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Vancouver BC Travel Guide | Canada

Vancouver BC Travel Guide | Canada
Reading Time: 16 minutes

Updated: 7/12/2022 | Vancouver BC Travel Guide

Alex Tran and Julia Tran at Stanley Park in Vancouver BC

Stanley Park

About Vancouver BC

Vancouver British Colombia (BC) is one of our favorite places to visit in Canada. It has a vibrant nightlife, is filled with daytime activities for every interest, and showcases an amazing food and drink scene.

This noticeably green and blue city is also known as VanCity, Raincouver, and the “Hollywood of the North,” due to the growth of film production jobs. It’s located in the southwest corner of Canada and is surrounded by water on three sides.

Vancouver is very diverse with a strong indigenous culture combined with immigrants from around the world. Most people’s first language is not English, which lends to the diversity of food, culture, and even architecture.

And before you read on, never mistake Vancouver BC for Vancouver, Washington. They are two totally different experiences. 

Downtown Vancouver Skyscraper Canada

Downtown Vancouver

How Many Days Should I Spend in Vancouver

If you’re a first-time visitor, we recommend spending 4-5 days. There is so much to do and you definitely want to see a few of the surrounding neighborhoods.

We live across the border in Seattle, Washington so a weekend trip works too! It would take 2-3 weekend trips to see all of what Vancouver has to offer.

How to Get to Vancouver BC

Getting to Vancouver is pretty easy if you live in the pacific northwest. You can drive, take a bus, or take a ferry over. It’s a 2.5-hour drive and all you need is a valid passport to cross the border.

What is really great about going to Canada is that you can bring your dog across the border without any problems.

The cheapest way to travel to Vancouver from the Pacific Northwest (PNW) is by Flix Bus. It’s only $19 USD one way and you’ll get there within 4.25 hours.  There are two drop-off points in downtown Vancouver.

If you’re flying to Vancouver BC, you’ll most likely be flying into Aéroport international de Vancouver (Vancouver International Airport) with airport code: YVR

Where to Stay in Vancouver BC

We highly recommend staying downtown because it’s central to many attractions. You can pretty much get to all the other neighborhoods by bus, Sky Train (our favorite method), or car.

Hotels we recommend include:

  • Hyatt Regency Vancouver – We transferred Chase points to Hyatt and booked using points. Our stay was only 15,000 points per night, which is great because the value was over $600 USD. We always try to earn points so that our travel is free or heavily discounted. Hyatt properties are also pet friendly and pet fees are typically waived if you have status.

How to Get Around Vancouver BC

Here are the ways you can get around Vancouver BC:

  • By Car – Drive or rent a car to get around Vancouver BC. Parking is expensive downtown and street parking becomes more available as you get further away from downtown and into the surrounding smaller neighborhoods.
  • Walking – Downtown Vancouver is very walkable. If you’re looking to go beyond downtown, we highly recommend using an Uber, taxi, or taking the Sky Train and public buses.
  • By Bike – Vancouver is a super bicycle-friendly city. They have bike lanes and streets are also shared with bicyclists. Make sure to wear a helmet if you decide to bike around the city.
  • Public Transit – Take the Sky Train or buses to get around Vancouver. They’re very affordable and reliable. 
  • Uber/Taxi – This is a great way to get around Vancouver BC. It’s probably the most costly too.

Best Things to Do in Vancouver BC

#1 Stanley Park

One of our favorite things to do at Stanley Park is to rent a bicycle and make our way around the Stanley Park Seawall, which outlines the perimeter of the park. The Seawall was built to protect the city from eroding away but is now used as a walking, running, and/or biking route. It’s 22 kilometers (or 13.6 miles) around and a great way to spend your day in Vancouver BC.

