Unfortunately, the best museums in Vancouver get lost in a city renown for spectacular natural attractions.
That said, it tends to rain a ton here, so a great Vancouver museum escape isn’t just a pastime – it’s a necessity.
Let’s forget the mountains for a moment and visit the top museums in Vancouver!
Best Museums in Vancouver BC: Vancouver Museums & How to Visit (2024)
The Museum of Anthropology – Best Vancouver Museum for Aboriginal Artifacts
Update (01/16/24): The Museum of Anthropology is closed until June 2024 for seismic upgrades.
The best museum in Vancouver is UBC’s Museum of Anthropology.
This captivating destination showcases world arts and cultures – with a special focus on the First Nations peoples and other cultural communities of British Columbia, Canada.
The true piece de resistance can be found next door in the the Bill Reid Rotunda. Here you’ll find the Haida master’s famous sculpture The Raven and the First Men (pictured above).
If all that isn’t enough, the grounds behind the museum feature two Haida Houses constructed by Reid himself alongside legendary ‘Namgis artist Doug Cranmer.
Insider’s tip: Adult admissions are discounted from $15.00 to $10.00 on the last Thursday of every month from 5:00 – 9:00 pm.
Vancouver Art Gallery – Top Vancouver Museum for Art
The Vancouver Art Gallery houses over 11,000 works of art in its iconic 165,000 sq foot neo-classical digs.
This not only makes it the largest contemporary art gallery in Western Canada, but a significant repository for local artists. Visiting the larger touring exhibitions is one of the best things to do in Vancouver.
It’s most famous for housing the largest collection of paintings from British Columbia artist Emily Carr.
The museum’s central Robson Square location makes it an easy stop for visitors staying in downtown Vancouver.
Insider’s Tip: Visitors can get in by donation (without a price or cost of admission) every Tuesday between 5 and 9 p.m.
Related: How to Spend One Day in Vancouver
Science World – Best Interactive Museum in Vancouver Canada
This is #1 on my list of Vancouver’s best museums for budding Einsteins.
Located on the fringes of Downtown, Science World museum hosts a variety of fascinating interactive exhibits, inspirational feature exhibitions and jaw-dropping live science demonstrations.
Originally constructed as the 1986 World Fair’s Expo Centre, Science World and its iconic geodesic dome now houses one of Canada’s only OMNIMAX theatres.
Here you can check out a series of fascinating 30 minute films that run throughout the day on a multitude of scientific subjects.
Insider’s Tip: Visiting Vancouver in summer? Take False Creek Ferries to Science World. Nearby Village Station is connected to other city attractions like Yaletown, Granville Island and the Maritime Museum.
Related: Best Time to Visit Vancouver
Vancouver Police Museum – Best Vancouver BC Museum for Crime Buffs
The Vancouver Police Museum is located within the city’s historic autopsy and morgue facility. The site remains relatively unchanged since it was de-commissioned, adding to the wow factor.
It’s here that you can expect to come across confiscated firearms, illicit drugs, and even preserved organs from victims of crime.
The city’s seedy underbelly is on full display here, especially with the famous cold cases room – I’m anointing this one top of the best museums in Vancouver for lovers of true crime.
These Sins of the City tours (museum admission included) are some of the best sightseeing tours in Vancouver and offer a macabre (if entertaining) contrast to the city’s natural beauty.
The Bill Reid Gallery – Top Museum in Downtown Vancouver
There’s one artsy thing on every Vancouver itinerary that can’t be found anywhere else: the most extensive variety of Indigenous Northwest Coast available anywhere on the planet.
There’s no better place to start than Haida master artist Bill Reid, who produced over 1,000 original works across his fifty year career.
The largest collection of these works can be found in Vancouver’s Bill Reid Gallery.
Here, you’ll find a miniature gold cast version of the famous Raven and the First Men (the original can be found at UBC’s Museum of Anthropology). Other permanent collection highlights include the stunning frieze Mythic Messengers, engraved jewelry, and several small totems.
