Vancouver, located on the southwest coast of Canada, is one of the most beautiful and diverse cities in the country. Known for the seawall, great food, ancient forests, and incredible surrounding mountain ranges, there is no shortage of amazing things to do in Vancouver!
With a fantastic mix of nature and urban development, it’s no wonder why Vancouver is considered one of the most liveable cities in the world. It offers the convenience of a big city while also presenting a fantastic gateway to the great outdoors.
This is great news as a visitor, as well, because it gives you an incredibly diverse selection of activities during your stay.
In this blog post, we will go over all of the best things to do in Vancouver from natural landmarks and outdoor activities to trendy neighbourhoods and fascinating architecture.
Where to Stay
First things first, we need to talk about where you want to stay during your time in Vancouver. If you do not plan on renting a vehicle—which is certainly not necessary during your time here—I would recommend staying downtown or in the west end.
Both of these areas will allow you to walk or take public transportation almost everywhere you need to go. They will also keep you close to the best restaurants and the beautiful Stanley Park. It’s about 3 kilometres from one end to the other and easily explored by foot.
There are, however, a few neighbourhoods that I would highly recommend for their ambiance and charm.
Gastown and Yaletown are a few of my favourite areas in Vancouver. If you get the chance to stay in either, you will be no more than a few blocks away from incredible food and a lively atmosphere at all times.
If you are looking for something a little quieter and closer to Stanley Park, choose The West End. There are several great restaurants in this area as well, plus you are only a few blocks away from beautiful beaches and endless waterfront pathways.
How to Get Around
As I mentioned earlier, a vehicle is not necessary during your stay in Vancouver. It is extremely easy to get around by public transit, Uber, bicycle, and foot.
We took full advantage of the many bike rental shops located in the West End for days that we wanted to venture to North Vancouver or through Stanley Park. You can even rent an e-bike to take you to Capilano Suspension Bridge or Deep Cove if you’re feeling adventurous!
Now that we’ve got that sorted, let’s get into the good stuff! Without further ado: the best things to do in Vancouver, Canada’s most vibrant city!
Enjoy Stanley Park
Stanley Park is on the top of my list of the best things to do in Vancouver for good reason. One of the largest urban parks in all of Canada, it is easily accessible and extremely diverse. Fun fact, Stanley Park is actually larger than Central Park in NYC, and in my opinion, it’s even more beautiful!
Within its borders, it holds several kilometres of trails, stunning beaches, abundant wildlife, restaurants, natural, cultural, and historical landmarks, along with spectacular scenery and many other adventures. From scenic rows of cherry blossom trees to Canada’s largest aquarium, Stanley Park really does have it all.
Bike the Seawall
The Seawall is a well-known path in Stanley Park that wraps around the outer edge of the peninsula, offering great views of the surrounding landscape. This 12-kilometre section of pavement is well maintained, well signed, and easy to navigate. Of course, you could also choose to walk or run around the Seawall, but it would take quite a bit more time and stamina than to bike.
There are several shops in Vancouver’s West End that offer bike rentals starting at $7 per hour in 2022. We went with English Bay Bike Rentals and had a fantastic experience!
Visit The Capilano Suspension Bridge
A trip to the Capilano Suspension Bridge is another iconic thing to do in Vancouver. Located across the harbour in North Vancouver, the experience is definitely worth the trip. Along with the picturesque suspension bridge, they also offer a treetops adventure area, a stunning cliff walk, and a series of pathways that are lit up during the winter months. The entrance fee is $59 CAD for adults.
To get there from downtown Vancouver, you have a few options available to you. First, you can choose to drive, take an Uber, or take public transit. This might be your best option if you are trying to fit other things into your day.
Second, you can take advantage of their free shuttles that run every 15-30 minutes from Canada Place. This is extra convenient if it is close to where you’re staying!
