The Best Museums to Explore in Vancouver And The Best Nearby Restaurants
Who doesn’t like to visit a good museum? A big city such as Vancouver has them all.
To make the most of your museums’ exploration around Vancouver, we’ve set up a list of the must-tour museum sites in the city + we’ve prepared suggestions where to go after that to freshen up. Seeing museums is a consuming experience, so what better way to complement your day out in the halls of knowledge, science or art with a replenishing dish at the nearby restaurant.
Basically, this article is going to help you food-map Vancouver as you visit its mesmerizing museums.
Museums in the Vanier Park
Did you know that during the 1950s Vancouver had approximately 19,000 neon signs, which is more than Las Vegas during that era? You’ll be surprised at everything you can learn at the premises of the Museum of Vancouver (MOV). One of the city’s most important museums, MOV features different exhibitions that cast light on different decades of the city’s past, so you’ll find out quickly that the story of Vancouver is gripping.
So, come here if you would like to discover the history of Vancouver chronologically. The permanent exhibitions meticulously document the period from the early 20th-century to the late 1970s. Plus, you’ll enjoy the extra features such as their neon exhibition or other stuff like Vancouver’s Bhangra story that documents Bhangra culture in the city.
MOV is one of the two museums that you can visit in the picturesque Vanier Park in Kitsilano. The surrounding view around the Vanier Park is also worth it, fusing the ocean, the city and the surrounding mountains altogether
HR MacMillan Space Centre
The HR MacMillan Space Centre is also set in Vanier Park, and should you be more interested in space exploration you have plenty to see here. Or, you can combine the MOV and Space Centre into one tour since they share the same location.
Originally founded as an astronomy museum, today the HR MacMillan Space Centre features a stellar planetarium theatre, offering an amazing programme to boost your knowledge of the galaxies, planets and other objects floating out there and defining space. If you want to learn more on topics such as the possibility of life on other planets head to the centre’s Cosmic Courtyard Exhibit Space. Get hooked by a live science show at the GroundStation Canada Theatre, and finally see the skies above Vancouver with a telescope at the Gordon Southam Observatory next door.
Touring the Museum of Vancouver and/or the HR MacMillan Space Center will certainly leave you thirsty and hungry. We’ve got you covered, however. See below a list of places where you can go after finishing your museum hours in Vanier Park. All places are conveniently nearby from the Vanier museums. And if you are in a seafood mood, you can even hop over to Granville Island and make a seafood tour that will warm both your heart and belly.
If you are feeling thirsty, you can always head here for some of the creative cocktails. If you are feeling hungry, you can try some of their delectable buttermilk fried chicken on a lemongrass aioli with chili lime, topped with nam jim pickles. Alternatively, get their dish of pork belly with smoked carrot puree that melts in your mouth.
A restaurant on Granville Island that operates since 1980. So, basically it’s iconic. It sits in the heart of Vancouver and offers a unique view of the city skyline, plus False Creek which is always pulsating with life. Try some of their signature seafood dishes such as their smoked salmon pizza or spicy tuna burger.
Address: 1696 Duranleau Street Vancouver, BC V6H 3S4, Canada
Head to Lee’s Donuts if you are craving for something sweet. Their donuts are iconic and they’ve even made an appearance on Netflix. The donuts are tucked at the Granville Island Public Market where you’ll also find Edible Canada where you can sit for a lovely dish of fish and chips, duck poutine, or mushroom eggs benny.
You’ll also find some nice local fish and chips or nice tacos at the Go Fish seafood eatery on 1st Avenue, at a walking distance from the Granville Market. If you prefer to down a lobster roll or ice cream, take one from Popina Canteen, which is on the same street as Go Fish.
Museums at the campus of the University of British Columbia
The University of British Columbia (UBC) is an A-list educational institution. It’s also the oldest university in British Columbia, and fortunately, if you are not checking in here for studies, you can at least check-in for its stunning world-class museums. We recommend two excellent museums you can visit on the campus.
Museum of Anthropology
Established in the years after WWII, within the UBC campus, the Museum of Anthropology accommodates one of the world’s most stunning art and artifacts collections that tell the story of the First Nations peoples. The museum’s abundant collection of relics such as ritual masks, totems, canoes, jewelry and pottery is scattered from the building’s Great Hall to other more hidden corners of the museum facilities. The museum items are enriched with European artifacts, too. You can embark on your own self-guided walk-through or use some of the tours offered on the MOA website.
Another museum marvel is Vancouver’s natural history museum at UBC—the Beaty Biodiversity museum. The museum accommodates a mesmerizing collection of over 2 million animal and insect specimens. The skeleton of a giant blue whale is one of the highlights in this museum. If you are a science geek or somebody who enjoys and loves nature, this may be the most suitable Vancouver museum for you to visit. Unlike the MOA, Beaty Biodiversity is also interesting for kids.
Walk the museum by yourself or see the tour options on the BBM website.
