Experience Canada’s History with These 15 Museums
Museums are a great way to learn about a nation’s history — and Canada has some of the world’s best.
Welcome to Canada, home to the famous Mounties, stunning nature, maple syrup… and museums? Yes, you read this correctly. Canadian museums are some of the best in the world, and they can help you learn a lot about your new home.
While the modern nation state of Canada is relatively young (Confederation occurred in 1867), it boasts a rich First Nations and European history that is well worth exploring. Each province and territory is home to dozens (if not hundreds) of fascinating museums, ideal places in which to learn about Canadian heritage, history, and contemporary life.
To learn about Canada and its vibrant past, present, and future, visit one or more of these exceptional museums.
The Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto, Ontario)
The Art Gallery of Ontario is home to one of the most important collections of art in North America, with more than 80,000 works in its permanent collection. If you want to truly immerse yourself in your new home, be sure to spend time viewing the Group of Seven’s works. No artist represents Canada more than this group of painters from the 1920s and ‘30s, whose works depict the country’s rugged wilderness (Emily Carr was historically not included because of her gender, but her work has gone on to be even more important than that of her peers). The AGO is also home to a massive African and European collection, with some of the biggest names in art history. This museum is well worth a day (or more!) of your time.
Admission: $19.50 per adult (free Wednesdays from 6-9pm)
Canadian Museum for Human Rights (Winnipeg, Manitoba)
Housed in one of Canada’s most important architectural marvels, Winnipeg’s Canadian Museum for Human Rights is a destination for visitors from around the globe. As the world’s only museum dedicated solely to human rights education, it boasts 11 powerful exhibits designed to provoke thought and conversation about what it means to be human.
Admission: $21 per adult (free on the first Wednesday of the month from 5-9pm)
The Canadian Museum of History (Gatineau, Quebec)
If you want to learn about the history of your new home country, this is the museum to visit. The Canadian Museum of History is located in one of Gatineau’s most tranquil settings, overlooking the iconic Parliament Hill and the Ottawa River. This historic museum, opened in 1856, has one of Canada’s most important collections. You’ll discover the history of the country and the world in general, with a focus on the Canada’s rich First Nations heritage.
Admission: $20 per adult (free Thursdays from 4-8pm)
Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 (Halifax, Nova Scotia)
If you find yourself in the raucous party town of Halifax, take some time out of the revelry to visit the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21. More than one million people entered or left Canada via Pier 21, and more than one fifth of Canadians can trace their family’s immigration story to this National Historic Site. As a newcomer to Canada, you’ll learn how your experience is just one small part of a long legacy of immigration and diversity.
Admission: $14.50 per adult (free on Canada Day)
Canadian War Museum (Ottawa, Ontario)
Canadians tend to be very passionate and patriotic about their country’s important role in the two world wars, and so it’s worth visiting the Canadian War Museum to learn about this topic. As one of Ottawa’s most distinctive buildings, it is a landmark that is hard to miss. You will learn all about Canada’s involvement in many conflicts throughout history in addition to WWI and WWII.
Admission: $17 per adult (free on Thursdays from 5-8pm and on Canada Day [July 1] and Remembrance Day [November 11])
Dawson City Museum (Dawson City, Yukon)
The legendary Klondike Gold Rush transformed Dawson City into one of the most important and largest settlements in the West. The Dawson City Museum explores the lives, experiences, and fortunes earned — and lost — of the multitudes who made their way to the Yukon. Learn how to pan for gold, witness a gold-pouring demonstration, explore original mining locomotives, and experience this pivotal era in Canadian history.
Admission: $9 per adult
The Manitoba Museum (Winnipeg, Manitoba)
The Manitoba Museum is considered one of the most important museums in Canada, home to a massive collection that details the history of the region. Its nine permanent galleries are well curated and present full-sized dioramas of early bison hunts, the British history of the area, and the legacy of Louis Riel. Regular touring exhibits keep the museum fresh and dynamic.
Admission: $9 per adult
Musée de la Civilisation (Quebec City, Quebec)
Quebec City’s legendary Musée de la Civilisation explores the human condition itself in a building that combines historic structures with modern architecture. Inside you’ll find exhibits on Quebec’s First Nations heritage, information about the province’s roller coaster history, and an ever-rotating selection of international exhibitions.