There is so much to see and do here! While you’re at Stanley Wall, keep an eye out for these attractions (I’ve listed them in order that you’ll see them if you’re going counter-clockwise around the park):

  • Coal Harbour Seawall
  • Jubilee Fountain + Lost Lagoon
  • Nine O’Clock Gun – An old cannon that you can check out.
  • Vancouver Aquarium – Here you can see dolphins, sea lions, beluga whales, seals, sea otters and more!
  • Brockton Point Lighthouse
  • Totem Poles – Located at Brockton Point, these 9 totem poles are one of the most visited attractions at the park.
  • Beaver Lake
  • Scuba Diving Girl Statue
  • Flower gardens near the Pitch & Putt golf course.
  • S.S. Empress of Japan Figurehead Replica
  • Lions Gate Bridge
  • Siwash Rock (aka Pineapple Rock)
  • Furguson Point
  • Prospect Point Lighthouse
  • The Hollow Tree
  • Third Beach
  • Second Beach
  • Ride the Stanley Park miniature train
  • Ceperly Park

We highly recommend going during golden hour so that you can get enough sunlight and catch a pretty sunset on the west side of the park. It’s a must-do attraction for anyone visiting Vancouver for the first time.

scuba diving girl vancouver stanley park

Girl in a Wetsuit statue at Stanley Park

S.S. Empress of Japan Figurehead Replica at Stanley Park Vancouver BC Canada

S.S. Empress of Japan Figurehead Replica

Lions Gate Bridge Stanley Park Vancouver BC Canada

Lion’s Gate Bridge

#2 Granville Island

Granville Island is another must-do attraction for first-time visitors. It’s essentially a public marketplace with tons of restaurants, bars, art galleries, farmers’ market, and eateries tucked inside and around the marché publique (public market in French).

You can spend the entire day here. It’s easy to get here by walking, bus, car, or biking.

Granville Island Vancouver BC Canada

Granville Island

Giants on Granville Island Street Art Vancouver BC Canada

Giants mural at Granville Island

#3 Capilano Suspension Bridge

The Capilano suspension bridge is located just 15 minutes from downtown and can be accessed by the hop-on hop-off shuttle located in downtown Vancouver. You can also get there using Uber or by car.

The Capilano suspension bridge is 140 meters (460 feet) long and is located 70 meters (230 feet) above the river. The bridge was constructed in 1889.

While it’s a pretty view, access to the bridge and park will cost you $60 USD.

#4 Hike Lynn Canyon Park + Suspension Bridge

If you’re not keen on spending $60 to visit the Capilano suspension bridge, you’re in luck!

Lynn Canyon Park is just a 20-minute drive from downtown Vancouver. Here you can enjoy a FREE suspension bridge experience.

Here the bridge is only 48  meters (157 feet) long and 50 meters (160 feet) above the river. It was constructed in 1912. It’s shorter and not as high, but still worth a visit. 

Many people opt to visit the Lynn Canyon because it’s free and is part of the Baden Powell Trail. You will need to pay for parking ($3 CAD per hour). We recommend budgeting 2-3 hours of your time to hike the entirety of the park.

Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge Vancouver BC Canada

Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge

#5 VanDusen Botanical Garden

VanDusen Botanical Garden is a 55-acre oasis with over 7,500 plant species and varieties from around the world. 

VanDusen Garden is worth visiting any time of the year, but we recommend visiting in late spring when the blossoms are in full bloom!

We also love visiting in the fall when the leaves start to change to a gorgeous red, yellow and orange hue. And if you’re visiting during the holidays, check out the Halloween and Christmas lights. They are worth seeing!

Cost of admission changes with the seasons. Check the current prices here. No reservations are required.

#6 Hang Out At a Vancouver Beach

Bring your beach chair and some treats and have yourself a relaxing picnic at any of Vancouver’s best beaches. We’ve also indicated some attractions you should look for while there.

