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Vancouver is well known for its stunning natural beauty, whale watching and wildlife encounters, and vibrant cosmopolitan city vibes.
It’s proximity to the North Shore Mountains makes it ideal for outdoor enthusiasts, while city dwellers can revel in its world class shopping scene.
Needless to say, there are plenty of things to do in Vancouver.
But if you’re not sure what to do in Vancouver, then you’ve come to the right place.
In this guide, we’ve shared some tips and insider knowledge on attractions in Vancouver for those looking for the best places to see, eat, stay, drink, explore, and more…
- Is Vancouver Worth Visiting?
- Best Things to Do in Vancouver
- 1. Walk or Bike Stanley Park Seawall
- 2. Visit Granville Island Public Market
- 3. Play Beach Volleyball at Kits Beach or Spanish Banks Beach
- 4. Wander the Historical Gastown & See The Iconic Steam Clock
- 5. See Beluga and Orca Whales at the Vancouver Aquarium in Stanley Park
- 6. Take the Tram or Cable Car to Grouse Mountain
- 7. Catch a Vancouver Canucks Hockey Game at Rogers Arena
- 8. Eat Dim Sum in Vancouver’s Lively Chinatown
- 9. Explore the Vancouver Neighborhoods
- 10. Hit The Bars on Granville Street
- 11. Shop 'Till You Drop on Robson Street!
- 12. Take a Getaway Trip to Vancouver Island
- 13. Take a Day Trip to Whistler
- 14. Visit the Wineries & Breweries
- 15. Get Cultured at Vancouver Art Gallery
- 16. Walk Across The Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
- 17. Visit the Museum of Anthropology (MOA) at University of British Columbia
- 18. Relax on English Bay Beach
- 19. Snap Photos In Front of Canada Place
- Best Time To Visit Vancouver
- Getting To And Around Vancouver
- Where To Stay In Vancouver
- Final Thoughts On Things To Do In Vancouver
- More Western Canada Travel Tips
Is Vancouver Worth Visiting?
There is good reason why Vancouver is consistently ranked as one of the world’s most livable cities, despite the high housing prices and cost of living.
It’s a vibrant, cosmopolitan city with a chilled out West Coast attitude that’s all about health, the outdoors and enjoying the simple things in life, so for this reason, it’s absolutely worth visiting.
Within 20 minutes of downtown Vancouver, visitors can:
- ski and snowboard on three local mountains
- swim and sunbathe at over a dozen beaches
- cycle around endless waterfront seawall
- hike through temperate rain forests
- kayak through pristine wilderness
- dine at five-star restaurants
- and hit the Granville entertainment strip that has over 25 bars and clubs.
Are you sold yet? I can keep going…
Best Things to Do in Vancouver
If you’re ever unsure about what to do in Vancouver, then some of the top attractions are:
1. Walk or Bike Stanley Park Seawall
Walking or cycling along the Stanley Park Seawall is an opportunity to see some of the breathtaking natural beauty of the park.
The 9-kilometer path around Stanley Park is well maintained and paved, and passes stunning views of the ocean, beaches, and city skyline.
Walking or cycling the Seawall is a delightful way to experience Vancouver’s outdoor charm.
2. Visit Granville Island Public Market
Granville Island Market is known for its vibrant atmosphere, and from the moment you step foot inside, you are greeted by a feast for the senses.
The market showcases a wide array of fresh produce, mouthwatering pastries, handcrafted goods, and delectable seafood.
Whether you’re a food lover, art enthusiast, or simply looking to explore a bustling hub of creativity, Granville Island Market has something for everyone.
3. Play Beach Volleyball at Kits Beach or Spanish Banks Beach
These stunning sandy shores provide the perfect backdrop for a friendly game or a competitive match of beach volleyball with your travel friends or family.
With the refreshing ocean breeze, breathtaking mountain views, and the rhythmic sound of waves crashing nearby, it’s an invigorating and immersive setting to unleash your inner athlete.
4. Wander the Historical Gastown & See The Iconic Steam Clock
Wandering through the historical Gastown neighborhood in Vancouver is a chance to go back in time.
This iconic district, named after “Gassy” Jack Deighton, a Yorkshire seaman, is where the city of Vancouver was born.
As you stroll along its cobblestone streets, you’ll be surrounded by beautifully preserved heritage brick buildings, historic sites, boutique shops, and fine restaurants.
One of the must-see attractions in Gastown is the famous Steam Clock, an enchanting landmark that emits puffing steam and melodic chimes.
It’s a testament to the area’s rich history and adds a touch of whimsy to the ambiance.
5. See Beluga and Orca Whales at the Vancouver Aquarium in Stanley Park
The Vancouver Aquarium has a vast collection of marine animals and captivating exhibits, it’s a must-visit attraction for nature enthusiasts of all ages.
See mysterious marine animals like beluga whales and orcas, as well as sea otters, sea lions, and many types of fish species.
