Vancouver’s Top Free Galleries

This entry is part 1 of 6 in the series Rainy Days

When you travel, the last thing you usually want is rain. Unfortunately, it rains a lot in Vancouver, especially when the season changes and the ski season is coming to an end. Luckily for us, there are lots of alternative indoor activities which can keep the curious mind of a budget traveller busy on those days when outdoor activities don´t seem too attractive.

  • Harrison Gallery

The Harrison Gallery is located  in downtown Vancouver at the northern entrance to Yaletown. Most buses and also the skytrain are within walking distance. It is easy to walk past without noticing, but once you enter the gallery you will find yourself in a cheery cafe called The Buzz, where they have decent coffee choices and artisan sandwiches as well as sweet treats. It’s very stylish, with a nice welcoming atmosphere so you might spend hours there just sitting, talking, and admiring the paintings. The interior of the family-owned and operated place is laid back yet professional with a flair of intellectual cozyness. After warming up with a nice cup of coffee, have a look upstairs, where there are also additional seating areas.

For the last 50 years, this establishment has been one of Vancouver’s leading fine art dealers,  presenting and representing changing exhibitions mostly from regional Canadian artists, but also internationally renowned ones. The collections consists of traditional and contemporary art, and also emerging fine art photography. This little gallery makes a refreshing change from others dominated by famous names and old masters.


901 Homer Street

(corner of Homer and Smithe)

Vancouver, B.C. V6B 2W6

Phone: (604) 732-5217

Opening Hours

Monday to Friday 07:00-18:00

Saturday                 08:00-17:00

Sunday                    09:00-17:00



  • The Contemporary Art Gallery

A rather small place, but truly a gem, is the Contemporary Art Gallery (CAG). It is a non-collecting, non-profit public art gallery in downtown Vancouver which is focused on contemporary art. The CAG exhibits local, national, and international artists, primarily featuring emerging local artists producing Canadian contemporary visual art. History-wise, it has undergone a few interesting changes, which makes it the longest standing independent public art gallery dedicated to presenting contemporary visual art in Vancouver. This gallery also organises highly enjoyable artist talks on a regular basis, and have innovative programmes to offer.


555 Nelson Street

Vancouver, B C, V6B 6R5

Phone: (604) 681 2700

 Opening hours

Tuesday to Sunday 12:00-18:00

Closed on British Columbia statutory holidays




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Rainy Days: Europe’s Little Museums

This entry is part 2 of 6 in the series Rainy Days

There comes a time during every European holiday – whether it’s a chic city-break or a fortnight’s relaxing on a beach – when the inevitable happens. Having optimistically left the umbrella at home the clouds gather and it starts to rain. And you can take it from me, going as far south as possible in a feeble attempt to escape the drizzle is a waste of effort. It has been proven by lots of experience that the instant the suitcase comes out of the attic, the Gods of bad weather prepare to attack; but there’s no reason at all to let that spoil your holiday. Going to a museum might sound like the ultimate waste of even the rainiest day, but I’ve come up with a list of museums both in this country and in mainland Europe that will make you look forward to the next rainy day.

Castle-Keep(Take a look at everything from the teapots to the cat figurines.

Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery 

This little museum in the centre of Norwich is a personal favourite of mine. It has a slightly madcap, random quality that reminds me rather of the Victoria and Albert Museum in Kensington. Highlights include the vast and strangely fascinating collection of stuffed animals – which is far better than it sounds. The room of birds is especially good; you spend the whole time saying things like “gosh, I never realised pelicans were that big!” and there’s an interesting Hitchcock quality to being stared at by so many beady glass eyes. Other highlights include the teapot collection, the china custard-pot collection and the collection of cat figurines. This is in addition to the more usual castle-y things like suits of armour and a very deep well to peer down and drop pennies into. The museum is open all year: Mon-Sat 10am-4:30pm, Sun 1pm-4:30pm. Adult tickets are £7.95, and there is a student rate of £6.50 (although they will be expecting you to proffer a UEA student card).