Insider’s tip: Thanks to their partnership with Vancouver International Airport the gallery is free between 2:00 pm-5:00 pm on the first Friday of every month.
Vancouver Maritime Museum – Top Vancouver BC Museum for Sea Lovers
But it’s also a place for a glimpse into Vancouver’s rich nautical history. The museum contains an extensive collection of maritime art, photography, and interactive displays.
Most importantly, this museum in Vancouver is home to several historic vessels that have shaped the region’s maritime history.
You’ll definitely want to check out the St. Roch, a schooner from 1928 which traversed the Northwest Passage to circumnavigate North America. There’s also the Ben Franklin, a submersible vehicle that once descended to the depths of the Marianas Trench.
Insider’s tip: Visit it together with the Museum of Vancouver and the H.R Macmillan Space Centre using the Vanier Park Explorer Pass.
Beaty Biodiversity Museum – Best Vancouver BC Museum for Kids
Vancouver’s natural history museum is located 30 minutes from downtown Vancouver on the campus of the University of British Columbia.
The Beaty Biodiversity Museum is fiercely dedicated to enhancing the appreciation of biodiversity for visitors of all ages. Its 20,000 square feet (1,900 square metres) of collections and exhibit space contain over two million specimens collected between the early 1900s and the present.
Being one of the top museums in Vancouver Canada, a particular focus is placed on the species of British Columbia.
The showstopper is the incredible 25-metre (82-foot) Blue Whale skeleton.
Insider’s tip: The museum is located on the UBC campus a short walk from the Museum of Anthropology, so it’d be ideal to combine both.
Related: Best Walking Tours in Vancouver
The Museum of Vancouver – Best History Museum in Vancouver
The Vancouver area has been home to local indigenous peoples for well over 5000 years. This makes it nearly twice as old as the city of Rome.
As a result, the city has a much more interesting history than many would imagine. Luckily, the Museum of Vancouver is here to teach you about the pre-colonial “city before the city”.
The MOV has one of the largest collections of Pacific-Northwest Coast Indigenous artifacts, carvings and antiquities in Canada.
Most can be found in the Ćəsnaʔəm exhibit, which aims to generate public discussion and awareness about indigenous history and culture.
H.R MacMillan Space Centre – Best Vancouver Museum for Astronomy
The H.R MacMillan Space Centre is my local childhood favourite, and it’s impossible to miss the iconic conical structure that resembles a space ship.
Inside, you’ll find a vast array of astrological exhibits in addition to a fully functioning observatory.
The undoubted highlight can be found in the museum’s 230 seat Planetarium Star Theatre. Here you’ll learn about the universe via a variety of 45 minute films in a fully immersive panoramic full dome movie experience.
The Cosmic Courtyard gallery presents children and the young at heart with the rare opportunity to try on an astronaut suit.
At this Vancouver museum, you’ll also find one of only 5 touchable moon rocks in the world, which is dated to 3.75 billion years old.
Insider’s tip: As previously stated, you can combine this with the Vancouver Museum & Vancouver Maritime Museum via the Vanier Park Explorer Pass.
Gulf of Georgia Cannery – Top Suburban Museum in Vancouver
One of the best museums in Vancouver BC Canada, even if it’s in Steveston.
This quaint riverfront village is actually located in the suburb of Richmond. It traditionally served as the hub of BC’s once vital commercial fishing industry.
Built in 1894, this national historic site aims to honour the importance of BC’s fishing history via a series of interactive exhibitions, collections, and programs, and events.
The highlight has to be the completely restored 4,000 square foot canning line. It was here where the mighty Fraser River’s prized sockeye were processed and shipped to all corners of the globe.
Insider’s tip: Ask at the front desk for a complimentary guided tour. The guides really know their stuff.
