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Vancouver's Top Cultural Attractions

Museums, Galleries, and Cultural Performances in Vancouver

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Vancouver cultural attractions introduce the spirit of the city, whether it's First Nations art in a forest park, Chinese lion dancers on a busy shopping street, or Canadian paintings at a historic gallery. More than a third of Vancouver residents were born outside Canada, and this heritage mix comes to the forefront in the city's attractions, performances, and festivals.

1. Museum of Anthropology

© Chloë Ernst

This university museum is one of the best in Vancouver, with indoor totems in the great hall, cases of rare international artifacts, and work by Haida artist Bill Reid. There's also an outdoor display where more totems stand above a reflecting pool.

The building itself is also key in Vancouver's cultural landscape: Arthur Erickson, a preeminent local architect, designed the concrete structure on the site of a WWII battery.

2. Stanley Park

© Chloë Ernst

Cultures converge in the 1,000 acres of Stanley Park. Runners, hikers, and cyclists fit with Vancouver's outdoor-centric lifestyle -- a moving display against a beautiful forested park in the city's West End neighborhood.

Find a collection of totem poles at Brockton Point, see traditional First Nations territory on Deadman's Island, and learn about monuments like the Empress of Japan masthead along the Seawall. The park is also home an outdoor amphitheater, the Malkin Bowl, where summer shows include Theatre Under the Stars and live concerts.

3. Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden

© Chloë Ernst
Chinatown is one of the most culturally distinct areas of Vancouver. Shopkeepers write their signs in Chinese characters and a lively night market takes over Keefer Street on summer weekends. In this always-busy neighborhood, the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden is a quiet cultural gem. The landscaping incorporates stone imported from China with traditional plants and ornate wooden carvings. It's a rarity for its fine craftsmanship not only in Vancouver, but in all North America.

4. Performances in Vancouver

© Chloë Ernst
Year-round there are must-see performances in Vancouver. The city hosts international musicals as well as major world concert tours. But better still, catch something local. The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra performs in the Vaudeville-era Orpheum Theatre, while the Vancouver Opera produces short runs of amazing productions. For a true summer tradition, watch the sunset behind the stages of Bard on the Beach, which gives a west coast setting to Shakespeare's famed works.

5. Vancouver Art Gallery

© Chloë Ernst
For a more traditional-feeling cultural attraction, head to the exhibits at the Vancouver Art Gallery. The gallery is housed in the old city courthouse, but the artworks are often international, modern, and thought-provoking. The gallery adds in other cultural elements (like dance, music, and film) at its Friday night Fuse events.

6. Arts and Cultural Festivals

© Chloë Ernst

Vancouver's cultural festivals are an immersion in another place. After moving to Canada, immigrants often continue to celebrate cultural festivals from their homeland. That ranges from the typically green St. Patrick's Day to the City of Bhangra Festival. Other fantastic and vibrant cultural festivals include Chinese New Year, the Sikh Vaisakhi Parade, and National Aboriginal Day on June 21.

Vancouver is also a national leader in the arts. Autumn and winter are particularly busy for artistic events. That's when you'll catch the Vancouver International Fringe Festival, the Vancouver International Film Festival, and the PuSh Performing Arts Festival.

7. Night Markets

© Chloë Ernst
Night markets take shopping to a new level and make it a true experience. Patterned after markets in Hong Kong, the outdoor night markets in Vancouver and Richmond take place on summer weekends. Most wares are imported from Asia, and the food stands are reason enough to visit.

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