Designpanoptikum, Berlin 

This utterly bizarre place is a hybrid of museum and art gallery. It is usually translated as “the museum of peculiar objects”, and features industrial and mechanical objects like cameras, operating tables and iron lungs arranged and positioned in surrealist-style sculptures and installations. You walk through various rooms connected with different objects to create the feel of a giant art installation, and the trippy quality is increased by the fact that the rooms are deliberately kept subtly lit, adding a ghostly creepiness to the experience. The museum is open Mon-Sat 11am-6pm, and entry costs a mere €5.

920x920(You’re never to old for colouring in.

The Pencil Museum, Cumberland 

I’ve heard many jokes about this museum over the years; it seems the ultimate symbol of the mad little local museum run by people with nothing else to do. But in fact, this museum is well run, well funded, and slickly put together. Admittedly many of the exhibits do sound worthy of a sitcom – world’s longest pencil, world’s first pencil – but finding out how they put the colour in a colouring pencil is strangely interesting. They also take advantage of the inherently artistic nature of the subject matter to run a number of art classes and courses for all ages such as animation and cartoon art. There is a cafe, which is always a bonus, and if you like drawing or sketching the gift shop is a delight, stocking everything from big, polished wooden cases of Derwent colouring pencils to the little tin boxes of 5 sketching pencils I had when I was a kid. Opening times vary throughout the year, depending on school holidays and half-terms. Entry is an incredibly reasonable £4.50 for adults and £4 for students, and let’s face it, if you’re on holiday in the Lake District you’re going to need a wet-weather activity at some point.

The Icelandic Phallological Museum, Reykjavik 

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A Rainy Day in: Kyoto

This entry is part 3 of 6 in the series Rainy Days

Most know Kyoto for its lavish temples, cherry blossoms, and precisely sculpted park – but few stop to think about what the city has to offer when Japan’s somewhat temperate weather drives us inside. Here are 5 ideas to still make the most of this gorgeous city, even when the clouds aren’t on your side.

(© fc09)

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A Rainy Day in Jamaica

This entry is part 4 of 6 in the series Rainy Days

With natural beauty and balmy temperatures, Jamaica offers the perfect backdrop for a picturesque Caribbean retreat. The island is home to countless lush forests which house tropical plants and animals in abundance, including the indigenous swallowtail hummingbird and the Jamaican fruit bat. However, Jamaica’s lush greenery is dependent on rain, and in a heartbeat the sky can turn from holiday-brochure blue to a sinister grey. Retreating into the hotel until the rain has stopped may seem like the only option but, on the contrary, some of Jamaica’s most unique attractions are conveniently located undercover.

'In a heartbeat the sky can turn from holiday-brochure blue to a sinister grey' (Photo: Flickr, dubdem sound system)

‘In a heartbeat the sky can turn from holiday-brochure blue to a sinister grey’ (Photo: Flickr, dubdem sound system)

Rose Hall in Montego Bay is a former plantation house which is widely regarded as the most famous on the island. Built in the 1770s on a sugarcane plantation, it was once home to over 250 slaves, many of whose lives are well-documented in the museum. However, the property is perhaps most famous for being the site of the ‘White Witch of Rose Hall.’ According to local legend, the house and its grounds are haunted by Annie Palmer, a young Englishwoman who grew up in Haiti and was taught witchcraft and voodoo. She later came to Jamaica and married the owner of Rose Hall, John Palmer. In the following years, Annie murdered John, her two subsequent husbands and several of the plantation’s slaves. Guided tours of the house document the ‘hauntings,’ showing supposed locations of underground tunnels, dungeons and even the places in which Annie allegedly murdered her victims.

The reggae musician Bob Marley is arguably one of Jamaica’s most famous sons, and his accomplishments are celebrated at the Kingston Bob Marley Museum — his former home. Tours explore his recording studio, living quarters and even the spot where his assassination attempt was made — complete with bullet marks. A video documenting Marley’s life and dedication to the Rastafari movement concludes the tour, although a wander through the immaculately tended gardens, complete with colourful murals of the star throughout his life, are a ‘must’ regardless of the weather.

