An Art Lover’s Guide to Vancouver in 24 Hours

Vancouver Mural Festival, 2017 | © Christine Rondeau / Flickr
Vancouver Mural Festival, 2017 | © Christine Rondeau / Flickr | © Christine Rondeau / Flickr
Photo of Hayley Simpson
Writer31 October 2017

Vancouver is a great city to visit if you love art and culture. From indigenous and contemporary art to local artists, there is a gallery to suit everyone, and it is also home to many art-related restaurants and cafés. Here is our art lover’s guide to the city, perfect if you only have 24 hours to seek out the best.

Must-visit museums

Museum of Vancouver

One of Vancouver’s top museums, the Museum of Vancouver was founded to “inspire a deeper understanding of Vancouver through stories, objects, and shared experiences.” One of the most popular past exhibitions was Vancouver in the Seventies, which included 400 photographs from this era. Permanent exhibitions include Neon Vancouver | Ugly Vancouver, which features neon signs from the 1950s through the 1970s. The “visually stunning” photographic-based exhibition, City on Edge: A Century of Vancouver Activism, explains how protests have shaped the city’s identity.

Insider Tip: If you have extra time, the Museum of Vancouver sits in Vanier Park, which is also home to the Vancouver Maritime Museum and H.R. MacMillan Space Centre.

Neon Vancouver | © Adric83 / Flickr

Museum of Anthropology

Designed by renowned Canadian architect Arthur Erickson, the Museum of Anthropology is home to one of the world’s best collections of Northwest Coast First Nations Art. It also has the world’s biggest collection of Bill Reid work, who was a well-known Haida First Nations artist. Some of the current exhibitions in late 2017 include Trace of Words: Art and Calligraphy from Asia, In a Different Light: Reflecting on Northwest Coast Art, and Amazonia: The Rights of Nature.

Insider Tip: Try and plan your visit for the end of the day and sunset. The museum’s stunning cliffside location at Point Grey is a fantastic viewpoint.

Museum of Anthropology | © Colin Knowles / Flickr


The Gallery Café

The Gallery Café is a bit of a hidden secret in Vancouver, located in the Vancouver Art Gallery (one of the next stops). The café serves fresh, local food that’s never premade. Their menu includes soups, sandwiches, and quiches. In the summer months, they also open their patio, adorned with flowers and plants that transform it into an inner-city oasis. Not many locals realize The Gallery Café exists.

Kafka’s Coffee & Tea

Located at the intersection of Main Street and Broadway in Mount Pleasant, Kafka’s Coffee & Tea is more than just a coffee shop. They are serious about their coffee, with four different brewing methods: espresso, nitro cold brew, pour over, and siphon. Kafka’s also supports local artists by allowing them to use their space to exhibit their work, which includes paintings, photography, and graphic design work. You never know what will be gracing the walls at Kafka’s.

Inside Kafka’s Coffee & Tea | © Michael Allen Smith / Flickr

Must-visit galleries

Vancouver Art Gallery

“Founded in 1931, the Vancouver Art Gallery is recognized as one of North America’s most respected and innovative visual arts institutions.” The art gallery, housed in the city’s former courthouse, is a must-visit for art lovers in Vancouver. It established an Institute of Asian Art, and it features many exhibitions from contemporary, prominent, and up-and-coming Asian artists. It also exhibits work from local artists, including Douglas Coupland and Emily Carr, one of Canada’s most famous modern artists.

Summer at Vancouver Art Gallery | © Ruth Hartnup / Flickr

Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art

If you miss the Museum of Anthropology, this is an excellent alternative. Established in 2008, the Bill Reid Gallery, named after Bill Reid who was not only an artist but also a sculptor, master goldsmith, writer, and spokesman, is Canada’s only public gallery dedicated to contemporary Northwest Coast indigenous art. The gallery is home to three main highlights: Reid’s bronze and stone sculptures, his gold and silver jewelry, and a large totem pole carved by Haida Gwaii’s James Hart. Although Reid’s displays are permanent, there is always a new exhibition to broaden your knowledge of all types of First Nations art.

Insider Tip: The Bill Reid Gallery lies close to Vancouver Art Gallery, so try and see these in the morning before lunch at The Gallery Café.

Looking through Bill Reid Gallery’s windows | © Simon Fraser University Communications / Flickr

The Polygon Gallery

Opening in November 2017, The Polygon Gallery in North Vancouver is a short ferry ride from downtown Vancouver. It offers something different for art lovers visiting the city, as it will be a public art gallery focusing on photography and media-based art. The first exhibition at The Polygon Gallery is entitled N. Vancouver, which will feature work from many local artists.

The Polygon Gallery’s impressive location | © Hayley Simpson

Vancouver murals tour

Vancouver Mural Festival has a detailed map online of Vancouver’s best street art displays, which makes it easy to follow along and see some of the impressive local works for yourself. However, the team also does weekly tours in the spring and summer, as well as private tours year-round (for a minimum of six people).

Artsy restaurants

Havana Restaurant

Havana’s specialty is “Pacific Northwest cuisine with a Caribbean influence.” The restaurant’s menu includes tapas, tacos, paella, and jambalaya. Located on Commercial Drive, one of Vancouver’s coolest neighborhoods, Havana is also home to a theater and art gallery. Performances include comedy shows, plays, and cabaret shows. The art gallery is great to browse following a meal. Visit their website for more information on current exhibitions.

Dining at Havana | © Shinsuke Ikegame / Flickr

The Whip Restaurant and Gallery

A self-proclaimed “neighborhood favorite,” The Whip Restaurant and Gallery features deliciously fresh meals and rotating exhibitions from local artists. The restaurant also supports the local community by serving beers from many of Vancouver’s breweries. The team at Whip encourages customers to linger over lunch and dinner and enjoy both the gallery and cozy atmosphere.

Cookies Policy

We and our partners use cookies to better understand your needs, improve performance and provide you with personalised content and advertisements. To allow us to provide a better and more tailored experience please click "OK"