  • English Bay Beach – Snap a photo with the Inuksuk (stacks of stones resembling humans) statue by artist Alvin Kanak! Honda also hosts the Celebration of Light every July. Participating countries create amazing firework displays that fill the beaches of Vancouver BC. We love watching the event from English Bay Beach.
  • Kitsilano Beach – Find the Kitsilano beach swing for a cute photo opportunity and visit Canada’s longest pool (137.5 meters or 451 feet). This outdoor, saltwater pool is open year round.
  • Jericho Beach
  • Spanish Banks – Off-leash dog area with some awesome rocky coastal views.
  • Second Beach – Located along the west side of Stanley Park.
  • Third Beach – Located along the west side of Stanley Park.
  • Wreck Beach
  • Ambleside Beach
  • Sunset Beach – Find the engagement ring sculpture and watch the sunset from shore or by boat.
inuksuk-english-bay-vancouver-bc

Inuksuk statue at English Bay

English Bay Fireworks Vancouver Canada

Honda Celebration of Light fireworks display at English Bay

#7 Explore Grouse Mountain

Grouse Mountain is great for nature lovers. The mountain has activities year-round and many come to ride the Grouse Mountain Skyride, which offers an amazing aerial view of Vancouver and takes you up to the top of the mountain.

Activities that you can partake in at Grouse Mountain include; aerial ropes, skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, ice skating, sliding, ziplining, and tons of dining and shopping. There is something for everyone at Grouse Mountain.

You can easily drive to or take a public bus up to Grouse Mountain.

#8 Go Whale Watching

Vancouver is surrounded on three sides by water, so it’s totally worth taking a whale-watching tour here. 

Book your tour with the Prince of Whales tour group. They leave from multiple points around the city. 

#9 Queen Elizabeth Park

Queen Elizabeth Park is Vancouver’s horticultural center and is a major site for flora and fauna enthusiasts. At 125 meters (410 feet) above sea level, it’s the highest point in Vancouver and makes for spectacular views of the park, city, and mountains on the North Shore.

It is also home to the Bloedel Conservatory.

#10 Go Up the Harbour Centre Lookout Tower

Located in the downtown Harbour Centre building (looks similar to Seattle’s Space Needle), the Lookout Tower is 131 meters (430 feet) high and the perfect place to admire the city from above.

Take a ride up to the observation deck in a glass elevator and enjoy panoramic views of Vancouver, the mountains, and the ocean.

Tickets are $18 CAD and reservations are highly recommended.

Harbour Centre Lookout Tower Vancouver BC Canada

Lookout Tower

#11 Visit Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden

The Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden is the first authentic classical Chinese garden built outside of China. National Geographic named this urban sanctuary the top city garden in the world.

Flower-covered walkways, ponds filled with koi fish, 150-year-old miniature trees, and tai hu rock (eroded rock formation with interesting holes) from China all tie together to create a tranquil spot to walk and reflect. The garden was built using 14th-century methods, without power tools, glue, or screws.

Admission is $16 CAD.

#12 Explore Gastown

Hotel Europe "Flat Iron" Building

Hotel Europe “Flat Iron” Building

Gastown is Vancouver’s oldest neighborhood with stunning Victorian architecture. The town started with a single tavern founded in 1867, the Globe Saloon.

Today, Gastown is a trendy place full of restaurants, cafes, boutique shops, and bars (such as Alibi Room, The Flying Pig, and Rodney’s Oyster House).

Here are things we recommend doing while exploring Gastown:

  • Take a walk down the cobblestone streets by the old historic buildings
  • Admire the Gastown Steam Clock (a clock powered by steam)
  • Check out Hotel Europe (Vancouver’s version of New York’s Flat Iron building)
  • Visit the statue of Gassy Jack Deighton (the man who started the tavern and earned Gastown its name all those years ago).
  • Check out MacLeod’s Books for rare and unique literary masterpieces.
Gastown Steam Clock Vancouver BC Canada

Gastown Steam Clock

Near Gastown is an awesome park where you can watch fireworks (when they’re happening) called CRAB Park. It’s an awesome park with a GREAT skyline view of downtown Vancouver. You are very welcome!

Downtown Vancouver Skyline from CRAB Park

Downtown Vancouver Skyline from CRAB Park

#13 Visit Yaletown

Yaletown is a recently converted industrial neighborhood that’s now home to some of the city’s most popular restaurants and bars.

