Having lived here for 10 years now, I’ve experienced a lot that Vancouver has to offer. Here are some of my favourites that you really shouldn’t miss while you’re here.
Bike around the Stanley Park Seawall
Home to some of the best views of the city and also named the world’s number one park, renting a bike for a few hours and cycling around the seawall is a local favourite (click here for more).
Wander through thousands of tulips at the Abbotsford Tulip Festival
If you’re here in April or May, make the drive out to Abbotsford to see the BLOOM festival, where fields upon fields of thousands of brightly coloured tulips provide the perfect setting for beautiful photos.
Walk around Stanley Park
If you walk around the seawall, you can stop at the various beaches and lookout points along the way. If you start an hour or so before sunset you’ll catch the sun dipping below the horizon over English Bay (click here for more).
Explore Granville Island
This little artistic niche is chock full of culture, good food, live street performances and quirky artisan boutiques (click here for a full-day itinerary).
Wander through Chinatown and the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Gardens
Known as the first authentic Chinese garden outside China, these beautiful gardens offer a quiet afternoon in the heart of Canada’s largest Chinatown.
Free outdoor ice skating at Robson Square
If you’re here in the winter, there’s free skating at the rink in the middle of Robson Square and a $4 charge to rent skates.
Catch an exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery
Always showing exceptional work from around the globe, my suggestion is to go on a Tuesday night when entrance is by donation (click here for more details).
Visit UBC’s Museum of Anthropology
Located on the end of the UBC campus surrounded by the beautiful Pacific Spirit Forest is a stunning collection of world arts and cultures, with a specific focus on the works of the First Nations whose land UBC is built upon (for more about the MOA click here).
Head down the stairs to the nudist Wreck Beach
A nudist hippy beach in the summer and a cold haven in the winter, Wreck Beach lies at the bottom of almost 500 wooden steps through Pacific Spirit Forest on UBC’s campus.
Walk through the Japanese Nitobe Gardens at UBC
UBC features a 2.5 acre Japanese garden, one of the most authentic in North America established in honor of Japanese diplomat Nitobe Inazo (1862-1933). The gardens are stuning all year-round and provide a quiet place on campus to read or wander (check out more stunning shots here).
Visit the Vancouver Aquarium
A state of the art rehabilitation and research facility, VanAqua is located in the heart of Stanley Park downtown Vancouver and offers an educational insight into the beauty of the undersea world (check out my essay on why VanAqua is so valuable here).
See the lights at Van Dusen Gardens
If you’re in Vancouver during the winter, stop in at the exquisite gardens all lit up with thousands of twinkling lights for the holiday season. If you’re here the rest of the year, the gardens are still an exquisitely maintained collection worth a wander.
Take in the views of the city from the Vancouver Lookout
The elevator whisks you up to the Harbour viewing centre where you can take in 360 degree views of the city. There is also a revolving restaurant where you can enjoy a meal as all of Greater Vancouver moves past the floor to ceiling windows.
Explore the historic Gastown
Featuring one of the world’s most overrated tourist attractions in the shape of the Steam Clock, Gastown is a quirky little neighbourhood downtown Vancouver featuring cutting edge fashion and decor as well as some of the greatest foodie spots in town (for my neighbourhood guide, click here).
Battle your way up the Grouse Grind
Considered one of Vancouver’s most popular hiking trails, this is a challenging, virtually vertical set of stairs up to the top of Grouse Mountain. Time yourself to see if you can beat the current record of 24 minutes – I took over an hour, this is a sarcastic challenge (but check out my hiking guide here)!
Explore the seaside town of Steveston
Indulge in the salty smells of the marina, complete with some of this city’s best fish and chips and ice cream. This is also the home of the filming locations of the TV show Once Upon a Time (which you can read all about in my neighbourhood guide here)!
Cross over Lynn Canyon Bridge and swim in Twin Falls
Forget the overpriced Capilano Suspension Bridge and visit its free neighbour, complete with the most stunning glacial waterfall in Vancouver (plus discover all the other beautiful activities you can do in Lynn Canyon here)!
Choose from any number of gorgeous hiking trails
You’re in a city bursting to the seams with yoga pants and kale smoothies, so take it a step further by venturing out to the North Shore for a number of stunning hikes, or further up into Squamish and Whistler for longer, more challenging mountain hikes (check out the many hikes I’ve been lucky to do around this gorgeous province here).
Hit Granville Street for a night out
This street comes alive at night and is home to a large portion of Vancouver’s clubbing scene.
Head up to Whistler
If you’re here for a bit longer, take a day trip up to Whistler. In the summer there’s ample hiking and outdoor activities, and in the winter it’s a world-class ski resort (check out my all-inclusive Whistler vacation guide here).
Vancouver is home to some of the world’s greatest cuisines (check out my restaurant guide for some ideas here)!
Visit a beach
Vancouver has it all – skyscrapers, mountains, the ocean, forests, parks and beaches, right here on our doorstep. From English Bay to Spanish Banks, Kitsilano to Second Beach, Iona to Crescent, the beach options are in abundance, each featuring their own special characteristics (and all excellent spots for sunset viewing which you can read about in my sunset guide here).
Take a ferry over to Vancouver Island
Explore BC’s capital city of Victoria and take in the culture of the parliament-city. Or go further up the coast for laid back island food and hiking. There’s the ski resort of Mount Washington. Or there’s the surf town of Tofino. Really, it’s all here.
Take the 15-minute ferry to Bowen Island
BC is home to a stunning array of islands just off the mainland. Bowen Island is just outside the Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal in West Vancouver and the little cafes and hikes around the cove make for a beautiful day out. If you’re here in the summer, take part in a typically Canadian activity and try out paddle-boarding (or loads of other ideas from my Bowen Island guide here)!
Go night-skiing on a North Shore mountain
For a discounted price, you can grab a lift ticket and ski under a blanket of stars at the Cypress Winter Olympic ski resort just a short drive north of the city (which you find out about here).
Walk the pier at White Rock Beach
An iconic pier juts out from this southern beach. Across the horizon you can spot the United States. A massive white rock (albeit painted) sits on the beach, the namesake of the town. The strip is bustling with fish’n’chips and ice cream. What more could you want??
Cheer on the Canucks
Given that hockey is basically what Canada is known for, you should get yourself out to a hockey game to cheer on the Canucks and witness what true Canadian sport is all about. Whether they win or lose, the atmosphere is something to experience – and you can get super cheap tickets up in the nosebleeds with an excellent view of the entire arena!
Marvel at the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra at the Orpheum
My parents and I went to The Mermaid, based on Hans Christian Andersen’s wildly popular fairytale, performed by the full orchestra at the Orpheum by guest conductor John Storgards. I was absolutely captivated the whole way through. Tickets are available for all shows through the Vancouver Symphony Box Office.