Travel & Leisure

5 Must-See Canadian Museums

You might never have heard of them, but if you get the chance to visit one of these spots, you won’t regret stopping in.

By Katrina Caruso


From art museums to science centres and history museums to the just plain weird, Canada boasts amazing museums across the country, but even the most experienced traveller may have missed a few. Here are five top picks for museums to add to your must-see list.

Royal Tyrell Museum; Drumheller, AB

A research centre and museum located at the centre of the Horseshoe Canyon Formation, the Royal Tyrell Museum is home to more than 130,000 fossils and a dream for anyone who loves paleontology. Ten galleries feature the skeletons of 40 dinosaurs (including Tyrannosaurus rex). Visitors can enjoy a hands-on experience, with different educational activities that are fun for everyone. For those who enjoy adventuring outdoors, there’s also a 1.5-hour hike through the badlands to see real dino remains on site.

The Diefenbunker; Carp, ON

Built during the Cold War as an emergency nuclear shelter for more than 500 government and military officials, the four-storey undergound site once known as Canadian Forces Station Carp is now the Diefenbunker (named, of course, for Prime Minister John Diefenbaker) and has operated year-round as Canada’s Cold War museum since 1998. Just a 30-minute drive west of Ottawa, the not-for-profit Diefenbunker offers tours and collections where you can learn about Cold War politics and visit the depths of the bunker, which includes a cafeteria, a vault, and living quarters. The museum also offers a variety of educational exhibitions and events throughout the year.

Casa Loma; Toronto

If you’ve ever wanted to visit a castle, just head for the Casa Loma (Spanish for Hill House). Commissioned by the wealthy financier Major General Sir Henry Mill Pellatt to be his home and designed by the architect E.J. Lennox in the Gothic Revival style, Casa Loma was built between 1911 and 1914. With 98 rooms, the castle was once Canada’s largest private residence. The third floor serves as the Regimental Museum for The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, the regiment in which Pellatt served and which he at one time commanded. You can take a stroll through on the two hectares (five acres) of gardens, take the underground path to the hunting lodge and stables, or have a meal at the recently opened BlueBlood Steakhouse.

Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) Museum and Kingston Penitentiary; Kingston, ON

When it was closed in 2013, the maximum-security Kingston Penitentiary was the one of the oldest prisons in the world. Opened in 1835, it was built to serve as Provincial Penitentiary of the Province of Upper Canada and was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1990. The prison has open to the public for tours since the year it closed. Across the street is the Correctional Service of Canada Museum, which is located in what was the warden’s residence. The CSC Museum explains the history of Kingston Pen and other Canadian prisons.

Pointe-à-Callière, Montreal

Located in the heart of Old Montreal, Pointe-à-Callière Museum is dedicated to archaeology and history. Founded in 1992, the museum holds a collection of Indigenous artefacts and receives more than 350,000 visitors each year. The permanent collections offer insight into the French and British regimes during the formation of Quebec. The museum is home to three archaeological sites, and includes a number of additionally interesting features such as a crypt, the William collector sewer, and the first Catholic cemetery in Montreal.


Casa Loma, Toronto.
Photo: iStock/DebraLee Wiseberg