown Montréal at the base of Mount Royal, date from the 19th and early 20th centuries.
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