The Best Museums and Galleries in Vancouver

For such a young city (Vancouver was founded in 1886), Vancouver packs a punch when it comes to culture, with excellent museums, art galleries, and cultural events. From world-renowned First Nations art to Shakespeare on the beach, fans of cultural pursuits will find plenty to keep them busy once they visit.

6393 NW Marine Dr, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z2, Canada
Part of the University of British Columbia, this museum houses one of the finest collections of Northwest Coast Aboriginal art, including bentwood boxes, feast dishes, totem poles, and canoes from the Haida and Coast Salish people. Some of these artifacts are displayed in a soaring grand hall with views of the Point Grey cliffs. Visitors can also look forward to a respectable European ceramics collection, with earthenware and stoneware from the 16th to 19th centuries, and a rotunda with works from Haida artist Bill Reid, including the massive Raven and the First Men, made out of laminated yellow cedar.
750 Hornby St, Vancouver, BC V6Z 2H7, Canada
Western Canada’s largest public art museum weighs in at almost 12,000 works. The collection here is strong on Emily Carr, a modernist compatriot of the Group of Seven (Canadian landscape painters from the 1920s who were deeply influenced by European Impressionism). Don’t miss her lush, moody depictions of the Pacific Northwest coast, especially its temperate rain forests and totemic carvings of indigenous peoples. Also worth seeing are the exhibits of cutting-edge contemporary masters like Jeff Wall and Stan Douglas. Housed in an old courthouse, the museum hopes to move into fresh digs designed by the Pritzker Prize–winning Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron by 2021. Admission is by donation on Tuesday evenings.
845 Avison Way, Vancouver, BC V6G 3E2, Canada
Presiding over Stanley Park, Canada’s largest aquarium houses more than 50,000 creatures, from penguins to sea otters to three-toed sloths. Don’t miss the star turns from the rescued Steller sea lions Izzy and Rogue, who swoop gracefully under the water and bask on sun-warmed rocks. Afterward, be sure to visit the theater, which goes beyond 3-D with mist, scents, wind, and even lightning. Adding substance to style, the aquarium is also the headquarters of Ocean Wise, a global conservation initiative dedicated to increasing the understanding, wonder, and appreciation of our seas.
2212 Main Mall
The first of its kind in this country, this family-friendly museum focuses on the evolution of biodiversity and why it’s worth conserving. Opened in 2010, it showcases more than two million natural history specimens, from fossils, shells, fungi, and plants to insects, birds, reptiles, and mammals. The Beaty also boasts Canada’s third-largest fish collection, all preserved in jars. Don’t miss the star attraction, a spectacular 82-foot skeleton of a blue whale, artfully suspended in the atrium. Hungry for more science? Hit the Pacific Museum of Earth across the street for geological gems like a duck-billed dinosaur fossil, or take the fantastic Greenheart TreeWalk canopy tour of UBC’s botanical gardens.
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