Vancouver’s best places to experience history and culture include its museums, art galleries, historic sites, theatres and other performing arts venues.
Places for History and Culture
Vancouver is a cosmopolitan and ethnically-diverse city full not only of West Coast Canadian culture and history, including that of the local First Nations, but also the culture of its many ethnically diverse populations.
As you will see from the list of best places for history and culture below, Vancouver is much more than just a beautiful city surrounded by spectacular nature.
Best Places for Culture
Looking for culture in Vancouver? Then check out the following places of significance:
- Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art – a First Nation art gallery in downtown Vancouver.
- Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden – a beautiful place with authentic Chinese materials and design as well as informative guided tours.
- Vancouver Art Gallery – Vancouver’ main art gallery.
- Vancouver Symphony Orchestra – the city’s professional symphony, which performs at various venues throughout the year.
- Vancouver Opera – with performances at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre and Vancouver Playhouse.
- The Arts Club Theatre Company – western Canada’s largest theatre company, with a couple of great little theatres in Vancouver, including The Stanley on Granville Street and the Granville Island Stage next to the Public Market on Granville Island.
- Theatre Under the Stars – outdoor theatre each summer at Stanley Park.
- Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival – Shakespearean theatre in giant tents outdoors from early-June to mid-September every year.
- Waterfront Theatre – a theatre venue on Granville Island.
- Vancouver TheatreSports League – a theatre on Granville Island offering nightly improv performances.
Best Places for History
Looking for history in Vancouver? Then check out the following:
- Burnaby Village – an outdoor museum featuring buildings and displays showcasing Metro Vancouver’s history.
- Gulf of Georgia Cannery – a historic cannery in Richmond.
- Fort Langley – site of an HBC trading fort.
- Irving House Museum – a historic New Westminster house built in 1865.
- Kilby Historic Site – a museum and historic site in the Fraser Valley depicting area life in the 1920s.
- London Heritage Farm – a historical farm in Richmond.
- Mackin House Museum – a historic house in Coquitlam (and a good place to visit while at the Festival du Bois in late February).
- Museum of Anthropology with its collection of First Nations’ artifacts at the University of British Columbia (UBC).
- Museum of Vancouver – Vancouver’s history museum, located adjacent the planetarium.
- Roedde House Museum – an 1890’s home in Vancouver’s West End.
- Stewart Farm – a historical site at Elgin Heritage Park in Surrey.
Places to Learn about First Nations Culture and History
- Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art – an exceptional place for First Nation art.
- Coastal First Nations Dance Festival – at the Museum of Anthropology one weekend each spring.
- Museum of Anthropology at UBC – a museum featuring First Nations art, totems and other anthropology artifacts and information.
- Sasquatch Days – a festival in Harrison Hot Springs with war canoe races, a salmon BBQ and local aboriginal cultural performances in June.
- Spirit of the People Powwow – a First Nations powwow in Chilliwack each summer.
- Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre – located at 4584 Blackcomb Way in the Upper Village, close to the Fairmont Chateau Whistler and the Four Seasons. Admission is under $20 for adults and the centre includes a Lil’wat Istken and Squamish Longhouse, theatre, archival museum and contemporary gallery.
- Talking Stick Festival – a First Nations festival featuring indigenous art and performances throughout the region (February).
For more information on local indigenous culture, see Lower Mainland First Nations.
Cultural Events Calendar
Being the incredibly multicultural city that it is, Vancouver hosts many cultural events each year, including the following:
January Cultural Events
- Robbie Burns Day – a day celebrating Scotland’s national poet, with small events around town.
February Cultural Events
- Chinese New Year parade and celebrations (with a parade in Chinatown on the Sunday after New Year’s Day at 11 am).
March Cultural Events
- Coastal First Nations Dance Festival, showcasing aboriginal culture and dance (usually in March).
- Persian New Year Fire Festival at Ambleside in West Vancouver.
- CelticFest Vancouver celebrating everything Celtic, including St. Patrick’s Day.
- Festival du Bois – BC’s largest francophone festival, held annually in Coquitlam.
April Cultural Events
- Easter – a Christian holiday with both religious and secular celebrations at churches and other venues throughout the Lower Mainland.
- Vancouver and Surrey Vaisakhi Parades – Punjabi festival events celebrating the New Year.
May Cultural Events
- European Festival – a festival at Swangard Stadium highlighting the best of European culture (late May).
- Cinco de Mayo – various celebrations around town, especially at Mexican restaurants.
June Cultural Events
- National Aboriginal Day (June 21).
- City of Bhangra Festival – a festival celebrating the dance and music of the Punjab regions of India and Pakistan.
- Greek Day on Broadway – an all-day street festival on Broadway Avenue in Kitsilano.
- Italian Day on the Drive – a celebration of everything Italian on Commercial Drive.
- Philippine Days Festival – a small community festival celebrating everything Filipino on the North Shore.
- Sasquatch Days – a small festival in Harrison Hot Springs with war canoe races, First Nations cultural performances and a salmon BBQ (late June).
- Scandinavian Midsummer Festival – a festival at the Scandinavian Community Centre in Burnaby.
July Cultural Events
- Carnaval del Sol in Vancouver at Concord Pacific Place, celebrating everything Latino.
- Caribbean Days Festival in North Vancouver (late July).
- Greek Summerfest – an 11-day festival celebrating Greek food, culture and music at St. Nicholas and Dimitrios Greek Orthodox Church at 4641 Boundary Road.
- Powell Street Festival – a two-day festival celebrating everything Japanese-Canadian in downtown Vancouver.
- Spirit of the People Powwow – a First Nations powwow in Chilliwack.
August Cultural Events
- Arts Alive Festival – a community arts festival in Langley.
- Harmony Arts Festival – a large event with live music, outdoor movies and art exhibitions in West Vancouver.
- Korean Cultural Heritage Festival – a free festival celebrating Korean food, music and culture in Burnaby.
- TD Vancouver Chinatown Festival – a small cultural festival in Vancouver’s Chinatown between Columbia and Keefer Street.
September Cultural Events
- Richmond World Festival – a free multicultural event at Minoru Park in Richmond.
- Taiwanese Cultural Festival – a festival taking place along Granville Street on the Labour Day long weekend.
October Cultural Events
- Halloween – a major North American event where kids dress up and people give out candy.
- Oktoberfest – festive German beer celebrations take place at various places during the month.
- Thanksgiving – an important cultural event throughout North America, celebrated a month earlier than south of the US border.
November Cultural Events
- Remembrance Day – also an important cultural event in North America, when people remember past war and lives lost.
- Diwali Fest – an East Indian festival with events throughout the Lower Mainland (November 3-15, 2015).
December Cultural Events
- Christmas – celebrated in many different ways throughout the region.
- Check out the Best Places for Christmas to see amazing holiday lights, carolers and festive Christmas cheer.
As a cosmopolitan and ethnically diverse city, Vancouver offers a wide variety of museums, galleries, performing arts venues and places of historical significance for the region, which help make it one of the world’s best places to live and visit.