BC Sports Hall of Fame – Top Museum for Sports Fans
Especially if you’re in town for any of the Vancouver sports teams, there’s no better stop for sports fans than the BC Sports Hall of Fame.
In fact, it’s conveniently located right in BC Place so it’s the top museum in Vancouver if you’re looking to do something pre-game.
This is also the only Vancouver museum you can break a sweat in – the Participation Zone has a 14 meter timed running track, a mobile climbing wall, bubble hockey, and more.
Major exhibits include galleries dedicated to Rick Hansen, Greg Moore, and Terry Fox. It’s also home to the Indigenous Sport Gallery.
Insider’s tip: Make sure to find the window that looks out over BC Place’s playing field. You might just see the Whitecaps or Lions practicing.
Best Vancouver Canada Museums: Runners Up
- Roedde House Museum: A Victorian-era house museum in Vancouver’s West End, offering a glimpse into the life of a middle-class, immigrant family in the 1890s.
- The Polygon Gallery: Specializes in photography and media-based art, showcasing contemporary and historical works, with a focus on artists from Vancouver and the region.
- Chinatown Storytelling Centre: This unique center celebrates the rich heritage of Vancouver’s Chinatown, one of the oldest in North America.
- Contemporary Art Gallery (CAG): This non-profit public art gallery focuses on contemporary art, showcasing the latest works from Canadian and international artists (closed until February 2024).
- Burnaby Village Museum: An open-air museum in Vancouver replicates a 1920s Canadian village, featuring historical buildings and costumed interpreters, offering a glimpse into the past (temporarily closed).
- Richmond Museum: Showcases the rich history of Richmond, British Columbia, with exhibits on multicultural heritage, local community stories, and regional artifacts.
- Surrey Museum: Offers a look into Surrey’s past and present through interactive exhibits, focusing on local history, culture, and community achievements.
- Port Moody Station Museum: Housed in a historic train station, this Vancouver museum presents the history of the Port Moody area, including its railway and wartime past.
- Britannia Mine Museum: An immersive museum located at a former copper mine, offering underground tours, exhibits on mining history, and a chance to pan for gold.
Vancouver Museums FAQ
Does Vancouver have museums?
Yes, Vancouver has about 20 museums, including the Museum of Anthropology, Vancouver Art Gallery, Science World, and Beaty Biodiversity Museum, showcasing diverse cultural and scientific exhibits.
What are the best museums in Vancouver?
The best museums in Vancouver include the Museum of Anthropology, Vancouver Art Gallery, Science World, and the Beaty Biodiversity Museum, each offering unique and enriching experiences.
How many museums are in Vancouver?
At last count there are 21 museums in Vancouver BC. The strong majority are art museums, history museums, and other areas of cultural significance (like salmon fishing) to the city.
What’s the best museum in Vancouver?
The best museum in Vancouver is the Museum of Anthropology, renowned for its extensive collection of First Nations and indigenous art and artifacts.
Are museums in Vancouver open?
All of the Vancouver museums listed above are currently open for business. Furthermore, with the relaxation of COVID protocols on April 8th 2022 vaccine passports will no longer be required for entry.
Are museums in Vancouver free?
No, museums in Vancouver are not free. There are however some Vancouver museums with free days – it’s best to check each museum listing.
Are there history museums in Vancouver?
Yes, there are history museums in Vancouver including the Museum of Vancouver, the Vancouver Maritime Museum, and the Burnaby Village Museum, each offering insights into the region’s rich history.
Looking for the Best Museums in Vancouver?
That’s it for my comprehensive list of Vancouver’s best museums and art galleries.
As you can see, a rainy day or two doesn’t have to ruin your visit. In fact, a part of you may now be secretly looking forward to them in order to visit cool museums in Vancouver!
As always, if you have any more questions about top museums in Vancouver don’t hesitate to reach out on the Vancouver Planner Facebook page, or hit me up in the comments below.