Address: Vancouver Campus, 2212 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4
The only thing worth eating at UBC is the Blue Chip cookies. Otherwise, get out of there and head to Raisu, Rice Burger, Yuwa Japanese Restaurant, East is East or Nuba. All of these restaurants are within a 10 min drive from UBC. To be honest, you can make an excellent Japanese food tour after visiting those UBC museums.
If you are up for some nice sushi and top-notch Japanese food. Order their popular deluxe seafood bowl or bento. The fish is so fresh and melts in your mouth. You’ll want to go back for more.
For some local burgers with a Japanese twist. The rice burgers are also affordable, so you’ll eat something really nice without feeling a dent in your wallet. Get some of their super crispy chicken katsu with rice, or the popcorn chicken option. Messy to eat, but that’s the way a burger is supposed to be eaten!
If you fancy a more fancy Japanese restaurant, head to Yuwa Japanese Restaurant. Order Yuwa’s generous dish of Chicken Karaage with marinated boneless chicken thigh served with a yuzu kosho paste. As well as try their Nigiri and Hotate!
For all chai lovers, should you prefer a cup of tea after your museum endeavors. Plus, if you enjoy a good dish of Middle Eastern and Indian food, this is the place. Feast on their roti rolls with a side salad and dahl soup as well as their yummy and less spicy Silk Route Feast option with rice, dips and everything.
Nuba is in the same block as East is East, a bit further away from the UBC location. Head over and order some healthy and fresh Lebanese food that is to die for. Don’t miss their crispy cauliflower, vegan stew and fine hummus.
The building of the Science World is easy to spot. Its dome-shaped structure will make a fancy scene for your Instagram feed, plus you’ll notice that at night it amusingly changes its colors. Easy to find, Science World sits right by the SkyTrain, at the very end of False Creek.
Whether you are a big science enthusiast or just curious to learn new things and have a meaningful time in a new city, World Science is a great idea for all kinds of folks. Enter the dome and you’ll easily lose the sense of time as you move from one interactive exhibition or live science show to another.
There’s a lot to see in the different theme-specific exhibition rooms, so you can explore as you wish. See the cats and dogs room, the sustainability room, or see what’s inside the human body room where you can also do stuff like taking a picture of the aged, 50+ you. Each exhibition is interactive, fun and entertaining. Kids will also love it here!
You have plenty of food options near Science World. Just a couple of blocks away from this science fairytale are iconic Vancouver food gems such as Beta5 Chocolates, Earnest Ice Cream and Phnom Penh, which we all feature on our Vancouver master guide food bucket list. So, here are the top 5 places to consider after a day spent at the Science World:
We say this fairly often. You haven’t been to Vancouver if you haven’t tried chocolates from Beta5. Last year this beloved city brand opened a new cafe space where sweet cravers can feast on those beta5 luscious cream puffs in all flavours + get a nice cup of coffee and exceptional mocha.
Address: 409 Industrial Ave, Vancouver, BC V6A 2P8
Phnom Penh is one of the must eat spots in Vancouver. After a day at the museum, ordering a Holy Trinity from Phnom Penh (butter beef, deep-fried chicken wings + beef luc luc) is going to make your day even more memorable – guaranteed.
If you are up for a nice glass of crafted beer, and perhaps some burger, consider the American. This is a self-service sports bar and off-sales shop overlooking Main Street. Get something greasy such as their Americana burger with a lot of beef and cheddar cheese or perhaps something lighter such as their fried fish sando with tartar sauce.
Also on Main Street, Torafuku is an award-winning restaurant that whips up genuine Asian fusion (Pan-Asian) dishes. Their pork belly and chicken rice bowls hit the spot and has a decent amount of meat. The dish is rich and flavoursome. And a personal favourite of ours – order some of their Taiwanese Beef Noodle!
For some of the best ice creams in Vancouver, of course, head to Earnest. You’ll love their array of flavours. If you haven’t been here, you won’t be disappointed with the Whiskey Hazelnut, London Fog, or Salted Caramel.
For all those of you who can’t live without art, the Vancouver Art Gallery is a vibrant avenue that celebrates art, located in Vancouver Downtown.
Over the year round, this house of the art rotates a number of crowd-luring exhibits with names the rank of Picasso and Monet.
The museum space keenly immerses contemporary art with classic art as well as features of country-specific art such as a selection of contemporary Chinese art. Aside you’ll admire the works of great artists that get displayed in the museum, you’ll also admire the architecture of the building, the simplicity how you move from one level to another, and overall, the convenient museum location, which is close to an array of beautiful restaurants you can check and explore after spending those hours surrounded by art.
From Hornby Street where the Vancouver Art Gallery is based, there are plenty of options to head for refreshments and good food. Here’s how you can tour the nearby area:
If you are up for some genuine Canadian dishes in a classy setting, Hawkworth is THE place to stop by. Order their sufficiently salty pork belly with crisp meat, paired with a slightly sweet puree. Also try their unique Wagyu beef carpaccio, with extra thin, sun-dried slices.
