Best Museums in Vancouver

Explore Vancouver's Best Museums: Rich in History, Culture, and Intrigue

Part of what makes visiting a museum so great is that no two are the same, so you know you're going to see new things and learn. Vancouver has an eclectic mix of museums and galleries - some are home to pieces that are unique to this city, while others house exhibits that come from around the globe. 

To see where it all started for British Columbia, there’s no better place to start than at the Museum of Anthropology. It's here you'll get a glimpse of how B.C. and the rest of Canada began. Large totem poles and beautifully crafted carvings from Canada's First Nations are under the same roof as artifacts from around. These pieces are truly awe-inspiring.

For those who prefer something a little more weird and wacky, check out the Vancouver Police Museum. In this museum you will find everything from police uniforms, confiscated weapons, and a display of evidence from crime scenes in Vancouver. Located in the city's old morgue, the creep factor is upped when you step into the autopsy room. Not for the faint of heart!

If you're all about art, make your way to the Vancouver Art Gallery. This is the city's main art gallery and houses its own collection of The Group of Seven and rotating exhibits from artists all over the world.


On June 13, 1886, there was the Great Vancouver Fire, which took many buildings with it. The Hastings Mill Store was left untouched, leaving it to be Vancouver's oldest building. It wasn't originally at this location, but was built in Gastown and was saved from demolition and put on a barge to it's current location. It opened as a museum in 1931 by the Native Daughters of B.C. Post #1. Lumber has long been a major industry in Canada, and this was once a company store for a lumber operation and Vancouver's first post office. The building itself is quite historic, and inside you will find many more treasures of Vancouver's past. The museum is closed December through January.

Recommended for Museums because: Hastings Mill Store Museum is not only a museum, but Vancouver's oldest building.

Natasha's expert tip: Admission is by donation and proceeds go to maintaining this unique home to Vancouver's past.

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The BC Sports Hall of Fame is a must visit for sports enthusiasts visiting Vancouver. Located inside BC Place, there'd plenty to do and see inside the museum. This isn't your typical exhibition where you are not allowed to touch things, instead it's fully hands on with a rock climbing wall, virtual soccer and a host of other fun things to do. You will see memorabilia from past and present sports legends and a section dedicated to the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. The Terry Fox and Rick Hansen exhibits are especially special to Vancouverites whom they have inspired so much. Think you have what it takes to beat Greg Moore? Hop in the racing simulator and give it a whirl!

Recommended for Museums because: The BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum's interactive exhibits make this a fun place for sports enthusiasts to explore.

Natasha's expert tip: BC Place is a huge stadium and it may be a little difficult to find at first glance. Head to Gate A at Robson St. and Beatty St.

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Bill Reid is a national treasure and is known as a very talented Haida master goldsmith, sculptor, writer, carver and spokesman. Though his life ended in 1998, his legacy lives on in the small gallery in downtown Vancouver. The Bill Reid Gallery's main goal is to create an understanding and appreciation for contemporary Aboriginal art of the Northwest Coast. Inside the gallery, you will find a beautiful collection of his gold and silver jewelry, the acclaimed Mythic Messengers that's crafted from bronze and other pieces, like a full-scale totem pole cared by James Hart of Haida Gwaii. The gallery hours are Wednesday through Sunday, 11am to 5pm.

Recommended for Museums because: The Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art is home to some of Bill Reid's most famous pieces.

Natasha's expert tip: Even though it's downtown, it's a bit off the beaten path, so make sure you write down the address to avoid missing it.

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This Vancouver museum includes a life-size replica of a trading post, a 19th-century Canadian Pacific Railway passenger car, and an authentic dugout canoe in its many exhibits that document the history and evolution of Vancouver. The Orientation Gallery is a multi-layered timeline that uses artifacts to depict the growth and development of the region from pre-history to the heritage and culture of the First Nations to present day. A similar timeline is made with toys in a children's display. Just outside the museum is a beautiful park that's great to have a picnic or a run around with the kids.

Recommended for Museums because: The Museum of Vancouver offers fantastic educational programs that even include a sleepover with a real mummy!

Natasha's expert tip: Family admission includes 2 adults and/or seniors and up to 3 children.

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Vancouver Maritime Museum
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In 1944, the RCMP St Roch was in its prime and has since become a famous vessel in Canada. Its last sail found itself mooring in Vancouver, where it is now permanently on display at the Vancouver Maritime Museum. Step on board and look at the cozy quarters sailors had to endure as they sailed the rough seas. What makes this ship so special is that it was the first ship to circumnavigate all of North America. Along with the permanent displays, they have a number of temporary exhibits that sail in and out of the museum. There are fun activities for kids to do that are interactive and will get their creative juices flowing.

Recommended for Museums because: The Vancouver Maritime Museum gives guests the opportunity to step onto the St Roch and explore the ship.

