Top Canadian Museums To Check Out This Season

Canada boasts more than 2,500 museums that range from large metropolitan galleries to small community museums and chronicle everything from prehistoric dinosaur remains to historical artifacts. Whether you love learning about Canada’s history or are simply just planning a trip your family will enjoy, these museums are worth visiting for your next getaway to tour some of Canada’s best museums. From strolling through large totem poles to life-size woolly mammoths, find your new appreciation for Canadian art and history.


Photo: Canadian Museum of History on Facebook

1) Canadian Museum of History, Ottawa: Attracting well over a million visitors a year, the Canadian Museum of History is Canada’s most-visited museum and offers a winning tri-fecta of striking architecture, stunning setting and a comprehensive exhibit of Canadian history. Situated on the Ottawa River directly across from Parliament Hill in Gatineau, the museum is considered one of Canada’s architectural masterpieces and features the Grand Hall, a panoramic wall of windows, which outwardly faces today’s seat of government while inside exhibiting an arresting collection of huge totem poles and First Nations artifacts. Beyond the Grand Hall, visitors can stroll through “streetscape” galleries representing thousands of years of Canadian human history or see the past brought back to life through re-enactments and improvisations by a resident theatre company. And if that isn’t enough, the museum is also home to the Canadian Children’s and Postal Museums and an IMAX theatre.


Photo: Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal on Facebook

2) Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal: What was Canada’s first art museum remains among its finest and today the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts draws visitors from across Canada and around the world for its collections of both classic and contemporary pieces. Located in Montreal, the museum is home to an impressive collection of decorative arts and boasts an incredibly diverse collection of fine artifacts, from some of the finest paintings in the country and to permanent and temporary exhibits of European Impressionists and Canadian luminaries such as the Group of Seven and Inuit and First Nations artists. The museum is housed in two sections connected by an underground tunnel—the older 1912 home of the museum, a sober and imposing work of white marble and neoclassical architecture and across the street the new, striking glass-fronted pavilion designed by internationally renowned architect Moshe Safdie.


Photo: Royal Ontario Museum on Facebook

3) Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto: Considered by many to be Canada’s best museum, the Royal Ontario Museum is also its largest and no trip to Toronto is complete without a visit to this museum of natural history and culture. The museum is notable for its bold glass-panelled architecture designed by Daniel Libeskind towering the streets of Toronto. Aside from its architectural feat, the museum’s collection of over six million items range from a renowned collection of dinosaurs to Yaun Dynasty paintings in its East Asian collections to galleries of ancient Egyptian and Bronze Age art. For children who can’t resist the urge to touch, the museum offers several hands-on galleries, among them a dinosaur dig for young palaeontologists and an interactive high-tech gallery.


Photo: agotoronto on Instagram

4) Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto: Founded in 1900 and also located in Toronto, the Art Gallery of Ontario is the eighth largest art museum in North America and includes more than 65,000 works of art, almost half of which are by Canadian artists. Its collections, spanning from 100 AD to present day, include European masters such as Picasso, van Gogh and Cezanne and Canadian notables like Emily Carr, David Milne and the Group of Seven. The museum also houses contemporary galleries and the Henry Moore Sculpture Centre, the world’s largest public collection of the internationally renowned British sculptor by the same name.


Photo: Royal BC Museum on Facebook

5) Royal British Columbia Museum, Victoria: Located on Victoria’s Inner Harbour, the Royal British Columbia Museum was ranked as the best museum in Canada in 2014 and is a cultural centrepiece of the city. The museum traces the natural and human history of British Columbia in three permanent galleries. Life-sized woolly mammoths and live tidal pools take visitors from the Ice Age to the present in the Natural History Gallery while the sights, smells and sounds of more recent times are experienced in the Modern History Gallery, complete with accurate re-creations of early European homesteads, Victoria’s cobblestone streets, silent movies and Chinatown’s alleys and shops. Finally, the First Peoples Gallery is a dramatic showpiece of First Nations cultures featuring ceremonial masks, totem poles and a full-sized long house re-created by First Nation descendants of a Kwakwaka’wakw chief. Visitors enthralled with the spiritual and cultural beliefs of the province’s first inhabitants can even watch native carvers working on new totem poles in another long house behind the museum.