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the bc parliament buildings in victoria, bc

Victoria’s Best Museums & Galleries: A Cultural Experience

Victoria’s best museums are treasure troves of knowledge and beauty, beckoning visitors to explore their diverse exhibits.

From the natural wonders showcased at the Royal BC Museum to the artistic expressions at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, there’s something for everyone.

A visit to these top Victoria museums is not just a day out; it’s an adventure into the heart of the city’s cultural and historical landscape.

Victoria’s Best Museums & Galleries

Exploring Victoria’s best museums is like stepping into a world of discovery and inspiration. Whether you’re a history buff, art lover, or curious traveller, you should be able to find a Victoria museum or art gallery to cater to every interest and age group. And due to the city’s small downtown core, many are reachable on foot from most Victoria hotels.

Here is a quick list of some of my favourites:



the exterior of the royal bc museum in victoria, bc.

Royal BC Museum – The Best Museum in Victoria

Category: History/Natural History | Hours: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm| Location: 675 Belleville St.

This world-renowned Victoria Museum will take you on a journey through British Columbia’s history, from the Ice Age to modern times. With its life-like exhibits and immersive storytelling, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time. One visit, and you’ll see why the Royal BC Museum is the best museum in British Columbia.

From the natural history galleries showcasing Ice Age mammoths and other prehistoric creatures to the fascinating First Peoples exhibit highlighting indigenous cultures and traditions, you’ll be captivated by the stories and artifacts on display. You’ll be amazed by the intricately carved totem poles, beautiful ceremonial masks, and other unique pieces that provide a window into the lives and traditions of these communities.

And if you’re visiting Victoria with kids, you’re in luck! The museum offers interactive exhibits and hands-on activities to engage young minds and make learning fun. 



Related: The 17 Best Things to Do in Victoria

the exterior of the art gallery of greater victoria.

Art Gallery of Greater Victoria – The Top Victoria Art Gallery

Category: Art gallery | Hours: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm (closed Mon), 1:00 pm – 9:00 pm (Thu)| Location: 1040 Moss St.

Home to over 20,000 pieces of art, the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria boasts an impressive collection that spans from ancient Asian art to contemporary Canadian pieces. This gallery is truly a haven for art lovers of all ages.

Situated in Rockland, a short distance from Craigdarroch Castle, the gallery’s charm and warm atmosphere will make you feel right at home as you explore its inspiring exhibits.

One of the remarkable things about the AGGV is the diversity of its collection. Here, you can marvel at delicate Chinese ceramics, admire the intricacies of Japanese woodblock prints, and lose yourself in the vibrant colours of Emily Carr’s paintings. The site even has a lovely Shinto Shrine for those seeking a little peace and tranquillity.

The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria also hosts a variety of rotating exhibitions, ensuring that there’s always something new and exciting to see. Check their calendar for upcoming events and prepare to be inspired.

⛴️ Heading in from Vancouver? Check out the best ways to get to Victoria from Vancouver.

a mother and daughter inspect an exhibit at the maritime museum of british columbia on a tour of Victoria's best museums.

Maritime Museum of British Columbia – Victoria’s Best Maritime Museum

Category: Maritime Museum | Hours: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm (Tue-Sat)| Location: 744 Douglas St.

Discover the fascinating history of British Columbia’s maritime heritage at this museum. From the early days of exploration to the modern-day naval presence, the museum offers a comprehensive look at the role of the sea in shaping the province’s culture and heritage.

You’ll learn about the experiences of sailors, fishermen, and explorers, giving you a personal connection to the history presented in the museum. Plus, you’ll have the chance to explore the inner workings of a ship or try your hand at knot-tying!

The Maritime Museum of British Columbia is an excellent destination for families, offering hands-on activities and exhibits that will spark the curiosity of both children and adults alike. 

Related: The Best Victoria Tours from Vancouver

a pair of butterflies feed with a flamingo in the background at victoria butterfly gardens

Victoria Butterfly Gardens – The Best Victoria, BC, Museum for Children

Category: Wildlife Conservatory | Hours: 10:00 am – 3:00 pm| Location: 1461 Benvenuto Ave.

While not a Victoria museum per se, Victoria Butterfly Gardens is a magical and enchanting destination that will leave you absolutely mesmerized. Located in Brentwood Bay, just across from Butchart Gardens, this tropical oasis is home to thousands of beautiful butterflies, exotic birds, and lush plants. 

As you step into the gardens, you’ll be instantly transported into a temperature-controlled tropical paradise, complete with the gentle fluttering of butterflies, the soothing sound of waterfalls, and the sweet fragrance of blooming flowers. It’s truly a sensory experience that you won’t forget!