The last option, and the one we chose, was to rent e-bikes and combine your visit to Stanley Park with The Capilano Suspension Bridge. It is very doable in a day, the bike lanes in Vancouver are fantastic, and it allowed us to spend a ton of extra time outdoors. Win/win/win!
Walk the Waterfront
Vancouver’s waterfront is one of the most popular and picturesque places in the city. The excellent series of pathways offer views of downtown, North Vancouver, and the mountains in the distance. There is no right place to begin or end your walk, so just make your way to the ocean and enjoy!
Gastown, one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Vancouver, is located very close to Canada Place and the Vancouver harbour. The cobblestone streets are lined with trendy cafes, shops, and restaurants that are certainly worth a visit! A few of my favourite local restaurants include Nuba, MeeT in Gastown, Tacofino, and LOCAL Public Eatery.
While you are there, make sure to pay a visit to the Gastown Steam Clock. Built in 1977, this famous antique-style clock is powered by steam & whistles to tell the time.
The Vancouver Aquarium
Located in Stanley Park, The Vancouver Aquarium is actually the largest aquarium in all of Canada. They have several indoor and outdoor exhibits including local and tropical sea life. In addition to being a major tourist attraction for Vancouver, the aquarium is also a centre for marine research, ocean literacy education, conservation, and marine animal rehabilitation.
Visit the new Marine Mammal Rescue exhibit at the B.C. Wild Coast for a sneak peek into our Marine Mammal Rescue Centre ─ the only facility of its kind in Canada and one of the largest rescue facilities in the world.
Meet our rescued residents, who now find sanctuary at the Vancouver Aquarium after being deemed non-releasable by Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Hear their stories, and learn what you can do to help.Vancouver Aquarium Website
Eat at The Richmond Night Market
The Richmond Night Market is something that you have to add to your list of things to do in Vancouver! Open from 6-7 PM to 12 PM every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday during the summer months, this is the closest thing I have experienced to the night markets in Asia!
Once inside, there are several vendors offering everything from shrimp stuffed pineapples to deep-fried bao buns. It is all freaking delicious. You can also find local vendors selling jewellery, clothing, and other trinkets.
The Richmond Night Market is located at 8351 River Road, one block away from Bridgeport Train Station on the Canada Line. To get here from downtown, you can either hop on the Skytrain or take a taxi or an Uber.
NOTE: As of 2022, the $6 CAD admission fee and many of the vendors are cash only. There are a few ATMs available on-site, but the lineups to use them can get long. If you are going in a group of 4 or more, the zoom pass is well worth the money. For $35 CAD, you can skip the line and cover the admission fee for up to 6 people.
Hike at Lynn Canyon
Lynn Canyon is a gorgeous natural area located in North Vancouver. Here, you can wander through the forest, cross a stunning suspension bridge, and catch views of the cascading waterfalls below. Unlike Capilano Suspension Bridge, Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge is free to enter and can be accessed from multiple different trails in the area.
We rented e-bikes to get here from Downtown and really enjoyed walking the trails and admiring the peaceful pathways. If you plan to go on a weekend, I would highly recommend going early in the morning as the park gets very busy in the afternoons.
Take a Ferry to Granville Island
Granville Island, located just off the shore of downtown Vancouver, is a small island accessible by boat or by vehicle. From the Vancouver Aquatic Center, there is a small pedestrian ferry that makes the short trip across the water approximately every 5 minutes.
Once you arrive, you will find colourful markets and bustling food vendors around every corner. Take a stroll inside the Granville Island Public Market building for everything from fresh seafood to homemade baked goods. Trust me, you’re going to want to go hungry!
Stop in at Lonsdale Quay Market
Speaking of markets, this trendy little spot in North Vancouver gave me mad Granville Island vibes. Lonsdale Quay Market, located on the north side of Vancouver Harbour, is a short Seabus ride away from downtown.