A Moroccan marvel situated in the Library District. Check Cafe Medina for an excellent matcha latte or perhaps an organic turmeric latte. Combine with some of their superior waffles. Some of the best waffles and brunch you’ll devour in Vancouver.
CinCin is a real Italian food extravaganza located on Robson Street. Book a table for dinner and enjoy a variety of dishes such as golden eagle sablefish, wood grilled sea scallops with acquerello risotto, special bolognese dish, but also local dishes such as BC salmon or Fraser Valley duck.
Old Victorian housing is omnipresent around Vancouver. And while there’s plenty of it to see around the city, for the most authentic experience of the Victorian house and architecture, and especially if you are a fan of this epoch from history, head to the
Once the family home of bookbinder Gustav Roedde now turned museum, the Roedde House Museum preserves the ambience of late Victorian family life. The house was supposedly designed by famed British architect of the day, Francis Rattenbury. Built at the end of the 19th-century, the edifice gives an admirable glimpse of this bygone era.
After getting to see this superior Vancouver heritage site, head for a caffeine recharge at Cafe Greenhorn, which is nearby + they serve some excellent brunch and breakfast. And should you need something more substantial, here’s a pick of four more places, all of which are close to Robson street.
For some heart-warming Fukuoka-style Tonkotsu, head to Ramen Danbo. Definitely some of the best ramen you can try in Vancouver. Aside from their tonkotsu and classic rekka ramen dishes, they also serve delicious vegan ramen.
Within a-few-minutes walk from Roedde House, discover the beautiful coffee buns from PapaRoti. The buns are perfectly topped with crispy caramel coffee cream, infused with salted butter on the inside. Combine with some of their organic coffee, teas and fresh juices.
For some delectable Korean cuisine, check-in at Sura. Have some of their yummy daily congee, bulgogi and herb pork belly. If you are two persons, order their set courses and discover different, soul-warming Korean dishes.
And whether you are up for some genuine Canadian farm to table food, head to Forage. Order their splendid seafood chowder, rich with fish, scallops, clams, plus lots of veggies and perfectly cooked egg. Combine with a fresh grilled kale salad.
If you are looking for cultural activities in the area of Chinatown, we have two recommendations for you. A perfect blend if you enjoy arts, culture and history.
If you want to enjoy more art while in Vancouver, the Rennie Museum is probably the most interesting private and free art museum to see. However, please note that visits to this museum are by appointment only.
This art museum wears the name of Bob Rennie, a famed Vancouverite and a real estate agent, who, over the years has compiled a lucrative collection of art. Rennie’s collection is regularly loaned by institutions such as the Smithsonian in the U.S. or the Tate in London. Here in Vancouver, the art collection is inside one of the oldest buildings around the Chinatown district, repurposed into a museum fairly recently and following a huge investment. Exciting to see, don’t miss it if you are into arts and culture.
Close to Rennie Museum is the Chinese Cultural Centre Museum and Archive. This institution is extremely popular among tourists and functions as a community centre, as a museum and as a municipal archives facility within Vancouver’s historic Chinatown. It was founded to preserve the culture, architecture and heritage of the area, so if you are easily fascinated by history and culture, you’ll have meaningful time at the centre.
The museum and archive edifice is very near the large WWI Chinese soldiers memorial, while Vancouver’s iconic Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden is only 2 mins walk from here. It might be difficult to plan a visit to the cultural centre on a sunny day when you know you have a beautiful garden just next door, but try to fit this centre in your agenda anyways.
If you visit the Rennie Museum, remember that you are not too far from either some Chinatown and Gastown food gems. We’ve picked three places where you can go for refreshments and meals.
A great bakery that has several locations around Vancouver and one of them is very close if you are hovering between Gastown and Chinatown. Have a bite of their flourless chocolate cake, or their stunning, flavoursome bacon and egg brioche. Combine your snack with iced Americano. Don’t miss the lemon bar or the chocolate almond croissant either.
An all-day lunch and breakfast coffee house that also has several locations around the city. Refresh with their veggie bowl if you want something green and nurturing. Get banana and walnut pancakes if you wish something sweet. Or try some of their delectable benny options that range from avocado to pork and chicken.
Tip: Be prepared to wait as they have lines all the time!
If you are up for some ramen, head to Taishoken which is within Vancouver Downtown. Their Tsukemen ramen dish is iconic, soggy, impressive and enjoyable for the hole in your stomach after a hard day of crawling museums and soaking the local Vancouver culture.
There are plenty of other culture hot spots to see and explore in Vancouver. In this article, we’ve covered the basics, providing something for everyone. Art lovers, science geeks, history enthusiasts, may all find something that interests them on this list.
If you are more into outdoors activities and still figuring out how to move around the city, check our list of the best hikes in the province or Vancouver food guide for newcomers to the city.
Whatever you do around Vancouver, you’ll quickly find out that this is a beautiful city, with a big heart, lots of nice places to see and lots of beautiful food to eat—enjoy it all and have fun and meaningful time.