Planning to visit one of the best museums in Vancouver? Look no further! We cover some of the best museums in Vancouver, perfect for a day of learning about the city’s history, art, science, and much more!
There’s no better way to spend a day in Vancouver than to visit one of its best museums. While this beautiful coastal city is known for its outdoor adventures, visiting a museum is a great indoor activity, especially when its raining — something we can guarantee you’ll experience when visiting this city!
Whether you’re a history buff or just love learning about new things, the museums in Vancouver will not disappoint. Learn about the rich Indigenous culture and history in the Pacific Northwest, solve whodunits in a crime museum, or explore the natural world of British Columbia. No matter where you go, you’ll quench a thirst for knowledge you didn’t even know you had!
From interactive science centers to modern art galleries, the top museums in Vancouver offer something for everyone. Below, we explore Vancouver’s best museums and why they are must-see attractions for any local or visitor to the city!
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Best Museums to Visit in Vancouver
Museum of Anthropology (MOA)
Only have time to visit one museum while in Vancouver? Head to the Museum of Anthropology (MOA) on the University of British Columbia’s campus!
A world-renowned facility, the Museum of Anthropology at UBC is one of the best museums in Vancouver — and in the Lower Mainland, too! With an incredible collection of Indigenous artifacts, the museum highlights the culture, history, and art of the First Nations of British Columbia, as well as other cultures around the world.
Wander through the Great Hall to see the totem poles, canoes, and other artifacts from Haida, Gitxsan, Coast Salish and other First Nations. Check out the Bill Reid Rotunda to see the iconic The Raven and the First Men sculpture and explore the research collections at the Multiversity Galleries.
MOA only costs about $18 for adults, although you can get cheaper admission ($10) on Thursday evenings (5 – 9 pm). Entry to the museum is also free for UBC students and staff, and children of 6 years old or younger.
Note: The Museum of Anthropology at UBC will be closed through most of 2023 (starting January 15, 2023) for building upgrades.
At the end of the False Creek inlet, you’ll spot the unique geodesic globe that’s home to the famous Science World. One of the best things to do in Vancouver, you don’t want to miss this incredible science museum!
Science World is packed full of family-friendly interactive exhibits on science and technology. Learn how the human body works, play with puzzles and illusions, discover the magic of motion, sound, water, and light, and more!
Within the iconic dome, you’ll also find the OMNIMAX Theatre. Here, you can watch short science films and documentaries on a massive screen.
Perfect for science-lovers of any age, you’ll have a blast at Science World. With many play-based learning opportunities, this is one of Vancouver’s best family-friendly activities. For adults (19+), visit on the 3rd Thursday of the month for Science World After Dark, when adults can wander through the exhibits with drinks and food!
Vancouver Art Gallery
One of the most well-known landmarks in the city, the Vancouver Art Gallery is a must-visit for tourists. Located in the heart of downtown, the gallery is easily recognizable from its Neo-classical pillared entrances and stone lions.
With rotating exhibits through the year, there’s so much to see at the Vancouver Art Gallery, no matter when you visit. Even so, the permanent collection alone makes this gallery worth a visit, with about 12,000 artworks!
The permanent collection highlights Western Canadian and First Nations artists, with a focus on art from the Lower Mainland and British Columbia. Their collection even includes iconic pieces by Emily Carr, one of Canada’s most famous painters. Additionally, the gallery has a permanent exhibit on contemporary art from Asia.
If you’re trying to keep to a budget, visit on Tuesday evening between 5-8pm, when admission is by donation. Also admission for youths (under 18 years old) is always free!
Museum of Vancouver
The Museum of Vancouver in Vanier Park is the oldest museum in the city and it also holds the title of the biggest civic museum in all of Canada!
This Vancouver-focused museum showcases the city’s rich history and culture, tracing its growth from a small settlement to the thriving metropolis it is today. Learn about the First Nations whose unceded traditional territories the city stands on, the development of Gastown, and the growth of this settlement into what’s now known as Vancouver.
Whether you’re new to the city or have lived here for years, the Museum of Vancouver is worth a visit. You’ll walk away with a deeper understanding of the socio-cultural history and stories of Vancouver.
