There is good reason why Vancouver
is consistently ranked as one of the most livable and attractive cities in the world. It’s a vibrant, cosmopolitan city with a West Coast vibe that’s all about health, taking advantage of the outdoors and enjoying the simple things in life.
The list of things to see and do in Vancouver is endless. For the first time visitor, here are a few of the most popular things to do
• Walk, cycle or run around the picturesque Stanley Park
• Visit Granville Island Market
to sample a variety of cuisine and shop for local arts and crafts.
• Have some fun in the sun and play beach volleyball at Kits Beach or Spanish Banks.
• Wander the cobblestone streets of historical Gastown
and check out the iconic Steam Clock.
• See whales and cute sea otters at the Vancouver Aquarium in Stanley Park
• Take the tram up Grouse Mountain
, the peak of Vancouver (or you can hike the Grouse Grind if you’re the adventurous type).
• Visit the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
in North Vancouver and brave the cliff walk and treetop adventures.
• Catch a Vancouver Canucks
hockey game at Rogers Arena (hockey season is from October to April) or BC Lions
football game at the iconic BC Place Stadium (football season is from July to November).
• Eat dim sum and shop for exotic treats in Vancouver’s lively Chinatown
• Rent a small boat from the charming village of Horseshoe Bay
and explore Howe Sound, surrounded by misty fjords and snow-capped mountains.
• Shop for designer clothes and dine at diverse restaurants on Robson Street
, one of the world’s most famous shopping districts.
• Dance the night away at the Granville Street entertainment district
, home to dozens of restaurants, bars and night clubs.
The diverse neighbourhoods of Vancouver
Vancouver has several neighbourhoods worth exploring, each with its own distinct vibe.
in downtown Vancouver – home to the stylish and chic, Yaletown boasts world class restaurants and an endless stream of outdoor patios. Nearby attractions are the false creek seawall, Granville Island Market, Science World, Edgewater Casino and the sports stadiums (Rogers Arena and BC Place).
in downtown Vancouver – with its cobblestone streets and heritage buildings, this is the city’s historical section. The popular Chinatown neighbourhood is within walking distance from Gastown, but visitors are advised to stick to the main roads because it borders the sketchy part of town.
• Commercial Drive
in East Vancouver – dozens of eclectic restaurants, bars and cafes. It’s known for its bohemian vibe, character homes, European-style cafes, alternative shops and entertainment venues.
in Vancouver’s West Side – Vancouver’s sexiest beach with kilometers of waterfront trails for walking, running and cycling. Lots of shopping and restaurants on nearby 4th Avenue.
• Lower Lonsdale
in North Vancouver – take the Seabus ferry from downtown Vancouver and visit the touristy Lonsdale Quay Market, offering a variety of shops, restaurants and fantastic views of Vancouver’s city skyline. During the summer months, visit the Friday night Summer Market on the pier or the Saturday Farmers Market.
• Deep Cove
in North Vancouver – rent a kayak or hike the Baden Powell trail to Quarry Rock, then treat yourself to fresh honey donuts and coffee in the cute waterfront village.
• Horseshoe Bay
in West Vancouver – widely known as the BC Ferries terminal, this seaside village is surrounded by misty mountains and temperate rain forest. Rent a motor boat and explore Howe Sound, then enjoy fresh seafood and oyster burgers on a patio while you watch the passing BC Ferries.
• The Westend
– Located in downtown Vancouver and bordering Stanley Park, the West End is a fun place to shop, eat and walk along the beach. The Davie/Denman area is known for being gay friendly and has the first ever rainbow crosswalk.
Where to Eat and Drink
Vancouver is a very multicultural city, so there are literary hundreds of options for all budget types. Sushi lovers and caffeine addicts will be in heaven – there’s a coffee shop or Japanese restaurant virtually every street in Vancouver.
For fine dining, head to Yaletown and/or Robson Street.
For sports bars and pubs, head to Granville Street.
For a variety of budget options, head to Denman Street and/or Davie Street.
For a night of drinking, partying and dancing, head to the Granville Street Entertainment zone.
Where to stay
Most of the high-end hotels and budget hostels are found in downtown Vancouver
. The downtown core isn’t very big, geographically speaking, and it’s mostly surrounded by water so it’s easy to navigate.
You can take a quick 25 minute train from the airport to downtown Vancouver. It was built for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics and has made it convenient for visitors to stay in Richmond, a suburb located near the airport that has several familiar hotel chains with decent prices (ideal for the mid-range traveler and family travel).
Budget hostels are found on Granville Street and in the older Downtown Eastside (though the eastside is known for being the sketchy part of town).
If you want to stay close to the mountains and outdoors, there are several budget motels near the Lions Gate Bridge in North Vancouver. This is an ideal spot if you have a vehicle.
Best Time of Year to Visit
Vancouver is a year-round destination with benefits for visiting each season.
In the winter
you have world-class ski hills and winter activities.
In the spring
you have cherry blossoms and fantastic hikes through temperate rainforests.
In the summer
you have beaches, patio restaurants and water sports.
In the autumn
you have perfect temperatures, colourful trees and beautiful sunsets.
There really isn’t a bad time to visit Vancouver, but the most popular period is the summer-autumn months between June and September.
Vancouver is very walkable and easy to navigate because most of the downtown area is surrounded by water. The city is surrounded by a scenic seawall that’s perfect for roller-blading, running, cycling, skateboarding and walking.
Transit is very good. The Seabus
is a 12-minute ferry that connects Vancouver with North Vancouver (where the mountains and provincial parks are located).
And the SkyTrain/Canada Line
connects downtown Vancouver with the suburbs. Buses are also good, but often very full during peak hours.
If you want to explore outside the city, it’s best to rent a vehicle.
Take a Day Trip to Whistler
Without question, the best day trip from Vancouver is a visit to Whistler
. You can take a direct bus from downtown Vancouver but it’s recommended to rent a vehicle so that you can stop and take pictures along the way. The trip takes 1.5 to 2 hours and travels along the infamous Sea-to-Sky Highway, arguably the most beautiful stretch of highway in the world.
is a cute, pedestrian only alpine village surrounded by snow-capped peaks and fresh water lakes. If you’re the adventurous type, spend a couple nights in Whistler and take advantage of its endless outdoor activities – skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, zip-trekking, hiking, snowmobiling, boating, heli-tours, whitewater rafting, kayaking/canoeing, golfing, etc.