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The Insider Guide to Quebec City’s Musée National des Beaux-Arts

By AMANDA HALM

Photo: Sandra-Cohen Rose and Colin Rose

With almost 35,000 works of Quebec art dating all the way back to the 17th century, the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec is a must-see for art lovers. Go for the paintings and stay for a prison tour. Afterwards, play on the Plains of Abraham or shop the gift shop.

Whatever you do, get the most out of the Musée with these five insider tips:

1. Enjoy extra lingering time. As with any art museum, the less crowded it is, the better the experience. Visit during non-peak hours and linger at each piece without feeling rushed. In winter and spring, it is open from 10 am to 5 pm, Tuesday through Sunday, and on Wednesdays until 9 pm. Skip Saturday tourist time and opt instead for a weekday afternoon.

Quebec City Jail (Photo: Doug Zwick)

2. Pay for the exhibitions. Sure, the museum has its own collection, viewable free of charge but the temporary exhibits are worth the $15 admission price ($7 with student ID card). Don’t expect to see stuffy old portrait after stuffy old portrait—the special exhibits feature everything from fashion to ballet to architecture and typically give a good visual history of Quebec.

3. Go to jail. Tours of the Quebec City Jail, which is integrated with the museum are offered year-round to groups and give a startling look inside 20th century prison life. If touring isn’t your thing, grab lunch at the Musée Café, inside the prison. Show up before the noon lunch rush to nab one of the coveted cell-side tables.

4. Play on the Plains. Save at least an hour in your itinerary to ski or stroll through the Plains of Abraham. With rolling hills, well-groomed trails, and a breathtaking panorama of the St. Lawrence, it’s a work of natural art.

5. Don’t skip the gift shop. Normally, insiders vote in favor of skipping museum gift shops. Not this time! For a souvenir that doesn’t scream souvenir, check out the mugs and magnets printed with works by area artists or take a look at the handmade jewelry.

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