'Tours explore his recording studio, living quarters and even the spot where his assassination attempt was made...' (Photo: Flickr, dubdem sound system)

‘Tours explore his recording studio, living quarters and even the spot where his assassination attempt was made…’ (Photo: Flickr, dubdem sound system)

If dashing undercover to escape the rain isn’t enough, then surely descending 40 feet below ground is the only option. The Green Grotto caves, in the St Ann parish on the north coast, are so-called due to the bright green algae which covers the cave walls. The caves are home to nine species of indigenous bat and several boa constrictors while the crystal-clear underground lake contains numerous species of marine life. The caves have been used for multiple purposes over the years, from a hiding place for Spanish colonisers during the British invasion of the island, to the more recent government-backed secret storage of barrels of rum during the Second World War. Informative tour guides are on hand to explain the formation of the caves’ many stalagmites and stalactites (one of which looks uncannily like the map of Jamaica), as well as the details surrounding the many dwellers who once lived in the caves.

For a less fast-paced respite from the rain, heading to a Scotchie’s restaurant to sample some authentic Jamaican food is the answer. There are three Scotchie’s restaurants in Jamaica, located in Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and New Kingston, although they are all set in tropical gardens with sheltered tables. The menu is simple yet traditional: freshly barbecued jerk meat is served with either roasted breadfruit or ‘festivals’ — a type of deep-fried bread roll. The restaurants’ name alludes to the use of Scotch Bonnet peppers in the jerk seasoning — be wary of adding extra chilli sauce to your food as the peppers are already very hot!

Tuck into some delicious and very hot jerk chicken from Scotchie's (Photo: Flickr,

Tuck in to some delicious and very hot jerk chicken from Scotchie’s (Photo: Flickr,

Whilst the Jamaican anecdote reminds us that there is no such thing as rain on the island, merely liquid sunshine, we are reminded of Jamaicans’ love for their lush greenery and spectacular beaches and some sudden inclement weather can be the perfect excuse to cool down and visit some indoor attractions. These sights are as diverse as the island: an afternoon wandering around an old plantation house brings Jamaica’s mysterious colonial past to light, whilst the island’s famed jerk seasoning is a national source of pride and widely available. If the torrential rain does strike, the good news is the sun will soon be out again, with the beaches filling up in double-quick time!


Visiting York during April Showers

This entry is part 5 of 6 in the series Rainy Days

As a student here, I’ve noticed that York is one of the most popular weekend break destinations in the UK, most likely due to the fact that it is central to most train lines. York is a medieval-walled city very much aware of its own history – every weekend, hundreds from the North and South flock to the city and leave feeling content, or more likely hungover. With York being in the North however, it has one bad thing going for it: Northern weather. No matter what time of year you go, there’s a high chance it could start raining. Whilst the city is small, and most ‘key’ sights can be covered in just a few hours’ walking distance, York is also ideal for indoor activities if the weather is not quite worth being outside for. And I’m not just talking about shopping.

Betty’s Café Tea Rooms 

This is technically cheating a little bit as it involves food and drink so it cannot justifiably be called an ‘activity’. But for anyone who is visiting York, Betty’s is a must stop. The tearooms are famous in North Yorkshire, but particularly in York, evidenced by the large numbers who queue up every weekend. The trick is to wait until the ideal time, normally between 3-4pm, and you’ll be able to easily walk in. You’re faced with a wide choice of cakes, scones, sandwiches, teas, coffees; the list goes on. It is the ideal place to dry off and warm up in a beautiful setting with friendly service. It is however, on the expensive side. I recommend you skip the famous afternoon tea and settle for the rarebit scone with a cup of Yorkshire tea; you won’t regret it!

York Minster

The Minster, the largest gothic cathedral in northern Europe, is visually and architecturally grand. I’ve walked past it so many times and I always have to stop and look at it; it has an overwhelming presence. It is a rather pricey entry at £10 (York students and residents go free though) and then a further £5 to go up the tower where the view spans over the whole of York. But this is weather dependent, so if it is raining, it is likely you won’t be able to go to the top. The stained glass windows are a highlight so take your time to walk around and discover the original features. If you want to know the history in a bit more detail, there is the option to go around with a tour guide, and they’re free!

4931399777_d06844875e_z(Hide from the rain with four 1/3 pints.

York Brewery 

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