Three-Day Getaway: Vancouver

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Three days? Better lace up your walking shoes if you want to cover as much of Vancouver as possible in that time. Start with these essential highlights to make the most of your time in this vibrant city caught between old and new, east and west, gleaming ocean and forested mountains.

Canada Place | Kezia Nathe

Day 1: Downtown

Shimmering with glass towers and surrounded by charming low-rise neighbourhoods, downtown is both Vancouver’s financial centre and its historic heart. You can easily explore this area on foot.

Your Wakeup Call

As you’re emerging from your cocoon, most Vancouverites have already been to yoga, cycled the Seawall, or hiked the Grouse Grind, and are ready for breakfast. Join them at Café Medina, Jam Café, or The Birds & The Beets.

Canada Place and Jack Poole Plaza

Follow the distinctive white sails of Canada Place to the city’s favourite meeting place. Most tours start from this central location, home to the city’s two convention centres, cruise ship and seaplane terminals, Flyover Canada attraction, several hotels and restaurants, and, usefully, the Tourism Vancouver Visitor Centre across the street.

From here, set out on the Seaside Greenway towards Stanley Park. This 28-kilometre (17-mile) route is the world’s longest uninterrupted waterfront walk-run-cycle path, and comprises the Stanley Park Seawall before continuing along False Creek through Kitsilano and on to Spanish Banks.

Stanley Park

The 400 hectares (1,000 acres) of this public park mix wild rainforest with beautifully landscaped gardens. Explore Stanley Park‘s beaches, trails,  totem poles, playgrounds, miniature railway, lighthouses, and the world-renowned Vancouver Aquarium. Grab at bite at one of the concession stands or restaurants, then climb aboard a hop-on, hop-off bus and head straight to Chinatown.

Chinatown

This historic neighbourhood is one of North America’s oldest and biggest predominantly Chinese neighbourhoods. Designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 2011, it is home to the peaceful Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, the dragon-entwined China Gate, lively noodle shops, Chinese herbalists, and hip new restaurants.

Gastown

Northwest of Chinatown is Vancouver’s oldest neighbourhood, Gastown, with cobblestoned streets and low-rise brick buildings that date back to the 1860s. Check out the famous Gastown Steam Clock, then browse through the Indigenous art galleries and local designer boutiques such as John Fluevog and Obakki, before stopping for dinner. Enjoy the Quebecois richness of St Lawrence, French-influenced L’Abattoir, Mexi-Cali at Tacofino, nose-to-tail locavorism at Wildebeest, pan-Asian Pidgin, or what many consider one of the city’s best burgers at Pourhouse.

Day 2: West Side

Take the foot passenger ferry called the Aquabus across False Creek (which is actually an inlet), then spend a leisurely day exploring Kitsilano, Granville Island, and the University of British Columbia.

Joe to Go

Don’t let Vancouver’s laid-back reputation fool you; this is one well-caffeinated city. Some of the best places to get your cuppa tea or coffee are on the west side, including Beaucoup Bakery & Cafe,  49th Parallel Coffee Roasters, Silk Road Tea, and O5 Rare Tea Bar.

UBC and the Museum of Anthropology

The University of British Columbia’s sprawling campus is home to several galleries and museums, including the famous Museum of Anthropology, a concrete-and-glass clifftop structure designed by notable Vancouver architect Arthur Erickson. Spend a few hours exploring its remarkable collection of Indigenous art from around the world, especially the Pacific Northwest totem poles, spirit masks, and sculptures.

Kitsilano and Vanier Park

“Kits” was hippie heaven back in the patchouli-scented 1960s and ’70s. Today it’s more hip than hippie. Enjoy some window shopping along busy 4th Avenue, then stop for lunch at Fable Kitchen, Au Comptoir, or Vancouver’s beloved vegetarian eatery, The Naam.