The Museum of Vancouver shares an entrance with the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre, although the MOV takes up more of the building. Keep an eye out for the giant modern art crab sculpture that sits out front! For an all day experience, visit both museums and walk to the nearby Kits Beach afterwards.
Beaty Biodiversity Museum
Learn all about Vancouver’s natural history at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum. Sitting in the heart of the University of British Columbia campus, the museum displays the university’s biological collections and is the perfect destination for any nature lover.
The moment you walk inside, you’ll spot the crown jewel of this fascinating museum — an enormous blue whale skeleton suspended from the ceiling. Known as “Big Blue”, this skeleton is one of 21 displayed publicly in the world.
Discover the diversity of species that inhabit the world at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum. See everything from preserved dinosaur footprints to taxidermy animals and skeletons like muskox and penguins. Learn about Earth’s history by walking beside their fun timeline of the planet’s last 500 million years!
Bill Reid Gallery
The Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art showcases many works of art created by its namesake. Bill Reid is one of Canada’s most significant artists, famous for his sculptures depicting Haida culture. You might have spotted one of his most famous pieces at the YVR Airport (“The Jade Canoe”) or outside of the Vancouver Aquarium (“Chief of the Undersea World”).
Located in downtown Vancouver, the gallery displays 161 works by Bill Reid — part of the Simon Fraser University collection. Not only that, the museum also celebrates art from other Pacific Northwest Indigenous artists and is Canada’s only public gallery exclusively dedicated to Indigenous art from the northwest coast.
When you first enter the gallery, you’ll spot a white onyx rendition of the famous “Raven and the First Men” sculpture. Along the wall hangs a massive 8.5 meter bronze frieze (“Mythic Messengers”) depicting scenes from Haida mythology. From intricate prints and jewelry to striking bronze sculptures, you’ll be impressed with all of the masterful works of art produced by Bill Reid in a variety of mediums.
A full tour of the museum takes less than two hours, so we definitely recommend squeezing it into your Vancouver itinerary. With an admission price of only $13, it’s also a great budget-friendly activity. You can save even more money by visiting on their free admission days (first Friday of each month from 2 pm to 5 pm).
Burnaby Village Museum
Want to feel like you’ve stepped back in time? If so, the Burnaby Village Museum would make a great day trip for anyone seeking an immersive historical experience.
Made to look like an authentic 1920s town, this ‘living museum’ has a blacksmith, general store, barbershop, bank, and print shop — to name a few! There are even townspeople (staff in costume) to give the open-air museum an even more authentic feel. To really get in the spirit, watch some blacksmithing, churn butter, or explore the tram!
This 10-acre outdoor museum is located on the edge of Deer Lake Park in Burnaby, just outside of the core region of Vancouver. It’s open seasonally from May through September, as well as some holiday opening hours for Spring Break, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
Admission to the Burnaby Village Museum is free, making this one of the best budget-friendly activities in Vancouver. However, you might want to bring some cash to ride the restored 1912 C.W. Parker Carousel, eat at the restaurant or purchase souvenirs from the on-site gift shop!
Fort Langley National Historic Site
The Fort Langley National Historic Site is another top living historical museum in Metro Vancouver, about 40 minutes from downtown. Learn about the history of European settlement in the Lower Mainland while exploring the historic buildings of Fort Langley.
Situated on the banks of the Fraser River, this museum was once a 19th century Hudson’s Bay Company fur trading post that served as a place to exchange goods with the Stó꞉lō people of the Fraser Valley.
The historic site has many displays and replicas to make you feel like you’ve travelled back in time, including blacksmithing, barrel-making, and weapons demonstrations. There’s also a children’s play area and you can even try your hand at gold panning!
Visiting Fort Langley is quite inexpensive, costing only $8.50 per adult (or “free” with a Parks Canada Discovery Pass). Admission is free for youths under 18 years old.
Vancouver Maritime Museum
Learn all about marine history at the Vancouver Maritime Museum. One of the hidden gems in Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighborhood, this museum focuses on the seafaring history of the Pacific Northwest and Arctic.