With over 70 different species of butterflies from around the world, you’ll be amazed by the incredible variety of colours, shapes, and sizes. It also features a delightful collection of exotic birds, such as flamingos, parrots, and hummingbirds.



Related: The Best Day Trips from Victoria

the victoria steamship building which houses the bateman gallery.

The Bateman Gallery – The Best Natural Art Gallery in Victoria

Category: Art Gallery | Hours: Temporarily closed| Location: 470 Belleville St.

The Bateman Gallery showcases the stunning artwork of renowned Canadian artist Robert Bateman. Immerse yourself in his breathtaking depictions of nature and wildlife, which serve as a testament to the beauty of the natural world.

Bateman’s artwork is known for its incredible attention to detail, powerful sense of realism, and deep appreciation for the beauty of the natural world. Here, you’ll gain the opportunity to gain insight into the artist’s creative process.

The gallery features sketches, studies, and personal artifacts that provide a glimpse into Bateman’s artistic journey and the inspiration behind his work. This behind-the-scenes look adds a layer of depth and understanding to the beautiful artwork on display.

* The gallery is temporarily closed as it awaits opening at a new location. Visit the Bateman Gallery website to stay updated on the move.

an exterior view of the craigdarroch castle, one of Victoria's best museums.

Craigdarroch Castle Historic House Museum – The Most Beautiful Museum in Victoria

Category: Castle | Hours: 10:00 am – 4:00 pm (Wed-Sun) | Location: 1050 Joan Cr.

Craigdarroch Castle is a stunning Victorian-era mansion nestled in the beautiful Rockland neighbourhood. This National Historic Site offers a fascinating glimpse into the opulence and elegance of the late 19th century.

With its exquisite architecture, lavish furnishings, and intriguing history, Craigdarroch Castle is a must-see for history buffs and architecture enthusiasts alike. Built between 1887 and 1890 for wealthy coal baron Robert Dunsmuir, the house is an architectural marvel that showcases the finest craftsmanship of its time.

As you wander through the mansion, you’ll be captivated by the intricate woodwork, stained glass windows, and ornate furnishings that adorn each room. Through guided tours and informative displays, you’ll delve into the lives of the people who once called this magnificent mansion home. 

Related: The 13 Best Victoria City Tours for Visitors

a collection of indigenous art adorns the wall at the mark loria gallery in victoria, bc.

The Mark Loria Gallery – The Best Indigenous Art Gallery in Victoria

Category: Indigenous Art Gallery | Hours: 11:00 am – 6:00 pm (Tue-Sat)| Location: 621 Fort St.

This small downtown gallery is a delightful and inspiring destination for indigenous art lovers and collectors alike. Located in the city’s vibrant downtown area, the gallery showcases an exceptional collection of works by Coastal First Nations artists, highlighting the incredible talent and creativity found in the region and beyond.

You’ll find a collection of prints, carvings and paintings from masters such as Robert Davidson and Roy Henry Vickers, alongside a host of emerging local artists. The gallery typically has 4-6 new exhibitions a year, supplemented by new works from local gallery artists.

As you stroll through the bright and welcoming space of the Mark Loria Gallery, you’ll be captivated by the diverse range of artwork on display. There’s something for every taste and style, from bold abstract paintings and delicate watercolours to expressive sculptures and mixed-media creations. 

a pair of women check out a defence cannon at the fort rodd hill national historic site in colwood, bc.

Fort Rodd Hill & Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Sites – The Most Historic Victoria Museums 

Category: Military Museum | Hours: 10:00 am – 4:00 pm | Location: 603 Fort Rodd Hill Rd.

The Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Sites are truly captivating destinations for anyone willing to make the 20-minute drive out to the suburb of Colwood. These well-preserved landmarks offer a fascinating glimpse into Canada’s military and maritime history.

Fort Rodd Hill is a former coastal artillery fort that played a crucial role in defending Victoria and the Esquimalt Naval Base from the late 19th century until World War II. As you explore the site, you’ll have the opportunity to walk through the historic gun batteries, underground magazines, and command posts, all while learning about the fascinating history of this strategic military outpost.

Just a short stroll from Fort Rodd Hill, you’ll find the iconic Fisgard Lighthouse, the first lighthouse built on the west coast of Canada. Completed in 1860, this historic beacon has guided mariners through the treacherous waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca for over a century. Today, visitors can explore the lighthouse and discover the fascinating stories of the keepers who once called this remote outpost home.

a child admires some rockfish at the shaw centre for the salish sea outside of victoria

The Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea – Victoria’s Best Aquarium

Category: Aquarium | Hours: 10:00 am – 4:30 pm (closed Wednesday)| Location: 9811 Seaport Pl.