Spend some time at David Lam Park, George Wainborn Park, or Bill Curtis Square (the hanging art installations here change regularly), walk along the decorated street art Seawall or grab some food or drinks at one of the many restaurant patios.

Bill Curtis Square in Yaletown Vancouver BC Canada

Bill Curtis Square (art installation as of June 2022)

#14 Vancouver Art Gallery

The Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG) was founded in 1931 and is recognized as one of North America’s most respected and innovative visual arts institutions. 

The VAG’s permanent collection serves as a repository of art for the Lower Mainland region and has approximately 12,000 works by artists from Canada, and from around the world. The museum has also organized and hosted a number of traveling art exhibitions from world-famous artists.

The building itself is gorgeous and was previously a provincial courthouse until it became a museum in 1980.

#15 Museum of Anthropology

The Museum of Anthropology at UBC is a great place to learn about the First Nations. With thousands of artifacts, it takes you into an intimate look at the indigenous culture in Vancouver.  

They also have rotating art galleries by and of indigenous peoples.

#16 Catch the Sunset at Horseshoe Bay Lookout

The Horseshoe Bay secret platform is my favorite place to watch the sunset in Vancouver. Even though social media has made the spot busier, it’s still not too crowded so you can enjoy the sunset with a handful of people there. 

You can find the Horseshoe Bay lookout platform along Horseshoe Bay Drive which goes along the east side of the bay, just under the Sea to Sky Highway out to Squamish and Whistler. You will usually see some cars parked along the side of the highway very close to the platform itself.

From this point, it is 1.2 kilometers past the junction for Marine Drive and Horseshoe Bay Drive on the left-hand side.

There are a couple of different places that you can park your car when visiting this spot. If you are driving from the Vancouver direction, then you will see a small parking area a couple of hundred metres past the lookout on the left-hand side. It is the third pull-off parking area on the left after you pass the Marine Drive junction.

There is another place to park, closer to the lookout, right near the bank you need to climb up. However, this is more of a shoulder on the side of the road and really only has room for 3-5 cars.

It only takes around 20 minutes to get here from downtown Vancouver.

You can also get here via public transit. Take the 257 Bus, the Horseshoe Bay Express, from downtown Vancouver which will drop you off at the ferry terminal in Horseshoe Bay. From here it is less than a 30-minute walk up to the platform on Horseshoe Bay Drive.

horseshoe bay viewpoint platform sign vancouver bc canada

This sign marks the exact spot where you can climb up to find the Horseshoe Bay viewpoint platform. You just have to climb a couple of meters up the bank to reach the lookout. As you reach the top of the bank you will see the wooden platform right in front of you.

The view from up here is spectacular and you get an awesome birds-eye perspective down into the busy bay below. Horseshoe Bay is always buzzing with activity as there are several BC Ferries routes that depart from here. You’ll see lots of ferries coming and going to Vancouver Island, Bowen Island, and the Sunshine Coast.

#17 Whytecliff Park

This pretty park is only 30 minutes from Downtown Vancouver and is located very close to Horseshoe Bay. Whytecliff Park has stunning views of Howe Sound, the mountains, and the rugged coastline. It’s a popular spot for diving, picnics, and swimming.

Driving is the easiest way to get here. Just set your GPS to Whytecliff Lookout Point. You can also take the 257 bus from downtown to the Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal. From there it’s a 35 to 40 minute walk to Whytecliff Park.

#18 Marine Building

Opened in 1930, the Marine Building is famous for its art deco-inspired architecture and ornate entrance and lobby. The door has intricate details and during the day, the sun reflects off the golden building located across the street and illuminates the facade of the building.

It’s a popular spot for wedding and portrait photographers. You may also recognize it from a couple of the Fantastic Four Marvel films.

We recommend visiting the building on the weekends where you won’t be bothered by the staff who service the building.