Admission: $17 per adult (Residents of Quebec have free access to the Museum's exhibits on the first Sunday of each month)
The Museum of Anthropology (Vancouver, BC)
The Museum of Anthropology (MOA) is considered the world’s leader in how to sensitively and ethically curate and care for First Nations artefacts and art. It is known for its collection of First Nations art, thought to be the finest in the world, as well as for its awe-inspiring location overlooking the Burrard Inlet and the Coastal Mountains. Designed by legendary architect Arthur Ericson, the museum is set on Musqueam land and works closely with the local community to steward its collection. Words do not do this museum justice: you simply must go.
Admission: $18 per adult
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Montreal, Quebec)
Feel like a day of culture and artistic pursuits? You should make your way to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts to take in the 41,000 works in its internationally renowned collection. The MMFA goes beyond the concept of art hanging on walls — this is a place that celebrates music, film, fashion, design, and furniture. It is highly rated and the most visited art museum in Canada.
Admission: $15 per adult (Free for those under 30!)
The Rooms (St. John’s, Newfoundland)
In Newfoundland and Labrador, you will find one of North America’s most unique and interesting museums: The Rooms. A truly innovative museum, this modern centre is housed on the site of an 18th century military fort and is home to a world-class art gallery, along with the provincial archives museum.
Admission: $10 per adult (Admission is free between 6-9 pm on the first Wednesday evening of the month)
The Royal BC Museum (Victoria, BC)
If you find yourself living in British Columbia, make your way to the provincial capital of Victoria to visit The Royal BC Museum. Modern, interactive, and truly massive, the RBCM is beloved by locals and visitors alike. You can explore a recreation of the city in the 1920s, marvel at stunning First Nations artworks and masks, and learn all about the natural world. With more than 7 million artifacts in its permanent collection, this is a seriously engrossing and engaging museum.
Admission: $17 per adult (free during “Community Days” at the beginning of January each year)
The Royal Ontario Museum (Toronto, Ontario)
The Royal Ontario Museum will teach you a lot about Canada (and beyond), as it is a museum dedicated to the diverse cultures of the world. A sizeable ancient Egyptian collection, First Nations artifacts (including a 25-metre totem pole from BC), archaeology, history, zoology, and art — the ROM is one-part natural history museum, one-part collection of antiquities, and one-part anthropology experience.
Admission: $20 per adult (free on Wednesday afternoons and half-price evening admission from 4:30-9:30pm on Fridays)
The Royal Saskatchewan Museum (Regina, Saskatchewan)
As the first museum to open in the Canadian prairies, the Royal Saskatchewan Museum is both historic and interesting. It is comprised of three major exhibits: the First Nations Gallery (focusing on the Aboriginal history and culture of the area); the Life Sciences Gallery (exploring the biological and natural diversity of the province); and the Earth Sciences Gallery (looking into the region’s ancient history, including dinosaurs).
Admission: By donation, with a suggested donation of $6 per site
The Royal Tyrrell Museum (Drumheller, Alberta)
If you utter the word “Drumheller” to any Canadian, they will immediately think of dinosaurs! This small town, located about an hour and a half north east of Calgary, is one of the most important fossilized dinosaur sites in the world. The Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology is home to an impressive collection, one of the largest on the planet, with more than 160,000 specimens and artifacts. Whether you’re a big Jurassic Park fan or simply love the marvels of the natural world, this is a must-visit museum.
Admission: $19 per adult for 1 day ($27 for 2 days) (Free during Alberta culture days in September)
BONUS – The Hockey Hall of Fame (Toronto, Ontario)
Ok, are you ready to get really Canadian? The Hockey Hall of Fame is a museum about a topic very dear to most Canadian hearts: ice hockey! Only most locals don’t call it “ice” hockey (Canadians simply call this “hockey” and let you know if they mean another type) — a dead giveaway that you’re a newcomer! This joyful collection is full of exhibits about the National Hockey League (NHL) and its players and teams.
Admission: $20 per adult