Public art (Giants by Os Gemeos) at Granville Island | Nelson Mouellic

From here, head down to Kits Beach and connect with the Seaside Greenway to Vanier Park, where you will find a cluster of quirky museums—Vancouver Maritime Museum, Museum of Vancouver, and H.R. MacMillan Space Centre—and the striped tents of the Vancouver International Children’s Festival in May or Bard on the Beach June through September.

Granville Island

Continue along the greenway to Granville Island, making sure to get there before the stores close at 7 p.m. (6 p.m. for the Kids Market). Once an industrial site, the island is now a lively dining and shopping destination with a 50,000-square-foot public market as its centrepiece. Looking for gifts? You’ll find crafts, jewelry, and other ideas in the Net Loft and along Railspur Alley, and dinner at the new Popina Canteen.

In this shipping container converted into a stylish wharfside eatery, four of Vancouver’s most celebrated chefs— Joël Watanabe (Kissa Tanto, Bao Bei), Angus An (Maenam, Fat Mao), Hamid Salimian (Vancouver Community College and Earls), and Robert Belcham (Campagnolo)—have collaborated on a mission “to give fast food a makeover.” Enjoy fresh-off-the-boat seafood along with local beer and wine.

Day 3: North Shore

The North Shore Mountains are an outdoor lover’s paradise of hiking trails, ski runs, breathtaking attractions, and the communities of North and West Vancouver. Get there via shuttles, city bus, or the SeaBus foot-passenger ferry.

Capilano Suspension Bridge Park

Don’t look down! It’s a terrifying 70-metre (230-feet) plunge from the swaying wood-and-cable footbridge to the Capilano River below. The park also features a Treetops Adventure, cantilevered Cliffwalk, gift shop, restaurant, and Indigenous exhibits.

Grouse Mountain

This family-friendly ski hill offers the very best views of the city as well as the surrounding landscape. Feeling energetic? Hike the demanding 2.9-kilometre (1.8-mile) Grouse Grind to the top. In a more leisurely mood? Take the Skyride gondola. At the summit, you can hike, mountain bike, and zipline in summer; ski, skate, and sleigh ride in winter. Or just grab a seat at one of the numerous eateries and savour that unbeatable view.

Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver | Tom Ryan

Go west. No, east

Grouse Mountain sits between North and West Vancouver. Whichever direction you choose, both communities have plenty to offer the active visitor. West Vancouver’s Lighthouse Park is a 75-hectare (185-acre) cliffside park of towering old-growth rainforest, easy hiking trails, and scenic picnic areas. To the east in North Vancouver, Lynn Headwaters Regional Park is a 250-hectare (9,216-acre) wilderness area laced with hiking trails that range from easy ambles to rugged backcountry treks as well as a (free!) suspension bridge.

Joining both communities is the North Shore Spirit Trail, which, when it is completed sometime in the next few years, will be a fully accessible greenway stretching 35 kilometres (21.7 miles) from Horseshoe Bay to Deep Cove.

A Delicious Finish

Vancouver is renowned for its exceptional cuisine, based on the freshest local ingredients and influenced by the culinary traditions of Europe, Asia, and the Americas. For your final night, plan on a sustainable seafood feast: high-end at Blue Water Café; casual at Hook Seabar or Wildtale; or the raw deal at Tojo, Miku, or the Ocean Wise RawBar at the Fairmont Pacific Rim.

 

 

Three days in Vancouver is just enough for a small taste of all this beautiful city has to offer. We have a feeling you’ll be back for more.

BC Map 200 km 124 mi Vancouver Vancouver
POSTED BY: Joanne Sasvari

From: North Vancouver
Joanne Sasvari has travelled to many places around the globe, writing about food, drink and culture, but her favourite destination is right here at home in British Columbia. Based in North Vancouver, she writes about BC for a variety of print and online publications, and is also the author of Frommer’s EasyGuide to Vancouver & Victoria. When not exploring the most delicious corners of the province, she edits Westcoast Homes & Design magazine and uses her Wine and Spirits Education Trust training to savour the best local libations.

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