Marine Building in downtown Vancouver BC Canada

Marine Building

#19 UBC Rose Garden

The UBC Rose Garden is one of Vancouver’s best-kept secrets. There are more than a dozen types of roses that bloom between June and September. It’s a lovely spot to take some photos and enjoy the panoramic mountain range backdrop.

The Rose Garden is located on the University of British Columbia’s Vancouver campus. It’s actually on the top of a parkade just off NW Marine Drive.

#20 Spyglass Dock

This aquatic bus stop has become one of Vancouver’s most instagrammable spots in recent years. Located directly beneath the Cambie Bridge, the pier offers a lovely skyline view of the blue and green glass buildings downtown.

Come at night when the buildings are lit up and reflecting off the water.

Other Noteworthy Places to Visit

Use our Vancouver Travel Guide Map to get to these fun destinations.

  • Alley Oop – One of the few Laneway Activations located throughout Vancouver. 
  • Ackery’s Alley – The second Laneway Activation located in the heart of Vancouver’s entertainment district. The design was inspired by its location behind the Orpheum Theatre, the red and gold alley has been named in tribute to Ivan Ackery, the venue’s most famous impresario of theater.
  • Fun Alley
  • The Crab statue at the Vancouver Planetarium
  • Digital Orca
  • Holy Rosary Cathedral – Has gorgeous gothic spires and windows.  
  • Vancouver Central Public Library
  • Its Love Baby Pink Wall (located at Davie and Thurlow)
  • Olympic Cauldron
  • Lighthouse Park
  • East Van Cross Sign
  • Kitsilano Wings
  • Lonsdale Quay
  • Quarry Rock
  • Nitobe Memorial Garden
  • Lei De Buds
  • The Orpheum Theater
  • Chinatown Millennium Gate
  • Morton Park Statues
  • Science World
  • Vancouver City Hall
  • The Drop sculpture by Ignes Idee
  • Rusty Whale Ribs (217.5 Arc x 13′) by Bernar Venet at Sunset Beach Park
  • Voxel Bridge
Colorful Alley Oop street art vancouver BC Canada

Alley Oop!

