While Vancouver is clearly more famous for its mountains than its mosaics, who says the city can’t do art? In fact the Vancouver Art Gallery is conveniently located right in the heart of the city’s downtown.
This allows visitors to add in a little culture with their nature with a quick visit to Western Canada’s biggest art gallery.
Let’s get right into it with my Vancouver Art Gallery guide.
- Permanent Exhibits
- Temporary Exhibits
- How to Get There
- Skip the Line Tickets
- Visitor Tips
Vancouver Art Gallery
This local attraction colloquially known as the VAG (that’s right) is one of top things to do in Vancouver if it’s raining (likely) or even if it’s a scorching beach day (unfortunately much less likely).
You could say it’s because it’s in a super cool 165,000-square-foot neo-classical building that was formerly home to the city’s courthouse.
But you could also make the argument that this attraction has gained major street cred due to its informal status as Vancouver’s cultural heart.
Here you can expect to find Critical Mass, cultural events, zombie walks, climate change rallies, and even the odd Canucks-related hockey riot (apologies).
In fact the pedestrian only stretch of Robson Street on the museum’s southern side has seating, food trucks (with some Vancouver must eats) and buskers, making it one of the best people watching spots in the city.
But what about the art?
The Permanent Collection
The Vancouver Art Gallery’s collection currently stands at about 11,000 works and counting. While it acts as a repository for the region’s artists, there is also a significant international presence.
A large part of the gallery is made up of local artists playing with and mimicking the majestic scenery of British Columbia.
There’s no greater example of this than post-impressionist painter Emily Carr, whose English colonial roots and close attention to the area’s indigenous communities created a unique brand.
Her legacy is of such importance that she would become the namesake fo the city’s Emily Carr University of Art and Design.
The VAG is home to several of Emily Carr’s most iconic paintings, including; Big Raven (1931), Red Cedar (1931), Scorned as Timber, Beloved of the Sky (1935) and Above the Gravel Pit (1937).
The gallery also houses a historical European collection that places a strong focus on Baroque paintings from the 17th century, also known as the Dutch Golden Age.
The collection includes works by artists such as Isaac Van Ostade, Jan Wynants and Balthasar Van der Ast, which tend to be favourites of many visitors.
Another notable highlight is a first edition of famed Spanish painter Francisco Jose de Goya y Lucientes Disasters of War.
Often the major attractions at the Vancouver Art Gallery come in the form of temporary exhibits that are touring around the globe.
These diverse collections may include historical European collections, modern art, photography exhibits or Coastal Indigenous works.
You will find that the majority of the works present at the VAG are housed in these temporary galleries.
So even if you don’t see anything that tickles your fancy in the permanent exhibits, we’d still recommend consulting the Vancouver Art Gallery website to see what is on while you are in town.
In the meantime, here is an example of some of the recent exhibits that have come through town:
- French Moderns: From Monet to Mattise
- Picasso: The Artist and His Muses
- The Forbidden City: Inside the Court of China’s Emperor
- Beat Nation: Art, Hip Hop & Aboriginal Culture
- Leonardo da Vinci: The Mechanics of Man
- Takeshi Murakami: The Octopus Eats it’s Own Leg
Now that we have an idea of what you can expect to see on your visit, lets take care of a few of the formalities.
How to Get to the Vancouver Art Gallery
Address: 750 Hornby Street
The VAG is located right in the heart of Downtown Vancouver, a stones throw from the intersection of Granville and Robson. This places it at a walking distance from most downtown hotels.
If you require the use public transit, the Art Gallery is located just a couple blocks from the Vancouver City Centre and Granville Skytrain stations.
The directions from Downtown are as follows:
- Enter a station servicing the Canada Line or the Expo Line of the Skytrain. Purchase a one zone ticket ($3.00 or $2.45 with a Compass Card).
- Board a train and head in the direction of Vancouver City Centre Station (Canada Line) or Granville Station (Expo Line).
- Upon arrival at your destination, exit the station and locate the West Georgia Street exit of the Pacific Centre Mall.
- Walk one block West along West Georgia past Howe Street and you’ll see the Vancouver Art Gallery on the South side of the street.
For more information on everything transportation related check out our Vancouver Public Transportation guide.
*There are wheel-chair accesible entrances at both Hornby street and Robson Square.
Vancouver Art Gallery Prices
- Adult: $24.00
- Senior (65+): $20.00
- Student (with ID): $18.00
- Children (6-12): $6.50
*Children under 5 are free
**People with disabilities are free with one paid companion
Entry by Donation
If you’re visiting Vancouver on a budget you’ll be happy to know that admission to the VAG is available by donation between 5:00 pm and 9:00 pm on Tuesdays.
In addition, senior visitors can attend by donation on the first Monday of the month between 10:00 am and 1:00 pm.
Skip the Line Tickets
During peak hours the VAG can become very busy, particularly during the heart of the Summer tourist season.
Consequently, we highly recommend purchasing your tickets in advance to minimize the time you spend in line.
To purchase your skip the line tickets you can visit our friends at Viator via the button below.