The aquarium’s commitment to conservation and education ensures that every visit contributes to the preservation of our oceans.
6. Take the Tram or Cable Car to Grouse Mountain
Ascending Grouse Mountain via the tram allows you to immerse yourself in the beauty of Vancouver’s natural landscape whilst also sitting back and relaxing.
The tram or cable car provides easy access to Grouse Mountain for visitors who may not have the right hiking gear or are unsure about their fitness level, though if you want to visit the peak of Grouse Mountain, you can hike the Grouse Grind if you’re adventurous enough).
Once at the summit, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic vistas, lush forests, and thrilling activities like disc golf and skiing.
There is also a Wildlife Refuge for grizzly bears, a zip line and a lumberjack show at the top.
7. Catch a Vancouver Canucks Hockey Game at Rogers Arena
Vancouver has a rich sporting culture, so be sure to catch a Vancouver Canucks hockey game at Rogers Arena if you’re visiting during the season (October to April).
As the crowd roars with excitement, you’ll be swept up in the passion and energy of the game.
Attending a Canucks game allows you to witness one of Canada’s most beloved sports and also feel the energy of the locals.
8. Eat Dim Sum in Vancouver’s Lively Chinatown
Vancouver’s Chinatown is a neighborhood that’s steeped in history and brimming with cultural richness.
Stroll down bustling streets adorned with vibrant colors and exotic aromas, as you explore a world of diverse shops, restaurants, and hidden gems.
Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the iconic Dr. Sun Yat Sen Chinese Garden, an oasis of tranquility amidst the hustle and bustle.
Indulge in mouthwatering cuisine, from dim sum delights to traditional Chinese pastries.
Be sure to check out the treasures of the Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Vancouver Museum.
9. Explore the Vancouver Neighborhoods
One of the best ways to get a feel for a city is to walk around the neighborhoods. Thankfully, Vancouver has a lot of neighbourhoods worth visiting, each with its own distinct vibe.
If you’ve got the time, we recommend visiting Commercial Drive in East Vancouver, which has dozens of eclectic restaurants, bars and cafes and is known for its trendy stores and character homes.
Main Street in Mount Pleasant is a vibrant area known for its street art murals and shopping.
Kitsilano in Vancouver’s West Side, is Vancouver’s sexiest beach with kilometers of waterfront trails for walking, running and cycling. It has lots of shopping and restaurants on popular 4th Avenue.
Lower Lonsdale in North Vancouver is where you’ll find Lonsdale Quay Market which has a variety of shops, restaurants and fantastic views of Vancouver’s city skyline.
South Main in East Van is a trendy and bohemian neighbourhood with great cafes and restaurants.
Deep Cove in North Vancouver is great for outdoor lovers. Rent a kayak or hike the Baden Powell trail, then treat yourself to fresh honey donuts and coffee on the peaceful beach.
Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver has a small marina surrounded by picturesque mountains. You can 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.
10. Hit The Bars on Granville Street
For a night of drinking and vibrant nightlife, everyone should head to Granville Street.
The district is sectioned off for pedestrian traffic and it’s where you will find a variety of restaurants, pubs, bars and nightclubs. It’s definitely the place to be on Friday and Saturday night.
For a more upscale experience, Yaletown has several fine dining restaurants, classy lounges and stylish patio venues that attract Vancouver’s elite.
11. Shop ‘Till You Drop on Robson Street!
For shopping, head to Robson Street in Downtown Vancouver, one of the world’s most famous shopping districts.
The Robson area has lots of designer stores and there is an underground mall called Pacific Centre.
Granville Island is the most popular market in Vancouver but you can also visit the Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver and the Richmond Night Market in the summer.
12. Take a Getaway Trip to Vancouver Island
The best insider tip we can give is to visit Victoria, Vancouver Island and/or the Southern Gulf Islands. The ferry passage alone is worth the trip!
To visit Victoria properly, plan to spend 2-3 nights on the island. We often meet travelers that only plan to do a day trip to Victoria – this is a BIG mistake.
There are also a lot of things to do in Victoria and each direction takes about 4 hours, making it a very long day trip that will feel is rushed. Trust us – you want more than one day in Victoria!
13. Take a Day Trip to Whistler
Some other lesser known destinations that are worth visiting for a day trip however, are Bowen Island, Deep Cove, the Sunshine Coast, Squamish and Harrison Hot Springs.
But without question, the best day trip is Whistler. You can take the bus from downtown Vancouver but we recommend you rent a vehicle so that you can stop and take pictures along the way.
The trip takes 1.5 to 2 hours and the Sea-to-Sky Highway is arguably the most beautiful stretch of highway in the world.
Whistler Village 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.
14. Visit the Wineries & Breweries
The Fraser Valley has a few wineries that have a good reputation, but we recommend you visit the world-class wineries of the Okanagan Valley, about a 4-hour drive east of Vancouver.
