Traveler's Guide to Historic Attractions in Vancouver, BC

Vancouver Attractions for History Buffs

One of the things I value most about travel is the learning experience; I learn so much about history when I travel!  My family traveled a lot when I was kid (we all still do), and--though I didn't always want to be dragged to this or that historic site / museum, I retained a huge amount of information from that period. (I still remember the details of the Bayeux Tapestry I saw at age 10.) As an adult, I do the dragging.

If you're a traveler who loves history--and you're lucky enough to come to Vancouver--then this Traveler's Guide to Historic Attractions in Vancouver, BC is for you!

01 of 07

Historic First Nations Art and Artworks

Museum-of-Anthropology.jpg
Image Courtesy of Tourism Vancouver/ Canadian Tourism Commission

The first people to live in the area we now call British Columbia were Aboriginal people, including the First Nations of Haida, Coast Salish and Musqueam (among others). These civilizations go back 8,000 years and have an incredible history of art and artwork.

You can learn about First Nations art and artworks here: 

02 of 07

Historic Gastown

"Gassy" Jack statue in Gastown, Vancouver
Photo by Dana Lynch

By the mid-1800's, the City of Vancouver was just beginning to take shape. One of the earliest landmarks was the Gassy Jack saloon, built in 1867 by "Gassy" Jack Deighton. The neighborhood of Gastown grew up around that saloon.

Today's Gastown has many historic sites, including a statue of Gassy Jack Deighton, as well as many of Vancouver's oldest buildings. (The Diamond--one of Vancouver's top cocktail bars--resides in what was a brothel in Gassy Jack's time.)

You can explore Gastown yourself, or you can take a SIns of the City walking tour (led by the Vancouver Police Museum) that details all the salacious bits of Vancouver's tumultuous 19th-century beginnings.

03 of 07

Vancouver Historic Journeys: Engine 374 & St. Roch

Engine 374 at the Roundhouse Community Centre, Vancouver
Image Courtesy of Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre.

In 1887, the Canadian Pacific Railway's Engine 374 pulled the first transcontinental passenger train into Vancouver. You can see Engine 374--and learn all about its history--for free at the Roundhouse Community Centre in Yaletown

You can also climb aboard (and around and on top of) the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Schooner St. Roch at the Vancouver Maritime Museum. Built in 1928, St. Roch was the second ship in history to navigate the Northwest Passage and the first to travel that passage from west to east.

04 of 07

Historic Steveston Village

Steveston Village Cannery
Image Courtesy of Tourism Richmond

Located about 30 minutes south of Downtown Vancouver, in the city of Richmond, BC, Steveston Village was once the "salmon capital of the world." (It's still famous for its Canada Day salmon festival.) 

Today, history buffs can tour the Gulf of Georgia Cannery National Historic Site museum to learn all about 19th century salmon canning and fishing, and see restored heritage boat works at the nearby Britannia Heritage Shipyard.

Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07

Burnaby Village Museum

Main Street shops at the Burnaby Village Museum
Image Courtesy of Burnaby Village Museum

This is the kind of museum that kids love because it doesn't feel like a museum. Located about 40 minutes east of Downtown Vancouver, the Burnaby Village Museum is an open-air museum that recreates a small town in British Columbia in the 1920s. The "village" includes a main street, a restored Interurban tram (that was actually used from 1913 to 1958), historic shops, and a working 1912 C.W. Parker Carousel.

06 of 07

Vancouver Heritage Foundation Tours

House on the Vancouver Heritage Foundation House Tours
Image Courtesy of the Vancouver Heritage Foundation

I have learned so much Vancouver history from taking tours with the non-profit Vancouver Heritage Foundation. Their neighborhood tours are incredibly rich with information and tiny, exceptional details, and their Heritage House Tours are the classiest real estate porn to ever exist.

07 of 07

Haunted Vancouver

Inside the Old Spaghetti Factory in Gastown, Vancouver
Gastown Business Improvement Society / Gastown.org

Want to have a little fun with your history? From the "Lady in Red" who haunts the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver to multiple hauntings at Gastown's Old Spaghetti Factory, Vancouver has plenty of legendary ghosts. You can tour Vancouver's haunted history with my Guide to the Most Haunted Places in Vancouver