Southern Vancouver Island’s only aquarium is located in Sidney, just a short drive from Victoria. It is a fantastic destination for marine enthusiasts, families, and curious minds alike. This interactive and educational aquarium is dedicated to conserving and exploring the nearby Salish Sea.

As you immerse yourself in the captivating world of the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea, you’ll encounter a wide variety of marine life native to the region. From mesmerizing jellyfish and graceful seahorses to playful seals and vibrant starfish, the aquarium offers an up-close and personal look at the incredible diversity found beneath the waves of the Salish Sea.

The centre’s touch pools and interactive displays encourage guests to engage with the marine life, fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation for the creatures that call the Salish Sea home. 

an exhibit at the esquimalt naval and military museum near victoria,bc.

CFB Esquimalt Naval & Military Museum – Victoria’s Best Naval Museum

Category: Naval Museum | Hours: 10:00 am – 3:30 pm | Location: 5 Naden St.

Located within the Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt just outside downtown, this fascinating Victoria Naval Museum is an intriguing and captivating attraction for history enthusiasts and those interested in Canada’s naval and military heritage.

As you delve into the world of the CFB Esquimalt Naval and Military Museum, you’ll encounter an impressive collection of artifacts, memorabilia, and exhibits that span over a century of history. From detailed ship models and authentic uniforms to personal accounts and historical documents, the museum provides an engaging and comprehensive look at the lives of the men and women who have served and continue to serve their country. 

Remember, you will be expected to present a photo ID to gain entrance. After all, this is a functioning naval base.



Victoria’s Best Museums and Galleries FAQs

What are Victoria’s best museums?

Victoria has several noteworthy museums showcasing the region’s rich history, culture, and natural beauty. However, the Royal BC Museum in the city’s Inner Harbour is far and away the most popular. Other great options include the CFB Esquimalt Naval and Military Museum, the Maritime Museum of British Columbia, Craigdarroch Castle, and the Fort Rodd Hill & Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Sites.

What are the best art galleries in Victoria?

Victoria is fortunate to possess a vibrant arts scene, with numerous art galleries showcasing a variety of works from local, national, and international artists. Naturally, the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria is the most well-known, but many forget the Royal BC Museum contains the world’s largest collection of works by famed local artist Emily Carr.

You’ll also find a whole host of smaller galleries catering to various niches, including the Mark Loria Gallery (First Nations), Madrona Gallery (contemporary/historical), Victoria Emerging Art Gallery (emerging), and Open Space Arts Society (artist-run co-op).

What can I see at the Royal BC Museum?

The Royal BC Museum is dedicated to preserving and sharing the human and natural history of the province. When you visit the museum, you can expect to see a variety of permanent and temporary exhibits and collections exploring the history of British Columbia in the Becoming BC Gallery.

The First People’s Gallery is dedicated to showcasing the rich cultural heritage of the Indigenous peoples of British Columbia. The museum is also home to the largest natural history exhibition in the province.

Are guided tours available at Victoria museums and galleries?

Most Victoria museums and galleries offer guided tours, either included with admission or at an additional cost. These tours can provide valuable insights into the exhibits and artworks, enhancing your overall experience. What’s more, you can choose to visit some museums as part of a guided tour or the popular Victoria Hop on Hop off bus.

Are there any kid-friendly museums and galleries in Victoria?

Absolutely! Several of Victoria’s best museums and galleries offer interactive exhibits, hands-on activities, and special programming designed specifically for children. The Maritime Museum of British Columbia and the Royal BC Museum are particularly popular among families. And if you’re willing to expand your museum definition, Victoria Butterfly Gardens and Miniature World are bound to put a smile on any child’s face.

How much time should I allocate to visit the best museums and galleries in Victoria?

The time you spend at each museum or gallery will depend on your interests and the size of the facility. Nevertheless, most Victoria museums and galleries tend to be smaller, so they can be viewed in 45-90 minutes. Larger facilities like the Royal BC Museum may require an allotment of as much as 3-4 hours.

Ready to tour Victoria’s best museums?

Each of the Victoria museums and galleries on our list offers a diverse and enriching cultural experience for both locals and visitors alike. From world-class art collections to interactive exhibits, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

So, don’t wait any longer! Venture out and explore the captivating world of Victoria’s best museums and galleries, and let your curiosity and creativity run free.

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