Vancouver Art Gallery Hours
- Daily: 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
- Tuesday: 10:00 am to 9:00 pm
- First Friday of the month: 10:00 am to 9:00 pm
Vancouver Art Gallery Café
If you’re looking for a drink or a quick snack, the VAG has a popular restaurant and café located on premises.
The Gallery Café
Located on the second floor, the Gallery Café seats up to 60 people. However, in the Summer you can take in the rays on an expansive terrace which can seat up to 165 customers.
This relaxed urban oasis is the perfect foil for a long day exploring the Art Gallery. The bistro-style café offers a variety of sandwiches, wraps, salad bowls that are all made on-site with fresh, local and organic ingredients whenever possible.
This light fare can be accompanied with a specialty coffee and tea, local wine, craft beer or aperitif.
Vancouver Art Gallery Tours
There are two free guided tour options offered at the VAG, both of which are led by experienced art professionals and educators. Each option will provide you with a look into both the contemporary and historical works of the museum.
Which one should you take? It really depends on what you’d like to explore
1) 30 Minute Highlight Tour
Our recommendation for first time visitors, the 30 Minute Highlight Tour is a basic discussion of the museum’s key works.
2) 45 Minute Survey Tour
If you’re coming back for a return visit, then the 45 Minute Survey Tour will give you a more in-depth overview of the current temporary exhibits.
Not willing to put in all that time? Then you can also get complimentary tours of select exhibits free with your Vancouver Art Museum tickets.
These are available on Thursday and Saturday at; 11:00 am, 12:00 pm, 1:00 pm, 2:00pm, and 2:30pm and Sunday at 11:00 am.
Before and After Hours Exhibition Tours
This VIP Vancouver Art Gallery tour gives you exclusive access to the museum outside of opening hours and gives a more in- depth look into its key works.
You’ll also gain some vital historical context, into which you can frame the art, in addition to some interesting details about the building itself.
The tours last up to two hours.
Pricing details and booking options are offered by phone (604-662-4717) with the Group Bookings Coordinator from Monday to Thursday (8:30am-3:30pm) or via email at email@example.com.
Private Group Tours
There’s also the option to get your own one hour private guided tour. Reservations must be made at least two weeks in advance.
The prices below are for a minimum of 10 people (max capacity 30).
- Adult $21.00
- Senior (65+) $17.75
- Student (with ID) $15.75
- Children (12 and under with member): free
Reservations are made by phone (604.662.4717) or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vancouver Art Gallery Visitor Tips
1) Check out what’s on while you’re in town
A significant portion of the works on display at the VAG are part of temporary or travelling exhibits. So make sure to check the the Vancouver Art Gallery website to see what is on display during your visit.
2) Purchase your tickets in advance
As the most comprehensive resource for visual art in British Columbia, the VAG can be a very popular destination, particularly during peak hours.
As a result, we’d recommend purchasing your tickets in advance. This way you can spend more time enjoying the art and less time standing in line.
3) Give yourself enough time
We recommend allotting at least 90-120 minutes for your visit to the Vancouver Art Gallery.
4) Visit on a Tuesday
If you’re a budget traveller, try and go on a Tuesday when admission is available by donation only, making it one of the best deals in the city.
Just make sure to make a donation!
5) Hit up the Gallery Café
Grab a coffee or an aperitif and take it out onto the Gallery Café balcony on the second floor. One of Vancouver’s hidden gems, the terrace offers a perfect place to relax after an afternoon spent perusing the gallery.
6) Be mindful of what you photograph
While you’re allowed to take pictures of some exhibits, taking snaps of some is forbidden. Be sure to look at the artist’s description for the camera icon (slash or no slash) before snapping away.
7) Be Careful Where You Park
If you’re renting a car, know that metered street parking is maxed out at two hours outside – it’s better to find a parkade.
8) Take a tour
The VAG offers a wide variety of informative tours of their permanent and temporary galleries.
This will help put the works into their proper context and most importantly make your visit more fun.
Where is the Vancouver Art Gallery located?
The Vancouver Art Gallery is located at 750 Hornby Street between Robson and West Georgia Streets in the heart of Downtown Vancouver.
When is the Vancouver Art Gallery Open?
The Vancouver Art Gallery is open daily from 10:00am-5:00pm. There are extended hours on Tuesdays and on the first Friday of every month, when the facility is open from 10:00 am-9:00pm.
When is the Vancouver Art Gallery free?
Admission to the Vancouver Art Gallery is free (or by donation) for all visitors on Tuesdays and for seniors on the first Monday of the month (from 10:00am-1:00pm) for seniors only.
Just be sure to make a donation!
Are there any food options at the Vancouver Art Gallery?
Located on the second floor of the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Gallery Café offers a wide variety of sandwiches, wraps, salad bowls and quiches.
This light fare is served alongside specialized coffees and teas, wines and aperitifs.
Get at Me in the Comments
If you’ve got any additional questions about the VAG, or any thing else Vancouver related, don’t be afraid to hit me up on our Facebook page, or in the comment selection below.
I’ll do my best to get back at you as soon as possible. But until then.