The iconic A-frame building of the museum houses the restored St. Roch ship, which explored the Northwest Passage that connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans via the Arctic Ocean. Although most museums have a ‘no-touch’ rule, you can climb aboard the St. Roch and explore the restored cabins of the ship.
The rest of the museum houses model ships and permanent exhibits on elements of Vancouver’s maritime history, from lighthouses and shipwrecks to fireboats and tugboats. The museum takes about 90 minutes to tour.
Want to keep up the boat theme? Arrive at the Vancouver Maritime Museum on one of the False Creek Ferries — there’s a stop at the Heritage Harbour Marina, about a minute of walking away from the museum!
The Vancouver Maritime Museum has a prime location near Kitsilano Beach. It’s also quite close the Museum of Vancouver and H.R. MacMillan Space Centre in Vanier Park, if you want to see a few museums in one day.
Vancouver Police Museum
The Vancouver Police Museum is a cool museum to visit in Vancouver for anyone who likes true crime or whodunits. This educational institution is located in Downtown Eastside, adjacent to the city’s historic Gastown and Chinatown neighborhoods.
The museum was opened in 1986 inside the building that housed the city’s old coroner’s office, morgue, laboratory, and autopsy services. If you ask us, this is the perfect place to open a crime museum!
Now, you’ll find the heritage building full of fascinating exhibits on law enforcement and forensic investigation, from the original morgue drawers and autopsy suite to artifacts like crime scene evidence, confiscated firearms, and counterfeit currency. There’s even a true crime exhibit looking at the investigative methods used in some of Vancouver’s most scandalous crimes.
Other Top Museums Around Metro Vancouver
Looking for some other top museums around Vancouver? Here are some ideas!
- The Britannia Mine Museum is one of the best museums in the Lower Mainland. Located by Squamish, this museum focuses on the history of mining. Highlights of this museum include their multi-sensory live-action show “BOOM!” and the underground train tour.
- Roedde House Museum is a heritage home in Vancouver’s West End Neighborhood. Built for Gustav and Matilda Roedde in the late 19th century, Roedde House Museum is a fully restored period home packed with artifacts, photos, and mementos.
- The BC Sports Hall of Fame shines a spotlight on the athletes and sportspeople who made an impact in British Columbia. It features exhibits on famous British Columbians, including Terry Fox and Rick Hansen, and highlights some of the best events that took place around the province.
- Just over an hour outside of the city is the Museum of Surrey. A small but vibrant space, the Museum of Surrey features exhibits that highlight the city’s interesting history and a pioneer-era cabin for you to explore.
- Learn all about the wonders of space at the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre. It is an interactive museum where you can wander the Cosmic Courtyard gallery or catch a show at the Planetarium Star Theatre. This museum shares an entrance with the Museum of Vancouver.
Top Travel Tips & Resources for Vancouver, BC
- What to Pack: Click here for our Vancouver Packing List!
- Travel Insurance – If you’re travelling internationally, travel insurance is a must for any trip. Being covered by insurance is especially important when you’re going to an adventure-filled place like British Columbia. If you injure yourself while adventuring, you want to have insurance! We recommend using SafetyWing for international travel insurance. They are affordable and have great policies for travellers, digital nomads, and remote workers. Also, SafetyWing provides COVID-19 coverage, which many other insurance companies don’t cover.
- Car Rental – We find the best deal on vehicle rental prices using RentalCars.com. They compare the prices for different car rental companies so you can find the best deals out there!
- Accommodations – We prefer booking all of our hotels, hostels, and other accommodations through Booking.com because they have a flexible cancellation policy. Also, there are lots of different options on their platform, from hotels to vacation homes. Alternatively, Expedia and Hotels.com are good for booking accommodations. For vacation home rentals, VRBO is an excellent choice (they have lower fees than Airbnb, many of the same properties, and are more ethical).
- Flights – You’ll find many good flight deals on Skyscanner or Google Flights. You can book flights through these websites and they’ll help you find the best prices and flight times. If you fly at less popular times (e.g. mid-week or red-eye flights), you can also save some money.
- Tours – Get the most out of your vacation by taking a guided tour! This is a great way to see the city, adventure to exciting new locations, and learn about the local culture. Viator or GetYourGuide are great options for booking tours.