There are hundreds of wineries to choose from, so it’s best to stay a few nights and join a wine tour so that you don’t have to drive.
Vancouver’s craft beer scene has exploded over the past few years with several very good breweries and Brewpubs scattered throughout the city.
The most popular brewery is the Granville Island Brewing located on Granville Island. It offers daily brewery tours and beer samplers.
15. Get Cultured at Vancouver Art Gallery
Check out the artistic wonders of the Vancouver Art Gallery, where Canadian and international art combine into a captivating collection spanning over a century.
From stunning paintings to captivating sculptures, there is plenty to see here to amaze you.
The gallery’s architectural beauty compliments with the artwork, which is another reason to visit this top attraction in Vancouver.
16. Walk Across The Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
This iconic landmark is one of the many suspension bridges in Vancouver that highlight Canada’s impressive engineering capabilities.
Nestled in the canopies of the forest, this wobbly suspension bridge is both a thrill and a chance to get out into nature.
While you’re there, discover the Living Forest, a captivating exhibition that showcases the region’s diverse flora and fauna.
If you prefer more adventure, don’t miss the Cliffwalk, a spine-tingling walkway that clings to the granite cliffs, offering breathtaking views.
Another suspension bridge worth checking out if you enjoyed this experience is Lynn Canyon Park Suspension Bridge.
17. Visit the Museum of Anthropology (MOA) at University of British Columbia
Nestled within the University of British Columbia, this cultural gem offers a profound and immersive experience for tourists wanting to learn more about the countries history.
Marvel at the awe-inspiring collections of global artifacts and remarkable First Nations art displayed within its walls.
Step into the Great Hall and be mesmerized by towering totem poles and intricately crafted canoes.
A visit to the Museum of Anthropology is an enlightening exploration of the human heritage of North America that will leave you with a newfound appreciation for cultural diversity.
18. Relax on English Bay Beach
English Bay Beach is a picturesque urban beach where you can sink your toes into the soft sand and admire stunning panoramic views of the ocean and mountains.
Take a refreshing dip in the crystal-clear waters or stroll along the vibrant seawall, surrounded by lush greenery.
19. Snap Photos In Front of Canada Place
You cannot leave Vancouver without snapping a picture in front of Canada Place, an iconic landmark set against the stunning backdrop of the city’s waterfront.
This architectural marvel has a unique design and the promenade walk provides breathtaking views, allowing you to take home a photo that resembles the best of Vancouver.
Best Time To Visit Vancouver
Vancouver is a year-round destination with benefits for visiting each season, so there really is no one best time to visit.
- 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 fall you have perfect temperatures, colourful trees and beautiful sunsets.
There really isn’t a bad time to visit Vancouver, but if we had to recommend the best time of year we would guide you to the summer-autumn months between June and September.
Getting To And Around Vancouver
Air travel around Canada is not cheap but it’s the most convenient way to travel between major cities.
There are only a few domestic airlines in Canada – WestJet and Air Canada are the leaders with the most competitive prices. We use Air Canada because it’s a member of the Star Alliance and offers air miles that can be used on other airlines around the world.
Vancouver is the major Canadian hub on the west coast, so most flights will arrive/depart from Vancouver International Airport (YVR). Abbotsford also has an international airport but it’s about an hour drive outside of Vancouver and it’s not convenient unless you have a vehicle.
Seattle, Washington is about a 3 hour drive south of Vancouver. Flights to US and Central American destinations are much cheaper from Seattle and there are typically more options.
When it comes to getting around, Vancouver is very walkable and it’s easy to navigate. Most of the downtown core is surrounded by water with a fantastic seawall that’s great for roller-blading, running, skateboarding and biking.
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.
Where To Stay In Vancouver
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.
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.
Final Thoughts On Things To Do In Vancouver
I love Vancouver because of its ability to consistently surprise us with its never-ending supply of natural beauty and adventure.
There are so many reasons why Nicole and Cameron love living in British Columbia, but by now you’ve probably got a good idea as to what those reasons might be.
We hope this guide helped you plan your trip to Vancouver and gave you some inspiration for what to do there.
More Western Canada Travel Tips
- Best hikes in the Canadian Rockies (easy to hard)
- The most beautiful places to see in Jasper National Park
- Expert Insider Tips on What to Do in Banff, Canada
- What to Do in Victoria, BC, Canada (Local Tips)
- 9+ Best Things to do in Calgary, Canada (on a Short Visit)
- Best things to do in Banff National Park
BIO: Nicole and Cameron Wears are a married couple living in Vancouver but have traveled to over 50 countries together in the past 7 years, fulfilling many of their life goals and dreams along the way. Their personal travel blog Traveling Canucks highlights their travel stories, tips, and photographs, and they also share more tips on things to do in Vancouver over on their blog. You can also follow their adventures on Facebook and Twitter.
Do you have any tips on what to do in Vancouver? Share your ideas in the comments.