Trip Ideas

Vancouver Vacation

Vancouver really is one of the greatest cities in the world to live in or visit; it’s also one of the best places to shop, hike or bike with some of the world’s sportiest urbanites. Explore neighbourhoods that range from historic to beachside, and be sure to sample some of Vancouver’s award-winning restaurants.


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MAP LEGEND
  1. Yaletown
  2. Stanley Park Seawall
  3. Granville Island
  4. Gastown
  5. Chinatown
  6. Kitsilano

Stanley Park Seawall

Vancouver Aquarium. Photo Credit: Jeff Vinnick

Jog, bike or just walk the scenic Stanley Park seawall, and take in views of the downtown skyline, the North Shore mountains and English Bay. One recommended stop: The Vancouver Aquarium for a dolphin show and a visit with the otters, penguins and belugas.

Granville Island

Hop a mini foot-passenger ferry run by Aquabus or False Creek Ferries and head to art-filled Granville Island. Shop for hand-thrown pots, crazy hats and silver jewellery, or watch a glassblower, a boat builder, a goldsmith or a totem carver at work. Mix with art students, buskers and locals on this pedestrian friendly island. Indulge in the fresh food on Granville Island by picking up a delicate artisan pastry and a steaming espresso in the public market. Or if you prefer to dine and take in the marina views, savour a long lunch at Bridges, or Dockside Restaurant at the Granville Island Hotel.

Insider's Tips

  • Go on a treasure hunt in Stanley Park: look, for example, for the Hollow Tree, a Western Red Cedar thought to be 700 or 800 years old and Siwash Rock.
  • Sip sake on Granville Island at Artisan Sake Maker, recognized as “Canada’s first locally produced fresh premium sake”.
  • Sample the tastes of BC, like Stanley Park Pilsner, Victoria Gin, or Okanagan Spirits absinthe, at Grain Tasting Bar at the Hyatt Regency Vancouver.
  • Take a step back in time at Vancouver’s Marine Building, which is regarded as one of the world’s great art deco structures.
  • Get an insider’s scoop on Vancouver’s gritty beginnings on a walking tour with Forbidden Vancouver. Part street theatre, part historical tour, the walks through Vancouver’s older neighbourhoods are a great way to dig into the city’s fascinating past.

Gastown

Wander through Victorian nooks, crannies and hidden courtyards in Gastown, Vancouver’s oldest neighbourhood. One of the city’s trendiest districts, Gastown’s cobbled streets are alive with hip nightclubs and chic restaurants. For a great bite try the epicurean charcuterie at Salt Tasting Room, or a casual French-influenced meal at L’Abattoir. There’s also a wealth of independent interior design and fashion boutiques to check out like the local designs at Dream Apparel & Articles for People, or the cutting edge menswear at Haven.

Yaletown

Yaletown, a stylish neighbourhood with 19th-century brick-lined warehouses and cobbled streets, is home to galleries, design studios and many of the city’s top eateries. Old loading docks are now restaurant patios, so in summer whole streets come alive with al fresco dining.

Chinatown

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Garden in Chinatown. Photo Credit: JF Bergeron

In Chinatown, browse the herbalists and tea shops (Ten Ren Tea & Ginseng on Main Street has hundreds of blends), then find zen in the middle of the city at the serene Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, a traditional Ming-Dynasty-style scholar’s garden. On summer weekends, shop for Asian styles and sip bubble tea at the Vancouver Chinatown Night Market. Or head south for a delicious adventure at one of Richmond’s popular night markets.

Kitsilano

Antony and Cleopatra, Bard on the Beach 2010. Photo Credit: David Blue

Explore funky new age shops and sidewalk cafés in laid back Kitsilano (“Kits” to the locals), then spend some relaxation time on Kits Beach before taking in Bard on the Beach, an outdoor Shakespeare festival held every summer at Kits’ Vanier Park.

Museums and Gardens

See history take shape at the Museum of Anthropology, home to one of the world’s best collections of Northwest Coast First Nations art. Step into the Great Hall to see towering cedar poles and head to the Bill Reid Rotunda to admire the renowned artist’s iconic “The Raven and the First Men” sculpture. Want to see more? Wander outside among totems and Haida houses.

The museum is on the University of British Columbia campus, about 20 minutes from downtown Vancouver by bus or car. While on campus, stroll the lakeside pathways at the Nitobe Memorial Garden, a traditional Japanese garden near the museum; explore the rainforest canopy on the Greenheart Canopy Walkway at the UBC Botanical Garden; or see a full blue whale skeleton at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum.

Restaurants

Blue Water Cafe. Photo Credit: Robert Kent

Vancouver’s dining scene is famous for fresh seafood, top Asian cuisine and a wealth of locally sourced fare (the 100 Mile Diet – eating only what can be raised within a 100-mile radius – was invented right here).

Indulge your tastebuds with West Coast cuisine at West on South Granville Street, or book a table at Yaletown seafood hot spot Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar.

For legendary sushi, grab a seat at Tojo’s and ask chef Hidekazu Tojo for “Omakase” (meaning “to entrust”); watch the chef create a special meal based on the day’s freshest local ingredients.

Chinese food is serious business in a city where a third of the population can claim Asian roots. Kirin Restaurant and Sun Sui Wah Seafood Restaurant are top Vancouver choices, or enjoy a taste of Hong Kong cuisine in Richmond, the heart of BC’s Asian food scene.

For cheap eats, head to Go Fish (near Granville Island) for a salmon tacone, or sample some global street food from a downtown food cart. Top picks include the Korean short rib tacos at the Roaming Dragon and the pulled pork sandwiches at Re-Up BBQ.

Shopping

On Robson Street, cafés and people-watching mix with boutiques and chains (think Gap, Club Monaco and Banana Republic). For local designs and great deals, fashionistas like Main Street around King Edward Avenue. Top finds here include Barefoot Contessa and Eugene Choo.

Head for South Granville Rise (Granville Street between 5th and 16th avenues) for designer goods and galleries; try Bau-Xi Gallery (Canadian contemporary art) and Douglas Reynolds Gallery (Northwest Coast Aboriginal art and jewellery).

Accommodation

Looking for luxury? The stylish Rosewood Hotel Georgia, with its amazing outdoor patio, and the Hyatt Regency Vancouver Hotel are both located in the heart of Vancouver, close to shopping and world-class dining.

Delta Vancouver Suites’ central downtown location means easy access to attractions such as Science World, the Vancouver Aquarium and Chinatown.

Transportation

Vancouver’s downtown core is compact and easily walkable, and most sites are linked by public transport. The SkyTrain, Vancouver’s rapid transit system, travels in and around the city, with buses and cabs filling in the gaps.

A fun way to travel is via Aquabus and False Creek Ferries, little foot-passenger boats that criss-cross False Creek between downtown, Granville Island and Kitsilano every few minutes. SkyTrain’s Canada Line whisks visitors from the airport to downtown in just 25 minutes.