its love baby mural in west end vancouver bc canada davie and thurlow

It’s Love Baby Mural in West End

Downtown Vancouver Public Library Canada

Vancouver Central Public Library

Downtown Vancouver Central Public Library Canada

Vancouver Central Public Library

pretty church Holy Rosary Cathedral in Vancouver BC Canada

Holy Rosary Cathedral

Olympic Cauldron Vancouver BC Canada

Olympic Cauldron

The Drop raindrop sculpture Vancouver BC Canada

The Drop by Ignes Idee

gates-chinatown-vancouver

Chinatown Millennium Gate

Where to Eat in Vancouver BC

  • AnnaLenaCreative Canadian tasting menu in a modern setting. The restaurant is located in Kitsilano. Their menu changes monthly and reservations are highly recommended.
  • Bao Bei – High-end Chinese restaurant located in Chinatown.
  • Blue Water – Best seafood restaurant in Vancouver. They’ve won many awards and seafood is a big deal in Canada.
  • Botanist – High-end food and drinks. Located in Fairmont hotel.
  • Burdock & Co. – Farm-to-table restaurant with seasonal dishes that will blow your taste buds.
  • Chancho Tortilleria – No frills Mexican food joint that hand-makes their corn tortillas. Come here for tacos and tortas.
  • Xiang Yuan Qiao Yunnan Cross Bridge Rice Noodle – OMG we stumbled upon this place that served hot pot noodle soup and it was so good! I noticed that restaurants are not rated highly in Canada as they are in the USA. If you see anything with a rating of 3.75 and has mostly good reviews, do yourself a favor and go check it out! You might be discovering something novel that most people overlook.
  • Dynasty Seafood – Delicious Chinese food located in downtown Vancouver. Reservations are recommended.
  • Fritz Fry House – A place for creative and traditional poutine. Poutine is a Canadian delicacy that consists of Belgian fries or frites (often double fried) topped with cheese curds and gravy! LE YUM!
  • Guu with Garlic – Japanese Izakaya-style restaurant with delicious meats and small dishes. There is typically a wait here. Expect to wait 30 minutes to dine here.
  • Happy Noodle House – Come here for dumplings and noodles galore! Our favorite dish in the mushroom salad. 
  • JingleBao – Their soup dumplings are to die for! They have rainbow-colored soup dumplings as well as a huge dumpling that you drink with a straw.
  • Kirin  – Come here for delicious dim sum. It’s located in Richmond and can easily be accessed by the Skytain.
  • La Belle Patate – Another place for creative and traditional poutine. Try one or the other, they’re both great places for poutine!
  • Noah’s Cafe – They have the most innovative Japanese fusion menu I’ve ever tried. We ordered the Uni Cream Pasta and pork belly with truffle brussel sprouts which were all to die for. Cue all the flavor bombs!!! Come late at night so that you get discounted food and check out their daily menu offerings. We highly recommend trying one of their smoked bubble cocktails!
  • Phnom Penh – Come here for their famous butter beef, fried chicken wings, and all the Cambodian and Vietnamese food your heart desires. Reservations are highly recommended as they are always busy.
  • Richmond Night Market – The Richmond Night Market comes around every summer and hosts some of the best street food vendors in Vancouver. It’s definitely worth a visit. Visit their site to find hours and dates.
  • Sushi California – Honestly, sushi is great anywhere in Vancouver, but our favorite is Sushi California. You get the most bang for your buck and the sushi is incredibly fresh. Their plates are made for sharing and portions are huge!
  • Sylvia Hotel – One of the most Instagrammable hotels (floral exterior) and restaurants in the city. It’s located near English Bay Beach and has an awesome happy hour menu and prime rib dinners on Sunday. We also highly recommend coming here for brunch.
dim sum from Kirin in Vancouver BC Canada

Dim Sum from Kirin

Soup Soup and Butter Beef from Phnom Penn

Sweet and Sour Vietnamese Fish Soup (Canh Chua) and Butter Beef from Phnom Penn

Deluxe Chirashi from Sushi California in Vancouver Canada

Deluxe Chirashi from Sushi California

Where to Drink in Vancouver BC

I am a craft cocktail snob and always seek out the best places to partake in creative libations. Here are our top picks for Vancouver.

  • 1927 Lobby Lounge
  • The 515 Bar – With an eye catching pink exterior and neon decor inside, this place is great for craft cocktails and craft beer.
  • Bartholomew – Swanky bar with a good selection of cocktails and wine.
  • Clough Club
  • CRAFT Beer Market Restaurant + Bar– Casual bar and eatery with a huge selection of craft beers.
  • D/6 Bar & Lounge (in Parq Vancouver Hotel)
  • The Diamond
  • Guilt and Company
  • Hello Goodbye Bar – Underground basement bar with craft cocktails.
  • The Keefer Bar – Voted Vancouver’s 2nd best bar! Come here for craft cocktails and delicious food.
  • Key Party
  • Laowai – Art deco speakeasy located behind Blnd Tger Dumpling house. You’ll need a password to get in.
  • The Narrow Lounge – From the same owners of Keefer bar. Another cozy craft cocktail haven.
  • Shameful Tiki Room – A bar for tiki cocktail lovers! They make creative craft tiki cocktails in a space paying homage to the tiki bar scene of America.
  • Silk Lounge – Classy restaurant serving fine foods and amazing cocktails.
  • Speakeasy on Granville – This place draws a huge crowd on the weekends. It turns into a club with hip hop and mainstream music. If you’re thinking this is an intimate speakeasy, just be warned that it’s absolutely not.
  • The Stock Room – A cozy bar located down the hallway just inside Hundy’s, a very popular burger joint in Yaletown. We love their mix of refreshing and classic cocktails. Come early as it does get crowded by nighttime.
  • Uncle Abe’s – Another interesting cocktail bar from the owners of Keefer.
Pink Bar 515 Vancouver Canada

Bar 515

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