In this market, you will find vendors selling fresh produce, food, and local products. There are also several restaurants surrounding the market if you are looking for more of a sit-down meal. This is a great place to stop on your way to or from any activities in North Vancouver for a bite to eat.
Spend the Evening in Yaletown
Yaletown is a popular neighbourhood located near the water in downtown Vancouver. Home to hip restaurants and trendy boutiques, the streets are always buzzing with people enjoying the green spaces, outdoor patios, and artwork that lines the streets.
If you are looking for a place to eat, grab a drink, or even just go to soak up a lively atmosphere, Yaletown is the place to be! A few of my favourite stops include Tacofino, Mister Ice Cream, MeeT in Yaletown, Homer Street Cafe, and The Flying Pig.
Take a Day Trip to North Vancouver
North Vancouver is my personal favourite part of the entire city. Fortunately for those of us who make the trip, this area is often skipped by tourists making it quieter and more laid back than downtown. Some of the best places to go are Deep Cove, Quarry Rock, Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge, Capilano Suspension Bridge, and Lonsdale Quay Market.
There are a few options to travel around North Vancouver, but my recommendation would be by e-bike. You can easily rent one near your hotel downtown and spend a day or two cruising around the parks and coastline in North Vancouver. The bike lanes are fantastic and it gives you the most freedom and flexibility.
Have Lunch in Deep Cove
Deep Cove is a charming little comminuty located in North Vancouver. Easily accessible by vehicle, bike, or public transport, I would highly recommend making the trip! In Deep Cove, you will find cute cafes, restaurants, art galleries, and a waterfront park that you could easily spend a few hours enjoying.
If you are up for a little hike, you can access the Quarry Rock hiking trail directly from Deep Cove. At only 4.2km round trip and 215m of elevation, this stunning coastal pathway is certainly worth the effort. One you reach Quarry Rock, you will be rewarded with spectacular views of the ocean, downtown Vancouver, and the surrounding mountains.
Spot Sea Life on a Whale Watching Tour
Without a doubt, one of the best things to do in Vancouver is to go on a whale watching tour. From out on the open water, you’ll have the opportunity to spot various types of sea life including Humpback Whales, Orcas, seals, seabirds, and otters. The best time of year is from May to October. and you can expect to pay about $150 CAD for a half-day tour.
Eat ALL the Food
Vancouver is one of Canada’s most ethnically diverse and densely populated cities. Besides the huge emphasis on outdoor activities and the thriving art and music scenes, Vancouver is also jam-packed with some of the best food I have ever had!
There are so many fantastic restaurants that you could stay here for weeks on end and not even make a dent. In the blog post below, I have detailed all of my favourite places to eat including coffee shops, brunch, lunch, dinner, and dessert.
I should also mention that all of the restaurants that I am recommending in Vancouver are moderately priced. This is not a “5-star dining list”, but instead, a list of delicious, affordable, local restaurants that you are going to absolutely love!
Explore Grouse Mountain
Located just north of the Capilano Suspension Bridge, Grouse Mountain is an iconic year-round destination in Vancouver. From the base of the mountain, you can either take a gondola to the top or hike the Grouse Grind. This one-way trail is no joke with 771 meters of elevation gain over 2.6 kilometres. Please note that this is a one-way trail. If you hike up, you will need to buy a ticket to take the gondola down for $20CAD.
If you chose to take the gondola both ways, it will cost $69CAD (2022) and give you access to a plethora of activities at the top. These include a wildlife refuge, grizzly bear habitat, zip-lining, shopping, dining, hiking, disk golf, and more. Make your way up in the morning so that you have the majority of the day to explore!
Take a Wine Tour
Last but certainly not least, why not finish off your trip to Vancouver with a wine tour? Only an hour from downtown Vancouver, The Fraser Valley is a great option for a laid back day. If you have a vehicle, you can consider driving yourself, but I would highly recommend booking a tour. They cover transportation to and from your hotel in Vancouver so you can focus on enjoying your day—and your wine!