Natasha's expert tip: Kits Beach is a stone's throw away and is the perfect spot to enjoy the afternoon after a visit to the Maritime Museum.

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At the Beaty Biodiversity Museum, learn how biodiversity evolved, why it matters to us and how we can conserve it. The museum hosts several exhibitions throughout the year and guests are treated to beautiful displays that fascinate and educate. Along with their temporary displays, the museum is also home to 500 permanent natural history exhibits. The most striking and awe-inspiring display is the Blue Whale Exhibit. There aren't very many blue whale skeletons on display to the public in the world and Vancouver's museum has the largest specimen in all of Canada. Getting to the museum from downtown Vancouver is easy by public transportation or car.

Recommended for Museums because: The Beaty Biodiversity Museum has Canada's largest blue whale skeleton on display to the public.

Natasha's expert tip: The exhibits rotate throughout the year so there's always something new to learn.

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Science World at Telus World of Science
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Go with the kids or your grandma, Science World, also knows as TELUS World of Science, is bound to excite all ages with the cool, interactive, and educational exhibits. Science World keeps things fresh and interesting by hosting rotating exhibits alongside their permanent displays. The 400-seat OMNIMAX theatre is the perfect way to spend a rainy afternoon. Make sure to catch a demonstration while you're there as they're neat for kids and adults. They host them throughout the day so there should be one while you're there. If it's nice out, explore the outdoor play exhibits. Located at the end of Vancouver's False Creek, Science World is easily accessible by bus, Aquabus or Skytrain.

Recommended for Museums because: Science World at Telus World of Science provides educational and interactive fun for all ages.

Natasha's expert tip: If you can go during the week, that'll be your best bet to avoid it being super busy.

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Vancouver Art Gallery

The Vancouver Art Gallery-or The VAG, as locals call it-is the fifth largest art gallery in all of Canada. Located in the heart of the city's downtown core, this building is an iconic landmark amongst the cityscape. The VAG has rotating exhibitions, along with its permanent collection that boasts over 9,100 items. Art junkies will be impressed by the 200 major works by the Group of Seven, Emily Carr and Mark Chagall, which are all housed in the VAG. In 1931, when the VAG was founded, it started out at a different location. In 1983 it was moved to its current address, the old provincial courthouse on Robson St. and Hornby St. After a visit to the gallery, head upstairs to The Art Gallery Café. They're fully licensed so you can grab a glass of wine with your meal. Or, skip the main and go straight for dessert and coffee. Whatever you tuck into, sit outside and listen to the classical music that surrounds the umbrella scattered patio.

Recommended for Museums because: The Vancouver Art Gallery houses new exhibitions throughout the year so there's something fresh and interesting to see often.

Natasha's expert tip: Tuesday night is their cheap night where entrance is based on donation.

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Dive into the underbelly of Vancouver's crime history at the Vancouver Police Museum, Canada's only museum of its kind. While at the museum you can learn about previous policing methods and check out the equipment and vehicles they used to use. The Vancouver Police Museum houses around 20,000 items, documents, pictures and other materials that explain the Vancouver Police Department's past. While in the museum, inspect counterfeit money, browse the firearms collection and take a peek at the confiscated weapons. If you're feeling adventurous, check out the Coroner's Forensic Exhibit, this used to be the city's morgue. Some say the museum is haunted, but you'll have to see for yourself.

Recommended for Museums because: The Vancouver Police Museum is the only one of its kind in the city and the only place that has a morgue for you to explore.

Natasha's expert tip: There are a few a things that may not be suitable for a very sensitive stomach, such as crime scene photos and preserved organs, but if you can handle it, they're very fascinating.

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Museum of Anthropology

In 1976, the famed museum was completed and open to the University of British Columbia's students, and the general public. The inspiration behind Arthur Erickson's MOA, as locals call it, was architecture of Northwest Coast First Nations people, specifically post-and-beam. Today, there's an additional component that's has since been added to Mr. Erickson's design, and that's the beautiful reflecting pool that was built in 2010. Though added many years after the initial concept, it certainly compliments the original. After you take in the architectural beauty, step inside and admire the 36,000 ethnographic and 535,000 archaeological objects inside of the MOA. Each piece is crafted with such precision and skill-it's an incredible opportunity to view this historical work.

Recommended for Museums because: The Museum of Anthropology is the best and most beautiful place to learn about Northwest Coast First Nations people.

Natasha's expert tip: The Endowment Lands around UBC have beautiful trails, so after a visit to the MOA, enjoy the campus' surroundings.

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Meet Natasha John

Natasha is not born and raised in Vancouver, but is pretty certain it's her spirit hometown. After jumping around Canada, Texas, Arkansas and the UK, she has her feet firmly planted in...  More About Natasha